Is 1 John 2:15 to be taken literally


“Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.”
-1 John 2:15

I try to take this passage literally and put it into practice. There are many other quotes by saints that suggests the same thing. I believe that many of us shrug such passages off, but they may be the key to our salvation.


Remember that God created the word good back in Genesis 1.

The “world” in the verse cited is the world without God. The rocks and seas and sky, creation, literature, art, science - all are good. The problem is that man uses these things apart from God’s will.

Some however, are called to totally renounce the world in a radical way. Benedictine monks leave the world behind to enter the cloister and praise God. The mendicant orders renounce possessions so that they might possess God alone. Some are called to renounce marriage, spousal intimacy and family, all of which are good, for a greater good.

Christians who live in the world must not love the world above God.

I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

The world is the theater of our redemption. We have to use it properly. One of my Islamic friends said, “Worship the creator, not the creation.”



Do you have a citation stating that the “world” in 1 John 2:15 means life without God? Be sure to note all the similar statement from the saints that reinforce my claim.

O Jesus, Thou hast set me apart from the world; what, then, shall I seek therein? Thou hast created me for Heaven; what, then, have I to do with the world? Depart from me, deceitful world, with thy vanities! Henceforth i will follow the Way of the Cross traced out for me by my Redeemer, and journey onward to my heavenly home, there to dwell forever and ever.
-Saint Francis of Assisi


St. Francis was a mendicant. He renounced everything, all possessions and lived a life of voluntary poverty. The quote has to be taken in the context of his own calling and not everyone is called to radical poverty like St. Francis. His is one way, but somebody had to own the farm which grew the wheat which was baked into the bread which St. Francis ate.

St. Josemaria Escriva, on the other hand, teaches ordinary Christians to live lives of holiness while in a world of great plenty.

*Divitiae, si affluant, nolite cor apponere, though riches may increase keep your heart detached.’ Strive to use them generously. And, if necessary, heroically. Be poor of spirit.

  • St. Josemaria Escriva*

The bottom line is that creation and material possessions are not inherently evil. Creation is good as long as it is used appropriately and it is not a sin to own things as long as they are shared generously.

If you want to take the verse cited in your original post literally then go ahead. Sell everything, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. If you are called to do so then do so. I, on the other hand, am not. I waited until I was 50 years old to buy my first new car and drove a $4000 Honda CRV without air conditioning in the heat of the deep south for ten years. What I do for the poor is my own business but know that I do give. When I look at creation I am in awe of God. I can do better but I don’t hate creation and my conscience is clean.



Yes it should be taken literally.


Many people assume a binary view and think - if I don’t love something I must hate it…
But this is not so. A lack of love (detachment) in this case need not automatically mean “hate”.

For example, My love for my wife did not mean that I had to hate all other women. It merely meant that I could not be attached to any other woman. It did NOT mean I could not be friends with another woman

Same with God. We are to Love God - not the world - but this does not mean we cannot be friends with those aspects of the world that are good.



Anybody who opens their eyes can easily see that this world contains plenty of evil, which renders the world itself to be evil even though the world contains some good also.

"The death of the just: Death will reach everyone, the good and the bad; but the destiny of each one is quite different. The just man sees himself in this valley of tears as a prisoner, serving a very hard term. He considers himself a slave in this world, suffering an extremely distressing servitude. He regards himself a sailor caught in a horrible storm. And as death means an end of his confinement, an end of his slavery, and is the port of his salvation, he ceases not to cry with David, ‘Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged!’ (Ps. 119:5)… He ceases not to ask with the Apostle’… Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom. 7:24)”
-The Golden Key to Heaven, by Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

1 John 5:19 RSV
We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.


What is the concept of the word “world” in this context? Since that word has many different meanings, I face the risk of not being able to say if it should be taken literally or not. There is also the question of whether or not I am the one to take that verse literally: where does my authority to judge that matter come from?

In my personal opinion, if the word “world” means but “Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises,” that would be something I am to reject since the very moment of my baptismal vows. As such, I would follow a literal approach to the interpretation of that text. If, however, the world is just all the things I can use for the profit of others, for God’s glory, and for my own welfare, then I wouldn’t be rejecting “the world”, and as such, would go for a more allegorical interpretation: not letting myself to be deceived or enslaved by the many means I can use to achieve a holy purpose.


Great illustration! Real love & inordinate attachment are often confused, as well as being unattached to the world (not the created world but society/culture) and hate.


I never meant to imply that everything in the world should be despised, but that we should be strongly detached from it as a whole.


Then you should follow the example of Dr. Suess’ Horton; “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

We’re none of us mind readers here. When there is any chance of a question being understood in more the one way, more explanation is a good idea. Or we end up replying to a question you didn’t mean to ask.


Then you should follow the example of Dr. Suess’ Horton: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”

We’re none of us mind readers here. When there is any chance of a question being understood in more than one way, more explanation is a good idea. Without details, we end up replying to a question you didn’t mean to ask.


That is exactly what you said in your first post. “Love not the world.” You said that you try to take that literally.



This issue was really solved for me when I found the First Statement and Principle of St Ignatius Loyola:

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.

All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.

It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one’s end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one’s end.
To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.

Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.


:confused: I still say love not the world, and I do mean that literally. How did I contradict myself?


The inner life of man is greatly hindered in this life by the needs of the body. Thus, the Prophet devoutly prays that he may be set free from them, saying, “Lord, deliver me from my necessities!” Woe to those who refuse to recognize their own wretchedness, and doubly woe to those who love this miserable and corruptible life! For some cling so closely to it, that although by working or begging they can hardly win the bare necessities, they would yet be willing to live here forever if it were possible, caring nothing for the Kingdom of God.
-The Imitation of Christ


Yes, Mr Tim. You’re right. The keyword there is ‘above’. Love of God also equals love of creation.
And I think Mr Sock’s quoting something similar to Luke 14:26 - “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than … their father & mother, wife & children, brothers & sisters, & themselves as well.” (Good News Bible, Catholic Edition)

There, we even use the term “love”, but others, the term “hate” and don’t use “more” and some words that follow after it. My priest also said that in that verse, God meant “Do not love anyone/thing above me.” That’s all He meant.


Good day, dear Mr Sock. In a direct reply to you: try praying about this, and remember, we’re talking Holy Scripture. I hope you prayed before reading it or “at least” made the -sign of the cross-.
Anyway, look here pls, - Matt. 22:34-40.
Also, I saw u quoted from an RSV bible - I have one myself. I do hope u have a Catholic one though; ours is better. I’ve seen the difference.

And I think Mr Tim’s right about the fact that not everyone is called to that St. Benedict-type of life.
Some of us go to the market, to school, get on a bus, etc. We must show love at these places.


1 John is primarily written to the gnostics who believed they had some special knowledge of Jesus and that is all they needed…they didnt need to do good works or love. If you read further John 16 says: “For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.” So anything from the world is sin. The gnostics were commiting these sins because as I said all they thought they needed was a special knowledge of God and sin and everything else didnt matter. That is why John talks so much about how important it is to love.


On another note, good points that some of the saints may have taken this passage in another sense. St.Francis was good for doing this, hence his love for Lady Poverty. :slight_smile:


|Holy Bible (Douay Rheims)[RIGHT].[/RIGHT]1 Jn 2:15“Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.”[RIGHT].[/RIGHT][LEFT]Commentary[/LEFT]Ver. 15. If any man love the world, this wicked world, or any thing in it, as pleasures, riches, honours, so that his affections be more upon these then upon God, the charity of the Father (or of God) is not in him. Wi.[RIGHT].[/RIGHT]|

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