Last week, Victoria Osteen apparently said this:
“… when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy… So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy … When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.”
Most people responded by saying this is nonsense. Perhaps it is.
But I want to ask a serious question: Is worship for us or for God?
On the one hand, the whole idea of worship is that we prioritize God and His glory and His pleasure and His will. We stop thinking of ourselves as being important, and focus on Him alone. So clearly, worship is for God. If we focused on our own needs and happiness in worship, it wouldn’t be worship any more.
However … does it hurt God if we don’t worship? No. Does God need my worship? Not at all. God needs nothing from me. That we have the opportunity to freely worship God is a tremendous gift from him to us, not the other way around. It is hubris to think we can bring anything to God, even worship, that he really needs. It is we who need to worship. Worship is created for us, not for God, and for our benefit, not God’s.
Still, when I say that God gives us worship as a gift, to benefit us, what I mean is that focusing on him instead of us is a great benefit to us.
Worship’s benefit is for me; worship’s focus must be on him.
One more thing to add to the mix: God chooses to be blessed by our worship. So in a way, our worship does benefit God — not because he needs it but because he takes pleasure in it.
Practically speaking, if you are tempted to indulge your own desires, it may be a really bad idea for you to think about worship as for your benefit. Worship is your chance to stop thinking about pleasing yourself and think about pleasing God instead. On the other hand, if you are tempted by spiritual pride you should probably stop thinking of worship as something you give to God. We glorify God when we see that he is the source of all good things, even our worship, and humbly receive it all from his hand.
Al Mohler wrote a great piece on this brouhaha. Replace happy/happiness with joy, and perhaps Ms Olsteen’s remarks would have been better received. http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/09/03/the-osteen-predicament-mere-happiness-cannot-bear-the-weight-of-the-gospel/