In our ever-increasing secular society, people tend to associate worship with buildings that look a certain way, or people that dress and act a certain way.
They believe, wrongly, that the rest of society lives in some non-religious, neutral middle ground.
In reality, however, there exists in every human being, a God-given inner drive to worship. As Dostoyevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov, ‘So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship’.
The English word ‘worship’ simply refers to the worth, value, or honour placed on someone or something. Everyone makes evident the thing or things that are most important, most valuable, most honoured in their lives by the way they live.
So in other words, the question is not then, ‘Do you worship?’ but ‘Who or what do you worship?’
When the Bible describes certain sins, like greed for example, it uses the language of idolatry. ‘Greed… is idolatry’, says Paul, it’s the worshipping of things (Colossians 3v5). In ‘Beyond Greed’, Brian Rosner shines light on the godlike status given to our economy. He says:
‘Like God, the economy, it is thought, is capable of supplying people’s needs without limit. Also like God, the economy is mysterious, unknowable and intransigent. It has both great power and, despite the best managerial efforts of its associated clergy, great danger. It is an inexhaustible well of good(s) and is credited with prolonging life, giving health and enriching our lives.
Money, in which we put our faith, and advertising, which we adore, are among it’s rituals. The economy also has its sacred symbols, which evoke underlying loyalty, including company logos, product names and credit cards.’
He goes on to say that the religion of money also has its creeds like, ‘Money makes the world go round’, and he likens the modern day shopping centre to a contemporary version of an old city cathedral:
‘The centre of the community in every sense, such complexes are admired for their huge, costly edifices and their awe-inspiring architecture, which often includes an aesthetically pleasing internal space made of glass and stone. They are visited by ‘pilgrims’ from across the country and sometimes even from overseas.
Visitors spend hours in such places (not to mention loads of money), drinking in the experience of being overwhelmed by the variety and beauty of the goods on offer before returning to their local shopping centres and their everyday lives the better for it.’
So it seems that idolatry is alive and well in Australia, though many of us appear blind to the fact that we’re worshippers. That’s why, for those of us who have grown up in the ‘lucky country’, inhaling the materialistic air of a middle to upper class life, Jesus’ words are as confronting as they are clear.
‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’ (Matthew 6: 24)