Value Works Over Words
Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they are ignorant and do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words. When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth bring guilt on you, and do not say in the presence of the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry with your words and destroy the work of your hands? For many dreams bring futility, also many words. So, fear God. Eccl 5:1-7 (HCSB)
Over many years I have observed people from the back of the sanctuary and stood up eyeing the faces of the congregation from the pulpit. Preachers and worship leaders know they can call for acclamation during a service, and without fail, an echo of hearty “amens” and “hallelujahs” come forth, as if on cue.
In spite of what most people who regularly attend church want to believe, many arrive each week carrying deeper, more personal motivations than to simply worship the Lord through joyous songs and words. They arrive each week sprinkled among the regulars who, week in and week out, return faithfully to the same pew out of habit, ownership etched in stone over the years. Among the regular attenders are those solely motivated by the social value. Each Sunday they are eager to exchange the latest tidbits of news with friends and family before and after they dutifully endure the actual worship service. And, then there are some so-called regulars who attend when their guilt stars them. They arrive hoping to hear a soothing message to mollify the nagging guilt they can’t seem to escape. Of course, also sprinkled about the sanctuary are those who thrive on the attention they receive from their emotional displays and outbursts during the service. They could find their way to the altar blindfolded. There is little doubt, church provides a truly interesting hodgepodge of people to study any given Sunday. I wonder what God thinks about it?
Of course, as the Teacher points out in the above passage, those person(s) in church who like the attention they receive hoisting their hands high at every opportunity and shouting enthusiastically whenever the preacher or worship leader cues the congregation, begs the question: What is their real motivation? Do they believe God is hard of hearing and only responsive to the most animated among his flock? Or, are these most enthusiastic attenders demonstrating how spiritual they want everyone else to believe they are?
Certainly, plenty of sincere God-fearing people fill the pews too, but there are surrounded by and impacted by the self-serving, self-focused folks in attendance, as well. But, I reckon God smiles at us all in our efforts to worship him each Sunday. However, as the Teacher reminds us: We all should be careful with our words when praising the God of creation because God tests our words by the evidence of our works. We are told, it is better to say nothing than offer empty, insincere promises and vows. God examines a person’s actions and attitudes over time, not just his emotional outbursts. Sincerity and integrity identify a person’s genuine relationship with God not his enthusiasm and verbosity. It is the person who seeks God’s will, ways, and wisdom who realizes his or her prayers and promises do not need to be publicly heralded. In fact, God listens best to a sincere and genuine heart and we are more likely to hear his whispered response in the stillness of our daily quiet time with God.
Do not be like the fool who offers empty promises just to sound holy. God is not impressed by our foolish exuberance and boisterousness in church, only our daily response to his spirit’s counsel as he offers to guide us.
Words of Wisdom #229-13EC