It seems the topic of worldliness has been coming up repeatedly in the past few months from the pulpit at our church, with our preaching elders alluding to and defining worldliness in various ways. I also have been watching one of my daughter's come of age, seeking to define her Christianity and dress standards for herself wondering who she is and where she fits in this world - asking what is modesty and who defines it..
We all agree that worldliness is to be avoided, but what is it? The Amish feel that rubber tires and electricity are worldly. Our conservative Mennonite friends believe that ties for men, neck scarves for women, movies for entertainment, and current fashion trends are all worldly. Another church I know defines worldliness by the color of dress you wear - pink, purple and red and even some shades of blue and green being worldly and of course prints are definitely considered worldly. There are so many voices out there trying to define what worldliness is, in
fact each person or group seems to want to draw the circle to fit
themselves and exclude those who are not like them.
Often when I'm wrestling with an issue, insights will come in the early morning hours as if they were dropped there by God. The other morning a Biblical story came to mind and I knew that it applied to this issue of what is worldly! Esau came home from hunting, thinking he would starve if he didn't immediately have a bowl of the lentil stew Jacob was cooking! Jacob bargained with him for his precious birthright and Esau easily sold it off saying, "What good will it do me if I die of hunger?" There was nothing wrong with the stew or even with being hungry, but there was something terribly wrong with Esau's value system and priorities. He was willing to sacrifice the long term and spiritual for the present physical need. That was worldly! I don't think worldliness can be simply defined as what you do or don't wear or what you do or don't do, though those things will flow out of a worldly or spiritual heart, I think rather the root of it is defined by how we use the resources and things of this world. Do we use our earthly position and resources to further the Kingdom of God or do we sacrifice the Spiritual on the altar of meeting our immediate fleshly needs and desires. What are our priorities and where is our heart. Perhaps the outward expressions of a right heart will look different for different Christians according to their different cultures and settings and their specific gifts and calling by God. It's much easier to just set a standard and reject everyone who doesn't fit into my "circle" but God is the judge and He is able to make my brothers and sisters "stand" if they are seeking Him.
Years ago I read a book by Watchman Nee, Love Not the World I think I'll see if I can find it again and reread it.