Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one's lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God's will remains forever. – 1 John 2:15-17
Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity (The Message).
I’ve met a few folks who were not worldly. Some of them were religious, but some were simply wise, having realized that the system does not work as advertised and the rat race doesn’t get you anywhere. Me – I’m bad for liking cool stuff – in particular books, radios, firearms, knives, and some other hand tools are my main weaknesses. At least, it’s not cats or Precious Moments figurines. I do have two utility infielder felines, but they’re kind of like kids -- except they don’t ask for money.
I used to have a rule that I would only have as many firearms as I could shoot or carry – and I’ve done pretty well. I’m about three over at the moment – maybe four – of course, I could get my wife to carry a couple. The grandkids are coming up, too, so I have to have some extras for them. There’s no point in trying to count my knives.
I don’t love the stuff I have – that is, I’m not attached to it, for the most part, but I do appreciate it, and I try to take care of it. When I was a little kid, my parents got me whatever I needed, and my oldest sister, who was already out on her own and working, got me a lot of things I probably didn’t need. While I never thought about it explicitly, my view was that these possessions were valuable – not so much in themselves, but that every toy and trinket was an expression of the love my family had for me. I derived joy from the use of a toy certainly, but I also derived joy from taking good care of what I was given so that the people who had given it to me would know I was grateful to them.
In a sense, I think it is “sinful” not to value and care for what we have been given – whether family, friends, pets or possessions. I accept the fact of wear and tear, and that eventually things wear out and have to be replaced, just as I accept the fact that people and animals pass on. But it is my job, if I possess something, to get the most out of it while keeping it in the best condition possible. I’m not supposed to stress out over equipment that breaks – I’m still working on that. I am, however, supposed to see the effort and skill that went into creating something, see the time I traded in order to possess it, see the grace of God that enabled me to obtain it, and then esteem it appropriately.
I have the utmost respect for a man so spiritual that he refuses to possess a car, but I cannot believe a man is spiritual who, having a car, fails to get the oil changed.
There are probably some who would look at John’s admonition to “love not the world nor the things thereof” as a reason to be careless with property and possessions. I don’t see it that way. Those who suffer most from the disease of worldliness are the ones who never appreciate what they do have. They want more simply to have more, or want it so someone else cannot have it.
God doesn’t care what we have, or how much we have. What He does address is making our own gods out of things, activities, or relationships. He tells us not to adopt the religion of accumulation, or bow down to self.
A simple test is that if the care and feeding of what I call “mine” eats up a significant portion of my free time, then I probably have too much. Any possession, pursuit or person that draws me away from God needs to be examined and put in its proper perspective, perhaps even abandoned. We can be balanced, appreciating the gifts in our lives but always vigilante and ready to dump anything that threatens to take over and control us.
The world is a system and a spirit rather than a place or material. From the world’s perspective, it makes sense to try and have everything our way, to get whatever we want, and to glory in how we live, and especially how clever we are. It is no surprise that as society becomes increasingly post-Christian it also becomes increasingly enamored with that which is from the world.
There is good news, though. Since the Cross, Christ reigns. Yes, I know that’s hard to see sometimes, but the Messiah’s Kingdom has come and is coming right now. In Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:34-35), he spoke of the kingdoms of the world. Then he described a stone cut out without hands that struck the worldly kingdoms and shattered them. There will be an end of the world, but of His Kingdom there shall be no end.