The cost of praise and worship is not high today. In our modern era, worship has become so cheap that it can no longer be considered to have a cost associated with it at all. In fact, it is not uncommon for some people to be so focused on the quality of music, the style of music, or the feel of a worship service that if it is not done to exacting specifications they will leave a longstanding and committed congregation to go search for some other worship service that fits their fickle palate. In such cases, the worship service is not about them serving with corporate praise, but instead about their congregation serving them with 30 minutes of goosebumps and feel goods. Their praise is being offered for a price, and not at a cost. Such a “service” is really about them, and not about God. This kind of spirit is reminiscent of the rebuke offered in Isaiah, where we are told that some people draw near to God with their mouths but their hearts are far from him (Isaiah 29:13).
But real praise and worship is a sacrifice. And it is continual. And it is about true service. Consider Hebrews 13:10-16 where praise is embedded firmly within a context of sacrifice. The core statement in that passage is that we are to offer up a continual sacrifice of praise, and that we are not to neglect doing good (Hebrews 13:15-16). A sacrifice of praise is one in which we engage in a costly behavior — meaning that we praise God even when we don’t feel like it. We praise God when our neighbor sings poorly, or the worship leader misses a note, or our life isn’t where we think it should be, or God hasn’t answered a prayer in the way that we thought he should. A sacrifice is doing good when all we want to do is to feed our own desires. True worship to God is in the attitudinal orientation of our lives, and in our behavioral application of that orientation. True praise and worship is a broken and contrite heart that is bent on serving his goodness (Psalm 51:16-17). It is also continual in that it is not confined to the wooden walls of a church house, or to the time boundaries of a weekly planned service.
True worship comes at a cost. It is not cheap. But it is valued by God, and it is glorious and compelling to those who witness it.