Which God Do You Worship?
AROUND the world, people would answer that question in many different ways. The apostle Paul observed: “There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’” and today the gods worshiped number into the millions. (1 Corinthians 8:5) Did you know, however, that many people worship a different god from the one they think they are worshiping? And did you realize that many atheists are more devout than those who believe in a god? In what way?
Well, one meaning of worship is “to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.” In the original Bible languages, the words for worship carry the thought of service or bowing down before someone. With this in mind, let us see how people can be mistaken as to whom or what they are really worshiping.
Take the example of the ancient Samaritans. Many of these were originally foreigners that the Assyrians introduced into Palestine to replace the exiled ten northern tribes of Israel. Previously, they had followed pagan gods, but now they made an effort to learn about Jehovah, the God of Israel. Did they then abandon their old religion? No. The Bible reports: “It was according to their former religion that they were doing. And these nations came to be fearers of Jehovah, but it was their own graven images that they proved to be serving.” (2 Kings 17:40, 41) So the Samaritans, while nominally recognizing Jehovah, still served their old gods, thus practicing a kind of fusion religion.
Something similar happened when missionaries introduced Roman Catholicism into South America. They converted most of the populace, but like the ancient Samaritans, the populace did not forget their former gods. Thus, in Brazil the pagan rites of voodoo are still observed by “Christians,” as are celebrations honoring ancient deities, such as the goddess Iemanjá. Similar things occur in other South American lands.
Moreover, the religion that those missionaries introduced into South America was itself a fusion religion. Many of its doctrines, such as the Trinity, hellfire, and the immortality of the soul, came from ancient pagan religions and philosophies. They were certainly not found in the Bible. Similarly, its feasts—including Christmas and Easter—were of non-Christian origin.* Is it possible to observe such pagan festivals and believe in such non-Christian doctrines and still worship the God of the Bible, who said: “You must not have any other gods against my face”? (Exodus 20:3) Surely not!
“Guard Yourselves From Idols”
Consider another way that people are deceived in the matter of worship. The apostle John wrote: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) About a thousand million people are listed as belonging to Christendom, and these presumably claim to worship the same God that John worshiped. Yet, hundreds of millions of them bow to images of “saints,” of Jesus, and of the virgin Mary.
There are other subtle forms of idolatry. In the year 44 C.E., King Herod Agrippa delivered a public speech, and the people became so excited that they shouted: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s!” (Acts 12:21, 22) Yes, they idolized Herod, making a god of him. Similar things happen today. In the heady days when Nazism was rising to power in Europe, the cry “Heil Hitler!” was really a shout of adoration. Many were willing to fight and die for the Führer as if he were a god, the savior of the nation. Yet, most of those rendering such homage were members of Christendom’s churches!
Before and after Hitler, other political leaders have similarly promoted themselves as savior figures and demanded exclusive devotion. Those who succumbed made gods of these men, no matter what formal religion the “worshipers” belonged to or even if they claimed to be atheists. The homage that charismatic sports stars, movie stars, and other entertainers receive from their fans also is akin to worship.
Worship of Money
Further, think of the implications of Jesus’ words when he said: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) Do you know anyone who belongs to a religion but whose chief interest in life is making money? Who, then, is such a one really serving, God or riches? How many unbelievers do you know who are caught up in the frenetic pursuit of money? Surely, they too are money worshipers, perhaps more zealous than many believers.
The apostle Paul explained a similar principle when he wrote: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) If we covet something so strongly that we expend all our efforts toward gaining it, perhaps even breaking the law in the process, then to us that thing is an idol, a god. (Ephesians 5:5) In another letter, Paul wrote of certain wrongdoers: “Their god is their belly.” (Philippians 3:19) If our whole purpose in life is pleasing ourselves, filling our belly as it were, then we are our own god. How many do you know who worship this kind of god?
Yes, as the apostle Paul wrote: “There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords.’” And in many cases, their worshipers are like the ancient Samaritans, serving one god by their words and another by their actions. In fact, though, there is only one God who deserves our worship. Do you know who he is? Further, there is one thing that unites the worship of all other gods apart from him. What is that? We will see in the following article.
For further information, see the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pages 212-13, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.