15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
(1 John 2:15-17 NIV)
John has just finished comparing spiritual life stages to physical life stages. He now addresses our focus no matter what life stage we are in.
John begins with a command – “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”
What does John mean by “the world”?
The Greek word John uses here (“Kosmos”) is a generic word, so that really does not help us understand. We must dig deeper to the context of what John is saying to understand his meaning.
It may be easier to start by discovering what John is not talking about as a process of elimination.
First of all, John is not talking about the earth, the material world that God made. We go back to the account of creation, and see that God declared everything He created as good. John is not countering what God said and did.
Secondly, John is not talking about people. In John’s gospel, he clearly says:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16 NIV, underline mine)
Again, John is not going against what he wrote previously, nor is he going against God’s love toward all people. To do so would invalidate Jesus’ whole purpose of coming to earth and redeeming us.
We have eliminated two of the most obvious definitions of “the world” (the physical world God made, and people), so what is John’s point or meaning here?
John is referring to the love of worldly desires, attitudes, and interests. Here is one definition that sums it up well:
World affairs, the aggregate of things earthly – the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.
(Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (Dictionary), seventh definition)
John goes on to explain what he means by the world: “… the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life…” (v. 16).
This is another moral test. Where is our heart? On what are we focused?
John says that these worldly desires take us away from our first love – God.
This is a consistent command throughout Scripture.
In Exodus 20:3 (the Ten Commandments), the first thing God had Moses record was “You shall have no other gods before me.” Love for worldly things, if we prioritize them before our love for God, become a “god”, an idol in our lives.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was. replied by saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
C.S. Lewis, in a published letter to a friend, said:
“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”
May we keep our priorities focused on the Lord, and always have our hearts concentrated on Him. It’s the only thing that lasts from this life into eternity.
First things first, y’all.