“Do not love the world” (I John 2:15). What is the “world?” The “world” is a combination of three things (verse 16). These three things are “all” that is in the world. We are told not to love the combination or any of its three components.
Why is the “world” called the “world?” What is being implied by that label? Perhaps because we are surrounded by these three things; they dominate our environment.
Component 1 is the desire of the “flesh.” The apostle Paul uses the term as a label for mankind’s natural (default) condition after he fell (sinned). That natural condition is being prone to sin. The desire of the flesh then would be the desire that comes from man’s natural inclination to sin. However, that definition covers every type of wrong; not just one category out of three.
Perhaps John’s definition of flesh is closer to “physical.” If so, I assume he refers to physical desires created by God but wrongfully pursued. Sex outside of marriage, greedy eating, dangerous thrills, and excessive sleep are examples. We can combine the two definitions by noting that humans are naturally prone to turn good activities into bad activities by injecting excess, pride, sensuality, or other spoilers.
To desire the physical pleasure of eating is healthy. If one is greedy for that pleasure, the good eating becomes harmful eating. To desire the physical pleasure of sex is good. If one is greedy for that pleasure, relationships are hurt rather than helped. To desire the physical pleasure of sleep is good. If one is greedy for that pleasure he becomes a sluggard.
Component 2 is the desire of the eyes. If what one sees motivates him to work, the desire is good. Excessive pursuit of possessions is a root of all kinds of evil.
Component 3 is the pride of life. A desire for significance is good. An excessive desire for significance (pride) brings resistance from God (James 4:6).
The excessive desire for physical pleasure, the greedy desire for possessions, and the selfish desire for exaltation surround us. They dominate our world. These cravings are “not of the Father,” but “of the world.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.