Why did God say, “don’t love the world”?

SHARE

By BibleAsk Team


In the New Testament, specifically in 1 John 2:15-17, we find the admonition, “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.” This statement has profound theological implications and serves as a cornerstone for understanding Christian conduct and the believer’s relationship with the world. To grasp why God instructs believers not to love the world, we need to explore several key themes: the nature of the world, the concept of love in a biblical context, the dangers posed by worldly attachment, and the broader framework that underpins this directive.

Understanding “The World” in a Biblical Context

The term “world” (Greek: κόσμος, kosmos) in the New Testament carries multiple meanings, depending on the context in which it is used. It can refer to:

  1. The Created Order: The physical universe and all that is in it (John 1:10).
  2. Humanity: The people living in the world (John 3:16).
  3. The Fallen World System: The domain of human life and culture that is in rebellion against God (John 15:18-19).

In 1 John 2:15-17, the reference is primarily to the third meaning—the fallen world system characterized by values, practices, and beliefs that are contrary to God’s will. This interpretation is supported by the following verses:

  • 1 John 2:16 (NKJV): “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

These elements represent the moral and spiritual corruption that permeates human society. They are antithetical to the values of God’s kingdom and thus, loving the world in this sense signifies aligning oneself with what is fundamentally opposed to God’s nature and will.

The Nature of Biblical Love

In the biblical context, love is not merely an emotion but a commitment and a choice. The Greek language of the New Testament uses several words for love, with “agape” (ἀγάπη) being the highest form, often used to describe God’s unconditional love for humanity. This type of love is selfless, sacrificial, and seeks the well-being of others.

  • 1 John 4:8 (NKJV): “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

God’s command not to love the world is rooted in the understanding that love should be directed towards what is good, pure, and holy. Loving the world, in the sense described by John, involves a misdirection of affections towards transient and corrupt things rather than towards God and His eternal kingdom.

The Dangers of the Love of the World

Loving the world poses significant spiritual dangers for believers. These dangers are manifold and include:

  1. Distraction from God: Worldly love can lead to a divided heart, where one’s affections are split between God and worldly pursuits. This division can hinder one’s relationship with God and spiritual growth.
  • James 4:4 (NKJV): “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
  1. Moral Corruption: The values of the world—such as materialism, sensuality, and pride—are often in direct opposition to God’s standards of holiness and righteousness.
  • Romans 12:2 (NKJV): “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
  1. Spiritual Blindness: Attachment to the world can blind individuals to spiritual truths and realities. When one’s focus is on temporal, earthly things, it becomes difficult to perceive and value the eternal and spiritual.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NKJV): “Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

The love of the world steals eternal life for it is enmity to God’s principles (James 4:4). Jesus reminds us, ““No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). And He invites us to choose His freedom from the slavery of sin (John 8:36).

God wants to spare us the pain that comes from loving the world and its riches. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV). Balaam (2 Peter 2:15) and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3; John 12:4–6) illustrate the enticement of riches and its deadly end. Many are the “sorrows” that are self-induced in our pursuit for material security and lusts of the flesh.

The Theological Framework

The directive not to love the world is part of a broader theological framework that contrasts the transient nature of the world with the eternal nature of God’s kingdom. The world, in its fallen state, is temporary and destined for judgment, whereas God’s kingdom is eternal and incorruptible.

  • 1 John 2:17 (NKJV): “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

This contrast is also evident in the teachings of Jesus, who emphasized the importance of prioritizing the eternal over the temporal.

  • Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV): “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.”

By instructing believers not to love the world, God is essentially guiding them to invest their lives in what is eternal and imperishable. This involves living in accordance with God’s will, embracing His values, and seeking His kingdom above all else.

Practical Implications for Believers

The command not to love the world has several practical implications for how believers should live their lives. These include:

  1. Prioritizing God’s Kingdom: Believers are called to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). This means prioritizing spiritual growth, obedience to God’s commands, and participation in the life and mission of the church.
  2. Holiness and Separation: Christians are to live holy lives, distinct from the moral and ethical corruption of the world.
  • 1 Peter 1:14-16 (NKJV): “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'”
  1. Renewed Mindset: A crucial aspect of not loving the world is having a renewed mind that discerns and values what is pleasing to God.
  • Colossians 3:2 (NKJV): “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
  1. Engagement without Compromise: While believers are in the world, they are not of the world (John 17:14-16). This means engaging with the world and its people without adopting its corrupt values and practices.
  2. Witness and Influence: Christians are to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), influencing it for good and pointing others to Christ through their words and actions.

God’s Victory to Not Love the World

Is it possible for us to not to love the world? The Bible says, YES. The Lord gives the power and grace for the believer not to love the world. And this is done by renewing our minds through God’s Word (Romans 12:2), presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, and getting transformed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:23). Then, we will be able to discern the right path that we may walk in it by God’s power (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus promised, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). “Blessed is the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 144:15).

Conclusion

God’s command not to love the world is a profound call to spiritual fidelity, moral integrity, and eternal perspective. It warns against the dangers of worldly attachment, which can lead to spiritual compromise and alienation from God. Instead, believers are encouraged to direct their love and loyalty towards God and His kingdom, living in a way that reflects His holiness and advances His purposes. By understanding and applying this principle, Christians can face the challenges of living in a fallen world while maintaining their commitment to the eternal truths and values of their faith.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.