Author of The Wolf in Their Pockets and Terms of Service, Chris Martin, shares about technology and its effects on our spiritual lives. Hear more about technology from THINK|23.
Growing up in the church, when I heard pastors or Sunday school teachers talk about idolatry and how we needed to be careful not to worship idols, I remember thinking, “No worries teacher, you won’t find me carving a fake god out of wood and worshiping it in my closet.” As a child growing in his or her understanding of religion and faith, I figured that you either worshiped the Christian God or some other gods whose claims to truth and supremacy were lacking in comparison to the God of the Bible. Of course, I was wrong.
To worship is at the core of what it means to be human. We all worship something or someone. To paraphrase John Calvin, the heart is a perpetual idol factory.1 We’re always creating or finding something or someone new to worship who isn’t Yahweh, the God of the Bible and of our salvation. The heart of worship is love and adoration. We worship that which we love ultimately, and to love is human. James K. A. Smith writes in You Are What You Love, “To be human is to have a heart. You can’t not love. So the question isn’t whether you will love something as ultimate; the question is what you will love as ultimate. And you are what you love.” As I have led student ministries over the years and have taught on this topic, and as I’ve tried to dig deep into my own heart to examine what and how I worship, I’ve always come back to the metaphor of having a North Star.
The North Star, formally called “Polaris,” is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, which is commonly known as the “Little Dipper.” If you think of the Little Dipper like a pot with a handle, the North Star is the star on the tip of the handle. The North Star is what is called a “pole star,” which means it aligns with one of the poles of the Earth’s axis—in this case, the North Pole. Because Polaris aligns with the North Pole, it appears to never move, or only move slightly, and the other stars in the night sky look as though they are rotating around the North Star. This is not actually happening, but because of Polaris’s alignment with our North Pole, it is a sort of celestial optical illusion. But it is a helpful one! Because the North Star appears to never move, it has been used as a navigational star for travelers around the world for millennia.
What or who we worship serves as our North Star.
Whatever or whoever we worship is our guide through whatever it is life may have for us on a given day. All of life seems to revolve around that which we worship, even if it isn’t actually doing so, just as all the stars in the sky seem to rotate around Polaris. The object of our worship is the part of our life to which our hearts are most closely knit. We wed our hearts to whatever we worship. We are willing to sacrifice other parts of our life in service of that which we worship. We look to what we worship to lead us out of the darkest valleys and into the promised land.
What or who we worship has tremendous practical implications on our lives. Whether we worship Yahweh, a false god, a job, a spouse, a child, a hobby, or something else entirely—whatever we worship guides our lives in seen and unseen ways. For that reason, and because He loves us more deeply than we know, God cares about our worship.