Definition: The impelling force that influences human society made up of those who are not servants of Jehovah God, causing such people to say and do things according to a characteristic pattern. Although people act on individual preferences, those who manifest the spirit of the world give evidence of certain basic attitudes, ways of doing things, and aims in life that are common to the present system of things of which Satan is ruler and god.
Why is being tainted by the spirit of the world a matter of serious concern?
1 John 5:19: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (Satan has fostered a spirit that dominates the thinking and activities of those of mankind who are not Jehovah’s approved servants. It is a spirit of selfishness and pride that is so pervasive that it is like the air that humans breathe. We need to exercise great care not to submit to Satan’s power by letting that spirit mold our lives.)
Rev. 12:9: “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.” (Ever since this took place, following the birth of the Kingdom in 1914, the influence of Satan and his demons has intensified greatly among mankind. His spirit has goaded people to acts of increased selfishness and violence. Especially do those who seek to serve Jehovah come under great pressure to be a part of the world, to do what others do, and to abandon true worship.)
What are some of the characteristics of the spirit of the world against which we need to be on guard?
1 Cor. 2:12: “Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God.” (If the spirit of the world takes root in a person’s thinking and desires, its fruitage is soon seen in actions that manifest that spirit. So, breaking free from the spirit of the world requires not only avoiding unchristian activities and excesses but also getting to the root of the matter by cultivating attitudes that reflect God’s spirit and genuine love for his ways. This you should keep in mind as you consider the following manifestations of the spirit of the world.)
Doing what a person wants to do, without regard for the will of God
Satan urged Eve to decide for herself what was good and what was bad. (Gen. 3:3-5; in contrast see Proverbs 3:5, 6.) Many who follow Eve’s course do not know what God’s will for mankind is, nor are they interested in finding out. They just “do their own thing,” as they say. Those who know God’s requirements and try to conform to them need to be careful that the world’s spirit does not cause them deliberately to ignore the counsel of God’s Word in what they may view as “little things.”—Luke 16:10; see also “Independence.”
Reacting to situations on the basis of pride
It was Satan who first allowed an overestimation of self to corrupt his heart. (Compare Ezekiel 28:17; Proverbs 16:5.) Pride is a divisive force in the world of which he is ruler, causing people to consider themselves better than those of other races, nations, language groups, and economic status. Even those serving God may need to root out remnants of such feelings. They also need to be on guard so that pride does not cause them to make major issues of minor matters, or become a barrier to their acknowledging their own faults and accepting counsel and thus benefiting from much loving help that Jehovah provides through his organization.—Rom. 12:3; 1 Pet. 5:5.
Manifesting a rebellious attitude toward authority
Rebellion began with Satan, whose name means “Resister.” By his defiance of Jehovah, Nimrod, whose name may mean “Let Us Rebel,” demonstrated that he was a child of Satan. Avoiding that spirit will prevent God-fearing persons from becoming defiant of secular rulers (Rom. 13:1); it will help minors to submit to the God-given authority of their parents (Col. 3:20); it will be a safeguard against sympathizing with apostates, who disrespect those whom Jehovah has entrusted with responsibility in his visible organization.—Jude 11; Heb. 13:17.
Giving free rein to the desires of the fallen flesh
The influence of this can be seen and heard everywhere. There is a need constantly to be on guard against it. (1 John 2:16; Eph. 4:17, 19; Gal. 5:19-21) The thinking and the desires that may lead to more serious evidences of it may be manifest in a person’s conversation, the jokes he tells, the lyrics of music to which he listens, the kind of dancing he does, or in his watching shows that feature immoral sex. This aspect of the world’s spirit shows itself in drug abuse, drunkenness, adultery, fornication, and homosexuality. It also is manifest when a person unscripturally, but perhaps legally, divorces one mate and takes another.—Mal. 2:16.
Allowing one’s life to be dominated by the desire to possess what one sees
It was such a desire that Satan cultivated in Eve, enticing her to do something that ruined her relationship with God. (Gen. 3:6; 1 John 2:16) Jesus firmly rejected such a temptation. (Matt. 4:8-10) Those who want to please Jehovah need to be on guard so that they do not allow the commercial world to develop such a spirit in them. Much grief and spiritual ruin result to those ensnared by it.—Matt. 13:22; 1 Tim. 6:7-10.
Showing off one’s possessions and supposed attainments
This practice, too, “originates with the world” and needs to be abandoned by those who become servants of God. (1 John 2:16) It is rooted in pride, and instead of building up others spiritually, it dangles material enticements and visions of worldly achievement before them.—Rom. 15:2.
Giving vent to one’s emotions in abusive speech and violent acts
These are “works of the flesh” against which many persons have to put up a hard fight. With genuine faith and the help of God’s spirit they can conquer the world rather than let its spirit dominate them.—Gal. 5:19, 20, 22, 23; Eph. 4:31; 1 Cor. 13:4-8; 1 John 5:4.
Basing one’s hopes and fears on what humans are able to do
A physical man considers what he can see and touch to be what really counts. His hopes and fears revolve around the promises and threats of other men. He looks to human rulers for help and is disillusioned when they fail. (Ps. 146:3, 4; Isa. 8:12, 13) To him, this life is all there is. Threats of death easily enslave him. (In contrast, see Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 2:14, 15.) But a new force actuates the minds of people who get to know Jehovah, those who fill their minds and hearts with his promises and who learn to turn to him for help in every time of need.—Eph. 4:23, 24; Ps. 46:1; 68:19.
Giving to humans and things the worshipful honor that belongs to God
“The god of this system of things,” Satan the Devil, encourages all sorts of practices that misdirect man’s God-given inclination to worship. (2 Cor. 4:4) Some rulers have been treated as gods. (Acts 12:21-23) Millions bow before idols. Millions more idolize actors and outstanding athletes. Celebrations frequently give undue honor to individual humans. So common is this spirit that those who truly love Jehovah and want to give him exclusive devotion need to be alert to its influence every day.