I studied the book of 1 John a few weeks ago and loved getting to do a deep dive in a book I haven’t spent much time in over my life. I read and studied at a slow pace and enjoyed the opportunity of wrestling through some challenging passages.
For example, I came across this passage in chapter 2. John writes in 1 John 2:15-17:
“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. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
I’m someone who loves the world and the things in this world. As I type this post, I sit in a nice Starbucks, enjoying my $2.27 grande coffee, while typing on an awesome Mac laptop. I’m listening to music on my premium streaming music service on my iPhone 6S through my Beats Wireless headphones (my new obsession). I don’t just like the things of this world; I LOVE the things of this world.
Does that mean I reject everything of and in the world? What about God’s creation in nature? How about the people He made in His image and likeness? And how about things like food and drink that He created and designed to sustain us? Or how about even sex in marriage? Is it okay to love those things?
In his bible study on 1 John, Dr. Timothy Keller writes, “The Scriptures are clear that the earth is the Lord’s. It is good, and it has been given to us to enjoy. Good relationships, laughter, beauty, music, work, good food, and drink are all gifts from God. These gifts are meant for our pleasure, sustenance, and enjoyment. In this sense, Christianity is world-affirming.”
The problem is when we take the good things from God and use them in our own ways, for our purposes. It turns out that John is talking about three distinct categories of things in this world that we are not to love:
- the desires/lust of the flesh,
- the desires of the eyes, and
- the pride of life
So that you and I don’t get caught up in loving the wrong things of this world, what are “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life?”
- The desires or lusts of the flesh refer to anything that appeals to man’s fallen nature. Eating is not a problem, but when the desires of the flesh lead to gluttony, then we’ve crossed the line into sin. In a similar way, sex within marriage is a great thing. Or, appreciating beauty in God’s creation is normal and healthy. But when those lustful desires lead us to have sex outside of marriage or indulge in pornography, then the lust of the flesh leads to sin.
- The desires of the eyes refer to anything that we see with our eyes or in our minds that lead us to look for life outside of a relationship with God Himself. It’s when we covet our neighbor’s car, a co-worker’s house or anything we see that is not our’s that we long to fill a void in our life. I drive a 2000 Nissan Pathfinder and 99% of the time, I love my 17-year old car. However, sometimes when my eyes see what some of my friends drive, I become jealous and ungrateful for my car.
- The pride of life refers to anything we do that brings undue attention to our own person. It’s when we brag about accomplishments or when we make decisions to impress others so that we can experience praise and esteem from others. I desire the approval of man. I want to be liked, and I want others to be impressed by me. I’m always on guard against the pride of life and what I think it brings with it.
I struggle with all three of these. Sometimes I don’t even struggle – I just give in to my desires. The desires of the flesh lead me to overeat and obsess about food. These desires also lead me to lust after women that are not my wife. The desires of the eyes lead me to compare myself to others and lead me to want their stuff that I don’t have. Last, the pride of life consumes me when I want to please you (Galatians 1:10). I crave the applause and approval of man.
Today I pray that you and I would allow the desires of this world to pass away and that we would focus on abiding in the will of God.
Thanks to Dr. Tim Keller and Dr. Tom Constable for their help in unpacking this passage for me!
- With which do you struggle most: the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, or the pride of life?
- Do you have any suggestions or ways you would recommend to help you and me not love the wrong things of this world?