Sunday, August 22, 2010

Questions on Worship – Part 2 – ‘Comparison’

Question 2: Everyone is ‘blessed’ with the propensity to compare. Does the scope of our comparing, however, restrict our comparisons as far as we personally and others are concerned, and extend our focus of comparison mainly to God?

The focus of our comparisons can very quickly and easily lead us to the attention and direction we give to our worship; all people worship. Let us frame our consideration of the matters of comparison around this:

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

“We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you.”

~2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV).

The Apostle Paul, who wrote the above, sought to highlight a common human fault resident in the false-teaching individuals of his time—these at Corinth. The sin of pride had these ‘feeding’ upon themselves and their own gratuities and this crowded out anything that God might otherwise reveal to them. It harmed their relationships too, as well as the spiritual development of those under them. That was the result.

The cause is interesting... in other words, their worship was askew.

They chose to worship themselves, whilst undermining others (including Paul), and not subject themselves to God; thus, their worship missed the glory of God. It also anchored them to the world of compromise and complaint, and all sorts of curses—relational and spiritual—were theirs.

Answering in the Affirmative

With all our being, our best worship is in comparison, as much as possible, to God alone in terms of the “field” God has “assigned” to us.

We are very often blind in this, however. Perhaps we think we don’t compare much—thinking what we and others do doesn’t make a great deal of difference on us. Typically, however, this thinking is actually the becoming of us. We do compare with others or compare ourselves with ourselves—and these mostly to the ends of envy and self-condemnation respectfully. This will often lead us to all manner of vice-like thinking including envy and pride, as well as motivating anger, sloth, lust etc.

We have, here, fallen for the idolatry of worshipping things, ideals or situations other than God—and we’ll always find ourselves cursed in a practical sense for it.

Our only blessed comparison is God and the things of God for us (“our assigned field”), including the issues of moral virtue i.e. how we’re to operate.

Most poignantly, out of the context of Paul and his apostolic call, we too have the same questions of God. We can very well ask, “What are you calling me to, Lord... what standard do you wish for me to aspire to and meet?”

Worship and Commendation

Right-sized and rightly-directed worship is always a commendable activity. And who other than God could commend us? Asked another way—“What other commendation is important to us?”

Here light is shed on the motive or desire for, and object of, our worship.

In the simplest of terms, then, Paul epitomised the ideal of true worship by staying strictly in the God-called context, making comparisons with the standards of God’s calling alone. This is a holy standard for which we’re all to aspire to.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Further Reading: Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians – A Commentary – The New Testament Library (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), pp. 228-31.

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