“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
Chapter 4 of James warns us against worldliness. James is not telling us not to love the people of this world (“For God so loved the world…”) Nor is he telling us that we should not enjoy the pleasures of this earth that God has graciously provided. Rather, James is warning us about choosing to put the things of this world over our devotion to Him. We can only have one Lord. How do we do this without living in a bubble? I have found some help and valuable lessons from one of my favorite children’s books, The Velveteen Rabbit (written in 1922 by Margery Williams).
Most of you know the story: A stuffed rabbit made from velveteen is given to a young boy for Christmas. At first, the rabbit is ignored by the boy in favor of the mechanical and more contemporary toys. The wise and worn Skin Horse tells the rabbit that toys become “real” when they are truly loved by a child. One evening the boy is given the rabbit to sleep with, and he soon becomes the boy’s favorite toy. As they spend more and more time together the velveteen rabbit becomes worn and ragged, but loved, and the boy truly regards the rabbit as “real.”
What does this story teach me about avoiding worldliness? As temporary residents of this world, we are drawn to its seemingly exciting material things—our version of “mechanical toys.” When we spend our time playing with them as our primary focus, God will seem only make-believe. (Of course God is always real, He can just seem unreal.) If we spend seventeen hours a day occupied with the things of this world, and only several minutes thinking about God, it is only natural that the things of this world will seem more real and pressing. We will only begin to choose to prioritize God when we spend time with Him and come to truly love Him. Only then will He become “real” to us. Only then will we see Him as the center of our lives, and choose Him first and foremost over the things of this world.