‘Do Not Use the World to the Full’
“Those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:31, The Jerusalem Bible.
1, 2. (a) What view of the world’s future do many have today? (b) Paul said what about the world and the use of it?
“ONE cannot foretell the surprises or disappointments the future has in store. . . . Yet, clumsily or smoothly, the world, it seems, progresses and will progress.” So stated noted historian H. G. Wells a few decades ago. Despite numerous crises and calamities, many feel that mankind will somehow solve its problems, and the world, much as we know it, will survive.
2 However, writing under divine inspiration, the Christian apostle Paul presented a different picture when he urged fellow believers: “Let . . . those making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” Another rendition is: “Those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31, New World Translation; JB) What does this counsel mean to servants of Jehovah God today?
“The World . . . Is Passing Away”
3. Paul discussed what at 1 Corinthians chapter 7, and what are some of the points he made there?
3 At 1 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul was discussing marriage among Christians. While recommending singleness as the better course, he acknowledged that those who enter wedlock “commit no sin.” Yet he added that they would have “tribulation in their flesh,” for marriage is attended by certain anxieties. For instance, the illness of a loved one can bring about stress. Although Paul did not here mention persecution, added tribulation can result to married people during such a time if mates are separated or if parents are separated from their children.—1 Corinthians 7:25-28.
4. What is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:29?
4 Paul went on to say: “Moreover, this I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those who have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) Since “the time left is reduced,” married Christians should not devote themselves so completely to marriage privileges and duties that these are their whole life. Rather, they should keep Kingdom interests first in life, although not failing to fulfill marital responsibilities. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 29-40) Living as we do in “the last days,” we have all the more reason to follow this inspired counsel.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
5. What is the “world” that we should not use to the full?
5 Since “the time left is reduced,” Paul said, “let . . . those making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) In this passage the Greek word rendered “world” (kósmos) applies not directly to mankind, as it does in John 3:16, but to the human sphere of life and its framework. Mankind has its language groups, nations, tribes, families, rich and poor, and the general framework that surrounds and affects humans. (1 Corinthians 14:10; James 2:5, 6; Revelation 7:9; 14:6) Yes, it was to the human sphere of life and what it holds out that Paul referred when he said: “While you use the world, don’t try to get out of it all you can.”—1 Corinthians 7:31, The New Testament in the Language of Today, William F. Beck.
6, 7. (a) How is ‘the scene of this world changing’? (b) What point did the apostle John make regarding the world’s future?
6 Paul also indicated that Christians should ‘not use the world to the full’ because “the scene of this world is changing.” This world is like the changing scenes on a stage. Though it may appear attractive, its actors and settings change. Humans come ‘on stage,’ and some act haughtily. But soon they depart along with their generation and are forgotten. (Ecclesiastes 1:4) In our time, the ‘curtain is about to go down’ on this old world! Indeed, “the world as we know it is passing away.”—1 Corinthians 7:31, JB.
7 The apostle John made a similar point, saying: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) John evidently meant that unrighteous human society was due to pass away by divine destruction, even as the ungodly pre-Flood world perished. (Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6) Of course, with unrighteous people will go the present human framework of things and everything it offers.
8. Although this world is passing away, what hope do Christians have, and how should this affect our use of the world?
8 Even as righteously disposed humans survived the Deluge, however, so Jesus showed that some will survive the rapidly approaching “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21, 22, 36-39; compare Revelation 7:9-17.) Already forming is a “new earth,” a society of people who will live on this earth under Kingdom rule. (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; compare Psalm 96:1.) So if we personally have the hope of survival and of eternal life in the New Order, why should we devote most of our time and energy to the passing old world?
“As Light As Possible”
9. In what balanced ways can witnesses of Jehovah properly use the world?
9 As witnesses of Jehovah living in this system of things, we cannot actually “get out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10) So we can appropriately use the world in balanced, proper, limited ways. For instance, since we pay our taxes, we are entitled to certain services furnished by the governmental “superior authorities.” (Romans 13:1-7) We properly use postal, police and other lawful services, such as transportation systems. For what purpose? For proper living and to carry on the God-given work of Kingdom witnessing. But since we are not to use the world “to the full,” all such things are used only to the extent that they serve Christian interests.
10. (a) Around what should we center our lives? (b) How did Jesus illustrate the great value of the Kingdom? (c) If Kingdom interests and intimacy with Jehovah mean much to us, how will this affect our use of the world?
10 We cannot afford to let worldly interests dominate us. Rather, we need to center our life on our relationship with Jehovah, on our worship of him and our service to him. Do our actions reveal that “intimacy with God” is really important to us? (Job 29:4) And do we recognize the superlative value of spiritual things? Jesus Christ illustrated the preciousness of the Kingdom by “one pearl” so valuable that a merchant “promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45, 46) Thus Jesus showed that a person appreciating the true value of gaining the Kingdom would be willing to part with any earthly treasure to do so. If the Kingdom and its interests, and particularly intimacy with Jehovah, mean that much to us, we will keep “every contact with the world . . . as light as possible.”—1 Corinthians 7:31, Phillips.
‘We Did Not Receive the Spirit of the World’
11, 12. (a) What is “the spirit of the world”? (b) Christians have received what spirit, and how does it contrast with this world’s spirit?
11 Another reason not to use the world to the full is that it is impossible to enjoy intimacy with Jehovah while having “the spirit of the world.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) The spirit or energizing force that controls the world of unrighteous human society is demonic and alienated from God. Under the Devil’s control, the world caters to selfishness and the desires of the fallen flesh, resulting in enmity toward Jehovah God.—John 14:30; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 5:19.
12 The apostle Paul contrasted the world’s spirit with the spirit of God and said concerning Christians: “Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) Since the world’s pattern of thought and conduct runs counter to the influence of God’s holy spirit and the instruction found in his Word, godly persons must shun its spirit. Instead, lovers of Jehovah properly cultivate and manifest the holy spirit’s fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
13. What did John write at 1 John 4:1-6, and does this have any bearing on our use of the world?
13 Interestingly, the aged apostle John showed that God’s true “inspired expressions” came through the genuine Christian congregation, not through unchristian worldly sources. Then he said: “He that gains the knowledge of God listens to us; he that does not originate with God does not listen to us.” True, John’s subject was “inspired expressions.” But he made the point that Christians do not “speak what proceeds from the world.” (1 John 4:1-6) So why should we use the world to the full?
Remain “Without Spot From the World”
14. How do anointed Christians and their dedicated associates stand out as being “no part of the world”?
14 Employment and other activities make it necessary for witnesses of Jehovah to “deal with the world” in certain ways. But we “should not become engrossed in it” for yet another reason. (JB) Jesus said that his followers are “no part of the world.” (John 17:14) Jehovah has, through Christ, provided salvation from this world under Satan’s control. (Colossians 1:13, 14) By obedience to the revealed truth of Jehovah’s Word, anointed Christians have been sanctified, or made holy, set apart for God’s use in his service. Thus they, as well as their dedicated associates of the “great crowd,” stand out as being “no part of the world” that does not adhere to Jehovah’s truth. (Revelation 7:9; John 17:16, 17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22) How inappropriate it would be for such persons to use the world to the full!
15. According to James 1:27, clean and undefiled worship calls for what?
15 Being “no part of the world” calls for neutrality toward the controversies and politics of the world. (Matthew 22:21; John 18:36, 37) Anointed followers of Christ and their dedicated associates must also avoid spiritual fornication through friendship with the world. Moral and spiritual cleanness are required of them. (Ephesians 4:25-32; James 4:4) To render clean and undefiled worship to Jehovah, then, we must ‘keep ourselves unspotted from the world’ by not adopting attitudes, speech and conduct common to sinful humankind alienated from God. (James 1:27) We must remain free of the world’s corruption, violence, unjust schemes, and so forth. Yes, the need to ‘keep unspotted from the world’ is another vital reason not to ‘use the world so as to get out of it all we can.’—Beck.
Remain ‘Holy to Our God’
16. Why were the Israelites to make “fringed edges” on their robelike garments?
16 Jehovah’s people differ from the world as regards hopes, aspirations and compliance with the will of their holy God. (Exodus 39:30) They should prove holy to God. Accordingly, the people of ancient Israel were to make “fringed edges upon the skirts of their [robelike] garments,” with a blue string above the fringe. They were to do this so as not to be ‘in style’ with Moabites, Egyptians or others and to be reminded that they were to be different as Jehovah’s people and that they should obey him, ‘proving holy to their God.’ (Numbers 15:37-41) The desire to be ‘holy to our God’ should prompt us to be cautious in using the world.
17. How might the worldly objective of acquiring wealth endanger our relationship with Jehovah?
17 Worldly objectives involve wealth, fame and spiritually unwholesome activities that can undermine Christian faith. For instance, the pursuit of material things and wealth, if allowed to take the dominant place in our life, may even entice us to do wrong for selfish advantage, thus endangering our relationship with Jehovah. (Proverbs 28:20; compare Jeremiah 5:26-28; 17:9-11.) Indeed, those using the world to such an extent that they make material pursuits their prime concern are in danger of becoming involved in dishonest practices and of losing their faith because of neglecting spiritual matters. Someone who becomes successful in business or becomes wealthy may also become “high-minded,” proudly esteeming his own views above counsel from God’s congregation. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10, 17) This surely is not the way to remain ‘holy to our God.’
18. Why should we not have the worldly goal of acquiring material things in abundance?
18 Jesus appropriately said: “Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they [your heavenly Friends, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ] may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.” (Luke 16:9) So, while we need some material things and we can use such resources to advance Kingdom interests and make heavenly Friends, the worldly goal of acquiring these things in abundance should not be allowed to corrupt our heart.—Luke 12:34.
19. How should we view the worldly goal of achieving glory?
19 Another worldly goal is that of achieving position, fame and glory. Often this requires years of advanced education, social climbing and the like. But people seeking their own glory are likened in the Scriptures to those who eat too much honey, which can cause nausea. Thus we read: “To eat honey in abundance is not good, nor is searching out their own honour [glory] an honourable thing.” (Proverbs 25:16, 27, Rotherham; NW) Similarly, revering worldly heroes and stars is unscriptural, something that Christian parents may at times find it necessary to point out kindly to their youngsters. (Compare Acts 12:21-23.) Surely, a proper view of such matters also is essential if we wish to remain ‘holy to our God’ and to avoid using the world to the full.
Do ‘Not Use the World Fully’
20, 21. Why should we not use the world to the full?
20 So, then, as faithful witnesses of Jehovah, we should not use the world to the full. We “should not become engrossed in it” because (1) “the time left is reduced”; (2) “the world as we know it is passing away”; (3) our life should be centered on our precious relationship with Jehovah; (4) we should manifest God’s spirit, not the world’s; (5) we need to be “without spot from the world”; and (6) we must remain ‘holy to our God.’
21 We can do all of this only with Jehovah’s aid. (Compare Zechariah 4:6.) Since we have the marvelous Kingdom hope, we should not want to use the world to the full, as though what it offers is all we have. But what can really help us to reject worldly ways and desires?
Do you recall?
□ What “world” is meant at 1 Corinthians 7:31?
□ Since “the scene of this world is changing,” how should Christians view the use of the world?
□ To what extent may Christians appropriately use the world?
□ What is “the spirit of the world,” but what spirit do lovers of Jehovah manifest?
□ How do Jehovah’s people differ from the world as regards objectives?
[Picture on page 18]
The merchant sold everything to buy “one pearl of high value”
[Picture on page 20]
Fringed edges on their garments reminded the Israelites that they should prove holy to Jehovah. A desire to be ‘holy to our God’ should make us cautious in using the world