Probably my favorite science fiction franchise is the Stargate franchise. Stargate SG-1, the first television series in the franchise, explored the dynamic of aliens who claimed to be gods and demanded that people worship them. Toward the end of the series, the good guys had to go up against a group of aliens that had genuine god-like powers and who lived on an entirely different plane of existence. Debunking these aliens as gods was problematic. In response, a favorite piece of logic for the show became "What kind of petty gods demands that we worship them or be destroyed?" Now, these aliens were literally intent on destroying people the moment they were rejected as gods but the parallel had been established with Christianity, Islam, Judaism and any other religion that believes their deity will eventually punish those who refuse to believe and obey.
Honestly, this is a question I have heard a lot over the last several years. What kind of petty God would demand that we worship Him? Is God really so insecure? Is God really that mal-adjusted? Why wouldn't an all-powerful God simply allow us to do what we want?
But those questions show a lack of understanding of God's motives. In Jeremiah 7, God is pointing out the idolatrous behavior of the people of Judah, demonstrating how idolatry has basically become a family affair and the people are "provoking" him to anger. But then, God makes this statement, "But are they really provoking me?- This is the Lord's declaration - Isn't it they themselves being provoked to disgrace?" (Jeremiah 7:19, HCSB). In other words, God asks, "Are they really hurting me? Aren't they really just hurting themselves?"
Throughout scripture a picture is painted of how humanity was created to walk in fellowship with God. When that fellowship was broken is when problems started. But refusing to walk in fellowship with God is like refusing to breath oxygen: bad things are going to happen on their own. We can't expect to avoid fellowship with God and come out okay anymore than we can expect to avoid breathing oxygen and be okay. Scripture seems to teach that we are dead until God finds us and we begin to walk in fellowship with God again. If that death continues throughout our lives, how could we expect our state of death to suddenly end when our physical bodies expire?
God doesn't demand that we worship because God is petty and insecure. God demands that we worship because we were designed to worship God and to walk in fellowship with God in the very same way that we were designed to breath oxygen. God demands it because we only hurt ourselves if we refuse and God loves us too much to let us continue in death without trying to affect the situation.
The next time someone asks, "How petty does God have to be to demand that we worship Him?" Answer, "How petty does oxygen have to be to demand that we breathe it?" We were designed to worship God. Anything less is just harming ourselves.