Someone asked me how we are to be “not of the world,” yet we seem to be so (at times necessarily) busy with and in this world. How do we balance our busy lives with being not of the world? From a number of passages in the New Testament, we are told that we as Christians are not of this world because Jesus is not of this world, and we are in Him. (John 15:19)
A busy life does not necessarily mean that we are being worldly. We might be filling our day with things that are very productive while remembering we are Christians and our vocation as Christians is to be done for the glory of God.
When Jesus tells us that we are not of this world, he is not speaking about our busy lives per se. He is speaking of spiritual things vs. natural things or worldly things. When we become Christians and are baptized, we are called to a new life because we have been spiritually reborn. We are now separated out, sanctified unto God, and are to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The question put to me was a confusion of our calling in the world and our calling as baptized Christians. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world. He brought the kingdom with him when he came. Christians today are members of his kingdom, yet we have not yet been fully translated into that kingdom. This will happen fully on the last day.
Residents of Two Worlds
In the meantime, as residents of two worlds, we are certainly not to be conformed to the world we live in. This does not mean that we aren't to take a job or get an education, to raise children and enjoy our lives. It means that while living here, we are not to be enticed by worldly wealth and other transitory distractions. It means that we are to live first to God in all that we do. It means that we are to live lives obedient to the commands of God to the best of our ability.
St. John warns us that if we love the world or the things in the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15). These are strong words, designed to call us to account and incite in us a desire to live for God and not for ourselves. We are to set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2).
On the other hand, we do have a vocation and a calling to live in this world. We have to be constantly making sure that our busy lives, however, are not cluttered with things that distract us from our duty as Christians. Church and prayer are to be high priorities and indispensable to the Christian life, along with raising children in a godly manner and teaching them the faith. These can all be viewed as obeying the command to love our neighbor and can at the same time make us extremely busy.
So being busy in this world need not be equated with being worldly. God has placed us here and, while we live here, we are to love God by serving our neighbor. Being busy in this world can include worldliness, however, so we must be careful. Our business must always be done in light of the life to come. We should not run away from the duties that God has given us to perform in this world.