What Is the World To Me? – hymn study

Wednesday after Pentecost 10
July 27, 2016

The Lord be with you

“What Is the World to Me” will be our opening hymn this coming Sunday. It has been in each of our English language hymnals (Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship, Lutheran Service Book). It was written by Georg Michael Pfefforkorn (1645-1732).

Pfefferkorn, was born in Ifta, where his father had become a pastor in 1619. After studying at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig, Pfefferkorn was for a short time private tutor in Altenburg, and then in 1688 became master of the two highest forms in the Gymnasium at Altenburg. In 1673 he was appointed by Duke Ernst the Pious of Gotha as tutor of his three sons. Three years later Duke Friedrich I appointed him pastor of Friemar, near Gotha, and in 1682 made him a member of the consistory and superintendent at Gräfen-Tonna, also near Gotha. He was blind when he died at the age of eighty-six.

Though Pfefferkorn was a well-known hymn writer in his lifetime, and his hymns appeared in several hymnals, “What Is the World to Me” is the only one of his hymns in general use today. Our hymnal has four of the original eight stanzas which are also all that Lutheran Worship had. However Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book and The Lutheran Hymnal had all eight. The omitted verses are verses two and five through seven. The hymn is below with the omitted verses from TLH. The omitted verses have been set over so they can be easily identified.

What is the world to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When You, and You alone,
Lord Jesus, are my treasure!
You only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s delight shall be;
You are my peace, my rest.
What is the world to me!

The world is like a cloud
And like a vapor fleeting,treasure map
A shadow that declines,
Swift to its end retreating.
My Jesus doth abide,
Tho’ all things fade and flee;
My everlasting Rock –
What is the world to me!

The world seeks to be praised
And honored by the mighty
Yet never once reflects
That they are frail and flighty.
But what I truly prize
Above all things is He,
My Jesus, He alone.
What is the world to me!

The world seeks after wealth
And all that mammon offers
Yet never is content
Though gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good,
Content with it I’ll be:
My Jesus is my wealth.
What is the world to me!

The world is sorely grieved
Whenever it is slighted
Or when its hallow fame
And honor have been blighted.
Christ, Thy reproach I bear
Long as it pleaseth Thee;
I’m honored by my Lord –
What is the world to me!

The world with wanton pride
Exalts its sinful pleasures
And for them foolishly
Gives up the heavenly treasures.
Let others love the world
With all its vanity;
I love the Lord, my God –
What is the world to me!

The world abideth not;heavenly treasure
Lo, like a flash ‘twill vanish;
With all its gorgeous pomp
Pale death it cannot banish;
Its riches pass away,
And all its joys must flee;
But Jesus doth abide –
What is the world to me!

What is the world to me!
My Jesus is my treasure,
My life, my health, my wealth,
My friend, my love, my pleasure,
My joy, my crown, my all,
My bliss eternally.
Once more, then, I declare:
What is the world to me!

Some things you may wish to ponder as you consider this hymn include:

It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s concept of the “good life.” Read 1 John 2:15-17. How does it relate to Exodus 20:3? How do these verses relate to this hymn? How does the First John passage relate to 1 Thessalonians 4:3? … to the hymn? Consider “What Is the Word to Me?” in light of Philippians 3:7-9. Do the same with Psalm 73:25 and Romans 12:2. Can you think of some other passages in the Bible to which this hymn might relate?

Blessings in Christ,