The High Cost of Cheap Worship
2 Samuel 24:24 – But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.
In this passage of Scripture, King David offers to buy a threshing floor from a dude named Araunah so that he can present an offering to the Lord. But when David makes the offer, Araunah does what any normal king-loving citizen would do and offers the threshing floor, the oxen, the wood and everything the king would need as a gift—completely free. David, however, insists that he purchase these things from Araunah, and that’s when he makes this telling statement in verse 24: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
The worship principle presented in this very short portion of Scripture is such an obvious one, it’s shameful the way we miss it, or dismiss it, either one. Here it is, in the form of a question:
If your worship costs you nothing, is it really worship?
David sure didn’t think so. He wasn’t about to offer cheap worship.
Neither was Mary (John 12) when she knelt at the feet of Jesus and poured out an entire years’ worth of wages in the form of perfume on the dirty, grimy feet of the Master—the perfume that was likely supposed be her dowry that she would take with her into her wedding. Her worship was costly. She wasn’t about to offer cheap worship. (See this post from a few weeks’ ago for more on Mary’s worship)
Neither was the poor widow (Luke 21 & Mark 12) who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury while all the lavish rich people around her were loading it down with their wealth. When Jesus saw her, He said that she had put in more than all the others combined, because she gave out of her poverty, and they gave out of their riches. Her worship was costly. She wasn’t about to offer cheap worship.
See, worship is not about price, it’s about cost. And these are two completely separate ideas. What Mary gave was expensive, sure. But more than that, it was costly to her. If she had poured out one bottle of perfume and hoarded a dozen others, we wouldn’t say her worship was costly. Expensive? Yes. Costly? No. But it was her one bottle of perfume that meant something very special to her. So we can say her worship was both expensive and costly.
The two copper coins that the poor widow put into the temple treasury was not expensive in the least bit. But it was costly. Extremely costly. She probably left the temple that day wondering where her next meal would come from. She probably realized that what she had just placed in the treasury was her bread and milk money for the next month. And now it was gone. Expensive? No. Costly? Absolutely.
I’ve been asking myself lately, “Is my worship costly?” Or am I offering burnt offerings that cost me nothing? Am I offering Him the leftovers? The extras?
A couple of years ago, a man I met through Craigslist heard about our ministry and donated an Ovation acoustic guitar to me. I played it for about a year off-and-on, but I could never use it in a live setting because the electronics were not working. So, I eventually passed it on to one of my guitar students who needed an upgrade. To that kid, this was an amazing gift. And sure, it was a relatively expensive guitar. But to me, it was nothing. Did that guitar cost me anything? No. Was I emotionally attached to it? No. Did it mean much to me? No. Not at all. It wasn’t a sacrifice. I just passed it on with little or no thought about it. I never missed it. I cost me nothing.
And sometimes I wonder if this is the type of worship that I present to God—that I just pass on to Him the extras—the stuff that doesn’t really cost me anything. The leftovers. The worship that’s just been collecting dust in my closet, but never really meant much to me in the first place.
Now, if you’ve been reading this and you think I’ve been talking about physical possessions this whole time, you’ve missed the point. Maybe physical possessions are the application for you. But for each of us, the question boils down to, “What does our worship cost us?” Or what should our worship cost us? Our reputation perhaps? Our status? Our position? Our friendships? Our pursuit of the American dream? Our comfort? Our plush couches and air conditioning? Our _________? You fill in the blank. No one can answer this question except you through the voice of the Holy Spirit.
God, forgive us for the cheap worship that we so often present to You. God, the truth is we often treat you like a sick neighbor that we really don’t care for, but whom we bring our cold pizza and leftover sweet tea anyway so that we can feel good about ourselves and appease our guilt. As if You don’t really know what’s going on in our hearts. O God, forgive us. May we determine that our worship from this point on will be costly. Maybe not necessarily expensive in earthly terms, but costly! And may we refuse to offer cheap worship to an infinitely worthy God. Amen.