You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy. (James 4:4 Phillips Translation)
Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die. (1 John 2:15-17 Phillips Translation)
This is the first day of the season of Lent. If Lent has any practical meaning to the church of Jesus Christ today, it is in the area of confronting the worldliness that creeps into our souls.
So, let me ask you: Are you worldly? Are your values and goals in life different from the man on the street who does not know Christ, or are they the same? This is a very important question for those who know Christ are to live a different kind of life, and the difference is that we can never be comfortable with the values of the world. Our values as God’s children are higher, nobler, and better.
We are commanded to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48). We are called to love the world with the love of redemption, just as God loves the world and sent the Christ to redeem us from sin. But we are commanded not to love the ways or values of the world, for to do so puts us in conflict with God.
In the church we are becoming increasingly worldly. If we were to ask the average Christian who he admires and what he admires about them, the answers would probably come down to the amount of money they make, the power they wield, the pleasures they partake in, or the popularity they enjoy. In that way, we are no different from the world that admires people for the same reasons. The lusts of the flesh and of the eyes, and the pride of life have captured our hearts too often and too deeply.
There may be reason to admire someone who works hard, who has earned his success or has mastered a skill. We may admire them not from the worldly perspective but from the perspective of Christian morality – admiring the quality of the person without lusting after the worldly rewards they enjoy. But too often we just want the rewards – we want the crown but not the cross.
This sets us up against the values and the work of God. Many Christians now play the lottery, hoping they will win. The traditional view of Christian ethics says that gambling is wrong for two reasons: First, because you might lose and that would be bad; second, because you might win and that would be worse. You would then be tempted to think that that is the way to succeed in life, to just cast it all on luck and not on anything more profound.
The good old Protestant Work Ethic held to the idea that once a man becomes a Christian he then owed it to God and to himself and his family, and to his fellowman to work hard, honestly, and sincerely as an expression of his faith. Proverbs 18:12 says, “One who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” As the Apostle Paul wrote:
…Give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Eph. 4:27-28 ESV)
For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thes. 3:11-12 ESV)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.(Col. 3:23-24 ESV)
So there is a Christian duty to work, to work sincerely and honestly, trusting in the Lord. And by so doing we help society in general. We are also to share with others the salary we receive – this especially relates to tithing to the church, giving a tenth of our income to enable the work of God to go on and the church of Jesus Christ to be built up.
And the tithe or the lack of it reveals how worldly we are. The person who professes to be a Christian yet is unwilling to give a tenth of his income to the work of the Lord reveals that his values are no different than the world’s values.
So, let me end as I began by asking if you are worldly. How are you different from those around you who do not know Christ? Are you more grateful, more joyful, more compassionate, more honest, more holy? Or are you just like them?