Preachers have to be careful, thoughtful and clear when they denounce things. I was reminded of this recently when I was reading Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow. Berry talks about Jayber, the town barber, going to Sunday service because he liked the company of the women at church, while lamenting the preaching. He repined over the weekly prattling about how we should hate the world. Then, after service, the preacher would go and eat several helpings from the potluck. Surely, Jayber thought, his hatred for the world is a bit inconsistent, as it does not extend to “all things” as he seems to quite love this product of the world called biscuits and chicken!
What in the World?
When we speak negatively about the world, we are talking about the world system. This is the undercurrent of rebellion against God. It is the religious system of opposition to God that exists to belittle God’s glory by promoting sin and demoting him. It is clear that the fulcrum of this hatred of the world is not in food or any other created thing primarily but in the elevation of created things at the expense of God. It is to love the gift rather than the giver. Or, as Paul would say, to worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator.
It is important then to remember that we live in a world that has an undercurrent that is godless and God-opposed. It is not neutral. And, as a result, it must be resisted.
If you were to go to the beach, you would become aware of the current in the ocean. Just by simply standing on the shore you can feel it pull at your feet as the waves come in and go back out. If you were to go out 20-30 feet from the shore, you would feel that current in a whole other way. You would feel it in your legs and back. And after a period of time, you would look back at your things on the shore and you would notice that you are moving. The current has subtly moved you. You are drifting without you being aware of it.
In this world we have to understand that we are not standing on the pavement or even the dry sand of the beach—we are actually in the water. There is an undercurrent that is strong and it pulls us. If we are not paying attention, we will be moved off center and dangerously drift away.
Satan and His Bait
We understand who the god of this world is, Satan, the devil, the accuser (2 Cor. 4:4). Though he has been defeated by Christ on the cross and though he is bound by God and in check by God, Satan is still very active in the world. He is a roaring lion, says Peter, seeking to devour. He uses three basic lures as he fishes in the discontent hearts of men. We read of them in 1 John 2:
“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.” (1 John 2:16)
We see these three hooks:
- the desires of the flesh
- the desires of the eyes
- the pride of life
Obviously neither the world nor desire are bad. God created the world to be good (Gen. 1:31) and desire is God-given. So what is the problem here? It is the orientation of these desires. It is all about self. It is the pursuit of self, the love of self and the lust of self. It is self-worship instead of God worship. This is what it means to love the world: It is the love of created things, primarily self, in the place of God.