By Adam Brown –
Recently, my wife and I started to joke with one another, saying, “Don’t be a Demas.” It’s a way for us to caution one another against being too worldly (I’ll explain it more fully further down in this article). What started as a half-hearted joke, however, has begun to concern us deeply. For my part, I am concerned for myself and my family, and I am also concerned for my local church and the broader church in Canada.
Worldliness and materialism are twin lethal threats to the health and productivity of the church in Canada and the West. Like the proverbial frog in a boiling pot of water, most of us have little or no awareness of the overwhelming pervasiveness of worldliness and materialism in our churches – even in our own lives – and the eternal danger of their destructive consequences.
This is not a new problem. Worldliness and materialism have always seduced the visible church.
Biblical Consensus Against Worldliness and Materialism
Jesus warned us not to lay up treasures on earth. For, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He continued to state unambiguously, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:19-24).
Paul preached that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils,” and that “it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:7-10).
James rebuked the church for quarreling over material, worldly, gain: “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).
Peter encouraged the saints not to be satisfied with this world because it will “be set on fire and dissolved.” Rather, he continued, we should be “waiting for new heavens a a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11-13).
John plainly taught that Christians should “not love the world or the things in the world.” He said that “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Like Peter, he tried to offer some perspective: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 15-17).
In spite of all these stern warnings, Demas, who would have been familiar with this teaching, left the church in order to gain the transitory pleasures of this world.
Don’t be a Demas
Demas is not a well-known man of the Bible, and for good reason. He traded the eternal glory of the gospel for the fleeting pleasures of this world.
There are only three references to Demas in the Bible. In chronological order, they are:
Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.Colossians 4:14
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.Philemon 24
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. . .2 Timothy 4:9-10
In Colossians and Philemon, which were written by Paul from prison at roughly the same time (AD 62), Demas is mentioned as a ministry partner to Luke and one of Paul’s inner-circle, a “fellow worker.”
Within the span of two to five years (AD 64-67), however, Demas had deserted Paul and abandoned the gospel. Why? In Paul’s words, he was “in love with this present world.”
As pressure and persecution was building (2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter before he was beheaded in Rome), Demas saw something in Thessolonica more attractive than imprisonment and martyrdom.
What did he see in Thessolonica that would cause him to abandon Paul and the gospel? Was it a house? A farm? A business? A job? A position of influence on the city council? Family? Safety? Predictability and routine? Three square meals a day? The same bed every night?
Paul does not say. He simply writes, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” It is wonderfully vague, so as to serve as a multi-flex warning to each of us. Whatever the historic details might have been, Demas chose this world over Christ and his church.
God forbid we ever follow after Demas. Yet, here’s the thing; yes the thing that keeps me up at night; the thing that haunts me and sets my bones on fire: How would we ever know if we were just like Demas?
It seems to me that it is highly unlikely that, were he a member in one of our churches, Demas would have felt he needed to choose between Christ and this present world. Worldliness and materialism have so penetrated our Christian experience that, I believe, Demas would have been very comfortable sitting in our pews.
I wonder if there is any worldly sacrifice in our practice of Christianity that Demas would flee from? I also wonder if there is any worldly pleasure lacking in our practice of Christianity that might compel Demas to flee to something else? Perhaps the very thing that Demas found so appealing in Thessalonica, he could have easily had while sitting as a member in one of our very churches.
And this is what scares me to the core. Our churches might be filled with people just like Demas, people who are more in love with this present world than with Christ and his church. And yet, I am not confident that our current form of Christianity would be able to alert them of the eternal danger that stands before them.
Rather than insisting on the basics of biblical discipleship (see Luke 14, for starters), we tend to look for reasons to accommodate the busyness of worldly lives and invent ways to make the Christian experience more comfortable and entertaining.
What are we doing with our time and our money? Are we just like Demas?
It frightens me to ask the question of myself: Am I a Demas? If I were, I’m not sure that Canadian Christianity would help me to discern it to be so. In fact, we seem hellbent on placating such concerns, lowering the bar of expectations, offering reassurance where reassurance might not be warranted, and congratulating one another on living lives that are so consumed with this world that they leave little room for Christ and his church.
The passages in the Bible that warn us about the dangers of worldliness and materialism are not difficult to interpret. They are not exegetically controversial. Nevertheless, they seem largely missing in Canadian Christianity. And that’s what worries me. It worries me a lot.
As I said, my wife and I have started to exhort one another with the words, “Don’t be a Demas!” What started as a nerdy biblical joke has begun to convict us of a real problem for Christians in Canada.
So, don’t be a Demas.
But, then, how would we know anyway?