Monday, August 17, 2015

Worshiping in All the Wrong Places

Having the right object of worship can help us learn to focus
on people and their interests, rather than our own.

A social media post recently declared that in the United States “we need to put the worship of the almighty dollar aside, and take care of people first.” I agree, to a point. Capitalism, consumerism and materialism seem to have converged, resulting in obeisance to money and things, at the expense of concern for the needs of people.

These days we think and talk a lot about not only those suffering from abject poverty, but also people working hard, often with more than one job, who still can’t seem to get ahead. Too much week, or month, always remaining at the end of their pay.

So the solution, it seems, is simple: Cease the mindless worship of the so-called almighty dollar and instead, start doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Alas, like most simple solutions, it just ain’t that easy.

For those who do worship money, whose answer to “How much is enough?” is “Just a little bit more,” they’re going to need more motivation than a simple plea to “stop!” Their response is likely to be something like, “Why? Why should I even care? Ya gotta look out for number one. I’ve got mine, so go get your own.”

For most us, if we were to hear that kind of reaction, we’d recoil in horror: How insensitive! How uncaring! How selfish! And yet, our society constantly tells us, “it’s all about me” – so why should we worry about the needs of others? We reply, because it’s the right thing to do! According to whom? If we’re nothing but products of mindless, purposeless evolution, why should we have any concern about one another? Survival of the fittest and all that.

Years ago, a country song bemoaned, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I suspect one reason we’ve lost compassion and sensitivity for people around us is because we’ve focused our worship in all the wrong places. MBA programs in the vaunted business schools may teach about the bottom line, maximizing productivity, squeezing the most out of the people working for you, and how to grow one’s unique brand globally, but how many of them spend time on how to selflessly serve the interests of customers, clients and employees?

I referred to this in a recent post, but the decided shift from the sacred toward the secular in recent decades has “freed” decision-makers from wondering, “What does God think about this?” or “What would Jesus do?” as the faddish WWJD bracelets used to remind us. If our god isn’t the almighty dollar, then it’s our own self-interests. When we worship self, it’s a demanding, uncompromising “deity.”

However, when we truly worship the God of all eternity, not with mere lip service but with passion and devotion, “self” has a way of diminishing in our focus. John the Baptist, upon realizing who Jesus Christ was, said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Another translation states it this way: He must become greater; I must become less." There is a direct correlation.

Genuine worship of God doesn’t mean adhering to rigid rituals and regulations, but understanding that part of our purpose, one of the reasons He placed us on this planet we call Earth, is to serve and be of help to others. Jesus stated it this way: The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me'” (Luke 10:27).

When God is excluded from our considerations, when we don’t feel bothered to ask or pray about how to properly use our resources, as well as the authority we have in our respective spheres of influence, we certainly aren’t troubled by annoying questions about what He thinks. Which can “liberate” us from feelings of concern about our fellow man, woman or child.

That’s why it’s important, when we remember Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” to also keep in mind His prerequisite to that statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). If we love God with everything we are and everything we have, loving our neighbors as ourselves won’t be such a struggle. It may even become a privilege.

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