You Are What You Worship (and it may not be what you think)

Today’s post will offer insights from the book, “You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit” by James K.A. Smith. I highly recommend reading this book – you can find it in our Harvest Bookstore on Sunday morning! “You Are What You Love” has been both powerfully illuminating and convicting for me personally. It’s worth it to invest some time in reading it, it may speak to your heart too!


In my last blog post, Our Life Is Our Worship, we highlighted the seemingly popular idea that the word “worship” is synonymous for “music” or the singing of praises. Indeed, music and singing are activities that we can and should engage in, but they do not encompass the entirety of what worship truly is. Worship is so much larger than that.

In his book, “You Are What You Love”, Smith identifies that to be human is to worship, and that worship is not optional. Whether we are aware of it or not every human being on this planet is worshipping something. We will always, at some point, end up in a state of worship because we cannot help it, we are hard-wired to love something as ultimate.[1] God wove worship into the very fabric of our beings, indeed into the whole of creation!

Before we dive in, let’s review because this is important groundwork…

First, we are creatures made by God for worship, worshipping is simply not optional.

Second, because worship has been woven into creation itself, it engages our entire self and becomes inseparable from the lives that we lead.

Additionally, how we live our lives will declare what we are worshipping because we are what we worship.

Today, we will be looking at how worship is formative in our life. Worship is something that we do, but it also does something to us. With this in mind, it is vitally important for you to know what you are worshipping because you are what you worship. In Smith’s book, he spends some time laying the groundwork to this concept “you are what you worship.” He establishes a progression of thought that looks something like this:

You are what you love à You worship what you love à You are what you worship

Pretty simple, right? The point is this: at the heart of worship is love. What we worship will be the thing that we love the most. Stay with me now, because this is where it can get tricky.

It is at this point that Smith introduces another piece to the puzzle: you might not love what you think.  The scary truth is that we may not actually love what we think we love, or even profess to love. Actions speak louder than words, right? If our life is our worship, and our worship stems from what we love, than we must examine ourselves honestly to see what it is that we love most.

The truth is that we live in a world saturated by sin. A world that does not worship God. A world where the normalcies of its culture will try to teach us to worship things other than God. Therefore, it is vitally important to be aware of the culture of the world that surrounds us. We live in a world that plunges us into patterns of living and habits that attempt to re-direct our worship, our hearts, what we love, our time, to things other than God.

So, here we go. The following questions might be uncomfortable for you, they certainly were for me, but I believe that they are questions that we must ask ourselves. Are you ready? Let’s begin.

Think about this: what do you want? Where do you place meaning in your life? From where do you draw your strength? What is the source of your identity? What do you love the most? Because that is where you will spend your time and energy. And remember, how you spend your time/energy/money will reveal what you love, and you might not love what you think (and we worship what we love).

What drives you?

Is it money and possessions? Are you always looking for that next raise? The bigger house? The newer car? Do you need to have the latest and greatest technology? If this is what you worship, you will never have enough. You will always want more.

What about your body?  How wrapped up are you in your beauty, attractiveness, or athleticism? Have you fused your sense of identity with how you look, or how your body can perform physically? If worship your body you will never be strong enough, thin enough, pretty enough, and eventually not even young enough.

Or, perhaps the thing you seek the most is power. Do you have to be in charge, do you have to be in control? Are you seeking power, which you will never have enough of, because it makes you feel important, safe, secure, and strong? If you worship power, you will only ever feel weak and afraid.

Do you worship your intelligence? Is being the smartest person in the room important to you? Do you feel the need for people to recognize that you are right? Do you desire to have a reputation for always knowing what you are talking about, for being accurate? Can you admit when you are wrong? Worshipping intelligence will only highlight to you the people who know more than you do, and you will always feel inferior and seek to prove yourself.

David Foster Wallace, a writer, spoke to our tendency to worship such things in a famous commencement address at Kenyon College:

“The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”[2]

I believe that Wallace touches on something key here, that it is possible to end up worshipping things subconsciously. If we are not careful, the habits, trends, and rituals of the world around us become normal patterns of life. Temptation enters our lives subtly. Not all sins are decisions. Sin can become a habit, one we become so used to that we don’t even recognize it as sin anymore. Remember, we are called to be “transformed” and “set apart.” There is danger in conforming our lives to the patterns of this world. Even the small, innocuous and subconscious habits we develop become dangerous when they replace God at the center of our hearts and lives.

Are you uncomfortable yet?

I will be the first to admit that I have allowed the patterns of this world to dictate my lifestyle and my identity. I desire to give myself completely over to God, and to live a life of worship that declares my love of God. Yet, I still find myself pulled toward living a life of worship to myself. Even the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, laments that he is at odds with himself:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom. 7:15)

Paul’s flesh (sin) is at odds with his spirit (Christ in him). Paul is a new creation creature, a citizen of the Kingdom of God, living in a rival kingdom. What Paul is expressing is something to which we can all relate. We want to live lives of true worship to God, we want to be transformed and live holy lives, but we still mess up – we still make mistakes. There are influences all around us that try to steal away our attention from directing our lives in worship to God. The first step is admitting it.

In order to live a life of worship we need to create new patterns, new habits, in our lives so that our worship can be re-directed to its proper place: to God, and God alone. It is not something that happens overnight, and we cannot simply think our way to transformation. We need to cultivate an environment where the Holy Spirit can transform us from the inside out. We have many tools at our disposal, several counterformative patterns that we can utilize to cultivate a life of worship. We call these patterns, “the Spiritual Disciplines” and we will be learning more about these practices over the next several weeks.

Are you ready for your life to change?

May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit open your eyes to the habits and patterns in your life that conform rather than transform. God, may we continually seek to worship you with all that we have and never forget that we have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus and have died to our lives of sin. Amen


[1] James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 23

[2] David Foster Wallace, “Plain Old Untrendy Troubles and Emotions,” The Guardian, September 20, 2008, 2. Quotation taken from You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 23