Does All of Life Constitute Worship?

Maxie B. Boren

For quite some time now brethren have been discussing the question, “Is the entirety of a Christian’s life worship to God?” Some in the brotherhood have taken the position that it does. A few have gone so far as to make outrageous assertions to “drive home the point” of what they consider the all-encompassing nature of worship. For example, a statement from a writer appeared in print in which he said: “All of life is worship to God…even changing diapers.” Such an affirmation is void of truth and is nothing less than absurd. It borders on sacrilege, if in fact it’s not.


To say that “changing diapers” is worship to God reflects a gross misunderstanding of what worship is all about. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 5, 3110), worship is defined as, “Honor, reverence, homage, in thought, feeling, or act, [whether] paid to men, angels, spiritual beings, or to Deity.” (Obviously, a person could be deceived into worshiping some inanimate object, or some other human being, but for this article, we are using the word worship as a conscious homage, reverence and praise offered to the true and living God.) In the Old Testament the principal Hebrew word used for worship, “shahah,” carries the connotation of “bowing down to.” According to the ISBE article, from a composite of all Old Testament teaching on the subject, the idea for worship is “the reverential attitude of mind and body, combined with the…notions of religious adoration, obedience, and service.” In the New Testament, the primary Greek word used is “proskeneo,” meaning “make obeisance to, do reverence toward, to kiss toward” (W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words 234). “The N.T. idea of worship is a combination of the reverential attitude of mind and body, the general ceremonial and religious service to God, the feeling of awe, veneration, adoration…” (ISBE). From reading the ISBE article on worship, as well as gleanings from countless other sources, and especially from plain biblical teaching, one gains the clear understanding that worship to God is the purposed and conscious offering of praise, adoration, and homage to the One deserving of such, in keeping with the guidelines given by Him. Worship is something that a person purposes to do, and does from his heart, in acts prescribed by God.
Let’s note just a few biblical examples that clearly show worship to be an act one purposes to engage in, and does: (1) Abraham gave instruction to the two young men who accompanied Isaac and him to Moriah to attend to the animal while “I and the lad will go yonder and worship…” How could he “go and worship” if all of life is worship? Read Genesis 22:1-5. (2) When Moses and Aaron informed the elders of Israel of God’s intention of delivering them from Egyptian bondage, the record says “they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). What were they doing before that? Listening to what Moses and Aaron had to say, and upon learning of deliverance, they obviously wanted to praise and thank God by worshiping Him, and did so. (3) According to 1 Samuel Chapter One, Elkanah “went up…to worship…in Shiloh” (verse 3). He and his wife, Hannah “rose up in the morning early, and worshiped before the Lord…” (verse 19). Worship is something they went to do and did; worship did not encompass the totality of their lives. (4) Read Psalm 95, especially verse 6: “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” Worship is a specific thing a person does. No human being does this continually, 24 hours of every day. (5) Read the context of John 4:19-24. What impressions do you gain? (6) The Ethiopian eunuch had “come to Jerusalem to worship” and then returned. Read Acts 8:27-28. (7) Note that Paul “went up to worship at Jerusalem” in Acts 24:11.
Much of the argumentation on the matter revolves around the translation of Romans 12:1. In the KJV, ASV, NKJV, and Campbell’s The Living Oracles, Paul’s exhortation to the saints in Rome is that they give themselves as living sacrifices to God, which is translated as their “reasonable service.” In the RSV, NASV and NIV it is rendered “spiritual worship” or “service of worship.” In spite of the disputed wording in this text, when “the whole of God’s Word” is considered, the following is reasonable and scriptural to conclude: All worship offered to God can be thought of as service rendered to God, but not all service rendered to God is necessarily worship of God. As a good parent, a Christian is serving God by tending to the bodily needs of an infant, but it is ridiculous to say in so doing the parent is worshiping God. At that moment, the worship of God is not in the mind of the parent. Worship of God involves intent and purpose of heart, a conscious disposition of mind to express praise and adoration.
Think about it.