bribery

by JOSH COAD

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

Love Expressed

Consider two situations with me.

SITUATION ONE

Picture your average Christian churchgoer, standing with eyes closed and arms lifted as the worship team plays a familiar worship song.

SITUATION TWO

Now picture a tribe of nomadic hunters and gatherers living thousands of years ago. They depend on the elements of nature for their livelihood. If the sky produces too little rain, the ground won’t produce enough vegetation and they’ll starve. If they find too few animals to hunt, they’ll starve. Realizing so much of their success depends on forces beyond their control, the nomads decide there must be deities who control the sun, the rain, the animals, etc. When nature works against them, these nomads assume their deities are upset with them, so they sacrifice their goods on altars to appease the gods, hoping these gods will forgive them their offenses and grant them success. However, nature never works 100% in their favor, so the nomads always assume they’re offending the gods. They keep sacrificing and sacrificing until they have nothing left and must resort to horrors like child-sacrifice.

This is how ancient pagan worship began. It was essentially bribery—paying off a more powerful being in order to receive special favors.

These two situations seem completely unrelated, but unfortunately, you and I worship like nomads more often than we’d care to admit or even realize. We might think we’re better than that. After all, we don’t have altars in our backyards on which we burn vegetation, animals and occasionally other people. However, the truth is we still often try to bribe God with our worship.

I’ve spent too many worship services consumed by shame over my sins of lying, lust, anger, pride, etc., ... the list is quite lengthy. When my worship is rooted in shame, I assume God is mad at me. So I worship to appease Him and keep Him happy. It’s like God is a police officer who caught me speeding and I’m subtly trying to slip him a couple hundred bucks, hoping He’ll forget about the whole thing.

But God has already forgiven me of my sin. Hebrews 10:10 (NLT) says His “will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” Verse 14 goes on to say “by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.” As a born-again believer, when I treat my worship like a bribe, I’m essentially trying to pay off God to forgive me for sins He already forgave and doesn’t even remember (Hebrews 8:12). How absurd! However, when I receive and fully embrace Jesus’ sacrifice on my behalf, I am cleansed. I don’t need to worship to cover up my offenses.

Our worship to God can be so much more. Offering our sacrifices of time, energy, singing and mock devotion on the altar of our shame fuels a sad cycle of bribery. On the other hand, grasping and receiving the infinitely greater sacrifice God made on our behalf transforms our worship into a joyous, unbridled response. Followers of almost every religion since the beginning of time have worshipped to convince their gods to give them things. As Christians, we have the unique privilege of worshipping our great God because of what He’s already given us—forgiveness, acceptance, love and the honor of knowing Him.

You don’t have to pay God to give you any attention. Long before you ever cared about Him, He paid loving attention to you (Romans 5:8). You were poor, penniless and condemned to die. The elements were not working in your favor; but God cancelled your debts, brought you from darkness into light and gave you the greatest treasure of all—friendship with Him (Romans 5:10, NLT). Abandon your bribes, and receive His gift of love instead. Let your worship today be an adoring, grateful response.

He has cheated Hell and seated us above the fall

In desperate places, He paid our wages, one time, once and for all

JOHN MARK MCMILLAN

Prayer

Father, I was lost, broken and unrighteous, but through Jesus, You paid for all my sin so I could know You. I don’t worship to earn Your favor or forgiveness. I worship You because You have already given me more than I could ever imagine. Let my worship be an expression of love and gratitude to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Activation

  • Examine the motives of your worship. Do you view worship as a requirement to keep God happy? Are you trying to bribe Him through worship? Or are you worshipping out of response to His goodness?
  • Next time you worship, begin by reflecting on His work of redemption in your life. Remember what Jesus did on the cross, and thank Him for your salvation and relationship with Him.

For Further Study

  • Romans 5
  • Hebrews 8–10
  • Psalm 103
  • Revelation 5
Romans 5Hebrews 8–10Psalm 103Revelation 5
JOSH COAD
Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)