Would contemporary Wesleyans be comfortable with Wesley’s views of worldliness?
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eye and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the desire thereof; but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.” John Wesley's translation of the 1st Epistle of St. John
According to Wesley’s notes on the New Testament, worldliness is when we seek pleasure in “visible things” instead of God, who is unseen. Anyone who pursues pleasure in what is visible does not love God. Wesley says that what is visible is not permanent and will “pass away.” God, however, is eternal and by loving God we will therefore spend eternity “in the enjoyment of what (we) love forever.”
Wesley wrote that the “desire of the flesh” was related to “taste, smell, or touch” or the “pleasure of the outward senses; “the desire of the eye” meant taking great satisfaction in things. “The pride of life,” or as the NRSV says “the pride in riches” was what we now call materialism. If we have the pride of life we acquire things in order to please ourselves and to get approval from others.
I am quite familiar with Wesley’s definition of worldliness on a personal level. As an American (and I am not blaming it on my culture, I am blaming it on my carnal nature because it responds to my culture), I love to go shopping for clothes. I love to go to Hobby Lobby and purchase new equipment for the crafts I enjoy doing. As a woman I want my house to look a certain way and I want my kids to look nice. Perhaps once in a while these activities are alright. I just don’t want to pursue them to the point where I have to have the latest thing no matter what. I also do not want to clutter my house with unneeded things and waste a bunch of money that could be used to help others.
I think that modern Wesleyans may be uncomfortable with Wesley’s view of worldliness, especially if they are into “keeping up with the Joneses.” Because we are surrounded and inundated with this mindset, it would be difficult to tell if we were involved in this unless we spend some time in contemplation, in fasting or if we went on a mission trip.
In the Church today there is a segment that is very attentive to the poor. They do not seem to be caught up in materialism and they are into social justice. Nazarenes used to be this way more so than they are now. To me it seems like we are more concerned with helping people who live half a world away than we are in helping our neighbors. I think that there needs to be a better balance in this.