“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. 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 2:15-16 ESV)
This was “the verse of the day” today, and it’s a timely one. It’s easy to get caught up in this world, what is happening day to day and thinking about the future… in this life… and forget about or gloss over the importance of the kingdom of God.
Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus came looking for followers. He challenged people to leave behind the things that anchored them to this world. To the rich young ruler, he said, “Give everything to the poor and come follow me.” When Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew, “Come follow me,” they left their nets to follow him.
But, it isn’t just about leaving things behind. The reason John urges us not to love the world is that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17) Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians: “[T]his world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) Why would we want to hold onto it?
Remember the old adage? You can’t take it with you when you go. Nothing that we accumulate or accomplish or enjoy in this world will last. This is why Jesus told his followers,
“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.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
As usual with Jesus, he talked in parables. We might be tempted to double down on our grip on the things we accumulate to keep them from being destroyed by moths, rust or thieves. Indeed, people live their lives taking care of, preserving, protecting and obsessed with their things. But that would be missing the point. Jesus didn’t mean literal moths, rust or thieves.
Jesus meant that, ultimately, we can’t it with us when we go. The writer of Ecclesiastes said the same things many centuries before Jesus. Accumulating wealth is like chasing after the wind:
“As [a man] came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind?” (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)
In the context of all time and eternity, “life passes like a shadow”. (Ecclesiastes 6:12) We go about “like phantoms” heaping up riches we can’t take away. (Psalm 39:6) Time is short. (1 Corinthians 7:30) And these statements only apply to the individual life.
John and Paul say the world as we know it is passing away. The world is no more eternal than a man:
“All the stars of heaven will be dissolved. The skies will be rolled up like a scroll, and all their stars will fall like withered leaves on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree.” (Isaiah 34:4)
Abraham knew this when he went to the land God promised, but lived only in tents, never putting down roots there. The writer of Hebrews says this is because Abraham was “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) Peter says,
“[T]he day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10)
For all of these reasons, we should not love the world and things in it that are passing away, that we can’t take with us when we go. We should not be obsessed, preoccupied or distracted by the things of the world. If we want to be wise, we should be laying our treasures up in heaven. We should be building for our eternal future, and not a temporal one.
Our treasure is where our heart is. It’s good to stop periodically and ask, “Where is my heart lately?” It’s good to step back and put things in perspective. Are we following Jesus? Or are we following after the butterflies of this world that are here today, and gone tomorrow.