Praise and worship are a huge part of the Christian experience. We are encouraged throughout the Psalms to praise the Lord. We are also called by Scripture to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Yet, many Christians sometimes uncritically or carelessly sing praise songs that take Scripture out of context.
An example is Matt Redman’s composed tune “Undignified,” which has been popularized by the David Crowder Band. The song is upbeat, catchy and fun to sing. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser that pumps up the audience with more passion for the Lord. But does the message of the song align with a correct understanding of the biblical text it is based on (II Samuel 6:20-23)? Are we to be, as the song suggests, “undignified” to the world as we worship the Lord? To answer these questions, we must take a closer look at the biblical passage.
The Ark of God has just been moved from the house of Obed-edom into Jerusalem, the city of David (II Sam. 6:12). As David celebrates with the people, he begins dancing before the Lord with all his might. What is interesting, though, is that David is wearing very little — only a linen ephod (underwear). His wife, Michal, the daughter of Saul, sees King David dancing and despises him in her heart.
The story focuses on verses 20-23, when David has returned to his household to bless them. Michal greets him with a sarcastic comment. She can’t believe that David, the king, would display himself in such a manner. David responds with a scathing reply: “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord” (v. 21).
Although there may be an issue here concerning an unusual worship style, a deeper issue is at hand. While it may be true that Michal couldn’t stand the humble demeanor of the worshipping David, we also saw earlier that she had a despising heart toward him (6:16).
She now grows angrier as David states the painful reality concerning her father and her family — how the Lord chose David to be the ruler of the nation of Israel rather than her father, Saul. The real issue is a deteriorating relationship between David and Michal that culminates in her criticism of David’s unconventional worship. The passage describes that deteriorating relationship. It doesn’t prescribe worship in an undignified and, perhaps, uncaring manner toward the world.
This conclusion is solidified in verse 23, where we are told that Michal had no children to the day of her death. Some commentators take this as a possible curse from the Lord because of her criticism. But the plainest meaning is that David chose not to sleep with her anymore because of their broken relationship.
If the passage were meant to be prescriptive, then why not carry it out to its fullest implication and dance around during worship in “holy underwear” in an undignified manner? And why not do this in the streets? The reason is that is not what the author was trying to communicate. There are also indecent exposure laws that need to be upheld!
Plus, other scriptural guidelines seem to contradict the thrust of the song. 1 Timothy 3:4, for example, reminds the overseer to keep “his children under control with all dignity.” Titus 2:4 and 7 call men to be dignified. Even in the worship context, I Corinthians 14:33 and 40 urge believers to do “all things properly and in an orderly manner” because “God is not the God of confusion but of peace.” So, while it may be true that Christians shouldn’t care about what others think of our worship before the Lord, this passage does not support this concept.
Redman and Crowder must be applauded for their accomplishments as musicians and praise leaders. A further encouragement and opportunity exist, though, for songwriters and biblical thinkers to work together to bring glory to God so that believers can worship in spirit and in truth.