A Framework for Faith/Spiritual Disciplines
Have no mercy on transitory things, lest you lose what is eternal; the whole world is foreign to you who are born and buried bare. Incurable insanity! Why do you desire another's transitory treasure with such love that you lose your own eternal treasure for eternity?
- Columbanus, Sermon III (Irish, 7th century)
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.
- 1 John 2.15
Of course, believers should love the world and the things in it. Just as their heavenly Father does, that He might redeem His creation from the corrupting power of sin and set it upright and good once again (Jn. 3.16; 2 Cor. 5.19).
But this is not the kind of "love for the world" against which John and Columbanus warn us. Their concern is to turn us from that love of the world which seeks only to use the world and the things in it for personal consumption and pleasure, as though we, and not our heavenly Father, were the reason these things exist.
The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24.1). He gives us daily of His bounty to meet our needs for shelter and provision. He expects us to receive these daily gifts as such from His hand, with thanksgiving and good stewardship, so that He might receive a return of praise, honor, and glory for His investment in us (Matt. 25.14-30).
When we make ourselves mere consumers of the transitory treasures of this world, as though we, and not God, were the reason they exist, we actually put ourselves in the place of God and usurp His privileges and power. Using and enjoying the things that God gives us in this life is not an evil in itself. Using and enjoying them for the sake merely of bringing pleasure to ourselves - there's the rub.
Every good and perfect gift comes to us from God, and we fulfill our purpose of making His glory known (Hab. 2.14; 1 Cor. 10.31) when we use everything the Lord gives us to declare His excellence, His goodness, His steadfast love and faithfulness, and to touch others with His gifts so that they might join us in praising Him as well.
So, let us love the world, and all the good gifts of God that are in it. But nor for our own sake. Let us love them for what they teach and show us about the magnitude of God's love and power, and for the ways they enable us to glorify Him by serving others in this transitory journey of life.
Love the world; but let us love it aright.