Batman and Big Brother
by Alex Crain
“And Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?" (Matthew 21:16 NKJV)
One of the blessings of being around children is the life lessons that they often teach us. Sometimes the lessons are about deep, spiritual truths. Like the lesson my two-year-old son, Henry, recently taught me about worship.
While at the playground area of a fast-food restaurant, Henry found himself surrounded by other kids his age whom he had never met. Suddenly, my wife heard him bragging to his little audience about his two heroes: Batman and big brother.
“Batman get bad guys,” Henry said to one. Then very proudly to another, “My brudder hit bad guys ty-kon-do.”
Now, his big brother never uses Tae Kwon Do… except in practice. But I suppose that, in Henry’s imagination, those nine-year-old practice opponents must be bad guys. Whatever his motivation for saying these things, Henry couldn’t help expressing praise for things that he thinks are great. It struck me that that’s a big part of what worship is.
Yes, we’ll need to continue teaching Henry about the goodness and greatness of God, just like we need continued teaching and reminding ourselves. But I don’t think that the concept of worship is something that he, or anyone else, needs to be taught. What we need to do is un-learn some wrong-headed ideas about worship that we have picked up over the years.
C.S. Lewis points out one such wrong-headed idea when he admits that he used to mistakenly view the Bible’s demands for praising God as no different than a conceited woman seeking compliments. Every time he heard the Psalms saying “praise the Lord,” “praise God,” or “praise Him,” God sounded pathetically vain to him. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms (p. 93 ff.), Lewis explains how his perspective changed:
“…the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.”
“The world rings with praise—readers [praising] their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game... Just as men praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists, in telling everyone to praise God, are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.”
“My difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses, but completes the enjoyment.”
Intersecting Faith and Life: If it’s true that worship springs naturally from within a person and is expressed by praising that which he or she enjoys most, then what or whom do you find yourself praising?
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."