I’ve now said this a couple times, and I’ll say it again, and perhaps I should keep saying it every week until it truly sinks in with us: our worship isn’t about us and it isn’t for us. It is only and entirely about and for God. Moses is perfectly clear on this in Deuteronomy 6, and Jesus reinforces it when he cites Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as the most important of all the commandments of God. You’ll notice in Mark, the teacher of the law responds to Jesus by saying that this commandment, combined with the commandment from Leviticus to love your neighbor as yourself, is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices—which is to say, all the outward activities of worship. Jesus confirms his insight and praises him, for he has shown by his understanding that he is near to the kingdom of God.
To put this into our context, it’s more important to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength—which is just four different ways of saying, with everything you have—than it is for you to ever go to church. It’s more important for you to love God with all your power to love than it is for you to ever give any of your money or time to God’s work through the church. Now, as Jesus knew and I’m sure that scribe understood, anyone who loved God in that way would give him all the burnt offerings and sacrifices mentioned in his law. Anyone who loves God in that way will come to church regularly, give generously, and serve in any way they can. But what God wants isn’t just for us to come to church regularly, give generously, and serve gladly. He wants for us to do these things because we love him. He doesn’t want our offerings just as offerings, he wants them as joyful offerings of grateful hearts.
And if they aren’t, and we don’t? If we come to church because we want to see our friends, and only give if we’re pleased with who’s leading the congregation and how they’re leading it? If we only give our time to serve when it suits us, when it’s something we want to do and we get to make sure it’s done our way? If we come to worship as consumers, evaluating it based on whether our desires are satisfied and our felt needs are met? Then we hit the reality expressed by the Christian Reformed writer Shannon Jammal-Hollemans: “God rejects worship that is not worthy of God.” Then we aren’t worshiping God at all, we’re worshiping our own desires—we’re putting ourselves at the center of the church instead of God. Then, to be blunt, we’re worshiping an idol.