Characteristics of the World
Scripture says a lot about the world; about mankind, society in general. It says repeatedly what the dangers are and how we as God’s children are to be different. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the world that the Bible assigns:
Rewards of the world are achieved in this life; therefore, they are short term: “Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down; rescue me from the wicked by your sword. O LORD, by your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life. You still the hunger of those you cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children. And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Psalm 17:13-15.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:35-37.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:24-26.
What do we focus on, what do we spend our time on, what do we think about, what do we bring into our thoughts? All of these things are greatly impacted by society and what is considered cool or fun or normal or worthwhile. But we should focus on the eternal and not the temporal; we should look at building a portfolio of love that will impact the people of this world for Christ and not a portfolio of investments that will impact the people of this world by the taxes we pay.
The world, and those who follow the pattern of society and trends in behavior is wrong, and it will be judged: “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir.” Isaiah 13:10-12.
“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD.” Isaiah 26:8-10
Think about some of the things we as a society now say are ok and how far away from God some of those behaviors are. You can fill in your own form of what’s wrong with the world today, but look at the example in Ezekiel chapter 20: “When you offer your gifts—the sacrifice of your sons in the fire—you continue to defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. Am I to let you inquire of me, O house of Israel? As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will not let you inquire of me." 'You say, "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone." But what you have in mind will never happen. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will rule over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath.” (verses 31-33). Can you imagine sacrificing your son to an idol? Putting your child into a fire? Of course not, but what about some of the things we give our kids up to today? Driving them to perform in sports or school or some other man-made parent-made god that doesn’t lead to God, that’s the shame we can feel as parents today. And look at the other part of this scripture, they wanted to be like the other people of the world. Here they are, the chosen people of God and they wanted to be like everybody else! How can that be?!?
It makes me think of the teenager who wants the entire world (especially mom and dad) to know that they are a unique person, unlike anything the world has ever seen before, while at the same time has to wear to same clothes all his/her friends are wearing. We are conflicted between doing what everyone else is doing and doing what God wants us to do. He wants us to be different; we don’t want to be.
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:13-15. Salt of the earth. I’ve always had a hard time relating to that; thinking of myself as salt, but Jesus said so… what does salt do? It makes things salty. It changes the flavor and composition of whatever it comes into contact with. In Iowa they poor salt on the ice to melt it and to make the roads safe. In Arizona they put salt on the rims of margarita glasses to make the drink taste better. Either way, the salt changes what it comes into contact with. We can’t change something if we are made of the same thing as the thing we are trying to change. And what about the light? What does a light do? It eliminates the darkness (you might say that a lamp creates shadows and doesn’t light the whole room, to you I say if there wasn’t anything else in the room to create the shadows, there would be nothing but light.) But as salt and light we are to be different than the world. We are to be different and we are to make a difference.