Friday, September 14, 2012

Authentic Worship

In the New Testament book of Mark, Jesus speaks to the life-worship of a widow:

Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money.

One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who's been putting money in the treasury.

All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on." (Mark 12:41-43)

This has always been portrayed by preachers I’ve heard as some giant act of faith, some huge and positive decision that the widow rejoiced in doing.  Maybe she did rejoice in putting her last two cents into God’s coffers.  But I wonder...

Did she give out of obligation and God honored her anyway?  I was taught growing up that anything done without a happy heart didn’t earn treasure in heaven.  Doing the right thing without the right attitude would result in the billowing smoke of burning wood, hay, and stubble on judgment day.

But what matters more: our feelings or our actions?

Sometimes (ok, a lot of times), I don’t feel like sweeping or mopping.  I don’t feel like folding laundry.  I don’t feel like (yet again) taking 30 minutes to an hour to prepare a nutritionally balanced meal that will be simultaneously complained over and devoured in 15 minutes or less, leaving a massive amount of dirty pots, pans, plates, and utensils in its wake.

But I do those things.  I know the consequences if I don’t.  I have obligations as a wife and mother to ensure my family has a comfortable home, clean clothes, nutritious food.

Do my feelings negate my actions?  I don’t think so.

Back to the widow.  What was she feeling?  Thinking?  I sincerely doubt she was overjoyed to drop all she had into the Temple coffers.  She probably had doubts and fears regarding her life and health.  I’ve discovered one can simultaneously trust God and feel trepidation about having daily needs met.  Trust does not eradicate doubt.  Doubt does not bury trust.  One does not obliterate the other in some sort of cosmic, quasi-spiritual duel.

In fact, I believe the very act of doubting can be counted as worship.

The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.  Psalm 103:12-13

God knows who we are.  There is no need to pretend with the Almighty.  True worship means being authentic with our feelings, our doubts and fears, then following God anyway.

In reality, Scripture says nothing about the mindset or emotions of the widow giving her last mites.  It was her act of giving that was recorded and lauded.

So when I don’t feel like listening to what God is telling me to do, when I don’t feel like I have anything left to give to my church or community, when I don’t feel like being genuine and want to pretend my faith is rock-solid instead of the gossamer web it has become, but I respond to God’s leading, give of my time and self, share my doubts...that is worship.

Whether I give from a place of peace or a place of doubt, the choice to act is what God deems important.

What will I give today?  Will it be life-worship -all that I have- or will it be something that looks good to others but comes from my wealth of perception?