For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. – 1 John 2:16 NLT
John provides us with a third and final symptom of someone who is having a love affair with the world or, better yet, a love affair with self. Each of the three reflect an unhealthy infatuation with self that simply uses the world as a means to feed our sin nature. The world, while more than willing to accommodate our self-infatuation, doesn’t do so because it loves us, but because it hates us. In this case, it willingly feeds our ego and helps create in us a false sense of inflated self-worth and pride based on what we own or what we have accomplished. What we have achieved or accumulated in life become the measuring rods of our success. The old adage, “clothes make the man” becomes true in our life. The cars we drive becomes a symbols of our success. Our homes become not just places of shelter, but visible representations of our status in society. As with the second one, the desires of the eyes, this one can be subtle because God does not forbid us from having nice things. He does not say, “You shalt not buy a new car.” He has not made material possessions off limits. But the issue here is pride or self-glorification. It is about making much of self. And when we begin to use position or possessions to determine our self-worth, we are treading on dangerous ground. Self-glorification is a subtle, yet dangerous pursuit, and the enemy has been feeding man’s built-in tendency towards it since the beginning. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden, he used the phrase, “you will be like God.” The fruit wasn’t the real temptation. It was the possibility of possessing what God possessed. He was tempting them to become their own gods. At the heart of John’s warning regarding the pride of life is self-glorification – wanting what only God should have. It is about seeking glory for yourself. It is about seeing yourself as the center of your own universe. And Satan feeds this desire by telling us lies about ourselves. His goal is our independence from God. Self-sufficiency is his objective. He wants us to live as if we don’t need God. And he uses the things of this world to convince us that we are something special. We end up wanting what only God should have: glory. And Satan whispers in our ears that we deserve it. We have earned it.
It is interesting to note that King Solomon took seven years to build the Temple, the house of God. But he took 13 years to build his own palace. Some time later, when he was visited by the Queen of Sheba, she was blown away by all that she saw. “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. And she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness’” (1 Kings 10:4-9 ESV). Do you notice that the queen seems to be worshiping Solomon and not God? She is blown away by Solomon, not Solomon’s God. She is impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and wealth. In reality, she seems to saying that God was fortunate to have someone like Solomon to lead His people.
When the people of Israel were getting ready to enter into the land of Canaan, God gave them a warning. He had already promised that He would give them the land, but He wanted them to be extremely careful. So He said, “when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you – with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12 ESV). Interestingly enough, God’s warning ultimately had to do with worshiping false gods. And it would begin as soon as they began to forget the Lord their God. When they began to believe that their houses, vineyards, cities, and material possessions were their own doing and had not been provided by God, they would forget Him. Self-worship always leads to false worship. We end up making much of the things God has provided rather than making much of Him. The glorification of self is a dangerous pursuit. Our confidence is to be in God, not self. Our hope is to be in God, not things. Our sense of worth is to be found in God, not material possessions. May we share the perspective of the apostle Paul: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV).