I grew up being taught worldliness was a look or a sound. Dress that was popular was said to be worldly, music that had rhythm and was new, was said to be worldly. Now, I will grant that there are some modern styles of dress that are most definitely of the world (they are unashamedly immodest) and there is also music being produced today that is fleshly (although not all). This isn’t a post concerning dress or music proper; rather I wish to address what “worldliness” really is.
I John 2:16 says “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.” Worldliness, according to Scripture is not a more casual style of dress, or even a new one. It’s not a style of music with more rhythm or non- operatic vocals. Worldliness is a philosophy, an accepted way of thinking. It deals with the heart, and can be packaged in a variety of ways. Worldliness is far deeper than the sport coat or the hoodie, and Scripture attacks it at it’s core – the heart. As I began to understand what Scripture teaches about worldliness, I saw that there was more pride in the pulpit than most wanted to admit. The very one’s claiming to be separated from the world, we drowning in it.
The Lust of The Flesh
The word “flesh” in this passage isn’t denoting the body itself as evil. Scripture doesn’t depict the body as evil. The belief that the body (and things associated with it) is evil and the spirit good, is a Greek dualistic philosophy that runs counter to Scripture. Jesus rose in a physical body, we will have physical bodies in the New Jerusalem, God created man with a body originally, etc. The flesh is that part that urges us to sin, that urges us to indulge in physical pleasures beyond their God-given limits. The body enjoys 3 pieces of pizza, but the flesh wants to consume the entire pie. Fleshly sins are carried out in the body – fornication, gluttony, sodomy, etc. The body is not evil, but when yielded to the lust of the flesh is used in evil actions (Romans 6:12-13).
The Lust of The Eyes
In short, it’s a covetous look. A gazing upon possessions and longing with all your heart to possess them at all costs – a never being satisfied with things, and always looking for the next best things. A burning desire to possess temporal things or people in ways we ought not.
The Pride of Life
This is the desire to have prestige and admiration from others, or longing to be called by a title which demands respect. The pride of life wants to wow people with accomplishments, and/or bragging about them to others.
Worldliness is a thing that can mask itself well. And this is what I have been thinking on – the amount of pride in our pulpits. I aim at the pulpit/lectern because what is accepted there will most definitely be passed down to the pew/congregation through teaching and demeanor. It’s not worldly for a pastor to look nice, but it is worldly for his heart to pride itself in how nice he looks. It’s not worldly for a pastor to share his failures to the congregation, it is worldly for him to brag about them or excuse them with a “you’re not perfect either”. Worldliness looks good in Christianity – at least upon a superficial glance. It is a thing we all, regardless of position or denominational affiliation, must constantly battle against. It is living life in a way that is opposed to the way Christ set forth – a system not a style.
Here is an example of worldliness. He is well known in his denomination, wears his hair a certain length/cut, dons suit and tie for ministry, and sticks to traditional hymns for church music. On the outside he can be summed up as conservative. His look would be in the “godly” category, yet listen to his heart as he brags about losing his temper, and mocks the entire situation. Listen to the whole hearted approval from the crowd he is “preaching” to as he shares his actions with them.
The Pharisees of yesterday thought it was what a man ate; the Pharisee of today think it’s what a man wears or listens to. Jesus said, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matt. 15:10-11)Worldliness is far deeper than a hairstyle, change of clothes, or drum beat.