Recently some strong storms moved through the area and we were without power for a short period of time. The amount of time was so short, I’m slightly embarrassed to say it especially considering the reaction the loss of power caused in me. However, the relatively small amount of time helps highlight the point I hope to make. Forty-eight hours (sad, I know, since many people have been without power far, far longer). We were without power forty-eight hours and yet what I saw in the depths of my heart troubled me greatly.
My neighbor next door has a relatively large tree in his backyard which is composed of soft wood. Unlike an oak, this tree does not have the internal fortitude other trees do. So when the abnormally strong winds came through, down came a major limb right on the power lines. My neighbor called the power company and told me they’d be coming. Within a few hours I realized it would not be that day as I hadn’t even seen a truck roll down our street. So, we packed up and stayed with my wife’s family. Two days later we saw the beautiful site of orange flashing lights signifying the power company had arrived and power would be restored soon. And it was. During the outage we had to throw everything out of our refrigerator. Aside from loosing our groceries and a few other inconveniences, we were really rather not bothered. Therein lies the issue. The issue is not power outages, but the power of worldliness in the human soul.
The day our power went out I learn there were 40,000 people without power in our area. That should have lessened my frustration and feeling of being inconvenienced. But, it didn’t. Sadly, the fact that I was not in my house sleeping in my bed in a room with proper cooling remained. My wife was cool and easy, the way I should’ve been. Notice all the emphasis I placed on “my.” I realized in those short 48 hours how selfish and worldly I can be. It rather scared me.
There are places in the world that have heard of electricity, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, frozen foods and air conditioning, but do not or have not experienced them. Yet, here I am in my safe little neck of the woods frustrated about not the lack of those conveniences, but the temporary cessation of those little joys. Wow! Those short two days helped me see that a power outage shows the power of worldliness all around us. Apparently, all my time in the States (yes, I’ve been out of country and seen places like described above, without modern conveniences) has got me thinking that having power and all the little joys of Western Civilization are mine. Without them, I was frustrated. I didn’t like being inconvenienced. And yet, not a single thing that was really important was missing. My wife and daughter were with me, safe and having a great time. There was food to eat, a place to sleep and shelter from the elements. What was I complaining about?
C.S. Lewis uses the demon Screwtape to describe my condition. Wormwood is a tempter demon getting advice from his administrative uncle Screwtape about a certain chap who is Wormwood’s assignment. All the conveniences I’ve mentioned that I was without so briefly, let’s call them a product of “prosperity.” I doubt I’d have anyone disagree the West is prosperous. Screwtape will mention other areas associated with prosperity like influence, but allow Screwtape to speak his mind:
Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want. (Letter 28)
While I’m only talking about power outages and the “inconvenience” of life disconnected, Lewis through Screwtape speaks to an even more broad definition of worldliness. My disconnect from the world was actually a more realistic picture of how many, many people in the world live, not the other way around. My little air-conditioned entertainment zone is rather much less like global reality than I’d like to admit. People in my region of the US were without power longer than 48 hours. Actually, that happens quite frequently. And, people outside the US live in such conditions daily. What did my attitude show but a worldliness that lies dormant unless severed (even momentarily)?
Hopefully, being aware of this worldliness will create awareness to the situation. Worldliness is dangerous. It’s creeping around every corner in the US, a land John Piper has called the Disney Land of the world. Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his soul?” (Mk. 8:36) No good at all. I need to admit that this is possible. Without realizing the world is taking root in my heart, a power outage demonstrates that worldliness is not just taking root, but has conquered serious territory. Thankfully, the Lord is more powerful than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Far, far more powerful. Infinitely more powerful.
Our very brief power outage showed my the power of worldliness in my life. I’d venture to guess I am not the only Western Christian who finds worldliness an issue. And, I understand the Bible’s grave warnings against worldliness as the world is diametrically opposed to the truth of God. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” One more reason why worldliness is dangerous. John seems to say that worldliness (or, a love for the world) shows that “love for the Father is not in them.” I admit there are days when “love for the Father” is not in me. There is a struggle daily to identify myself in Christ, not in the world. Yet, may I/we never forget, the world is passing away. Fads come and go. Governments come and go. Sports teams come and go. Authors, philosophies, movie-makers, and politicians come and go. Even pastors and church leaders come and go. But, the gospel of Jesus Christ has remained.
May God grant us eyes to see worldliness in our lives and may He give us the grace to kill worldliness at the root.