By Forrest D. Moyer
Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap (Luke 21:34).
If I asked, “Are you guilty of worldliness?”, what would you say? Undoubtedly I would get varied answers to such a question. Some would respond with a powerful “No!” Someone else might say, “I don’t think so.” Another might ask, “What do you mean by worldliness?” Most brethren consider worldliness as a threat to spirituality, but I believe that it is the greatest problem that the people of God face in the society of our day! In this study we shall show that worldliness is defined in the Bible, and that it is deceptive and that it is destructive.
I. Worldliness Is Described In The Bible
The apostle John describes it in 1 John 2:15-17:
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
John tells us that the love of the world consists of (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the boastful pride of life. Whatever falls into these categories is worldliness and separates us from God. That is why it is vital for us to study this text and this subject.
The lust of the flesh induces a fleshly way of thinking and acting. “Flesh” involves more than the elements that make up the human body. It is a way of thinking and living that is contrary to the way of God. It is contrasted with spiritual living in Romans 8 and Galatians 5. These chapters suggest that the word “flesh” (sarx) includes the mind of the person and his reasoning abilities and not just the cells that make up the human body.
The word “lust” (desire) can be for either that which is good or for that which is bad. God has given to man certain desires and these are all good within themselves. We have the desire for food, for drink, for sleep, for sex. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these desires. But they can be directed in the wrong channels and become sinful. While the desire for food is natural and good, gluttony is sinful. While the desire to quench thirst is proper, drunkenness is a sin. Sleep is a normal need, but “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -and your poverty will come in like a vagabond” (Prov. 6:10-11). Laziness is a sin. The fulfillment of sexual desires within marriage is of God and is, therefore, holy. But sex taken outside the bounds of husband and wife is fornication (whether pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexuality, or bestiality) and is sinful. When we have desires for what is forbidden, we are headed toward “love of the world.”
The lust of the eyes has to do with pleasures that gratify the sight and the mind in such a way to lead one away from God. It is that spirit which can see nothing without wanting it in order to flaunt it. It is the attitude that believes that happiness can be found in things which money can buy and which the eye can see. We must remember that the things which are seen are temporal (2 Cor. 4:18). This is what worldliness is: emphasis on that which is temporal.
The boastful pride of life is the spirit that attempts to show people how important we are. This is why we buy houses, cars, clothing, appliances, and other luxuries which we cannot afford. We want to impress people. We want to boast about our own greatness. The “travel now, pay later” advertising gets millions of people to buy things beyond their means. Why? To impress people with our material possessions. That, my brother, is worldliness. These three principles of worldliness set forth by John will be of help to us later as we continue our study.
Jesus describes worldliness in Luke 8:14:
And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries (cares) and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
Jesus is explaining His parable of the sower. He says that “thorns” choke out spiritual life. What are these thorns?
The cares or worries of this life have to do with our anxieties over material things such as our food, clothing, or shelter. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus, with His masterful word pictures, teaches us not to worry about our food or clothing or the necessities of life (Matt. 6:25-34). In vv. 31-33 we hear Him say:
Do not be anxious then, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “With what shall we clothe ourselves?” For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
Anxiety about these physical needs are indicative of little faith (v. 30). Instead of worry our lives must be characterized by prayer (Phil. 4:6) and action (Matt. 6:33 – “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”). Anxiety about these things can choke out the word and that is worldliness.
The riches of this life are another source of worldliness. Paul spoke of such in 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.
It is our desire for riches that chokes out the word and, thus, constitutes worldliness.
The pleasures of this life also constitute worldliness. These would be any pleasures that would draw us away from the godly life that the Holy Spirit has laid out for us in t Word. Now, with John’s and Jesus description of worldliness before us, we can observe that.
Worldliness may fall into two categories. There are things that are wrong within themselves because God has declared them to be wrong. Anything that falls within the description of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 is sinful because God declares that it is. This includes sexual sins, sins of the disposition, sins of action. Peter speaks of this kind of worldliness when he talks about “a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries” (1 Pet. 4:3). Paul is emphatic in ordering us to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). Anything that falls into this category is sinful – it is of this world. The “R” movies and many “PG” movies are sinful because of these passages. Parents, do you exercise control over what your children see? Would you allow your three year old child to go down the alley and eat food from garbage cans? Well, friend, the “R” movies (and many others) are garbage of a more deadly kind. They poison the soul! Would you bring a filthy garbage can into your living room from which to feed your family? Yet, almost every week and pollution into their homes by means of degraded TV programs. Such is harmful to adults, but it is disastrous to children! Such is also true of the modern dance. The moral allurements of such are not conducive to a godly, spiritual life. It is in the realm of worldliness.
But there is a worldliness that I believe is even more destructive to Christians than what we discussed in the preceding paragraph. That has to do with things that are not wrong within themselves, but which constitute worldliness by their use. Paul said that Demas loved this present world. I rather doubt that Demas got involved in immorality or drunkenness, etc. Rather I am inclined to feel that Demas was afraid that he would die if he stayed with Paul in Rome. He loved this present world and was not ready to leave it, I fear that we all must be very careful lest we become worldly in this way.
These are those who have so many interests in life that the most important things are choked out. People become too busy to pray, too busy to study, too busy to visit the sick, too busy to be involved in home classes, too busy to come to all the services. That’s worldliness! When we say, “I don’t have time,” we are saying that God did not give us sufficient time to do His will, and that is a charge against God Himself. He gave us all 168 hours each week. In so doing He gave us time to do everything that He desires of us in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. Usually when one says, “I don’t have time for spiritual matters,” he still has time for sports, for TV, for theater, for extra school classes or for anything else that he wants to do. The truth is that we find time to do what we want to do. When we get so involved in making money that we do not have time for Jesus, that’s worldliness! I’m not afraid that a lot of my brothers and sisters will be involved in drinking parties, or gambling or immorality, but I believe that many are involved in “respectable worldliness.” You are allowing other things – things not wrong within themselves – to choke out your spiritual life. These things become the most important things in your life. Let me impress upon you, friend, you can get by without movies, TV, sports, theater, etc., but you cannot get by without Jesus Christ in your heart and life! Let us indeed “seek those things which are above” and “set our affection on things above” (Col. 3:1-2).
Truly, worldliness is defined in God’s word.
II. Worldliness Is Deceptive
Jesus tells us that worldliness will “weight us down”; it will “choke” us. These processes seldom take place immediately. Usually they gradually and slowly begin their deadly work. Thorns begin to grow as the seed grows. The thorns grow a little each day until they become so large that they have done their murderous work. Worldliness creeps up on one. The believer gradually accepts and then adopts the ways of the world. Jesus indicated that in Matthew 24:38-39 by His reference to the people of Noah’s day who were going on in their daily manner of life totally oblivious to the fact that the flood was coming. People come to feel comfortable in their worldly way of life. They come to look upon even sinful activities as being the normal way of life. We accept our “respectable worldliness” as the way that most decent people live. We fail to see the choking effect of this kind of worldliness.
We live in a time of deceptive advertising. People are bamboozled by the ads that promise joy and happiness but bring only sorrow and shame. The liquor industry has led millions down a path of destruction by their deceptive ads. “The man of distinction” ads allure many to drunkenness. The ads do not show the true side of the coin. They do not show the wreck on the highway with the mangled bodies of innocent children strewn on the roadside in their own blood – the wreck caused by “a man of distinction”! They do not show the children without sufficient food to eat or clothing to wear because their father is such a “man of distinction” that he cannot hold a job or do anything but hang out at the bar. These ads do not show the dissipated man in rags with vomit running down his filthy clothes. Indeed, they deceive. The ads show the woman who “has come a long way, baby,” as a lady of sophistication because she smokes a particular brand of cigarettes. The ads do not show the hundreds of thousands who are suffering from lung cancer, heart disease, ulcers, and emphysema because of their use of tobacco. The ads picture the glorification of illegitimate sex, but they do not show the ruin of teenage pregnancies and of broken homes caused by adulterous action. Truly, worldliness is deceptive.
III. Worldliness Is Destructive
We must understand that worldliness will destroy us! James 4:4 says:
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The Lord is emphatic. Worldliness places us in hostility to our God. It is destructive. We have already seen John’s statement that “if any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). He shows that if we are in love with the world that we shall pass away with this world.
Paul shows that those who are guilty of the works of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). In Philippians 3:18-19 we hear him say:
For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
These are worldly people because they set their minds on earthly things. Their end is definite: it is destruction! Worldliness will lead one to Hell. If you are traveling the pathway of worldliness, you are in the way to eternal destruction.
We have shown that worldliness is defined in the Bible, it is deceptive, and it is destructive. Have you allowed worldliness to sap your spiritual energy and drag you back into the power of Satan? If so, “come out from among them and be separate and do not touch what is unclean.” Every effort that you make for godly living will be worth your while.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, pp. 264-266
May 1, 1986