II. DEALING WITH THE WORLD
A. Scriptural Basis
1)James 4:4, “Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.”
2)Romans 12:2, “And be not fashioned according to this age: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
3)First John 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
B. The Objects of Dealing with the World
The world in our daily living consists of people, activities, and things which usurp the place of God in us. Therefore, these objects are the aim of our dealings.
How do we know what objects are usurping us, and what is the standard of measurement? First, we need to see whether these objects exceed the necessities of our life. We can say that anything that goes beyond our daily necessities is taking the place of God and possessing us; thus, it needs to be dealt with. Our existence depends upon certain people, activities, and things, such as parents, husband, wife, family, clothes, food, housing, transportation, occupation, etc. These are the necessities for our existence. If these necessities contribute to our purpose of living for God, they are not our world. But should these people, activities, or things exceed our daily necessities, they then become our world. For example: clothing as a necessity is not worldly, but if one pays too much attention to apparel and ornaments, or squanders money in order to comply with present-day fashions, he has already exceeded the scope of his daily necessities. Consequently, these excesses have become his world. Another example: glasses to correct defective eyesight are not worldly. But some wear glasses to be fashionable; this then is not their necessity, but the world they love.
What is the standard that regulates our daily necessities in regard to people, activities, and things? In the Bible there is no uniform or specific standard governing these matters. God has ordained us to be born in different families, to receive different educational training, to have different professions, and to contact different social environments. In this way God permits us to have diverse concepts and standards relative to our living. Therefore, all living necessities vary with each person.
For example, one person may live in a city and another in a village. Both may be saved and have Christ as their life, but because each is born in a different family, their occupations and environments differ. Therefore, their standard of living is different. The brother living in the city wears a suit, which is not beyond his living necessities; but to the one living in the village this same suit would be beyond his necessities. In the eyes of the brothers who are merchants in the city, the suit may be very modest and simple, but the same suit would be extravagant to the Christian farmers in the village.
Likewise, a manager and a janitor of a company, or a professor and a gardener of a college, may all be saved and love the Lord, but their concepts regarding their living necessities are not the same. Due to the fact that their lives and environments differ, their opinions and feelings also differ. For this reason the Bible does not give a uniform or fixed standard for the necessities of the believers. Even though 1 Timothy 2:9 forbids the adornment of costly raiment, it is a matter of principle, not a detailed, rigid rule. What is really costly depends upon the environment of people.
These various standard of living are sovereignly permitted. In the church, God does not require different classes of people to behave in the same way. Some time ago in China, a group of Christians went to extremes because they lacked this light. They started a meeting and formulated certain rules. They said that no one could attend the meeting wearing leather shoes, but all must wear Chinese shoes made of cloth. Moreover, the men were required to shave their heads, and the women were required to wear skirts; otherwise, they were not allowed to attend the meeting. We know that this is not what God desires of His children, for this is extreme.
Therefore, the standard of our living necessities must be determined by ourselves through prayer and seeking the mind of God. We cannot measure our standard according to that of others nor demand that they agree with our views and feelings. Furthermore, our own dealings before God should also be according to the standard of our daily living before God. We should neither go beyond nor fall short. Some people deal with their living necessities, things which do not usurp them, as if they were worldly, and thus go to the extreme. Once in northern China I met a brilliant preacher who loved the Lord and testified for Him. However, he dealt with the world in an extreme manner. For example, he perspired while preaching but refused to use a handkerchief, thinking it to be an item of the world. Instead, he used his sleeve to wipe the perspiration from his forehead. He slept on the floor because he had no peace sleeping on a bed. Upon arising in the morning, he went out to the seaside to wash, because he had no peace when washing indoors. This kind of dealing was really extreme. Because he neither ate nor slept properly, his body was weakened and he died prematurely in his fifties! This was indeed regrettable.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)