Yesterday (Monday, Feb 29, 2016) I spent the day at my alma matre – Faulkner University at their annual Bible Lectureship. I delivered a lecture at 11:00 A.M. but arrived early to catch a couple of others before me. The first lecture I attended carried the title, “What Jesus Said about Worldliness.” Mark Howell delivered this lecture full of great content. (For the record Mark and I share the same in-laws. His wife and mine are sisters.) What follows is what I took away from Mark’s lecture.
When we think of worldliness, we generally have a list of worldly activities or mindsets. Our list might include drug addiction, adultery or fornication, alcoholism, LGBT, selfish pride, immodesty, and the such like. But what did Jesus say about worldliness?
Jesus never outright used the word worldliness, not did He ever specifically say something was worldly in those terms. That is not to say that we have permission from Jesus’ silence on these terms though. Jesus does teach a concept of things of the world and things of God. And when He does, His definition of worldliness is more encompassing than our own narrow definition. When I look at what is Jesus’ working definition of what is of the world, I find that you and I are guilty of worldliness in Jesus’ eyes.
- Matthew 6:25-34 – Worry or being anxious is what those in the world (Gentiles – nations) do. Those who are Jesus’ disciples are not to worry.
- Matthew 20:25-28 – The desire to be in charge or “lord” over others is worldly. The desire to be coddled and served is worldly. Those of us who are Christians and fuss when others do not send us a card, hold our hand, or check up on us when we are down, yet rarely if ever check up on others are being worldly.
- Luke 8:14 – When we let the cares, riches and pleasures of life choke our growth in God we are worldly. Cares, riches, and pleasures of life include family (1 Corinthians 7:33), luxurious living (1 Timothy 6:17-19), and chasing after the world’s goods for our own enjoyment.
There are two unhealthy extremes we can find ourselves in if we are not careful 1) Becoming completely like the world or 2) Isolating completely from the world. Both situations limit our ability to influence the world for Christ and for good. (Jesus prayed that His followers not be taken from the world, that they remain in the world, but not like the world. (John 17:9-18).
As Mark closed his lecture he offered these four take-aways:
- Be careful with lists of what is worldly.
- Some forms of worldliness do not involve immoral thoughts or actions.
- Worldliness may include omissions as well as commissions.
- Do not be so fearful of worldly people that you fail to go into the world to reach them with God’s grace.