What IS Worldly?

Scripture: James 4:1-10

What IS Worldly?

Power. Control. Divisiveness.

This isn’t the latest season of Netflix’s hit series House of Cards. These are the problems James, the early church leader, identifies in some of the first Christian communities. Unchecked cravings lead to division; division leads to quarreling; quarreling leads to violence. This is not a spiritual community for the prim & proper. These unchecked desires, bitter factions, and vicious fighting are associated with “friendship with the world.” 

Christians are notorious for judging motives and behaviors which run counter to the image of being a nice, respectable Christian. Everyone’s list of don’ts is augmented by their household upbringing, church emphasis, and personal bent. Typically drugs, illicit sex, drunkenness, profane language, and entertainment containing those things are all considered off limits. These are the typical telltale behaviors associated with being “worldly.” 

Yet when James talks about how our lives show an over familiarity and companionship with values counter to Jesus Christ those behaviors are not the ones he chooses. James challenges us to consider our egotistical pride. James asks us if we have slid into our culture’s tendency to let our desires to run unchecked. James points out how we envy The Joneses. James asks if our lives are marked by division and conflict. It’s these tendencies which James sees pointing to a betrayal of our intimate covenant with God. This lust for power, control, and to consume stuff is what reveals a heart unfaithful to God. 

It is easy to get caught up in sin management. We can easily mask, manage, and manipulate our image around certain outward signs of “worldliness.” But greed, envy, lust for power, and divisiveness are much harder to hide or airbrush out of our image. We are all aware of how those unchecked desires and motivations lead to destruction in our relationships and our community. Many of the most polite, respectable, and appropriate people I know have been dripping with the worldly characteristics James identifies in chapter 4 of his letter. If I’m honest, then I don’t have to look beyond my own life.

Surrender yourselves to God. Resist the deception of the Deceiver. Draw near to God. Renew your actions. Clarify your intentions and motivations. This is the path away from over-identification with getting compromised by the values of selfishness and divisiveness. This is the pathway of Jesus the Messiah.