Jame 4 1/2

There is a famous study known as the “Asch experiment.” In the study, groups were
shown graphs with several lines, and with each graph were asked to identify which line
was identical in length to the “target line.” Each time, the correct answer was obvious.
All but one of the “participants” in each group were actors instructed to give wrong
answers to a majority of the questions. A third of the time, the one true participant would
join the group in giving the wrong answer, either because they didn’t want to stand out
and rock the boat, or because they assumed the other participants couldn’t all be
Theologian David F. Wells describes worldliness as that which “makes sin look normal
and righteousness seem strange.” It is what happens when we allow what we see and
hear around us to influence how we think and how we live more than the Bible.
Sometimes this is done intentionally, to try to fit in or avoid being disliked by others.
Other times it is done unconsciously, when we base our beliefs in what is good on what
everyone else is doing.
All sin ultimately comes from the heart. It would be a mistake to think that our greatest
spiritual danger is outside influences. But it would also be a mistake to think outside
influences pose no spiritual danger at all. As the Asch experiment shows, we are
naturally inclined to do what those around us are doing.
In James, this meant his audience was committing the same sins as the non-believing
gentiles around them. They were showing partiality, cursing each other, and neglecting
those in need. And these are temptations we can still face today. For example, in a
country like the U.S., all of us, even if we personally struggle financially, are wealthy by
global standards, and therefore have an exceptional ability to help the needy. But it is so
normal for us to see people using the money they have purely to benefit themselves,
that we often don’t even question the idea of doing the same. The assumption is that
money is for personal pleasure, and the more we have of it, the more we can spend on
But worldliness encompasses more than just the sins described in James. It refers to
any time we sin because we are imitating, consciously or unconsciously, those around
us. And this is something we are all guilty of, because we are all in the world and not yet
fully sanctified. But it expresses itself in different ways with each of us. For some, it
means sex outside of marriage. For others, it means a lack of love. And for some, it
means simple indifference to the things of God. Worldliness comes in as many forms as
sin does.
So we all need to ask ourselves: In what way am I committing worldliness? In what way
am I living based on what I see those around me doing instead of what God has
revealed in his word? And the only way to do that is to look at what God’s word says. As
we cannot and should not remove ourselves from the world, it is crucially important to
constantly be renewing our minds with scripture. If we look to it for guidance instead of
those around us, we will be able to live the life that God created us to live.

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