Do not love the world and the things in the world

St. John warns us to not “love the world and the things of the world.” By
this he means a condition where one is so intently fixated and obsessed
with acquiring material riches, honors, fame, status and physical beauty
that one’s entire sense of self-worth as well as one’s perception of others
is dependent entirely on these things. Such a person will make pleasure and
entertainment a priority over sacrifice, philanthropy and a pious family
life. Sunday mornings will not be for God but for the self and will be
spent on mundane things like sleeping in, doing the chores, taking the kids
to soccer, or watching TV. Instead of a personal relationship with Christ,
the Gospel message becomes, on one hand, a religious obligation that is
reluctantly observed and, on the other hand, a kind of self-help program to
dabble in when needed or when difficulties and tragedy strike.

It is especially tragic then for a person to spend their entire life
pursuing only after the things of the world, either to compete with others,
or out of selfishness, pride and greed, or because there’s a lack of faith
in God as the one who blesses and provides our needs. Love for the things
of the world and an unhealthy desire to acquire them is often motivated by
a desire to feel a sense of security. But behind this impulse is actually
hidden the fear of death. J
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When we desire God’s creation more than him the Creator, when we love the
material more than the spiritual, we become strangers and thieves who steal
from God rather than children who love their Father and are grateful for
his gifts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having wealth, having a
home, enjoying the beautiful things life has to offer us. But if we spend
all our time seeking after these things and make our relationship with God
something secondary or when it fits in our schedule, we have fallen into a
deception and delusion of the Devil who wants us to live only for this
fleeting world in order to keep us from preparing our souls for death and
the judgment seat of Jesus Christ in the world to come.

At an Orthodox funeral, the priest stands before the casket of the one who
has died and offers this prayer while pouring oil over the body in the form
of a cross: “You shall sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be clean. You
shall wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” And then, on top of the
oil, he pours soil from the earth or sand saying, “The earth is the Lord’s
and the fullness thereof, the world and everything in it. You are dust and
to dust you shall return.” As this prayer states, everything on earth,
everything in the world, including our bodies and souls, belong to God. In
the end, we are dust and we own nothing; not even our own bodies. Yet, even
if we are just dust, isn’t it a wonderful thing to be dust that is owned by
God? This is what should humble us: that even though we are nothing, God
has given us everything. Even though our love for him is weak and
inconstant, his love his overflowing and incomprehensible. Even though we
love ourselves more than Him, he loves us more than anything and anyone.

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