Most people whose faith is more than in name only, have certain religious rituals as part of their spiritual practices. A common one is church attendance. Another may be giving money or tithing to the church. Participation in a Bible study, small group, or midweek meeting is a third practice many people pursue. Introspective spiritual activities can include Bible reading and study, prayer, meditation, and fasting. I’m sure there are more.
Why do we do these things? Here are some common reasons:
- Out of Habit: While habits can be good, an unexamined habit becomes a mindless ritual. God deserves better.
- To Avoid Feeling Guilty: While there is a good type of guilt, most guilt is bad. Seek to understand the source of this guilt. If it’s another person – either directly or indirectly – it’s likely a bad guilt.
- To Earn God’s Love: The starting point in our relationship with God is that he loves us. We don’t need to earn it; we already have it. There’s nothing we can do to make him love us more. (And nothing we can do to make him love us less.)
- To Get God’s Attention: Do we do things to show God how righteous we are in order to get his attention? If we do, first of all, it’s just a show. Second, we already have his attention.
- Because the Bible Says To: Citing the Bible as justification for certain actions is noteworthy, but we must be careful. Does the Bible actually say what we think it says? Are we making unwarranted assumptions and jumping to wrong conclusions? Too often the answer is “yes.”
I can claim all of these reasons at one time or another. And they are all wrong. Here are the real reasons we should pursue our various spiritual practices; anything else is futility:
- To Express Love to God: God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. We should want to love him back. Remember, we’re not trying to earn his love or get his attention; we’re simply trying to say “I love you, too,” in tangible and meaningful ways.
- To Worship God: True worship is our ultimate gift to God. Though he doesn’t need our worship, he does deserve it. How we choose to worship him need not be like everyone else, but it should come from our heart.
Loving God and worshiping God may be opposite sides of the same coin. I’m not sure if we can separate the two. The things we do and the things we don’t do should be intentional decisions for the express purpose of loving and worshiping God. Any other reason falls short.