"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." — 1 John 2:15.
IN THE TEXT, "Love not the world," we do not understand the term "world" to mean either the human race or the planet on which we live. The thought of the text seems to be more particularly the present order of things, for the Greek word here translated world is kosmos, signifying arrangement. We are to appreciate the beauties of nature. We are to love the human family, whom God also loves, though not in the sense in which He loves the Church of Christ. We read, "God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."—John 3:16.
St. John cannot therefore be understood to refer to the world of mankind, when he says, "Love not the world." For them we should have sympathy similar to that which the Heavenly Father has for the fallen race. The Scriptures inform us that the present order, or arrangement, of things on earth is entirely out of harmony with God's will, or purpose; for the world is ruled by selfishness. The Divine arrangement is that love shall be the rule among God's creatures. "God is Love … He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God."—I John 4:8, 16.
The world operates along lines different from those of love. Each one strives selfishly to heap together treasure for himself, even if meantime his neighbor goes destitute. Many live in luxury, while realizing that there are others who lack the necessities of life. Many seek for power to control men, not with the thought of their uplift, but with a view to using them for selfish ends and motives. This spirit of selfishness belongs to the present order of things. We see it in operation everywhere.
The spirit of the world lays hold of all the forces of nature and seeks to control these, to adapt them to its own selfish interests. It is true that much good has resulted indirectly from this spirit of selfishness. For instance, a man with a great amount of the vain-glorious spirit may for his own selfish purposes benefit others. A general might have so much pride in his service that in order to win praise for himself he would care for his soldiers and have them well dressed. Some of our great captains of industry have done the world good service, and incidentally have blessed many, while carrying out their own designs.
SELFISHNESS THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD
If all of the great worldly enterprises were undertaken with a view to the betterment of mankind, the spirit of these would not be selfish. We know, indeed, that much is done to help those who are needy, and that where there is a motive of this kind, it is often misinterpreted and misjudged to be selfish. But "the Lord looketh on the heart." (I Sam. 16:7.) Those who have the selfish heart, the selfish intentions, will continue to love the things of the world. In proportion as such may be shown that there is a new order of affairs coming, in that proportion the selfish-minded will not be in sympathy with the change of dispensation.
If a man conducts a large enterprise for the benefit of those who would have opportunity to share such blessings, that man would rejoice that there is a better time coming. A man who would truly rejoice to have a better arrangement of affairs, would not have the spirit that dominates in the present order of things. He would have the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Love, the spirit that will dominate the New Order of things, that will control during the thousand years of Christ's reign.
Many are in the attitude of mind which would say, "My employer is rich. Whenever I get the opportunity to help myself to some of his money, I will do so and get as much as possible." Such people love the present order of things, whether they be rich or poor. A great many poor love the things of this world, and hope some day to get their share.
There are people who say, "Oh, I do not love the world and its selfish spirit! From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet I am opposed to it. Sometimes I say to my husband, 'This is a very selfish world, John.' Then he replies, 'Yes, Mary, it is. Everywhere people are seeking for everything that will gratify self and selfish desires. But while you condemn the ways of the world, yet you delight in the good things of life provided by my industry—the automobile, the pleasant home, etc.' And I must acknowledge that he is right. I fear that I could not be happy without them." Such a person certainly loves the things of the world, even while making good use of them.
It seems to be a serious charge to say that any one who is in that attitude of mind which loves the world and the things belonging to it, has not the love of the Father in him. We do not understand, however, that such a one has no love for the Father or that the Father has no love for him. The Apostle seems to be addressing this message to the Church. Those who have been adopted into God's family must continue to love Him or they would not be counted as members of that class.
What, then, is the full import of this expression—"The Love of the Father is not in him"? To us it would mean that the Love of the Father had not gotten full control of his heart, and this would mean that ultimately—unless he should gain a victory over his selfish disposition—he would not be accepted as a son.
Everywhere about us is this spirit of selfishness. Every child of God should be on guard against it and against willingness to participate in the things of this world. We should strive to be in that condition which is pleasing to the Father. We are to try to rid ourselves of the spirit of the world and to be filled with the Spirit of the Father. This would not mean that we are not to appreciate beautiful things, or that we are not to like to see others striving to benefit the world; but that we should not be satisfied with any of these things, so far as we are concerned.
TWO KINDS OF MOTIVES
Whatever talents we possess we should use for the good of humanity in any kind of work that would be for the glory of God. Even a good work could be engaged in from the spirit of the world rather than from the Spirit of God; that is, it might be done for what we could get from others in the way of money, honor or influence; or, on the other hand, it might be for the good we desired to do for others.
The highest of all services is that of the ministry of the Word of God. Even this noble service might be pursued from either of two motives—the Love of the Father or the love of self. Apparently there are some engaged in the ministry purely for the sake of the loaves and fishes, for the honorable position it gives them in the world, or because they do not know of anything that would serve them better.
Again, there are those, no doubt, who have entered the ministry, not for selfish reasons, but because they desire to serve God, to serve the Truth, to serve His people. The Lord alone knows what has induced any one to enter the ministry. But since we are living in the day that will try every man's work, God will prove what sort it is—will show what motive is behind the deed.
Those who are serving merely from the worldly spirit will be vexed with everything that is making for Truth; and in proportion as their earthly interests suffer, they will be angry. Those who are of the right spirit, however, will rejoice in everything that will be helpful to humanity, in everything that is to the glory of God, in everything that will make the Bible more easily understood.
In fact, we may suppose that the real testing, so far as the Church is concerned, is the making manifest whether we love the world—the things of the present time—or whether we love God supremely. As time goes on, it will be even more impossible to harmonize the spirit of love and the spirit of selfishness. Those who love God will be fully out of harmony with the spirit of the present evil world.
"Love not the world!
He in whose heart the love
Of vanity has found a place, shuts out
The enduring world above.
"Love not the world!
However fair it seem;
Who loveth this vain world—the love of God
Abideth not in him."