Idle Worship by Don Boice

Mr. Webster defines Idle as “lacking worth or basis”. He also says that it means to “run at low power and often disconnected”. If we compare this with the definition of Idol we can see that the two words are very closely related. Idol according to Mr. Webster means “a form or appearance visible but without substance”. A thing without substance would be lacking worth or basis. An idol is also a “likeness of something, a pretender, an imposter”. If the Lord came back during the worship service, would he find you idling or going at full throttle?

Pews across the land are filled with “idle worshippers” every Lord’s day. They come, go through the motions, leave before the last song, and don’t come back for evening worship or mid-week bible study. Their singing is barely above a whisper. During prayer they are wondering what to have for lunch. They keep looking at their watches wondering just how much longer the preacher is going to speak. They don’t take the Lord’s Supper to remember; they remember to take the Lord’s Supper. Another way to put that is; they take it because it is Sunday instead of, because it is Sunday we take it. That may sound a little funny, but think about it. Their minds are on everything except worshipping God. Some leave before the collection is taken up. Some give sparingly as if it is a chore better left alone. Some don’t give at all. They are engaged in idle worship.

Are we forsaking the assembly that is mentioned in Hebrews 10:25 if we don’t stay assembled until the service is over? Can we exhort one another if we are not there for the whole service? Verse 24 of the same chapter tells us to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. If I leave before service is over, am I being considerate of you? Am I showing love towards you? What good works did I miss out on by leaving early? Was the time I spent there just idle time? What kind of an example am I being to the children? God has just given me another week. Can I give him an hour? We need to think on these questions and give an honest answer using the New Testament as our standard.

Does the Church really need my money? I give a little each week and that should be enough. The furnaces will last another winter and the parking lot only has a few potholes. The Elders just like to have something to complain about. Cut the outside support in half and there will be plenty and some to spare. What if all members had that type of attitude? The Church would fall into ruin. Thousands across the world would not get to hear the gospel preached. Small congregations would not have enough hymnbooks to go around. Small congregations may not even have a preacher. Preachers would have to work full time jobs in addition to preaching and teaching. There would be less personal work due to having to earn a living outside the Church. God had a reason for telling us to give as we have prospered. (1 Corinthians 16:2) The Church has to pay its way in this world. God intended for the gospel to be spread all over the world. God intended for the Brethren to be benevolent towards each other. It takes funding for preachers to travel to other lands to preach. It takes funds to upkeep a building, to have electricity and climate control. The classroom material did not just appear out of the blue. God does not personally need our money but the Church depends on it to operate and god knew this. Therefore he told us to give and promised us that we would reap as we have sown. If we give sparingly, we will reap sparingly. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we read that God loves a cheerful giver so why would we not want God to love us?

1 Corinthians 14:15 “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” How can I pray and sing with the spirit and the understanding if my mind is somewhere else? If I don’t put some effort into my singing, is it being accepted by the Lord? If I pray halfheartedly, does God hear my prayer? What if God had a “ho hum” attitude towards us that we sometimes have towards him? Will God hear the prayer of an idle worshipper? Are we being a pretender like an idol? We look as if we are engaged in spiritual worship, but are we? If our mind is not actively in it, it lacks worth and basis.

Paul wrote to the young evangelist Timothy and told him to study to show himself approved. (2 Timothy 2:15) Listening to the preacher attentively is a method of studying. That is the word of God that he is speaking to us and we should be eager to hear it. Worrying about mowing the lawn or missing a ball game is not studying to show yourself approved. Your motor is running but you aren’t getting anywhere. You are running on low power. You are idling the time away. The other things that occupy your mind when you are supposed to be worshiping God are idols. Idol worship is idle worship. We read in Romans 8:6 that we are to be spiritually minded. Letting our minds wander during the worship service is not being spiritually minded. Don’t let your mind be idle. John tells us in chapter 4, verse 24 that we are to worship in spirit and truth. You cannot be in the proper spirit if your mind is on something else. Keep your mind spiritually active. Don’t be engaged in idle worship. Put worth and substance into your worship.

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