“And do not be conformed to this world…”
-from Romans 12:2 (NASB)
“redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
-Ephesians 5:16 (KJV)
A brother in Christ that I know once received a word about legalism and licentiousness being ditches on either side of the road. I hope I am recalling the details correctly, but this occurred in the period of his life after he had left the Amish. He noted how many who left ended up going one of those two directions, probably more toward the side of licentiousness. At some point he said to himself something like, “Observing these two patterns, I’d rather err toward the legalistic side,” but then God corrected him with this word about how both sides were ditches.
In Christian conversations we hear warnings about not being “worldly.” Recently, I was thinking about the concept of worldliness in this way: like ditches on either side of the road. On the one side is focusing completely on chasing worldly success, especially to the neglect of spiritual guidance, such that it consumes your mindset, or maybe in another way, encloses your mindset, which leads me to the other end of the spectrum: getting sort of ascetic or maybe borderline Amish about things. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with lifestyles like that, instead, it’s more a question of mindset. The question is, “What motivates you to live that way?” If it is for God, are you a free and cheerful giver? Are you content whether abased or abounding? Are you living in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, or said another way, is that righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit the wellspring of why you do anything that you do?
What point am I trying to make? That worldliness is not about appearance, but mindset. Oftentimes, worldliness looks like material wealth, but sometimes it looks like poverty. More often, it looks like a hopeless and defeated mindset. It’s not an issue of what the lifestyle looks like, but the place inside which that lifestyle flows from.