What immediately springs to mind when someone is accused of ‘being worldly’? There will be a variety of answers, I’m sure, and most will reflect the scriptures. However, the apostle Paul startled me recently by citing ‘envy’ and ‘strife’ as worldliness. The believers in Corinth had been squabbling over who was the preferred preacher. Great teachers like Paul and Apollos had both visited the group, which became divided in opinion about them. “You are still worldly,” he wrote to them. “For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans” [1 Corinthians 3:3]? Not only did he think their quarrelling ‘worldly’, but he accused them of behaving like ‘mere humans’. Whatever did that mean?
As I looked at the Greek words translated here as ‘jealousy and quarrelling’, I was troubled by the intensity of feeling in them. We live at a time when raised voices, angry shouts and intense displays of feeling are common. When was the last time you quarrelled with someone? Jealousy and envy tear people apart, undermining relationships and robbing us of serenity. It’s worldly! Paul is speaking to the church in this scripture. How are your relationships in the fellowship of believers? Are you worldly, behaving like a ‘mere human’? Surely there is an indication here that in Yahshua we can rise above those thoughts and passions which belong to the human nature.
In another letter, Paul states these emotions belong to the ‘sinful [or lower] nature’, which prompts the behaviour of ‘mere humans’. There is, however, a very serious outcome! “The activities of the lower nature are obvious…hatred, quarrelling, jealousy, bad temper…envy…and things like that. I solemnly assure you…that those who indulge in such things will never inherit [Yahweh’s] kingdom” [Galatians 5:19-21, J. B. Phillips NT, italics added]. This is mind-blowing, and so important.
As believers we must keep diligent watch, and if we find ourselves ‘being worldly’ in this way take it to Yahweh, asking for forgiveness and strength to rise above our weaknesses. For “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…” [2 Peter 1:3].