The Bible defines worldliness as a cov - etous desire after the possession of world - ly things. Worldliness is lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and pride of life (self-satis - faction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done). Worldliness, then, is a preoccupation with ease and affluence. It elevates creature comforts to the point of idolatry; large salaries and comfortable lifestyles become necessities of life.
Many people think that worldliness is limited to external behavior. Others think that worldliness means hanging out with the wrong kinds of people. But worldliness is an attitude of the heart that indicates a lack of a totally consum - ing love for God.
There are many ways that worldli - ness dilutes, pollutes, and distorts the thinking of millions, to their detriment. The following characteristics are often associated with worldliness.
• PREOCCUPATIONS WITH EARTHLY CONCERN
People today are busy. We like to stay active, but we often get preoccupied with things that distract us from Christ and His priorities. We focus on the wrong things, and there is little room left for what God wants for us. Paul wrote, “Set your thoughts on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).
The Greek word for pride is alazonia, which means to boast of one’s importance to the point of it becoming vain glory. It is pitiful when people think they are bet - ter than they really are. Prideful people set themselves up for disappointment. Pride is an overbearing opinion about self, worth, or “indispensableness.” Paul wrote to the prideful Corinthians, “If any - one thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he falls” (1 Cor. 10:13). Peter warns, “God humbles the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Too often human desires incline our hearts toward things that will please our sinful natures instead of pleasing God. Paul wrote, “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6-8).
Do not let the craving to accumu - late things overcome your commitment to storing up treasures in heaven. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:24).
Some people are so fixated on how they appear to others that they gravitate only to those leaders who are popular at the time. As a result, these individuals are mercurial in who leads and influences them. Paul wrote, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
• POWER OBSESSION
Some people are obsessed with being in control. They are not happy until they sense that they have dominance in every situation and discussion. Paul learned to be content in every situation. He said, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in de - spair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We al - ways carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
We live in a very competitive society. From the time we are young, we are en - couraged to be our best, to get to the top of the class, and to be the “head” instead of the “tail.” When we become adults, it is often difficult for us to be stuck in a job where we have not been promoted for many years. It is important to remember what God told Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1-5.
We all enjoy being around people who appreciate us. Worldly people live in a constant state of anxiety, fearing that important people may not approve of what they are doing. Performance-driven people are secretly insecure because they have not completely trusted in the Lord for their affirmation. Paul wrote, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
People are fickle, but God’s love for us is constant. “Do you work as unto the Lord and not unto men knowing that from the Lord we will receive the reward of our in - heritance? It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom we serve and not men” (Col. 3:23-24).
• PRIVILEGES SEEN AS SELFCENTERED RIGHTS
When you first got your driver’s li - cense, you learned that driving was a privilege, not a right. Yet some of us have witnessed how difficult it is for elderly people to give up their driver’s licenses; they have forgotten this important les - son. In the same way, we must remember that every good thing is a gift from God. As Job learned, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Let us also say like Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Let us not begrudge the Lord for taking things away (such as possessions or privileges that we have assumed are our rights). Yield all of your rights and privileges to the Lord. David wrote, “He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with what is good” (Ps. 107:9).
Some years ago, musicians noted that errand boys in a certain part of Lon - don all whistled out of tune as they went about their work. Someone suggested that perhaps the bells of Westminster were slightly out of tune. Something had gone wrong with the chimes, and they were discordant. The boys did not know there was anything wrong with the peals, and quite unconsciously they had copied the bells’ pitch.
We tend to copy people with whom we associate. We borrow thoughts from the books we read and the programs to which we listen, almost without knowing it. God has given us His Word, which is the absolute pitch of life and living. If we learn to sing by it, we shall easily detect the false notes in the music of the world.
Let us focus on loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. When we do this, we can avoid worldli - ness and its consequences.
General Conference Ministerial Association