In writing for www.gotquestions.org, I was recently asked to address the issue of “worldly desires”. Following is my answer, plus an additional thought on how finances weigh into this matter of “worldliness”.
I think the best way to look at this question is to take a look at what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:2 (NIV) when he said, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” What did Paul mean by this? We do know that Paul was a tentmaker. In Acts 18:1-3, the Bible tells us that Paul worked in that vocation at Corinth. In Acts 20:33-35, it is likely that this passage is referring to Paul’s vocation as well. Therefore, engaging in vocational work is not to be considered sinful.
Regarding a person who desires to be a professional swimmer, if they are a born again Christian they should be led by the Holy Spirit in their life. Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit would guide such a person to work hard to be a professional swimmer while at the same time giving the person opportunities within their swimming realm of influence. Later in Colossians 3, Paul has this exhortation, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” So, whether a person is a mechanic, an actor, a Congressman or a lawyer they should perform their duty in such a manner as to please the Lord and to further the kingdom of God.
Aside from merely a discussion on vocational work, it is important that we ask ourselves if the things we are involved in are worldly. Certainly, I think its perfectly fine to go bowling, take in a decent movie or play a round of golf. However, by having my mind on things above as Paul exhorts when I am on the golf course I will be prayerfully looking for opportunities to exhibit Christlike behavior and maybe witness to someone about Jesus Christ.
Part of the problem in today’s world in North America is that Christians get so caught up in the ‘Ëœentertainment’ society that they tend to compartmentalize their faith walk. They are willing to go to church on Sunday and maybe have a brief time of prayer at bedtime, but for the most part they live their life as if God is merely an elective or extracurricular part of their life. A friend of mine owns a radio station and originally he had two partners. All 3 claimed to be Christians, and one time there was an issue they were discussing. My friend raised the question regarding whether what was being proposed would honor the Lord and one of his partners spoke up and said, “Yeah, but this is business.” His statement implied that somehow business transactions were exempt from Godly principles out of respect for the profit of the radio station.
Some people will allow their ‘Ëœworldly’ opinion skew their Christian life. People will forsake going to church under the auspices that “I have been hurt by religion.” They totally ignore the fact that we are directed in Scripture to not forsake gathering together with fellow believers. (Hebrews 10:25) Being a Christian carries with it the responsibility to be involved in a local church body. It involves supporting such a work financially with monetary support. It involves opening up our lives and investing in our brothers and sisters in Christ’s lives. To do otherwise, is a form of rebellion based upon worldly mental strongholds. The church isn’t about perfect people that never hurt each other. It’s about people who are in relationship with each other and are longsuffering towards each other always willing to forgive and not hold grudges that would remove oneself from local church fellowship. Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive as Christ forgave — unconditionally. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (NIV)
Worldiness can also impact our day to day financial life. Although Romans 13:8 admonishes Christians to owe no man anything, Christians will often compromise and use a mortgage to buy a house rather than save up and purchase the house using Biblical financial principles. Having a nice house earlier in life than you could normally afford is very tempting. But, it is a worldly concept and should be understood as such. We are to be people of faith, not people willing to shortcut faith by following worldly financial principles.
By setting our mind on things above throughout the day, we will naturally sway away from worldliness. I heard a preacher recently say that he only prays for 25-30 minutes at a time, but that he rarely goes more than 25-30 minutes without praying as he seeks to pursue the presence of God in his life all the time. I can’t help but remember the old classic hymn that Annie Parks wrote that says,
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
Indeed, we need Him every hour, every minute, every second of our lives. The Christian life is about relationship with God not occasional rituals.