Devotional: Not so ‘awesome’: Christians overusing the word

17 Nov

Got $50 from your aunt for your birthday? Awesome!

Finished six sections each week to get the Timothy Award in AWANA? Awesome!

Your baby just started taking his first steps without holding on to anything? Awesome!

Christians using ‘awesome’ to describe anything not related to God Himself? Not so awesome.

Our society has been using ‘awesome’ as a synonym for ‘cool’ since the 1980s. How was that burger, Ted? Oh, it’s awesome, dude. How do those shoes feel, Stephanie? Wow, they are awesome. How does it feel to have your first baby, Joe? Totally awesome.

A website even lists what it considers to be the most awesome things, including, um, Will Farrell’s Super Sexy Sunscreen.


The definition of awesome is full of awe. Um, yes, of course. So let’s look up the definition of awe. It says:

“an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like”

One of the two examples in that definition says ‘in awe of God’. The other example it gives is ‘in awe of great political figures.’

What the Bible says

Interestingly, Scripture (ESV) also uses the word ‘awe’ in reference to God and great political figures.

In Jos 4:14, the people stood in awe of Joshua, just as they stood in awe of Moses. In 1 Sam 18:15, Saul stood in awe of David due to David’s great success. And in 1 Kgs 3:28, all Israel stood in awe of Solomon due to his wisdom. Great political figures all.

But while the Bible describes people being in awe of other people, it never commands us to be in awe of people (or things, like shoes, sports results, or Will Farrell’s, um, sexy sunscreen). Scripture does, however, command us to be in awe of God. For example:

You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him,
and stand in awe of  Him, all you offspring of Israel! (Ps 22:23)

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! (Ps 33:8)

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. (Ps 65:5-8)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe (Heb 12:28)

Christians should be careful to not use the word ‘awesome’ to describe anything unrelated to the Lord. This isn’t an attempt to be Pharisaical (where obeying laws are more important than a pure heart), but a caution to keep the Lord in His rightful place in your heart as the only One who truly is awesome.

Your turn

Have you been using the word ‘awesome’ flippantly? Have you ever referred to the Lord Himself, or things related to God (like heaven), as awesome?

One Response to “Devotional: Not so ‘awesome’: Christians overusing the word”

  1. Steven Tramel Gaines November 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Yes, God is awesome. Yes, I have sometimes used the word to describe other things. When I was kid, my dad encouraged me to use it only for God. I like the idea and appreciate your biblical encouragement to stand in awe of the Lord. Blog on!

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