by Gary Henry
“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18,19).
WORLDLINESS IS THE SIN OF BEING SO WEDDED TO THIS WORLD THAT WE PAY TOO LITTLE ATTENTION TO THE WORLD TO COME. It means being preoccupied with temporal matters to such an extent that spiritual concerns are crowded out of our thinking. To fellow Christians, Paul wrote, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). This is not easy to do, given the strong pull that this world can have on our hearts. If we’re not careful, worldliness will “choke” God’s word and cause it to be “unfruitful” as far as we are concerned.
When some people think of worldliness they think of sins which violate the tradition of conservative social values, particularly those of the Victorian era. When preachers inveigh against worldliness, for example, they often have in mind things like drinking, gambling, and the wearing of immodest clothing. But there is more to worldliness than this. Certainly any outward action which violates the principles of godliness and purity is sinful, and we’re in a dangerous position if we think we’re so much more enlightened than our grandparents that we don’t have to be concerned about such things. But worldliness is a problem of the heart. It afflicts all who are moved primarily by worldly motives, perhaps even the preacher who takes a condescending attitude toward “sinners.” Despite outward appearances, the drunkard and the prostitute may be closer to the kingdom of heaven than some others. In truth, their hearts may not be tied as tightly to this world as those of their more “respectable” contemporaries!
In the parable of the rich fool, God said to a certain prosperous man, no doubt a good fellow in many ways and one whose life might even be called admirable, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20). And Jesus concluded this worldly man’s story by saying, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
“Worldliness is excluding God from our lives and, therefore, consciously or unconsciously accepting the values of a man-centered society” (Erwin W. Lutzer).
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