When I hear the word “worship” it often refers to music. Perhaps there are certain instruments (or lack thereof) or individuals leading with their eyes closed and hands raised when you think of “worship.” Maybe there are lights, maybe even a little fog to give it that old London feel. There are likely certain images for what “worship” looks like.

I do not want to be overly critical of this definition or understanding. Rather, I want to set it in a larger definition of worship that encompasses music and singing.

This is my simple definition of worship:

Worship is love rightly directed.

We were made to love and reflect the God who is love (1 John 4:8). The summary of the law is  to “love God” with our whole being and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). Love is the heartbeat of worship.

It is possible to go through acts of worship without participating in the act of worship, namely love. Jesus referring to the Pharisees says, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…’” (Matthew 15:8-9; quoting Isaiah 29:13). As David reflects on his sin with Bathsheba, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17). David’s actions were anything but love toward God and definitely not toward Bathsheba. 

Our problem is not ignorance of God or His will but an unwillingness to have our love directed toward God due to sin (Romans 1:21-23). Our “hearts” are full of lust and our heart gives misdirected expression and enjoyment of God’s gift toward creation itself rather than the Creator (Romans 1:24-28).

Worship is a matter of the heart because the heart is where love begins. In the New Covenant, Jesus brings a “new heart” to His people (Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33). We cannot and will not love God apart from His grace. We will not worship God, unless God’s grace is given to us.

Worship is more than singing but it is one facet of what worship is. Creation, teaching, serving, laughing, studying, working, sex, and more are a few of the many ways worship can be expressed. Each of these arenas and activities are potential avenues for worship when our love is directed toward God through and in them.