Many a believer has asked, “How to enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly?” Worldly is relating to, or devote to, the temporal world. It’s being concerned with worldly affairs, especially to the neglect of spiritual things. Let me share a biblically oriented definition of being worldly. Being worldly is pursuing the stuff of this earth, bent on selfish gain, replacing God as Lord of one’s life and the focus as one’s greatest love.
Paul equates worldliness with spiritual immaturity (1 Cor 3:1-3). Worldliness is acting in a childish, un-Christlike manner. Worldliness acts contrary to Christlike love, living in pride, anger, self-will, and a heart bent away from God. Paul strongly urges the Corinthians to grow up and mature in the faith so that they will cease worldly behavior. Here’s Paul’s point, growing up and maturing in Christ leads to eliminating worldliness.
A tension all followers of Christ must navigate in their life is embracing a single-minded devotion to Christ while enjoying the wonderful, beautiful, and delightful things, such as people, hobbies, and everything else. The challenge for believers is to keep Christ as the supreme love of their lives while enjoying the things the Lord has brought into their lives. Let me share a couple truths and dangers. The first truth, God is to be first in our life with no close rival. Back in the Old Testament book of Exodus, we read, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3). We are to worship the one true God and nothing or anybody else. In fact, Christ, asked about the greatest commandment, answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Lk 10:27a). We are to give our total devotion to God. We are to love God with all that we have above everything else.
The second truth, there is nothing inherently evil with relationships, hobbies, and stuff. Remember, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). He also declared, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 1:18) and created Eve. God even said after His creative work, “This is very good.” Sin has marred what God has declared good. We sometimes pervert what God has proclaimed as good (relationships and stuff). However, there is nothing inherently evil with relationships, hobbies, and stuff.
Now, let’s look at two dangers. The first danger, People, hobbies, and stuff can lead to idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping anyone or anything in place of God. It’s when we allow the things of earth to be too precious to us and love them too much. Paul writes to his young protégé Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs [sorrows]” (1Tim 6:10). Paul is not saying that desiring wealth is wrong. He does warn that such a pursuit comes with particular temptations. Money is not evil. The “love” of money “is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money, things, hobbies, and relationships as not bad, but our desire for them can lead to trappings that bring sorrow. A fulfilled life does not consist in the abundance of things but in faith and godliness – for both rich and poor alike.
The second danger, the way we relate and prioritize relationships, hobbies, and stuff, can lead to ingratitude. Ingratitude is failing to recognize the kindness and favor of God in providing someone or something. It is a lack of thankfulness to God as the ultimate provider of all things. Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus, “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20). James instructs us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (Jas 1:17a). Consider this psalm, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psa 107:1)! We need to be mindful of God’s good character. See all that we have as gifts from God. We are never truly self-sufficient. We are God’s creation, living in God’s creation, enjoying His creation. All that we have is on loan from God. We need to look at all God has given us to enjoy with a heart of gratitude towards Him.
How, then, do we enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly? In order to enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly, we must ask a simple question that directs our steps. Do the things, such as people, hobbies, and everything else in our life point me toward God or away from God? God sometimes uses His gifts to us, the stuff of earth, to lead us to know God more fully. The goal of the Christ follower is to joyfully embrace God’s good gifts to us without letting them become worldly distractions that steal our affection from Him. We are called to enjoy everything in God and enjoying God in everything. I believe the Scriptures teach us that God created the earth and everything in it for our pleasure. God wants us to enjoy all the beauty and wonder that He has made. However, we must hold onto God’s gifts with open hands and open hearts. We must be willing to let go whenever God decides to take away one of those gifts, whether it be an object, a loved one, or anything else.
God may call you to live with less. God may be calling you to live with abundant blessings as a witness of His goodness to your neighbors, friends, and family. If you daily and earnestly seek the Lord, He will lead you in how to rightly handle your possessions, relationships, and hobbies. Trust Him with your hands wide open, palms titled up in praise for His gifts, always offering them back to Him, believing in your heart that He is good, and desiring to live in His will for you. How do we enjoy the stuff of earth without being worldly? We come to know God and love Him with everything. Having done that, we establish in our very souls that God is supreme. We love Him above all. Then, we receive the stuff of earth as a gift and enjoy them for His sake. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!