Worldliness in 1 John 2:15–17 could be described as valuing what is temporary more than what is eternal. It is living primarily to satisfy the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes. It could also be placing one’s confidence in what this present life offers rather than placing one’s confidence in God (i.e., the pride of life). Scripture gives us some examples of what it is to be tempted with or engage in worldliness.
First, Eve was tempted with the desires of her flesh―she “saw that the tree was good for food” (Gen 3:6). She was also tempted with the desires of her eyes―she “saw…that it was a delight to the eyes” (Gen 3:6). She was similarly tempted with the pride of life―she knew that eating from the tree would “make one wise” (Gen 3:6) in that she would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Unfortunately, true likeness to God was not to be found, and it was by evil that she came to experience its difference from what is good. She valued food, what her eyes saw, and possessing God-like qualities in the present rather than doing God’s will and abiding with Him forever.
Likewise, Jesus was tempted by the desires of His flesh―He was tempted to turn stones into bread to feed His bodily hunger at the command of Satan and not His heavenly Father (Matt 4:3–4). He was also tempted by the desires of His eyes―He was shown “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” and tempted to act upon the desire rule over all that He saw (Matt 4:8). Finally, Jesus was tempted with the pride of life―He was tempted to throw Himself from the temple and thus force His Father to protect Him with angels, implying He could force the Father to do what He as the Son desired (Matt 4:9–10). Jesus resisted and overcame the temptation to value food, what He saw, and (theoretically) being more powerful than the Father. Instead, in each instance, He valued doing the Father’s will so that He could abide with Him forever.
Perhaps another illustration could be the rich fool in the parable told by Jesus in Luke 12:13–21. The occasion for Jesus to tell the parable was in response to what we can assume a man saw, provoking the desires of his eyes―an inheritance that his brother would not divide with him (Luke 12:13). Jesus then told him about a rich fool who valued his abundant goods because they would allow him to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). The rich fool’s pride of life was evident in his confidence in his possessions, and he anticipated how they would also fulfill the desires of his flesh. Unfortunately, after reflecting upon his riches in this way, he was shown to be a fool for giving no thought to the brevity of life and preparing for the life to come―he died that night, leaving his possessions to others (Luke 12:20). The man without an inheritance likewise had a misplaced confidence in his brother’s possessions and assumed they would bring him satisfaction. Moreover, he saw Jesus as his means to an earthly end rather than following Him and thus doing the will of the Father. What Jesus said of the rich fool was true of the man without an inheritance: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).
Rather than seeking to satisfy our earthly desires, let us be heavenly minded and order our lives around what is eternal. Let us not treasure this present world but do the will of the Father so we may find ourselves rich towards Him!