Worldliness

When the Spirit of God spoke through His servant John, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” He did not refer to the beautiful things that are in the world of nature. I have driven my car more than one hundred times between Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles. What wonderful things I have seen in these trips—the towering mountains on one side, some of them capped with eternal snow; the great Pacific Ocean on the other side of the road, and oh, the sunsets! But the joy these themes have given to my natural vision has not compared with the rapture of soul. While looking upon these wonderful things in the natural world, I have remembered that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made them all. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

Now, it is not the world of nature that we are to refrain from loving. To use a colloquialism, the thing that we are not to love is “The Swim.” We speak of the swim of politics. Good men get into this swim, and they are swept off their feet in spite of themselves. We speak of the swim of business. Good men get into this swim, and they forget God, they forget their duties to their fellows, and sometimes they forget their families. Then there is the social swim that carries so many thousands of Christians out of fellowship with God, dulls their ears to the call of God and blinds their eyes to spiritual vision. There is also an ecclesiastical swim in which many servants of God lose their testimony.

This is the “world” which we are not to love. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”

“Other worldliness” is not the besetting sin of the twentieth century—worldliness is the moral atmosphere in which we live; it casts its fatal spell upon us all, and the sore temptation of us all is to lay up our treasure upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and thieves break through and steal.

The reason for this prevalent and well-nigh universal sin of worldliness is spiritual short-sightedness. The prizes that “the swim” offers are plausible, tangible, immediate. They engross men’s attention; they absorb their thoughts; they fill the horizon of their desires. Heaven and the smile of Christ and the “well done” of the Father seem remote, far off, unsearched. Money, pleasure, fame, banish them from the mind; and to the acquisition of these things men devote themselves, seeing only what is near.

Christian saw in Interpreter’s house two boys: Passion and Patience. Passion had a bag of gold in his hand, but Patience was willing to take his governor’s advice and wait for his good things until the next year.; and these two boys, says John Bunyan, are typical of the worldly man and the true Christian. The worldly man, with his favorite proverb of “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” wants his good things at once, wants his bag of gold in the hand, not seeming to realize that his money must perish with him. But the Christian, in fellowship with God, is willing to do without this world’s wealth and fame and pleasure because he looks not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen.

And in all this John Bunyan has shown his usual unerring insight. Most men side with Passion; they want the bag of gold in the hand; they can understand the advantage of that; and, fascinated by the prospect of that, they have no thought for heaven; they see only that which is near. The world takes men captive by the promise of quick returns. This man sees the solid advantages that wealth brings, and he lives for it, never caring to think of the day when his money will slip from his nerveless fingers. This man sees the present and substantial advantages that fame brings, and he lives for it, never caring to look forward to that time when the first will be last and the last first. And so men become absorbed by the world and live for its business, its wealth and its power and then awake to find themselves wretched and poor and blind and miserable and naked, all because they have never given a thought to heaven but have seen only that which is near.

“Lift up your eyes” is the appeal of a loving God. We need to lift them up to the things unseen and eternal, to the everlasting hills, to the everlasting city where place is determined not by wealth but by holiness; and position, not by worldly fame but by love. We need a more constant thought of heaven, a more abiding realization of eternity. We must give heaven a larger place in our speech and thought. It is only as the thought of heaven is ever with us that we shall be emancipated from the thralldom of “the swim.”

There never was a more magnificent triumph over the spirit of worldliness than that which Moses achieved when he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. How did he win that triumph? Listen: “He had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” The safety of a Christian lies in the long look. Be not persuaded that the thought of heaven, and the reward yonder for service rendered in His name, is the mark of the dreamy and unpractical man.

Cultivate the long look. “Looking not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen”; enduring “as seeing Him that is invisible”; “looking away”—for so the Greek reads—“looking away to Jesus.” Follow everything to its ultimate issue, and see how it will look in the light of eternity and heaven. Bring business and wealth and fame and power and high station, and measure them all by the standard of eternity. Labor not for the meat which perisheth but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.

Heartlessness and Despair

The long look is not only a remedy for worldliness, but it is a remedy for hopelessness and despair. “Lift up your eyes on high,” for we despair when we see only the things that are near—the sin, the vice, the indifference and callousness of men—but we gain courage and hope when we see God. In our work for Jesus Christ we are much in need of the ability to look above our difficulties, real and near as they are, and realize the love and interest and power of our unseen Helper. “Open his eyes, that he may see,” prayed Elisha for his despairing servant at Dothan. That servant could see only the things that were near—the encircling Syrian host intent upon the prophet’s destruction; but when his eyes were opened he saw the mountain was full of chariots and horses of fire round about Elisha. Oh, despairing child of God, you have seen the opposing host, but have you seen the army of celestial helpers? Take the long look about the things that are near and which work against you, to the invisible but almighty and eternal forces which are working for you.

The nearest and most obvious facts are the facts of sin and wrong and vice and selfishness, and they are terrible enough to make anyone despair. But faith in God gives one a long look, for he looks up and away, and he sees in the place of supreme authority and dominion the Sacrifice of Calvary with the nail-prints still in His hand and the spear-gash still in His side, the Man who died for Him; and seeing Him, he cannot despair. The burdens of life are heavy, but “all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” The governments of the world are fast drifting to destruction, but he sees One coming whose name shall be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.”

— Written in 1930 by William P. White, D.D., who served as editor of The King's Business.