The Bible has a lot to say about how Christians should view and relate to the world around them. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-16). This means that while we must coexist in a fallen, sinful world, we should be careful not to adopt its values, mindsets, or lifestyles that go against God’s standards.
In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore various biblical principles and passages on worldliness and discuss how Christians today can follow them faithfully.
- The world’s ways are opposed to God and lead to destruction.
- Christians must not love the world or conform to its patterns.
- Do not covet worldly possessions, status, or pleasures.
- Focus on eternal rewards, not temporary things.
- Use worldly resources wisely for God’s kingdom.
- Be in the world, but not of the world.
The World’s Ways Oppose God
A key theme in Scripture is that the world’s systems and ways of thinking are opposed to God’s truth and standards. 1 John 2:15-17 warns:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
John says not to love the world, because its desires and mindsets conflict with God’s will. James 4:4 declares that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” God calls His people to follow Him wholeheartedly, not adopt worldly perspectives.
The world’s ways lead to destruction, even though they may seem appealing on the surface. Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” We must be discerning and evaluate all mindsets, values, and lifestyles by God’s truth, not human wisdom.
Do Not Conform to the World
Since the world’s systems are opposed to God, Scripture repeatedly instructs believers not to conform to the world:
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
1 John 2:15-17 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
James 4:4 – “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
1 Peter 1:14 – “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”
The patterns and perspectives of the fallen world will only lead us astray. We must renew our minds according to God’s truth and not adopt worldly thinking, even when it’s popular or pervasive around us.
Do Not Love Worldly Possessions
One area the Bible warns about is coveting worldly possessions and wealth. Though success and prosperity can come from God’s blessings, the endless pursuit of more money and possessions is dangerous. As 1 Timothy 6:9-10 warns:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
Jesus said we cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13). The endless accumulation of wealth and possessions will only lead to spiritual decay. We should be content with daily bread and focus on the eternal riches of God’s kingdom, not earthly treasures.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Worldly possessions and wealth have diminishing returns and cannot bring lasting fulfillment. We must keep worldly possessions in proper perspective.
Avoid Love of Status and Pleasure
Coveting worldly success, status, and recognition is another dangerous temptation. Pride goes before destruction according to Proverbs 16:18. And 1 John 2:16 warns against the “pride of life” as a worldly temptation.
The pursuit of worldly pleasure is also vacuous. Physical pleasures and comforts have their place, but as Hebrews 11:25 says of Moses:
He chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Lasting joy and peace can only be found in God, not the temporary pleasures of a fallen world. We must evaluate our motivations and not get caught up in pursuing status, recognition, or hedonism just because the world promotes them.
Focus on Eternal Rewards
Rather than chasing after worldly treasures and temptations, Jesus repeatedly emphasized building up eternal rewards in heaven:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
The things of this world are temporary, but the rewards of God’s kingdom are eternal. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Our time, energy, and resources should be invested in the eternal, not the temporal.
Use Worldly Resources Wisely
While Scripture warns against loving worldly possessions and living for temporary things, it doesn’t condemn wise use of resources, wealth, and influence. Money itself is not evil, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” as 1 Timothy 6:10 explains.
Throughout the Bible, faithful believers like Joseph, Daniel, and Lydia used positions of influence or financial resources to serve God’s purposes. But they kept these things in proper perspective. As 1 Corinthians 7:31 states:
…those who use the things of the world [should live] as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Worldly resources can be employed for eternal purposes when we hold them with an open hand and generously use them to build God’s kingdom. Our mindset should be that of a steward who manages temporary resources in a way that stores up eternal rewards.
Be in the World, But Not of It
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, He prayed not that God would take believers out of the world, but that He would protect them from the evil one as they live on mission in a fallen world (John 17:15). Like salt and light, Christians are to engage the world while being careful not to adopt its patterns or absorb its mindsets (Matthew 5:13-16).
Paul reminds us that though we must coexist with unbelievers, we should not be unequally yoked together with them (2 Corinthians 6:14). This means we can engage neighbors, coworkers, family, and more with godly love and evangelism, while avoiding close partnerships or relationships that may compromise our faith.
1 Peter 2:11-12 captures this balance:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
We abstain from worldly passions and remain faithful to Christ, even as we live in a way that points others to Him. This is what it means to be in the world but not of the world.
The Bible’s instructions for relating to the world around us as believers can be summarized as follows: Do not love or conform to the world’s ways, but be transformed by God’s truth. Avoid covetousness and the pursuit of possessions, status, and pleasures as ends in themselves. Invest in eternal rewards rather than temporary things. And live as salt and light, engaging the world for God’s glory without absorbing its mindsets or partnering with its sinful ways.
Though the world promotes its own wisdom, trends, and lifestyles, we must submit all of these to the truth and lordship of Jesus Christ. He alone provides the meaning, purpose, and eternal perspective we need to live as faithful followers in a fallen world. By clinging to Him, we can be in the world, but not of it.