What is Worldliness?
Everyone knows that the Bible says that God loves the world. Seemingly, America’s favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. For two consecutive years, I have volunteered to be a community judge for a national Christian organization that promotes public speaking and debating among high school students. I have worked in the area of apologetics (defending the Christian Faith). It is rare that a student makes a presentation without quoting that famous verse: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall inherit eternal life.” (Okay, that’s from memory, so don’t fuss if every word is not in its place).
So, we all agree: God loves the world. The apostle John is the one who stated that fact. However, the apostle writes another letter that we call First John. In 1 John 2:15-17 he writes something quite different, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” God loves the world, we are to go into all the world preaching the Gospel, and yet we are told to “not love the world.” Do you find this curious?
The surface-level contradiction is easily resolved when we realize that words have various connotations depending on their context and usage. In John 3:16, “world” refers to all “people,” but in 1 John 2:15 “world” refers to the “corrupt world systems.” Jesus uses the term in the latter sense as well when He basically teaches in John 17:15-16 that Christians are to be in the worldbut not of the world.
So then, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not to pursue the things of the world—self-promotion, power, money, sexual immorality, big houses, fancy cars, etc., etc. Our Lord teaches us to seek to be last instead of first, become the least and not the greatest, strive to serve as an alternative to being served. Sure, we battle temptation. Sometimes we fall prey to worldliness. Yet, on the whole, are you pursuing the things of the Lord or the things of the world? We all need to evaluate our lives from time to time to see where our hearts are and how our priorities stack up.