Worldliness

Yikes, has it really been _that_ long since I blogged? Sorry. I’ll try to do better. To be honest, I’m growing pretty dissatisfied with blogging, but more on that in another post.

1 John 2
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Matthew 6
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It seems that loving the world is a pretty big deal. You can’t love the world and God. You can’t serve God and serve mammon. If you love the world, the love of the Father is _not in you_.

What do you think of when you read “love not the world”? What does someone who loves the world, who serves mammon, look like? We usually revert to some caricaturized idea of an incredibly driven person who is all about keeping up with the Joneses and succeeding in their careers, probably dual income no kids, or single, and a party animal. They spend their days wearing themselves out to get rich, oppressing the weak, squeezing every penny out they can, and they spend their nights in drunken debauchery.

I know people who probably fit your definition of worldliness (minus the drunken debauchery part). They have the dual incomes, the nice cars, nice houses, nice boats, high incomes, they know all the right people, travel all the time, and so on. And not a one of them thinks they are worldly. They are actually quite nice, and I count them among my friends. They have a definition of worldliness that is even more wrapped up in materialism than you probably think they are.

Now, if these _clearly_ worldly, carnal Christians don’t realize _they_ are worldly, what makes _me_ think I’d recognize it in my own life? Does anyone read “if anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” and think “Yep, that’s me. Love that world!” We _all_ think we are not worldly. We _all_ think we have our priorities pretty much straight. _Nobody_ thinks it would be fair to label us “worldly”.

I believe that worldliness is far more insidious, and that our caricaturized pictures of worldliness are entirely useless to diagnose worldliness in our own lives.

Jesus and John were not speaking/writing to what we’d call rich people in the passages quoted above. These were average folks, and they certainly didn’t have as much purchasing power as I do. But Jesus and John warned them against worldliness.

I believe worldliness is a far more pervasive problem than I used to think. I no longer think a person making $250,000 is so much more likely to be worldly than a person making $25,000.

But what do I mean by “worldliness” if it’s not the caricature I described earlier? What does loving the world look like?

This isn’t going to be a complete discussion, of course. It’s mostly the view of worldliness from where I sit, and is partially defined by the things in my life right now or the things that are potentially in my life, and I’m more focused on the more insidious forms of worldliness.

I think worldliness is similar to the definition of an idol – anything that pulls you away from God. Worldliness is a system of values and priorities that is focused on the temporal and earthly, rather than the eternal and spiritual.

I believe we are worldly when we allow _anything_ to pull us away from following God. The world, in this sense, is the polar opposite of heaven. We can pursue God, or we can pursue temporal things. We can listen to God, or we can be influenced by worldly voices.

If you take _anything_ into consideration other than “is this God’s will?”, it’s worldliness. If you are concerned about your reputation, your comfort, your income, your position, _anything at all_, then you are worldly.

If there are any changes you think you should make in your life that would help you more fully obey Christ, and you are hesitant to make them because it involves letting go of things that you like, it’s worldliness. These things may not even be evil per se. Maybe they are good. But if you are unwilling to give them up in order to more fully follow God, it’s worldly.

It is good for a man to provide well for his family. A nice income is good. It can be used for many good things. But if maintaining that nice income means I can’t change my job, change my location, etc., in order to more fully obey Christ, then I’m worldly. If I have to work excessively long hours, including Saturdays, to maintain my income, that _will_ come at the cost of obeying Deut 6:7, Ephesians 5:25, and Ephesians 6:4.

It is good for Christians to be involved. It’s good to be in civic organizations, to put your kids in various activities, to have various activities yourself, including ones related to church. Cell group, soccer, softball, gymnastics, Bible study, Lion’s club, Boy Scouts – those are all good. But does the combination of all of them promote your sanctification, and your family’s sanctification? And if not, _why_ are you unwilling to drop them? Or (from my perspective), why am I fairly willing to add them on? Is it because I have a perverse view of success that means my kids have to be involved in certain things? Is there _anything_ in the Bible to suggest that one of my goals in raising my children should be that they are athletically successful? Or well socialized? Is that even on the radar, Biblically? Is it important for me to be in church and social activities for the sake of my reputation in the community or even in the church? If so, that’s worldliness.

What about homeschooling? Are you unwilling to homeschool because that’s weird, and your kids won’t be popular and socialized? Do you believe that you will do a better job of obeying Deut 6:7 and Eph 6:4, raising godly children, by homeschooling – but you are not willing to do it because _it doesn’t conform to society’s expectations_? That’s worldliness.

Do you have an unbiblical view of what a successful life for your family would look like? If it _includes_ material possessions, financial security, wealth, social connections and reputation, power and influence – that’s unbiblical. A Biblical view of success is _only_ measured spiritually. If you think a rich Christian is more successful than a poor Christian, _that is worldliness_. Do you think you’ll be a more successful parent if your children are popular, or athletic stars, or piano virtuosos, or academic successes? Will you feel like a good parent if your son goes to Yale and becomes a Senator, or even President, or is a successful and powerful businessman? That’s worldliness.

It’s good for a church to have a good reputation in the surrounding community, and to do good as it has opportunity. But do you seek that reputation out of “the pride of life”? Do you want it so you’re well thought of? It’s worldliness. Are you willing to compromise what you _know_ the Bible says about how a church ought to relate to the community – ditching Biblical things, and embracing extrabiblical ideas – to achieve it? Do you measure your church’s success by anything other than how faithful you are to the revealed Word of God? That’s worldliness.

Do you know as a man that your job is to boldly lead your family spiritually? Do you realize that you are responsible for the spiritual development of your wife (Eph 5:26, 29) and children (Eph 6:4)? But it’s just too much work, and you know how people get about “domineering” husbands and fathers, and you don’t want to mess with it? That’s worldliness. Not to mention laziness and cowardice.

Do you believe that we are to “be fruitful and multiply”? Do you believe that children are a gift of the Lord, and you are blessed by having a full quiver of them? Do you know that a quiver holds more than 2 or 3 arrows? Do you think that raising many Godly children is one very good way of advancing the kingdom of God? But you don’t have a lot of children, because you know, that’s weird, and how could you possibly afford that? That’s worldliness.

(In the process of writing this, I think part of the reason I’m dissatisfied with blogging is because I’m worldly. I want to have lots of readers and get lots of links and comments. That’s not happening, so I feel like a failure and am frustrated. Funny how my own post is convicting to me.)

You love the world when you are concerned about earthly and temporal definitions of success. The Bible does not say we must not love the world _more_ than we love God. The Bible says we must not love the world _at all_. _Any_ love for the world is incompatible with loving God. “If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him”. You cannot serve God 75% and mammon a mere 25%. It’s all or nothing. Choose you this day who you will serve. You only get one choice.

I think that _at best_, worldly people like myself are trying to serve both masters, and we intend to give God first dibs, so to speak. And we fail miserably at it. We think it’s ok to lay up _some_ treasures here on earth, as long as we’re _also_ laying up some treasures in heaven. We will serve mammon provided it doesn’t require us to grossly disobey God. We wouldn’t kill someone for money, that would just be wrong. We will, however, neglect our families.

We think we can take orders from both masters. If the world commands us to do something, we first check “did God tell me _not_ to do this?” If not, we feel free to do it. Does God tell me _not_ to send my kids to public school? To _not_ put them in softball? To _not_ work a lot of overtime? To _not_ buy that house, take that job, buy that car, subscribe to DirecTV, watch that movie, read that book, buy a new car, etc? Oh, well then, it must be OK. But we have forgotten that all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.

God has not told us not to do all those things. But he has told us to do _other_ things. And what happens is that we neglect those things in order to serve the world. Which is why Jesus and John both unequivocally assert that you can’t serve them both. You might outwardly obey them both to some extent, but you will love one and hate the other. And being the sinful people we are, God is going to take a back seat to the world in our lives more often than not. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Could it be put more strongly? Can it be any clearer?

This is not asceticism. We are not trying to avoid creature comforts. It’s about seeking first (and only?) God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and He will add all these things to us. All the things we need, and many good things besides that. If God gave us Christ, will He withold good things from us? Maybe He witholds things from us because they aren’t really good. When _He_ gives a gift, it’s no “mixed blessing”. What we get for ourselves often is.

We are not striving to love God _more_ than the world, or to serve Him _more_ than we serve the world. We are putting away our idols, destroying them. Loving the world has no place in the life of a Christian. We can’t serve two masters.

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One Response to Worldliness

  1. Karl Thienes says:

    Great post.

    This is, of course, why the lack of authentic monasticism in contemporary Christianity is so sad. We need that link, that standard, those examples of people who have radically striven to love God and not the world.

    The irony is that too many Christians see monasticism as “leaving the world”—far from it. The monks have left the world so that they could love God *and with the right set of priorities* serve those in the world who need the truth.

    Orthodox monasticism, and the culture of a properly patristic ascetic lifestyle that the Church gives us, is, IMO, *the* antidote to many of our current problems in contemporary “Christianity”…

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