worshippers first, servants second
Young people are full of energy and enthusiasm, and I do appreciate their eagerness to serve and do things for God. The Church also encourages them to serve in, for example, the Sunday school, as ushers, in the Music Ministry, etc. I always encourage our youths to be involved in ministry as it is a great privilege to bless God’s people.
When I was a young Christian, I grew spiritually from serving others as these were opportunities for me to learn to be faithful and humble and to exercise my gifts and to be part of the church community. However, I have also observed that we may be so busy serving in the church that we end up putting that as our priority over worshipping God. Often, our weekly schedule is filled with ministry that we might neglect time with God in intimate adoration.
It is true that serving God is an act of worship. One of the Greek words for worship in the New Testament is latreuo which means “to render religious service of homage.” It is usually translated to “serve” when referring to serving God (Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 7:15). As God’s people, it is our joy and privilege to latreuo God in teaching Sunday school, leading a cell group, playing the guitar, etc. We also latreuo God outside the church when we share the gospel with our neighbours, feed the poor, visit the sick, etc. Latreuo is important but it is not the most important aspect of our relationship with God.
The most common word in the New Testament for “worship” is actually proskuneo which means “to fall down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss his feet.” Proskuneo is mentioned 20 times in Revelation to denote how the saints and angels worship God in heaven (Revelation 11:16, 19:4). I believe God calls us to first proskuneo Him before anything else. We are called to be worshippers first, servants second.
The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:39-42 emphasizes the priority of spending time in God’s presence to adore Him or proskuneo God first. When Jesus visited their house, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. She was adoring or proskuneo Jesus. On the other hand, Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She was busy serving and failed to adore Jesus. Jesus told Martha:
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better of the two - spending time in His presence instead of busy doing things. He also said that only one thing is needed, which is to be in His presence and this is not to be neglected. Jesus did not say that serving is wrong but being in His presence is better and the only thing needful in light of eternity.
This account reminds me that we need to spend time with God first to know Him and to adore Him. As a full-time church worker, I am always busy doing things for God and the church. I try to justify my numerous doing as acts of worship but I may be deceiving myself. With so many things on my plate, I sometimes neglect spending unhurried time with God and “sitting at the feet of Jesus,” like Mary. Jesus Himself spent time with His heavenly Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12); can we do without it? When I feel tired or burned out, I always ask myself, “have I spent proskuneo time with God today?”
God has called us to be worshippers first. It is no wonder that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22:37). I would classify this as an act of proskuneo. Through our adoration and proskuneo of God, I believe our service and latreuo of God and His people will come naturally and even spontaneously. We will not feel tired or burnt out serving God when we adore God first.
I want to challenge the youths to take stock of their spiritual life. One of the ways to adore God is lectio divina or divine reading. We can also sing a worship song or Psalm to enrich our proskuneo experience. These spiritual exercises have helped me personally to draw closer to God and His word. I urge all of us to be worshippers first, servants second.
Author: Mr Hambali Leonardi (Pastor Hali is the Youth Pastor of LYnC Youth Fellowship. He also chairs the Children and Youth Committee which oversees the children and youth ministries in SAC.)
First published in The Courier, July 2015.