Watch Your Worship
by Ken Bell
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ave you ever wondered what God thinks of our worship? Worship means “to offer the adoration and devotion appropriate for a deity.” Considering there is only one God—the Creator of the universe and Father of all—should cause us to carefully consider how we worship Him.

If we approach God in worship casually, indifferently, and without proper consideration, we can cause ourselves more spiritual harm than good. Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 addresses how we should speak and act in the house of God. The writer contrasts the actions of true worshipers with those who are foolish.

Prepare With the Right Attitude

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God” (v. 1 NIV). In other words, approach His house with reverent sincerity.

Too often we come together for worship yet our heart is not in it. When we stand and sing the praise songs or hymns, are we truly praising God, or just going through the motions? Are we worshiping from our heart or just paying lip service to God? The words are coming out, but they have no meaning because our mind is somewhere else. We’re not even thinking about what we’re singing, much less to whom we are singing.

Not only should we have the right attitude in worship; we should primarily go to His house “to listen” (v. 1). This means more than just hearing what God has to say, but also to understand and obey His will. Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28 NIV).

The writer of Ecclesiastes warns against the foolishness of offering a sacrifice in order to try to satisfy God or appease our conscience. It’s not that the sacrifice is wrong; it’s the disposition of the worshiper that is wrong. Any act of devotion can be defiled if our heart is not right with God.

Hear the prophet Samuel as he challenged King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (NKJV). Obedience is our sacrifice, and it comes as we give ourselves wholly to the Lord (see Rom. 12:2).

Be Ready to Listen

Having censured outward displays of sacrifice in Ecclesiastes 5:1, the writer next warns against using thoughtless words and empty babbling in our prayers (v. 2). To be “rash with your mouth” (NKJV) is to say things we might not mean, or would not say if we took more time to think about what we were saying.

In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus warns us against approaching God with just lip service: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (NKJV).

A wise person thinks before he speaks; a fool talks too much.

We need to speak a lot less and listen a lot more during prayer and worship — “let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:2 NKJV). As we communicate with God, we need to let Him do most of the talking.

Carelessness and flippancy in the presence of God can cost us dearly.

How often do we just pray quickly, telling God everything that’s wrong in our lives, asking Him to fix those things, but never give Him a chance to speak back? Many people say they never hear from God; perhaps they don’t give Him a chance to say anything.

We should be more ready to hear than to speak in worship because God is majestic and we are lowly: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (v. 2 NIV). Understanding who God is (the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient One) and who we are (His created beings) should lead us to approach Him in humility and readiness to submit to His will.

There is no place for our perceived self-importance or glibness when we approach God in worship. Carelessness and flippancy in the presence of God can cost us dearly in missed blessings and intimacy with Him.

Don’t Let Your Mouth Cause You to Sin

If we make a vow to God, we should fulfill it as quickly and adequately as possible. To fail to fulfill a vow made to God or to delay in fulfilling a vow is to act like a fool, in whom God “has no pleasure” (Eccl. 5:4 NKJV). This points to the seriousness with which God takes the promises we make to Him.

The offering of vows was common in Old Testament times. Individuals bound themselves to performing specific acts or giving certain gifts that exceeded what God had asked or required. God does not require us to make vows, but He does hold us accountable to the promises we make to Him.

We easily promise things to God while worshiping Him at church that we soon forget when we walk out the door. Or, in difficult times we promise God a lot, but quickly forget those promises when times are better. We must understand this: God still remembers our promises, and He will hold us accountable for them.

It’s important to fulfill the promises we make to God so we can live with a conscious void of offense to Him, have hope in death without worrying about broken vows, and enjoy the rewards of obedience in eternity.

A vow not kept becomes a lie, and a lie brings forth the judgment of God. God won’t bless disobedience. Making a promise to God that we fail to keep for any reason places us in danger of judgment (v. 6).

Rather than taking the chance of angering God, “it is better not to make a vow” (v. 5 NIV).

When we gather to worship the Lord, let us watch our attitude . . . watch what we say . . . and watch the promises we make.

Ken Bell, D.Min., serves as administrative bishop of the Church of God in Pennsylvania.