Worldly-Minded Sins

What’s the point of making bank if you’re gravely wrong in your attitude towards the Word of God? What if your attitude towards devout Christians in your family, or social network, is completely contrary because you just don’t understand the Bible and the whole thing is just too difficult for you? Yet you excel in business; and you make bank. But you would rather run away with your wife to South Florida than face your theological problems. You are running away from Scripture, from God, and from Bible-believing Christians to frame an agnostic lifestyle for yourself. What’s more, you have an abundance of people to help you do so. They don’t care about your soul: they don’t even know if souls exist. They will go on and on, in a spirit of religious tolerance, holiday observance, empty New Year’s Eve celebrations, not judging your unbelief, and remaining religiously indifferent, as you rot away on the inside, and as your soul craves nourishment from the Spirit of God. This is where your path has led you: you have a great relationship with your business and your bank, but your knowledge of the Bible, and your relationship with God is virtually non-existent. You bought into the devil’s lie that religious indifference is what “normal” people embrace to be financially successful.[1] You’re on his dope and have become part of the world system: you’ve become a worldly-minded man. Most of the empty and vain things mentioned in the book of Ecclesiastes: they describe your life.

The Broad-Minded World

When the Bible refers to the “world,” it is not referring to the globe, or when you look at a map by National Geographic and can see the oceans and continents. Maps of the world are always great educational resources, but the Bible means something else when it says the “world.” It means all the non-evangelical people, all the non-lordship salvation people, all the non-Biblical people that exist in the world. They are called the world because they are the majority party. Those who believe in the Bible, the true Biblical lordship salvation Gospel, who believe in obedience to it, and in spiritual submission to Jesus, they are “not of the world” (John 15:19). They are the minority party. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matt. 7:13). The narrow gate and the narrow road are the lordship salvation Gospel and the life of commandment keeping holiness that it requires. Those who think broad-mindedly or religiously indifferent about such matters are on the broad road “that leads to destruction.” They should be ashamed of themselves, but their friends and colleagues keep them without shame towards these things; and they effectively live in the town of Carnal Policy envisioned by Bunyan and associate with Mr. Worldly Wiseman every week.[2]

Part of the deception involves the churches they attend, which are usually mainline liberal churches, which used to be called “broad” churches, and which deny the deity of Christ, the supernatural, and embrace scientism: the idea that science has an explanation for everything, and that the Bible should submit to the assumptions of naturalistic science. But most of their deception involves the choice they have made against conservative evangelicalism; and instead have embraced a lifestyle solely marked by the economic and the hedonistic, and emphatically not by the theological and the “religious,” a word they enjoy using, to pejoratively distance themselves from practical Christianity. But the evangelical Christian shouldn’t be discouraged when he sees such worldly people having financial success. The devil is allowing them to be successful to keep them asleep in the pillows of their sin:

As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills…They say, ‘How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth (Ps. 73:2-5, 11-12).

Materialism and the Hatred of Biblical Christianity

It is no secret that non-Christians in name and heart know how to make money. In fact, this is their primary temptation: it’s all they have to live for. It’s all that is real to them. They can’t see the spirit world, so they have no desire to become rich in God through theology and spirituality. They can see money; and that’s what they prioritize. They are naturalists who believe in what they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. They have no spiritual senses beyond these five natural senses. They are naturalistic materialists who reject the paranormal; and because of that, they are truly materialistic in every sense of the word. Being part of polite genteel society, most of these upper middle class and upper class people would never be so ill-mannered as to say, “I hate Jesus,” or “I hate Christianity,” like some scoundrel. But in their hearts, they really do. Jesus said that the world “hates me because I testify that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

He said things like, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). The apostle Paul, addressing real Christians, said, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Cor. 2:12). He speaks of those who are lost as “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). He warns: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). I naturally think about secular capitalism, guided by the cruel philosophy of Machiavelli,[3] when I read this verse; or political enthusiasts, who make everything about politics, almost as a replacement system for the Gospel. The apostle John warns:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

“Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them” (1 John 4:4-5). Their viewpoint is to look out for number one; lie, cheat, and steal; take advantage of customers; make as much money as quickly as they can; cuss like a sailor; fornicate like a fornicator; watch whatever they want on television; and without care, to be like Voltaire and live it up, because “you only live once.” Then there’s the more decent humanists who try to hide all these negative vices; and go to liberal churches and treat Christianity like some useful utility for the family unit. But they are all part of the same “rotten crowd,” as Nick said in The Great Gatsby:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…they’re a rotten crowd.[4]

Carelessness. Smashing up creatures. Requiring other people to clean up their mess. This is what worldly people are like. They are self-interested, hedonistic, God-haters: “conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). They have enough money to gratify their sensuality; and just enough Christianity to relieve their guilt. They don’t take responsibility for their actions; and their lives lack meaning: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless” (Eccl. 5:10).

Sins of the Worldly-Minded Rich

Let’s paint the picture a bit: there are vain show-offs of materialism, vain pursuits, empty plans, fake vulture friends at parties taking advantage of your hospitality, pretending everything is fine when it’s not, boring repetitive dances, boring music, boring conversations about social status, trips to the big city, owning pools without swimming, white supremacy, business talk, alma mater pride, mansions, prioritizing possessions, and the conquest of women as trophy wives. There is playing rich-only sports like polo and golf; owning luxury cars and sports cars; using condescending paternalistic tones of voice to others or talking down to them like they were a little child;[5] and a harsh, tyrannical, intimidating attitude.

There’s bragging about their luxury homes and new gadgets; a superiority complex, or being smugly obsessed with the thought that they’re better than others; gold digger women who only marry for money and social status instead of marrying for love; designer clothing; materialism: the idea that material possessions are more important than personal character or Christian virtues;[6] looking down on all classes of people who actually work for a living and praising the upper class who spend their days in idleness, pleasure-seeking, hedonism, and Epicureanism; partying and drinking to escape from their boring lifestyles; and the seven deadly sins always left unchecked: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

I could only bear to read a few chapters from William Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs, because it struck me as very dull and boring. But after reading it, I was able to determine that it was the articles published in this book that popularized our current understanding of the word “snob” in the year 1845. In his view, the word applied to anyone who had a great respect for English royalty, gentility, gentlemen, nobility, lords, ladies, dukes, earls, and other like titles that exist in the British upper class. Even if a person was in the lower class: if they in any way groveled at the feet of such people, then they were considered snobs, because they accepted the snob system as it existed in England. The word “snob” might be a related word to “snub,” which means to ignore someone as unworthy of your attention, because you are “smug,” and think yourself so much better than they are; but that is only a speculation on my part. Thackeray, however, associated “snob” with the British gentility: and aimed it at anyone who had a high regard for the social structure that elevated rank and status; or anyone who imitated the behaviors of the nobility. Here were some of his concluding thoughts on the subject:

We can apply the Snob test to him, and try whether he is conceited and a quack, whether pompous and lacking humility—whether uncharitable and proud of his narrow soul?…I can bear it no longer—this diabolical invention of gentility which kills natural kindliness and honest friendship…The table of ranks and degrees is a lie, and should be flung into the fire…If this is not gospel-truth—if the world does not tend to this—if hereditary-great-man worship is not a humbug and an idolatry—let us have the Stuarts back again, and crop the Free Press’s ears in the pillory…You, who despise your neighbor, are a Snob; you, who forget your own friends, meanly to follow after those of a higher degree, are a Snob; you, who are ashamed of your poverty, and blush for your calling, are a Snob; as are you who boast of your pedigree, or are proud of your wealth.[7]

I’d say that the greatest worldly-minded sins, or those which are especially concentrated in the rich, are “greed, which is idolatry” and “the pride of life” (Col. 3:5; 1 John 2:16). Their unrestrained desire for wealth leads to its eventual accumulation; and then to a sense of pride in their accomplishments. While its completely understandable to be proud of things that you have accomplished in business through self-sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears: on the other hand, there is another kind of pride, which is unacceptable in the eyes of God. This is called arrogance and snobbery or being haughty; and essentially manifests in classism and economic discrimination against people that have less money than you do. This kind of discrimination even exists between people within the upper class. There are those at the top with “old money,” where millions of dollars have been passed down through inheritance for generations. These people tend to judge the nouveau riche or “new money” people who recently came into millions in their lifetime, often because they lack the etiquette, and the so-called refined manners of the old money people who attend country clubs.

There’s also a “keeping up with the Joneses,” or materialistic competition going on with these people; and an inability to fast and pray; and an aversion to self-denial and patience. Their preoccupation with job security and material possessions leads to idolatry,[8] self-centeredness, and a conspicuous consumption of luxury items that dazzle the eyes and distract people from faith in God, trust in God, the Word of God, and theology. Materialism as a word, attitude, and philosophy has everything to do with the god of riches replacing God with a financially related atheism, agnosticism, or deism of sorts. Their love of money and their trust in riches, at the very least, will lead them to make prosperity primary and salvation secondary, but such a “hypocrite’s hope shall perish” (Job 8:13).[9] Richard Baxter said, “Take heed lest while you pretend to live for God, and to use all that you have as his stewards for his service, you should deceitfully put him off with the leavings of your lusts, and give him only so much as your flesh can spare.”[10]

This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). It’s all about your priorities. Is God going to be the main thing for you, and business be the footnote, or is it going to be the other way around? If you’d compartmentalize God: and make business and money the main thing in your life, it ain’t gonna fly you to Heaven so good! You’d probably not make it! The spider web of your faint religious belief would likely snap under the weight of your heavy soul! Biblical Christianity is all about love, humility, and godly fellowship; but materialism is all about making shallow worldly-minded acquaintances and being financially arrogant. Which one sounds better? Art Gish nailed it when he said:

Wealth encourages pride. It tends to make people haughty, snobbish, and arrogant. Hunger for food has never driven people to such depravity as pride has. All our vanity and pompousness is garbage. Pity the person who tries to be great and profound. That person is shallow. Simplicity is the opposite of pride. It is liberation from egoism.[11]

Biblical Faith and Obedience: The Main Solution

John Calvin’s solution to such worldly sins is Bible study and Bible obedience: studying theology, and especially committing our lives to keep God’s commandments, helps to empty “our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or human favor” and “eradicates all ambition and thirst for worldly glory…it leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self-love.”[12] A true view of the Gospel—termed “lordship salvation” by theologians—goes like this: “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12). The sight of the cross should humble us with such a sense of gratitude, at the thought that the Son of God would take such a punishment, instead of our eternal suffering in Hell. This then should propel us to live holy lives in obedience to the Bible. But those worldly-minded men who continue to dispute with the Word of God, relying on reason alone, and resisting all spiritual impulses for faith and righteousness, can only expect a deadening of their consciences, and a loss of any hope for salvation from Hell. So, let’s not be like them!

Telecommuting: A Way to Escape

If ever there was a man who preached righteousness about money, then it was John Wesley. Yet, Kathleen MacArthur, in her study of his economic philosophy, concluded that he didn’t really address the issue of private ethics versus public ethics; and how these two spheres can often conflict with each other. The reality of the situation is that the business world generally operates on the Machiavellian assumption that the public sphere is one of limited morality if not lawlessness; and it’s just up to individuals for how they want to behave.[13] In my view, this basically leaves the Biblical Christian with three choices: 1. Conform to the godless culture that surrounds you, in the companies you work for; and stop being a real Christian. 2. Try your best to be a real Christian, even though the company you are working for, has an ungodly culture.[14] 3. Work from home as a telecommuter: and remove yourself from the ungodly work environment.[15] To me, this third option is the most ideal. This way, your own personal ethics become the new normal; and you have little to no conflict of interest with following Jesus in your job. Either start your own work-at-home business; or seek remote employment on sites like flexjobs.com. According to a recent survey done by LinkedIn News, “Software and IT services lead the way, with 48% of respondents saying their employers will be offering a full-time remote option long-term.”[16] I personally have been able to find plenty of remote work with software companies; and the peace I’ve experienced from it has been amazing. Especially with being able to avoid frequent cussing and flirtatious monkey business at work.

[1] Religious indifference in the English business world was a rising trend in the seventeenth century, which is probably what spurred Baxter and Steele to write so much about Biblical economic ethics (see R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, pp. 23-24, 159, 229).

[2] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (London, England: Hurst, Robinson, and Co, 1820), pp. 11-24.

[3] “A political theory advocating the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli’s The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality, and craft and deceit are used to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler…behavior characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty” (The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House, 1993, s.v. “Machiavellianism”).

[4] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Edited by James L. W. West III (New York, NY: Scribner, 1925, 2018), pp. 109, 154.

[5] “The system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in an outwardly benevolent, but often condescending or controlling way” (The Random House Unabridged Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House, 1993, s.v. “Paternalism”).

[6] Reacting against this as a young Christian, I eventually stumbled on Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972), which is apparently a historically accurate film about the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Minus a scene that shows his butt, I’d still say it’s a decent film. At one point he says, “There’s a lot one could say to an emperor…you could tell him to throw his scepter in the mud, or to fling his jewels into the river. Then he could see the glow of some new colors amongst the glistening pebbles. And you could say, ‘Otto of Brunswick, let the birds nest in your crown. Let the winds of heaven blow through your empty palaces. What good is your life to you, if your riches bring you no peace of mind and all your people starve?’” Francis’s message about materialistic dissatisfaction and charitable giving echo the book of Ecclesiastes and the four gospels. However, to have an exclusively Franciscan view of money isn’t good enough. After the birth of our second child, I started to realize that avoiding materialism was only part of the picture for Biblical economics. The other parts involve diligence, thrift, financial growth, and many financial necessities that family men are required to meet; and most of these work ethics are expressed in the book of Proverbs.

[7] William Thackeray, The Book of Snobs (London, England: Robin Clark, 1993), pp. 198-200.

[8] Arthur Gish, Beyond the Rat Race (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973), p. 93: “Many people dare not lose their jobs. To keep from losing them, they suppress their deepest feelings and do what they know is wrong. Many people are so tied to the consumer status system that they are bought off from expressing dissent, affirming and rejecting the dominant values.”

[9] “So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure” (Job 8:13-15).

[10] Richard Baxter, Chapters from A Christian Directory (London, England: G. Bell & Sons, 1925), p. 53.

[11] Arthur Gish, op. cit., p. 102. “The rich boast of their riches” (Jer. 9:23); “because of your wealth your heart has grown proud” (Ezek. 28:5); “do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position” (Rom. 12:16); “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18); “my brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).

[12] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), p. 450.

[13] Kathleen MacArthur, The Economic Ethics of John Wesley (New York, NY: The Abingdon Press, 1936), pp. 149-152.

[14] “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). This is the fighting stance: in the world, not of it.

[15] “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). This is the flighting stance: separation from the world. Just be sure to set aside 20% of every paycheck into a bank account for tax money (Mark 12:17). You should also go to H&R Block four times a year for check ins on your self-employment tax status, your estimated tax payments to the IRS and the state, etc. This is because most of your work will probably come from 1099s instead of W-2s. You will have to manually pay your taxes, instead of having tax money automatically withheld from your paycheck, as with W-2 jobs. The Proverbs 31 woman in verses 18-19 is portrayed as working at home, at night, making cloth with her distaff and spindle, with the lamp on in her room. Matthew Henry: “her business lying within-doors.” Catholic monks and the Amish take an official stance of separation from the business world, to avoid its corrupting effects (the Amish rely on Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 for this). It’s easy for me to understand their reasoning: up to a certain point. Most of the Puritan tradesmen, in effect, also did this as most were owners of small family businesses or were “small masters”: they were generally not working for large companies on corporate “football teams” filled with non-Christian men. The trades of Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, and the other apostles probably looked more like the Puritan small business model.

[16] https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:681611586953 4494720/ – another great resource is Jason Fried and David Hansson’s Remote: Office Not Required (2013).

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