Self-righteousness is a dangerous thing. I often think of Paul’s warning in 1 Cor 10:12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Nowhere is this truer, than amongst believers who can, from external appearances, seem right and living right, but are in actual fact deceived themselves.
We often think that if we do not take part in the activities of the world, and do not obey like “those” people in the world, then we do not love the world. But we can give the impression that we do not love the world, but still have the desires of the world in our hearts. See 1 John 2:15-17
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
We think that loving the world is all about the externals: material possessions, indulgence of the flesh, the people we hang out with and the places we go, but these are just externals. The internals of loving the world are:
- Cravings, which is the pre-occupation with gratifying our physical needs
- Lust of the eyes, which is the desire to get and accumulate in order to satisfy emotional needs within us, which is not necessarily material things (materialism).
- Boastings of what we have, which is an obsession with one’s status, importance or significance. It is being overly concerned by what people think and the position we have in their minds.
These three were the basis for Eve’s temptation in Gen 3:6 and Jesus’ temptation in Matt 4:1-11.
When we focus on possession, accumulation and position it becomes harder to break from the world.
Jesus demonstrated three other attitudes that work against this love of the world, they are in fact opposite attitudes.
- Self control, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we develop this in our lives. “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:12
- Generosity which works against accumulation. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’”- Luke 6:38 “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”- 1 Tim 6:18
- Humble service which does not seek position, but seeks to serve instead. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”- Rom 12:3
Guarding against loving the world develops these three attitudes: self-control, generosity and humble service.
Through these, we focus more on the temporary nature of things on earth and that we will take nothing with us. We acknowledge that we will die and enter another life, where we will live forever. Then, to quote an old song: “the things of this world will become slowly dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Help me to watch out for those three desires in my heart Lord: the cravings, the desire to accumulate and the longing for position. They are so subtle and require that I watch my thoughts and words to identify them. Help me to practice greater self-control and not to indulge myself. Help me to be more generous with my time, energy and money and help me think of myself appropriately in the light of Your Word.