“whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly and the glory that accompanies their shame — they are setting their minds on worldly things.”
I can’t help but anticipate the contrast with Paul’s language in 4:8 as to what Paul would have believers think upon — that which is true and honorable and righteous and pure… The unbeliever — those who reject the cross of Christ in word and action — they set their minds on the things of this world: wealth and sensuality and vengeance and fame. These two notions could not be further apart…but nor could the two ends…heaven or hell. How often, even as believers, we are tempted to set our minds on things that do not belong to us.
The wording of this verse is a little awkward, which causes a degree of variation in some of our translations. Paul is stringing together some ideas, as he describes those who will not follow the imitation of Christ through his own example, and he is doing so in a quick staccato, much like a preacher might do in a sermon. Even so, as he describes those who reject the cross, they are headed for destruction. He goes on to say that their god is the belly and the glory that accompanies their shame. In other words, in these things they revel.
I expect we have all known those who not only pursue sin, but flaunt that sin. Many in the pro-homosexual movement and in the pro-marijuana movement seem to be doing just that in our American culture today. Yet, we see it all over. People brag because they “get one over” on a business or on another person, people break civil laws and then tell eagerly listening ears of their exploits, and people perform all sorts of immoral behaviors and revel in the shamefulness of their actions. These are those whom Paul is speaking of most directly here, but do not stop there, what Paul is saying is that this kind of thing is the end to which their rejection of the Cross takes them. It is a reminder to us that the notion of a “moral atheist” is little more than a folk-tale. They might start that way, but as one pursues their atheism with integrity and mind set on worldly things, they will speed further and further from that which is good and righteous and pure.
Worldly things pass away, but the Law of God is forever. While the former may be tempting to us, for they can be seductive, the latter will bring lasting peace and joy. Which is more valuable?