Is our worship ever a waste of time?
I was at one of our conferences in London last year, talking to a friend.
“I’ve been watching what you guys do,” she said. “Worship is a waste. It’s just a waste of time. Nothing happens when people worship. We’re not saving the planet. We’re not executing justice. We’re not doing anything. Why is it that you guys give so much time to something that is just so wasteful?”
Those words led me to the story in Luke 7 and Matthew 26, where we find a woman whose great love showed as she poured out an alabaster jar of expensive oil on Jesus.
A man named Simon invites Jesus for dinner.
The meal unfolds, and suddenly a woman who lived a sinful life joins the meal with an alabaster jar of perfume. She stands behind Jesus. The woman pours out the ‘very expensive’ oil as she weeps and wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair. And while she kisses His feet, the onlookers criticise her and say her offering could be put to better use than to waste it on Jesus.
I think about that story. And I think about the judgement sometimes attached to what we consider to be extravagant waste. In Matthew’s gospel account of this story, Jesus replies that she has done a beautiful thing and it shall be remembered everywhere.
Our worship is an alabaster jar. What we bring, like my friend said in London, could seem like a ‘waste’ in some ways.
Have you ever spent hours writing a song that has never been heard outside your own bedroom?
Have you ever spent hours practicing the music parts to a specific set list only for it to change or to get removed from that week’s roster at the last minute?
Have you ever gotten up early to spend hours setting up the sound system, only to receive complaints that it’s ‘too loud’ or ‘the sound wasn’t very good this morning’?
Have you ever spend hundreds of dollars on singing lessons, while never getting to sing in front of people?
Have you ever created a video and stayed up through the night exporting it before Sunday, only to be told ‘thanks, but that’s not what we were looking for’?
Have you ever wondered if it was all worth it, or if it was just a big waste?
Let me tell you that this is the great tension of what we do. Bringing what we bring, week after week, pouring out our gifts, even though it might seem like a waste sometimes.
If it’s unto God, then it’s worship.
Have you ever heard the philosophical question: “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Let me ask it this way: if no one but God knows, hears, sees, or notices our extravagant offering, is it still worship? Yes, of course it is.
Our worship is an alabaster jar, poured out at the feet of Jesus.
Think of all the songs ever written in our team, broken and poured out, which some of us might never hear. We might never hear those melodies because they are just extravagant waste in the process of birthing something. But I dare to believe in my heart of hearts that our songs are worship.
But if it’s unto God, then it’s worship.
Some people might see the work as a waste, but unto God, it’s an alabaster jar broken— and it’s worship. Somehow God sees the extravagance of our wastefulness. God sees our heart towards our team and He sees the work in the process of bringing, in the process of yielding, in the process of surrender. If our hearts reach towards heaven, our wastefulness is never waste. The tears we cry in our bedroom over disappointment or heartache or joy, the moments where we find God off the platform, lead us to where God trusts us with songs from heaven to take further and wider than ourselves.
I dare to believe that we waste nothing unto God. He sees everything that we willingly offer to Him and He will take it, He will use it, and He will remember it. Psalm 56:8 says that God collects our tears in a bottle. And if our tears don’t go unnoticed, neither will our work.
If I can encourage you to do anything, it’s to waste time with God. Let your worship be well spent, and your time spent wasted where God is.