What it looks like to give everything to God
Christians tend to use the word “worship” to describe Sunday church activities. We say things like, “Let’s go to the worship service and see the worship leader who leads us in worship.”
Using the word “worship” to describe church music or Sunday activities is certainly not wrong. But it is a bit like using the word “buffet” when we actually mean “potatoes.” Potatoes are delicious, but a buffet includes much, much more.
What Worship Is
Worship describes our whole-life response to God’s worth. We sing in response to God’s worth, but worship encompasses so much more — everything we are and everything we have. God’s worth is beyond measuring, so giving Him our entire life is our only reasonable response. Romans 12:1 says that in view of all God has done we are to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.”
Only God is worthy of our whole-life response.
When we overvalue an object, a relationship, or a job, by responding as if it were God, we commit idolatry. For example, we might spend $4 on a cup of coffee, but we’d never spend $4 million. Why? The coffee is worth no more than $4, so we respond by giving only $4 for it. Imagine a person paying $4 million for a cup of coffee! While this is an absurd example, the root of all idolatry is misassigned value. Idolatry begins when we place greater value on lesser things. Only God is worthy of our whole-life response.
What Happens When We Give Everything to God
John 12 paints the scene of a whole life poured out in response to the worth of God. Mary and Martha host a dinner in honor of Jesus because He recently raised their brother, Lazarus, from the dead. It’s difficult to imagine the depth of conversation around that table. Ironically, the celebration of Lazarus’ resurrection takes place only a few days before Jesus’ death.
As the guests lounge around the table eating, Mary enters, pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, and begins wiping His feet with her hair. Her offering of perfume points us to the self-giving nature of worship. Here we see a picture of what happens when we give everything to God.
1. Our worship will be perceived as undignified by some.
Mary pushed through cultural norms setting aside her inhibitions as she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. No matter the culture or time period, Mary’s act of worship in a room full of men reclining at supper would be considered awkward if not scandalous. She didn’t allow others’ opinions to dictate her response.
It’s amazing how much value we place in others’ opinions! How often do we fail to make bold moves for fear of damaging our reputation? God is worth more than our reputation or the opinion of others. Would we be willing to let down our hair or mess up our look for the sake of following God?
We can sit like wallflowers at the middle school dance, worried about everyone’s opinion except God’s. Or, we can enter the undignified dance of life before the One who matters most.
2. Worship will cost us.
Judas was upset because he viewed Mary’s worship as a waste. For Judas, Jesus was worth 30 pieces of silver — the equivalent of four months wages, or ironically, the amount paid in restitution for a slave killed by an animal.
In contrast, Mary’s response to Jesus declared His worth. How could she do less? When my wife first started as a teacher, her students would tell her they had “wasted” their milk. After a few days, she realized that when they said “wasted” they actually meant “spilled.” When it comes to giving our lives to God, there will always be people who view what we pour out to Him as a waste.
Whatever we sacrifice to God will cost us something, but it is never a waste.
Whether it’s a person confused by your generosity or a family member thinking your career change is a mistake, our worship to God will cost us and people will misunderstand. Whatever we sacrifice to God will cost us something, but it is never a waste. He’s worthy! Oh, that we’d be accused of wasting our life on Jesus!
3. God is truly pleased with our worship.
We can all agree that grilled steak smells great. Even non-coffee drinkers appreciate the smell of coffee. The context of this episode revolves around a smell. Mary didn’t light up the room with a candle or sing a beautiful song. She broke open a container of perfume and the fragrance filled the room.
Have you noticed that smell powerfully connects us to our memory? This passage provokes our biblical memory — incense rising, burnt sacrifices offered, and bread broken. In each instance, God was pleased with the aroma. In each case, the smell signified something wholly given to God in worship. The steak only smells good if it's burning. Coffee beans only smell good if they are crushed. Perfume only fills the room for all to enjoy if it's released from its container.
Isn’t this just like God? He asks us to give ourselves wholly to Him, offering our lives as living sacrifices to Him. Jesus had died as a sacrifice so that we might live broken before God, wholly given to Him. This is our only reasonable response to who He is and what He’s done.
Is there any area of your life not fully given to Him? Is there any object, relationship, or work you hold as more valuable than God? When we give everything to our worthy God, our lives rise like a pleasing aroma to Him and He is pleased.