Worship is an integral part of the Christian faith, and God’s demand of our worship should be a cause of great joy – it is an act of justice, truth, goodness, generosity and compassion toward us. But one objection to Christian worship is resentment toward God for demanding worship. C.S. Lewis, before he was converted, believed that the constant demand of worship from God and the Psalms were like that of a vain, insecure old woman demanding praise and complements. The extent to which we believe this will repel us from adoring and enjoying God through worship. So is God vain to demand worship of us? Is it the product of divine insecurity and therefore only offered by us out of fear?
In his book “Reflection on the Psalms,” Lewis argues that we are meant to enjoy worship, so it is not vain for God to demand we worship him. People praise things all the time, not because they have to, but because they like to. Praise, when freely given, is always an action of enjoyment. For God to demand our praise is for him to demand that we be happy and enjoy ourselves and him. We are commanded to do what all people do when they seek the full circle completion of their pleasures – to speak and enjoy praise of that which is praiseworthy.
I think this is one decently good way to answer the questions. But I think there are other answers that are just as true, if not as persuasive.
When C.S. Lewis talked about God sounding like a vain old woman demanding compliments, he was picking one idiom and rejecting another. Why not pick the idiom of a military general demanding respect – why pick an old woman? If a general required a subordinate to salute the flag and to call him “Sir,” would we see that as an action of vain self-importance? It’s less likely we would, because the general’s title and position stand for something beyond his person. The general can require respect because his position demands it and he deserves it. If a private were to refuse to respect him, the real issue would be the private’s insolence, not the general’s demand of respect. Why shouldn’t the same be true with God?
If God requires our worship and praise, this is only vain or emotionally illegitimate if his position or merit makes it morally undeserved. If praise is the proper, healthy and morally right reaction to God, then the fact he is requiring praise toward himself is not right or wrong, vain or humble. If it is legitimate, then it is legitimate – regardless of who is demanding it. If God is ultimately good and just, his character will not allow him to not demand it. The truly good God must demand what is truly good, especially when it is his positional responsibility to enforce and demand justice.
When we recognize that the praise he demands is also the completion of the enjoyment we should have in him, then not only is it legitimate and necessary for him to demand it, but it is beneficial to us when he does. Worship to the true God is meant to bring us joy, and God would not be God if he did not demand it.