What does ‘being worldly’ mean?

Posted: April 1, 2008 in Theology and Doctrine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In the church that I grew up in, being worldly meant women wearing makeup or jewelry and men having certain hairstyles that were ‘hip’ back in the day. The bible says:

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)

So what exactly does ‘being worldly’ mean? We hear it in church all the time. This is the best definition that I have seen which I found in my Bible Dictionary

Being ‘worldly’ can be defined as partaking in the values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviour that characterize unredeemed human cultures. The worldly person is one who is squeezed into the mold of the ‘kosmos’ i.e. the world system or the world’s way of thinking, in contrast to one whose whole world view has been transformed by God (Rom 12:2). Worldliness is not necessarily a matter of participating in questionable activities or adopting certain styles of dress or appearance, as some christians in every generation have supposed. It is rather the acceptance of the values and assumptions of a society that has no place for God

I thought I would share this information with you as some of you may be feeling guilty unnecessarily (as I once did).

  1. Molzahn says:

    I think the term ‘materialistic’ would more concisely define ‘worldly’.

  2. Alan Higgins says:

    But you can be worldly without being materialistic

  3. Alan Higgins says:

    Well you can have people who are not materialistic per se but still have ‘the world system or the world’s way of thinking’

  4. John Bonilla says:

    the world is a system that occupies you for God’s disire or instrest and it could possess you and harden your heart towrds God weather its good or bad

  5. John Bonilla says:


  6. John Bonilla says:

    that what i belive the world could even be more damaging then sin because it can draw you away from God

  7. Jewel says:

    I don’t think I necessarily agree, I think that being worldly is a very good thing. It means that you are more accepting to different people of different religions and values. I don’t think the world is as bad as you make it seem to be, maybe I’m just being naive. I think it’s all in how you TRY and perceive the world. I think that accepting different cultures and religions allows you to learn more about your own and allows you to make more . . . meaningful decisions throughout your life, whatever they may be. I think it is the opposite of materialistic. You give up your need for material possessions for things that only the mind and individual can create.

  8. Alan Higgins says:

    James 4:4
    You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

  9. Joannie Roberts says:

    alan higgins u da bomb 😉 just had to letcha kno

  10. Kristin says:

    This helps alot, thank you.

  11. Ebenezer says:

    If you are un worldly, then God must have worked you out , so go into the worldly and work them out of the world.It is your duty as a christian.

  12. darell says:

    i am curious to know what these things mean

  13. Rick says:

    So how do we change from being Worldly?

  14. Kevin says:

    if you get your values out of seeking attention and people”s approval, that is worldliness and there is no materialism in that. So the answer is YES, you can be worldly without being materialistic.

  15. Kevin says:

    How do we change from being wordly ? First step is to go within and find out what we live for, what we value the most. IF i value my looks and my body the most, then “my emotional treasure” is in that and not in GOD. So I go to church seeking praise and compliments….in other words i am worldly but of course, i dont want anyone else to find out, cause then they will discover my hypocrisy. The answer is to humble myself before GOD and receive christ freely and get to know him and fall in love with J.

  16. jonahzsong says:

    Reblogged this on jonahzsong and commented:
    This morning, while awaiting repairs on my wife’s car, I’m looking at “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmityi with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of G-d” (James 4:4). I then found Real Christianity and found this definition helpful.

  17. sonofGod says:

    Nothing but laodiceans,and nicolaitans on this site commenting and denying the truth that they say they want.Who do not pray and have absolutely no spiritual relationship with Lord Jesus messiah.It is evident in all wishy washy comments.

  18. sammy says:

    a good example of been worldly is this: the world says it is ok to be gay, homosexual, lesby… and it’s totally against what the bible says. The bible admonishes men to marry woman and even at that tells us to be in a spiritual relationship or in fellowship with God, Son and the Holy Spirit.

  19. Jennifer Plouse says:

    Thank you so much!! It’s amazing how other Christians, even moreso pastors and their wives, condemn their congregations for being worldly, but partake in worldly events themselves…or at least what is perceived to to be worldy. They preach against taking your children to a a movie theater, but take their children to to college football games. My heart still hurts over certain things but this definition has helped to relieve some of my strife. They preach against listening to the radio but they watch TV. Who decides what is worldly and what is not. Roman’s 14: 1-23 helps to clear this up in in my mind as I understand the scripture to mean that what is sin for some individuals, may not be the same as sin for others because God convicts our hearts according to our situations. As soon as I think I have a clear message of the scripture according to to my situation, the pastors wife sends a message saying that one cannot live for Christ if their bodies still belong to the world, all because I do not share the same convictions. I am a born again Christian, I love Jesus, and I am not perfect, but isn’t it Gods job to convict my heart of things that I should not be doing aside from the ten commandments. The bible is the only road map to heaven. I think it is unfair for pastors to pick and choose scriptures in which to live by, preach to their congregations on these things because they deem them as inappropriate, but they participate in equally inappropriate events based on their own definition. I’my so confused. Please pray that God will continue to use me, and give me a greater understanding of the scripture.


    A Christian with a broken heart!

    • Jennifer, don’t feel lost for too long. Naturally, I can understand your confusion being that a pastor is supposed to guide and clarify the Bible for christians. But they too are humans so are flawed. Feel comfort and take delight in knowning you are NOT ALONE in your walk with Christ. Love God with all your heart as he does us, and love your neighbor as you love yourself :). As you keep reading the Bible, you get closer to God. And that will give you more confidence. The closer we get to God the more he is able to use us :).

      • spw says:

        Worldliness is disobeying the moral compass of scripture. Are we set apart for the work of Christ? Do things of the world grieve our heart and inter being? If a Christians and a non Christians life is side by side as an open book, how would they differ or would they be similar? There are fruits of darkness “Satan”and fruits of the Light “Holy Spirit”, this is one way of separating worldliness from godliness. Do we seek and go after what the world wants for life? Gods people must be set apart and live different lives that those of the world. Its pretty simple to understand. We don’t see it or live it for the most part, is why people sugar coat worldliness and change it meaning. May we all search deep within to weed out any wickedness and repent of any worldly thinking and life styles.

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