Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Let’s continue with the idea that to cease worshipping God is to begin worshipping the enemy of our souls. You’ve heard before, most probably, that the word worship comes from the Old English word meaning “worth-ship.” We worship what we value most. And what we value most becomes the ordering principle of our lives.
“Watch what you value,” becomes the operating principle for a life staying on a trajectory into Christ.
While it is helpful to understand evil in terms of a personified spirit, like the satan, the devil, and the accuser, it is also helpful to understand evil in terms of the pervasive influence of the self in society.
When I make myself and my pleasure my highest value, my highest vision of the good life, then I am worshipping the devil. Pause here. How many Christians do you know who put the lion’s share of their energies into saving, investing, and bettering the lives of themselves and their families, while giving less-than-sacrificial support to the poor, the dying, the martyred, the disillusioned, the fearful, and the marginalized all around them?
I don’t want to say as Christians that we can think we’re worshipping God while having an actual value-set that shows a different priority base—but I must. I must because this may be me, at least in times of stress and trouble. I turn toward self-preservation, self-protection—and if something gets in my way, even a sacrificial need, I am quick to say yes to me and mine and ours.
Please hear me: we should be wise and steward our resources toward self-care and family care. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. I’m saying that idols arise easily in this life and are masters at subtle entry into our value system. We must be alert to the diversion of our worship, of the inner assignment of highest value, to such things.
As my brother-in-law, a New Testament scholar, often reminds me: Idolatry leads to injustice; when I forget who I am, I forget who you are—and I make you a means to my ends. Dehumanization and tribalism follow; we move toward self-preservation and place life-offering servanthood to the side while we fight our tribalistic battles to win the war.
I’m convinced the worship of the devil is not so obvious; it is evidenced in a heart that has made its outward priorities an inward map of their motivations, motivations clearly pointed back at one’s own care above others. I’m a big fan of self-care. But it’s not the goal; rather, it is a means to wholeness and fruitfulness for the sake of renewing our call to sonship and daughterhood in the world.
As Paul writes to the Philippians in 2:3–4, 21: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. . . . For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
Lord, let us be those who look out for the interests of others—worshipping you above ourselves and the world of pleasure options around us.
Lord of the Wild, our story is interwoven with yours, and we desire to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) with no reserves held back for our own vision of the good life. Come, Lord, find in us hearts that value you and your Word above all things. In Jesus’s name, amen.
How has the worship of self, or your own vision of the good life, subtly displaced your worship of God over the years?
For the Awakening,