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What Is Worldliness?

By Les Thompson and Family

While the “world” represents outside things that we crave, “carnality” manifests itself when we allow those appetites to take hold of us. This easily takes place because the Bible clearly tells us we were born in sin; we are stained by this virus and we live with natural instincts and desires that are sinful. To live christianly we need explanation and clarification. To help us with this, Dr. Les Thompson and his son, Daniel, (both theologians and ministers) have given us this material on “worldliness” so that we can study and analyze what is truly worldly.


It is fascinating to know that the Bible, as it was written, sometimes does not satisfy us. Our tendency is to add personal ideas and concepts. For example, the Bible, beginning with the Ten Commandments and finishing in the last chapter of the Bible (Revelation 22:15) talks of sins that offend God. As if that were not enough, we invent and add more personal opinions we believe offend God. Of course, these invented sins are not in the Bible, but we act as if they are.

Each sincere Christian wants to be “spiritual.” We want to be more like Christ. At the same time we know our Christian life needs transformation, change, a new heart. We know because this is what it says in Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.

If we are sincere Christians, we struggle to find the meaning that the Apostle Paul said about “living in the flesh.” We look introspectively and ask: how am I now living and what am I doing that could be called “worldly?” Instead of looking in the Bible for a definition —that is, the list of sins God says will destroy us— we invent other ones; external things that we can see, do, or see others do. And we mistakenly address all this as “worldliness.” But, is it? Listen to what Jesus says: Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:18-23)

There are three words that each Christian needs to apply to his or her life: “spirituality” (Ro 12:11; 1 Co 2:13; 3:1; 14:1), “worldliness” (Jn 15:19; 18:36; 1 Co 3:19; 1 Jn 3:15-­17; Stg 4:4), and “carnality” (Gá 5:19-21; Ez 36:26; Ef 6:12; Jud 23). These three items affect our relationship with God. All three are related. The three, nevertheless, have distinct definitions. These words have little value unless we have the correct interpretations of their meanings according to the Bible.

When we talk about “worldliness” we need to understand that this deals with an affection or devotion to philosophies and idealogies of the world that look very attractive and desirable —which all originate from the devil. The Bible defines these as desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and the pride of life. (1 Jn 2:16). The Bible definitely points out our natural appetites and the way they give joy and delight: things like sports, television, movies, music and rhythm. We can use these to call attention to ourselves with an emphasis on money and material possessions. Do we condemn all these things, or should we make a difference between the things God has given us to enjoy and the things Satan offers in substitution:?