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What Is Worldliness?
Tomorrow's World Magazine
September 1969
Volume: Vol I, No. 4
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What Is Worldliness?
Roderick C Meredith   
Church of God

Born: June 21, 1930
Member Since: 1949
Ambassador College: 1952
Ordained: December 20, 1952
Office: Evangelist

Does the Bible REALLY condemn such things as dancing, card playing, drinking, theater going? Here is a frank, straight-from-the shoulder explanation of what GOD regards as "sinful."

   CAN YOU be a completely dedicated Christian without being some kind of "freak"?
   Without missing out on the interest and excitement of our fast-moving jet age? Without appearing sanctimonious or "nicey-nice" and talking a lot of religious gobbledegook?
   Just what kind of personal, private, cultural and recreational life should a real man or woman of GOD be living in this twentieth century? I mean a man who wants to obey and honor his Creator a dedicated and consecrated individual who wants to fulfill the purpose for which he was born. I mean someone who is really on fire for his Maker and who wants to be used in God's Work today!
   Read on carefully because many of you may be SHOCKED.
   But if you really want truth whether or not it agrees with your present ideas and convictions then you need to study and prove this in your Bible. Consult the Bible because it is God's Word and it is His opinion you want, not the scores of disagreeing, conflicting, confusing HUMAN ideas on this subject.

How to Be Sure

   The Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thes. 5:21). So don't just try to argue and "defend" the ideas you grew up with. Don't take your former opinion or any opinion for granted. Learn to think to carefully meditate and consider the end result of each course of action in broadest terms and to PROVE what your Creator says in His inspired Bible!
   If you do, you will find that the great Creator of this vast universe is NOT a "pin-headed," small-minded, old fuddy-duddy type or creaky great grandfather figure at all. He is not trying to "catch" people in some little act He arbitrarily defines as "sinful." Rather, He is reproducing man in His own image! He is revealing to a select few those whom He calls a WAY OF LIFE and an approach to building character which fit them to live forever as members of His Kingdom, His ruling family in the universe.
   This BIG-minded, all-wise, all-powerful Creator has also set LIVING LAWS. These laws define THE WAY to produce peace, prosperity, happiness and everything men want. They also, conversely, reveal the opposite way which leads eventually to frustration, misery, suffering and DEATH.
   In the society of His day, Jesus of Nazareth the very Son of God upset a lot of human ideas and traditions by turning water into wine, using His powerful, muscular arms and shoulders to violently overthrow the large tables of the money changers in the temple and make a real "scene." And He did many other things which upset to no end the old religious "fuddy-duddies" of His day. Yet, this same Jesus Christ often rose up early while it was yet dark and went out in the early morning mists and dews to pray fervently to His God and Father for strength and wisdom (Mark 1:35). He constantly talked to God.
   When giant problems or decisions loomed ahead, Jesus literally prayed all night to the great Creator of the universe for help and wisdom (Luke 6:12-13). He walked with God and OBEYED God setting us an example. He said: "I have kept my Father's commandments" (John 15:10). He also attended sumptuous dinners and banquets with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36).
   Yet, because of His particular ministry and foreordained approaching death, He sacrificed the comforts of a home and family in order to do the will of His Almighty Father and God.
   Can we get our balance on these things? Can we earnestly and sincerely find the way to LIVE as Jesus lived? And can we truly AVOID becoming involved with "worldliness" as Got defines it walking in the footstep of Christ instead?
   Bearing all these points in mind, be willing to look through the entire Bible on this matter. Consult all the Scriptures and examples not just part of them. Completely rid yourself of blinding PREJUDICES. Seek GOD'S will with open-mindedness and honesty!

God's Attitude Toward Material Things

   Since the problem of "worldliness'' revolves around material things one their uses, let's understand God's overall attitude toward the physical things and circumstances surrounding man.
   First of all, many people assume that God loves the poor people and that He would have us all do without any abundance of material things. Because James wrote: "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?" (James 2:5), a lot of professing Christians can hardly bring themselves to believe that a person of means could really be a sincere follower of Christ.
   What about this? Must we give up material wealth, must we drive a secondhand car, must we buy cheap things in order to be a really zealous Christian?
   The answer to James' inspired statement lies in a proper understanding of it. God has "called" or "chosen" more of the poorer classes in this present age because as a general rule they are the ONLY ones who will willingly yield themselves to Him. They have not become so wrapped up in and OVERLY attached to material things as to prevent them from understanding God's message. Having little in a material sense to lose, they will more readily accept spiritual truth.
   But IF we can learn to rightly use material possessions, God intends that we should PROSPER. After all, God Himself is no pauper!
   Notice these inspired words of the Apostle John: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health" (III John 2).
   Yes, it is God's will to bless us in material goods if we will learn to use them properly.
   Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more ABUNDANTLY" (John 10:10). Solomon wrote: "The substance [material wealth] of a diligent man is PRECIOUS" (Prov. 12:27), and he exhorted: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy MIGHT" (Eccl. 9:10).
   So if we work hard, if we use our God-given minds, if we are diligent, it is God's will that we be blessed and prospered materially, and that we live a happy, full, ABUNDANT life.
   The danger in material wealth is that most people come to "set their hearts" on it. They get so involved in making a living, in making an impression on their business and social acquaintances, and participating in general in this world's ways and customs, that they find it almost impossible to accept and obey God's truth when it comes along.
   Material prosperity as such is certainly not "worldliness"! In fact, the lack of sufficient material goods usually indicates a lack of diligence and wisdom. God's concern is that we learn to evaluate material things properly, and to use them wisely for our own good and the good of others.

Are Physical Pleasures Evil?

   Now that we see that just having wealth or physical goods is not a sin, what about the physical pleasures men indulge in? Are they necessarily evil?
   One of the principal texts often used to condemn the pleasures of the "world" is I John 2:15-16. Let's examine it carefully, bearing in mind that it does not contradict the rest of the Bible.
   "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
   You will notice that it is the LUST of the flesh, eyes and life that God condemns. Lust is illicit, illegal desire. Lust is desiring or using something contrary to God's will and to His revealed laws.
   For instance, many people who have grown up in ignorance of God's true plan and purpose for humanity suppose that SEX is sinful. Just the very word "sex" is a nasty, filthy word to them, and they cannot imagine how anything good could possibly be associated with it.
   It has probably never occurred to them or to those who taught them that it is GOD who made us male and female it is God who created SEX. And it is God who even commanded the man and woman to use sex in a righteous, holy, God-intended manner when He told them: "Be FRUITFUL, and multiply and replenish the earth" (Gen. 1:28).
   Notice that it is not the THING that is wrong. It is lust the wrong USE of the thing that is sin.
   Lust is not a "thing," an object, or an entertainment. Lust is the WRONG USE of material objects or things.
   Lust is a wrong attitude of heart and mind which causes one to misuse, to misapply what God has created for good.
   Sex is not evil it is the wrong use of sex, outside of marriage, in a way God never intended. The motion picture is not "sin" it is the wrong use of this invention that becomes sin.
   Dancing, liquor, a deck of cards these things are not "sinful" or "worldly." It is only the wrong use of these things which violates God's will.
   Remember that it is the lust of the flesh and eyes that constitutes "worldliness." The pleasurable use of your five senses as such is NOT "worldly."
   God gave us our five senses so that we might enjoy life to the full. God is not some fiendish MONSTER who delights in our suffering who wishes us to do without and deny ourselves all the right enjoyments and pleasures of this physical life.
   Christ came to show us the way to happy, ABUNDANT living. So the right enjoyment of physical pleasures is not "worldliness" or sin in any sense.

What Is Being "Worldly"?

   If it isn't wrong and "worldly" for us to enjoy material things and physical pleasures, then just what is being "worldly"?
   Again, recall that it is only the wrong USE of physical things that God calls "worldliness." This involves the lust of the flesh or eyes which is COVETOUSNESS. And covetousness is breaking one of the ten points of God's great spiritual law.
   God tells us through the Apostle James: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of ALL" (James 2:10).
   So "worldliness" is just one form of breaking God's Law, which is SIN. For as we read in I John 3:4, "Sin is the transgression of the law."
   Contrary to much of today's religious teaching, that is God's definition of sin a plain, direct statement in His Word. Don't ever forget that definition because it is God's definition!
   Thus we see that "worldliness" is simply lusting for, or using material things in a way which violates the principles of God's Law. No thought or action is "worldly" regardless of what misguided, mixed-up men might think UNLESS it breaks the letter or spirit of the Ten Commandments.

"Sinful" Pleasures?

   Now let's get specific. Many people who think they are Christians firmly believe that "worldliness" and "sin" consist mainly of drinking, dancing, card-playing and theatre-going.
   How can we prove whether or not these things are worldly or sinful?
   ONLY by the Word of God and the inspired example of Jesus Christ and other true servants of God. And much of this proof will be up to YOU and to your honesty before God. For to completely answer every little technical point and trick argument that people might bring up on this subject would require an entire book of several hundred pages!
   But let's be HONEST and look at the plain, clear principles involved, and the examples of Christ and His servants and prophets. Let's look for TRUTH not an excuse to get around it!
   First of all, is DRINKING a sin?
   The principle is this: Jesus Christ set us an example that we should follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Jesus has not changed! He would still be living the same kind of life if He were to come in the flesh today as He did live 1900 years ago.
   Now notice His example in John 2:1-11. Here is the account of how Jesus turned water into wine. If you will look up the meaning of the word "firkin" (verse 6), you will see that this amounted to many gallons of wine!
   The account is very clear. It simply shows that according to Jewish custom they were having real wine at the wedding feast, and ran out. Jesus helped them out, for it was a time of rejoicing, and there were probably several hundred people there.
   So He turned the water into wine and it was real, fermented wine. They would NEVER have said to the bridegroom: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now" if Jesus had provided only grape juice which they would have regarded as an inferior beverage for this occasion.
   Also, the original Greek word used here is oinos, and it always means the fermented juice of the grape nothing else.
   Jesus was here only carrying out the principle He gave through Solomon: "A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry" (Eccl. 10:19). If properly used, wine is an aid to relaxation and affability at a special occasion.
   But being "merry" is NOT being "tight" or "drunk" which God's Word condemns (I Cor. 6:10).
   Paul instructed Timothy about the medicinal and health values of wine when he wrote: "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (I Tim. 5:23).
   Again, the Greek word is oinos fermented wine, not grape juice!
   There are many, many examples in the Old Testament where God's servants used wine in a proper way and with God's blessing. Perhaps the most significant one is given in Genesis 14:18. Here we read of Melchisedek whom we have proved in our article, The Mystery of Melchisedek Solved!, to be none other than Christ "brought forth bread and wine: and He was the priest of the Most High God." This seems to be a type of the observance later called the Passover which many mistakenly call the "Lord's Supper" today.
   God Himself here gave wine to Abraham the father of the faithful. And again, the original Hebrew word used proves that it was fermented wine - NOT grape juice. The original word is yayin and always means fermented wine.
   This same Hebrew word is used in Amos 9:14 to show that when Christ frees our people from captivity after His return, and brings them to the land of Palestine, they will "plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof."
   So Christ who is the same always is going to bless His people with good food and wine in the millennial rule!

Contradictory Texts?

   Some diehards still cling to certain texts which appear (to them at least) to condemn wine, but in reality condemn only the wrong USE of alcohol.
   One of these is Proverbs 20:1: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
   The simple explanation is that wine certainly does mock and deceive many individuals who have not learned the proper, temperate use of such beverages. Yes, God's way is moderation and temperance NOT prohibition! And there is a great difference between these, which so-called "temperance" people seem unable to recognize.
   Another text which is often twisted and misapplied is Proverbs 23:29-32. Here is a warning to those who "tarry long" at wine. Of course! One who "tarries long" at wine is a "winebibber," or in modern terminology a "barfly" or an "alcoholic."
   Such excessive use of wine is bound to bring harm on the person involved and on others. Therefore, it is breaking the spirit of God's Law and is SIN. But this is no condemnation WHATEVER against the moderate, sensible use of wine, following Jesus' example.
   The latter part of this passage warns us not to "look" upon the wine when it is "red," when it "moveth itself aright."
   In the first place, it is not a sin to LOOK on anything except in lust. Secondly, the terms "red" and "moveth itself" refer to wine when it is in the process of fermentation. This is BEFORE it is fully fermented. And if at this time you "look" on it so as to finally drink it, you will become violently ill and possibly even DIE!
   Even today, the term "red" is often applied to wine which is in the midst of the process of fermentation. Again, this has NOTHING to do with the proper use of fully aged wine.

God's Way Is Moderation

   There are many other texts which some people will want to argue about. But the principle should be clear to any honest person from the examples we have covered.
   Can't we get our BALANCE?
   Drunkenness and alcoholism are breaking God's Law and are therefore SIN which leads to death! (Rom. 6: 23). No drunkard shall inherit God's Kingdom (Gal. 5:21).
   But on the other hand, wine has been given as a blessing from God. It can help one relax at a meal or rejoice at a social occasion, and it can be a definite aid in building up one's blood and health as Paul advised Timothy. It is a thing which glorifies God when it is used sensibly and moderately.
   Incidentally, true moderation means drinking a great deal LESS than do many who call themselves "moderate drinkers" today. Overindulgence in drink is NOT to be tampered with! Alcoholism is a growing CURSE in our land today! (See our article, Alcoholism A Worldwide Curse)
   Nevertheless, God gave us wine and alcoholic beverages to learn to use properly and to develop CHARACTER by the proper exercise of wisdom and self-control. Prohibition is NOT God's way and it does not develop character.
   This proper use of alcohol and moderation in drinking is a great responsibility to God. But it is only the wrong USE which becomes sin.
   The same principle of the right or wrong USE of a thing applies to nearly every action which some consider as "worldly." The real question in each case is "Is this particular thing being used in a way that BREAKS God's Law?"
   If so, then it is sin or "worldliness."

Dancing and Card-Playing

   But if any action or pleasure does NOT of itself break God's Law, then it may be quite harmless as long as it is properly used, and only the wrong or "worldly" use needs to be guarded against.
   Such is the case with dancing. The Bible is full of examples of dancing. To cite a few, we can turn first to Exodus 15:20, where Miriam and the women of Israel rejoiced in the dance over God's deliverance of their people from Egypt.
   In I Samuel 18:6, the women came out singing and dancing to greet Saul as he returned after a military victory. In Psalm 149:3, we read that the saints are to praise God "in the dance."
   In the account of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we are given an example of how human joy ought to be expressed for the "father" is obviously typical of God Himself. Here we see that dancing (verse 25) is a natural and RIGHTEOUS way to express human joy.
   Certainly, we do not know exactly how the people danced and what particular steps they employed. But the principle is that dancing as such is not evil.
   Wrong USES of dancing such as in a lustful manner in a smoke-filled nightclub while half-drunk these uses of dancing are obviously WRONG. And it is sadly true that these wrong uses characterize the vast majority of dancing situations today!
   But, if real Christians young or old wish to relax or rejoice by dancing with others of godly faith and character in a righteous manner, and in a clean, wholesome atmosphere and surroundings, that is NOT sinful or "worldly."
   God says: "There is a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:4). Let's see to it that this time is used properly!
   The principle regarding such matters as card-playing or theatergoing ought to be clear by now. The Bible makes no direct statement about either but the principle is obvious in the light of God's laws and the Biblical examples.
   A deck of cards is NOT a sin and neither is playing with those cards merely for amusement. The only danger is that one might waste too much time in such amusements, and Christians are to use their time wisely (Eph. 5:15-16).
   The wrong use of a deck of cards or any physical object for the purpose of gambling DOES become sin. God commands: "Six days shalt thou LABOR, and do all thy work" (Ex. 20: 9). As God is the supreme Builder and Creator so are we to learn to build, to construct, to produce.
   Gambling makes one a leech on society and violates this entire principle and thwarts the very purpose of human existence! Also, the very basis of gambling is the idea of getting something for nothing of desiring material gain at the EXPENSE of someone else. This directly breaks another of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet" (Ex. 20:17).
   So card-playing as such is not sin. But the wrong USE of this activity does break God's Law and is therefore "worldly" in the truest sense.

Movies and the Theater

   The matter of theatergoing revolves around the reason why one goes, and the type of play or movie being offered.
   To frequently attend any kind of plays or movies for the purpose of pleasing "self" and of escaping from the responsibilities of life is definitely "worldly." And this very thing is done all too frequently by MOST Americans.
   Let's not deceive ourselves about this. We are a nation of escapists!
   Also, common sense ought to tell any real Christian that most plays and movies today are simply filled and saturated with scenes of illicit sex, murder upon murder, hate, greed, lying, cheating, gambling, drunkenness and every conceivable type of vice and sin. Indeed, the movies are a living testimony as to why God is going to PUNISH this world. Having one's mind filled with this sort of thing hour after hour is CERTAIN to cause one to break God's laws in his heart, and probably his actions as well.
   You cannot vicariously kill, steal, seduce, gamble, and get drunk through the eyes of a movie hero and not have those thoughts affect your character! And what a frightful CURSE television can become by these same means. Let this be a warning against the improper USE of movies and TV!
   But on the other hand, the right use of motion pictures, stage plays, or television can certainly be experienced. For instance, Walt Disney has produced a number of full-length feature movies showing the astonishing wonders and beauty of nature as God created it. These are truly educational and inspirational in every sense of the word.
   There are a number of plays and movies which have a historical or other type of educational basis, and are not unbalanced in regard to violence and lust. But they are in the minority, and you will have to be alert to find them. Even a clean, wholesome love story or comedy would not influence you to break God's Law.
   The right kind of play or movie is hard to find. But God will condemn no one who sincerely uses these means as a proper educational or recreational experience. It is only their wrong USE which becomes sin.

But DO Avoid What Really IS "Worldliness"!

   God does want us to have a happy and abundant life. He actually intends any human being who will serve and obey Him to become healthy and prosperous according to his abilities.
   And although the "old-fashioned gospel" preachers of a bygone puritanical Protestant era invented the idea that drinking, dancing, card playing and theatergoing were "wordly," we have seen that they are NOT wrong at all if used in the proper manner. Again, it is simply a matter of what is SIN. And sin is defined as breaking God's Law the Ten Commandments.
   The Ten Commandments as spiritually magnified by Jesus Christ reveal a way of life. They teach us how to love, worship and serve our God and how to love and serve our fellowman. Any activity, atmosphere or "system" which tends to break or cause you to break the spirit of the Ten Commandments is, however, real "worldliness." If you are to be a man or woman of God, develop God's character, be finally BORN into His family to help rule this world under Jesus Christ, you MUST avoid this kind of actual worldliness!
   Writing to the ancestors of the British Commonwealth and the American peoples the Apostle James stated under inspiration: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). What does this mean we are not to "love the world"? Does this mean we are to hate our fellowman?
   Certainly not.
   For James had just written that we should keep the royal law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (James 2:8).

The "World" Defined

   To understand the meaning of this and similar passages we need to know the definitions for the Greek word translated "world" in the New Testament. One of these the one used in James 4:4 is cosmos, which means the society or system of things men have set up on this earth. So, this passage simply means that true Christians are not to love the system or society that men have set up here on earth. This system is based on corn-petition, greed, selfishness and vanity. At the present time this system is bringing more and more wars, total corruption of morals, and soon unless Almighty God intervenes WORLD SUICIDE.
   And yet it is so easy to get wrapped up and want to be part of this vanity-filled, competitive and, humanly speaking, "exciting" system! This is perhaps the greatest danger to most sincere believers.
   It just seems natural and "right" to get into the clubs, lodges, activities and social life of the people and society around us. To think and talk and dress and act like they do. To have our minds on what is simply more blatant VANITY keeping up with the Joneses, drinking too much alcohol, getting involved with this world and its politics, backbitings, wars, etc.
   No matter how sincere, people who watch many hours of television and movies each week are simply FILLING their minds and hearts with "worldliness"! Because they cannot escape the effect of having their minds bombarded by countless examples of wrong emphasis on sex and various implications involving the MISUSE of God's gift of sex; plus fantastic amounts of violence, bloodshed and rebellion against authority; and endless scenes or commercials concerned with interest on "self, self, self" and blatant appeals to build the ego and great swelling VANITY of the viewer or listener!
   The world of television and the motion pictures is a fake, a fraud, a false world in every way. It is not truly "realistic" in any sense of the word. It presents a completely UNBALANCED view of violence, sex, family, home, religion and almost anything else you care to name!
   The true Christian simply cannot live and walk in this kind of make-believe world. Nor can he live in the world of cut-throat competition, shady deals, dirty jokes and paid women; or in the cocktail lounge or "jet set" world of lust and vanity. And the weird world of the "hippies," the "swingers," the "wife swappers," the wild, hedonistic marijuana and "pot" users this is "worldliness" to the TOTAL EXTREME and must be avoided.

Prepare for Tomorrow's World

   The man who would avoid what the Bible really does describe as "worldly," the man who would dedicate himself to his God and yet at the same time live a happy and balanced life this man must have definable values, definable goals and a WAY OF LIFE to achieve these. He must, therefore, be a man who carefully studies, meditates on and LIVES BY every word of God (Matt. 4:4:). He must be a man who, following Christ's example, gets up early in the morning and PRAYS on his knees to his God for help, wisdom, love and guidance. He must be a man who is carefully and diligently studying and FOLLOWING the inspired example of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible not in someone's human imagination of what they think Christ would be like.
   Such a man will be building real balance and character to qualify him to live forever in Tomorrow's World. Therefore, he will NOT allow himself to get overly involved in the passions, politics and petty stupidities of this present evil world (Gal. 1:4).
   If this goal rings true to you, then you should write immediately for your free copy of our vital booklet, "The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What It Will Be Like." Also, for an in-depth understanding of how to apply God's Law to your daily life in every way how to WALK WITH GOD write also for our important free booklet entitled, "The Ten Commandments."
   Then, keep reading and studying every issue of TOMORROW'S WORLD. Get the right balance on how a man of God should love his wife and build a happy home, train his children, glorify God in his body, get the right kind of recreation, keep God's financial laws and prosper. Yet, at the same time, he should have his real GOAL as the Kingdom of God and be building his mind, his life and his character toward that goal even as he learns the right and happy way of life here and now.
   Do this and, through Christ's help and mercy, you will surely qualify to live forever in what this very magazine represents TOMORROW'S WORLD.

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Tomorrow's World MagazineSeptember 1969Vol I, No. 4
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