A Guitar and a Bowl of Soup
On any given Sunday across America, you can bet your bottom dollar that some worship leader somewhere will quote this familiar verse, or at least some shortened summation of it…
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. – Hebrews 13:15
This exhortation comes in different forms. He might try to enthusiastically persuade you to offer “your own shout of praise.” He may have you “repeat after me.” He may even look mad while he does it. Or confused. Or constipated. Any number of expressions could be involved. I can say these things, because I’m a worship leader and I’ve done them…all of them.
Seriously though, this type of exhortation in itself is not a bad one. Encouraging people to sing and lift up songs and sacrifices of praise is biblical, and it’s the role of the worship leader to do that. The point of this post is not to argue that at all, actually. I just wanted to poke fun for a moment. My point centers around this verse specifically. It’s a popular one. But what you might not hear quoted quite as frequently is the verse that follows. Without it, the context is lost. In fact, verse fifteen hangs dependently upon it. It says,
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. – Hebrews 13:16
Wait a minute? I thought we were talking about praise. I thought the point was our lips offering sweet sounds of worship!! What is this business about doing good to others? What does that have to do with worship? Worship is about singing.
If we miss the connection between these two verses, we miss the point entirely. They go hand-in-hand. The point is this: Genuine worship must connect the mouth to the life. The biblical writer says to offer a “sacrifice of praise,” calling the lips into action. But he then says “to do good and share what you have,” calling the hands and feet into action. You can’t have one without the other. It’s all worship. And it’s this kind of worship that the Father seeks. This is spirit and truth kind of worship—a life that is consistent with its talk. Worship is our hands and feet being propelled into service, action and mission from the fuel of praise that flows from our lips. It’s all worship.
Earlier in Hebrews, the writer encourages us to “offer acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (12:28). And how do we know what acceptable worship is? He just answered it for us in chapter 13. It’s the mouth, hands and heart connected together in praise. It’s the fruit of our lips giving praise, and it’s our hands serving the least of these.
Praise in a church building is neither authentic nor acceptable unless it propels us onto the mission field. If what we do on Sunday is not married to a life of action and service, we might as well hang it up. That’s what’s unacceptable! God is looking for worshipers who see no difference between a guitar in their hand on Sunday and a bowl of hot soup at a homeless shelter on Monday. That is the heart of a true worshiper. Let’s be those kinds of worshipers.