Benevolence is to do good unto others. Are Christians worshiping God when they do good unto others? Is benevolence worship to God? To know if benevolence is worship, then we must first know what worship is, and then we can know what is an act of worship and whether or not benevolence is just that.
What is worship? I regret any disappointment, but we must eliminate what many have come to believe by tradition of men. Many have come to the conclusion that worship is only that of reverent services done in assembly, but this idea is narrower than what the Scriptures teach. Worship is not always in assembly. In fact, there are only two times that a Greek word for “worship” is even slightly connected to assembly in the Scriptures. These are that of an unbeliever becoming a believer and worshiping after being convicted by the preaching of the Assembly in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 and then one may argue for Acts 13:2’s small meeting. The author, Edward C. Wharton, of the book “The Church of Christ”, which is published by Gospel Advocate, stated, “We should not think of worship as confined to praise or a worship activity in a church house.” This is very much true. No one would ever deny that prayer is only worship when done in assembly, but such is argued for the singing of spiritual songs. The point is that worship goes across the boundaries of assembling. On the other hand, worship is not so broad as a blink of the eye, a breath of air, playing golf, or fishing, which those who support these ideas, justify themselves saying “worship is all of life”. These two extremes will be eliminated when we know what worship is.
To understand worship, let’s start with the English word “worship”. “Worship” is what it is by definition. Just look up the definition of the term and one can know what worship is, then see if benevolence fits in. Someone might ask, “What about the Bible’s definition?” Well, the Bible does not define English terms, but Greek terms. The question is: “Is the English ‘worship’ a Biblical concept in Greek?” Let’s see the meaning of “worship” and see if it is a Scriptural concept.
The Oxford Dictionary states that worship is, “n. 1a homage or reverence paid to a deity. b acts, rites, or ceremonies of worship. 2 adoration or devotion (worship of wealth)… v. 1 tr. adore as divine; honor with religious rites. 2 tr. idolize. 3 intr. attend public service.” Also note Merriam-Webster’s definition,
“n. 1 chiefly British : a person of importance — used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors) 2 : reverence offered [to] a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence 3 : a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual 4 : extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem v. 1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power 2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion intransitive senses : to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship”
Let’s narrow this definition down. “Worship” simply defined is: to revere, adore, and honor something perceived to be greater than oneself. Looking ahead, is there any part of this definition that rejects benevolence from being acts of reverence, adoration, and honor to the great Creator of the Universe? Not at all, benevolence fits right in. Now, does the word “worship” match any of the New Testament’s Greek terms that are translated “worship”? Yes, it does.
Most are surprised to know that 4 of the 6 words translated as “worship” in English Bibles have more specific or just different meanings than that of the English word “worship” and are often times translated as another English word. Despite this, “worship” is a biblical concept because the English concept does line up with the meaning of two Greek words, proskuneo and sebomai. Both Greek words actually meet the definition of worship accurately. There is another article here on the specifics of all the Greek words for worship.
After looking at the terms, there is no exclusion of benevolence from being worship to God and it seems clear that one can do good to others with honor and reverence to God thus making benevolence worship to God. By using good reasoning with a sound knowledge of the Scriptures, most conclude that praying, singing spiritual songs, and taking of the Lord’s Supper are worship though there is not one passage that says that praying, singing, and the Lord’s Supper are worship while there are passage directly presenting sacrifices, temple worship, and teaching as worship. How does one know if praying, singing, and the Lord’s Supper are worship? One knows by necessary inference that praying, singing, and the Lord’s Supper are worship. For instance, Hebrews 13:15 makes it clear that praising God with lips is worship, “Through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name.” Praise to God from the lips is a spiritual sacrifice and therefore it is an act of worship.
It is clear that benevolence is an act of worship though not an act of worship being direct praise or direct communication with God. The best Scripture supporting benevolence as worship is Hebrews 13:16, where the Spirit states, “But to do good and to commune forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Sacrifices are acts of worship in the Old Testament and now there are the spiritual sacrifices of the New Testaments that Christians must also offer (1 Pet. 2:5, Rom. 12:1). In Hebrews 13:16, “to do good” is such an act of worship including “to commune”, which means literally “to share”. See, benevolence is certainly an act of worship since it is a spiritual sacrifice “to do good” and “to commune”. In fact, “to do good” is as broad as an act of worship can be defined in Scripture. Still, the specifics of the definition of worship in the Scriptures exclude the errors of “all of life is worship” and “worship only occurs in Christian assemblies”.
Is benevolence worship? Yes! Let’s give attention and confirmation of this Scriptural truth to brother and scholar Guy N. Woods. In “Questions and Answers – Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures” (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman, 1976. P. 333), Guy N. Woods is asked the question, “Would you please comment on the difference between serving God and worshiping God?” Woods commented that, “There is not nearly as much difference between these concepts as many today apparently believe. Occasionally, we see over the entrance to a church auditorium these words, ‘Enter to worship and leave to serve.’ This concept results from ignorance of what the New Testament teaches about service and worship to God.” In this same discourse, Guy Woods commented on acts of worship stating, “When, for example, a basket of food is carried to a needy family, the act is grounded in the concept of service, but it is done out of regard to our relationship to God, and to this extent involves an act of worship. Therefore, we worship God in serving others!”
Will you honor and revere God by doing good unto others? Remember Matthew 25:34-46. On the Judgment Day, Christ will divide the good people from the evil by whether they did good unto others or not.
— Note to those who prefer to use James 1:27 to teach that benevolence is worship. James 1:27 contains the Greek word “threiskeia”, which means “religion” not “worship”. “Threiskeia” does not even have a verb form. The use of this passage to prove benevolence to be worship may result in someone appearing to refute that benevolence is worship, so be cautious in relying on James 1:27. —