(1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
These two verses sit amidst Paul's discussions about marinate and sexual immorality. However they have a wider implication than just those two areas of concern for all people, and it is worth exploring.
There is an aspect of this that can help us understand both ourselves and other people and when understood it will assist us to find balance and harmony with each other.
Some of the problems in the nature of humanity are things like jealousy, envy and covetousness. Often these things are baseless and are built up in our own minds. But if we consider these few lines of scripture, they can help alleviate such human passions that are destructive and instead of being opposed through such feelings towards another, we can come together to rejoice, up build and lift one another up.
The Marriage Position
As mentioned, Paul is referring to marriage relationships with these two verses initially, so we should first consider his point regarding that matter. The two verses say:
6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. – (1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
Prior to this Paul was talking about the need for each person to have their own wife or husband so that they are not tempted towards sexual immorality.
But not everyone suffers that temptation. Not everyone has strong sexual desires or an overpowering libido. Some people are quite happy to live in celibacy, never needing to marry, as they do not have urgent desires that could lead them to immorality.
Paul was such a person as this and he was quite happy in this state.
Paul never married and given the nature of his ministry, marriage may have been problematic. He would have been worried about his wife and children if he had married and not been as prolific a writer and teacher of the new covenant, which would have meant all the letters he wrote may not have come down to us to learn from today.
As he says here, he wishes that all were as he is; able to live a celibate life and to be free from the passions of the flesh that could drive a person towards sexual immorality.
But he recognises the truth of the matter that not everyone is the same. Not everyone has the same physical, psychological or emotional make up as everyone else. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to matters of humanity for we are all individuals.
Thus he makes this concession that since we are all different, it is important that we find the most harmonious life we can live in the Lord and with one another. And whether a person marries or does not marry is of no consequence as long as they have their emotions, desires and bodies under control to live in the presence of the Lord.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Paul recognised in this statement that just as we are all different in this matter, we are different in many other ways too.
Each of us has our own particular strengths and weaknesses. Each off us has different gifts and abilities that make us unique from every other person.
For example, some people are comfortable standing and speaking to others, some are not. Some people can go out and knock on doors to spread the gospel, some cannot. Some people learn more easily and quickly than others, some people are better at comforting others in their times of struggle or distress. Some are able to build others up and encourage others through their strength of faith and love.
There are many aspects and attributes that different people have that makes them different to all other people. And we need to recognise and respect those differences because we all do not have the same strengths nor the same weaknesses. And nobody has ALL strengths without weaknesses, after all, Jesus Christ was the only man to walk the earth who was perfect in all ways.
As Paul said in verse 7 above, “…each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
God has made us as unique individuals and has bestowed different gifts, strengths and abilities on each of us, and we must understand that this is so.
It is when we understand this that we can combat petty jealousies, envies, covetousness and the like.
Have you ever looked at another person and watched what they do and wished you could be like them? Have you ever felt jealous or envious of the abilities and strengths that another person has, wishing you had them as well, or instead?
I think everyone has been there at some point in their lives. We all want to be better than we are to some degree, and when we see the kinds of strengths in others, especially in our friends and family, we often feel a touch of jealousy or envy.
But such feelings do not promote the ways of God. They are counterproductive because they build walls between people. A jealous or envious person has built a wall of resentment towards and between another person. And that is not the way of God.
The Lord came and taught His people to break down wall and barriers. His teachings were to lead us to the place of love, and specifically the love of God. We are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, which is the image of the Father who is love. And in God's love there is no place for petty jealousies, envies, resentment or covetousness of the skills, gifts and abilities of others.
When we look at another person and say to ourselves that we wish we were more like them, especially if such thinking is founded on jealousy, envy or covetousness, then we are no longer walking in the path of the Lord.
Yes it is good to see the good in others as an example of how to live, but it is not good to envy their gifts, skills and abilities. Yes we can learn good things from others, but if we are envious and jealous we cannot learn anything because we will be blinded by these negative aspects of our humanity.
When we put aside our envy and jealousy and put on humility as is fitting in the Lord, then we can come to learn from others. In humility we can find the truth of the Lord and we can see the examples set by others in Christ Jesus and follow their lead.
Besides, we have our own gifts, strengths and abilities given to us from God which we can use to help others. We may not have the same gifts as those we are looking at, but that is OK. The Lord has established a range of gifts and abilities in the church so that the church can be strong and grow as a unit, not a bunch of individuals who are automatons and clones of one another.
Within the church some can stand and fight the evil that is brought against the word of truth. Some can protect and pastor the members of the body. Some can go out and reach out to others with the ministry of the gospel. Some can provide greater financial and other resources to provide the needs of the church. Some can teach on the platform. Some have ministries of healing, helping, prophecy and evangelism.
Everybody in the church has a unique gift that the Lord has given them which they can employ for the benefit of the rest of the body. And that is the plan of the Lord. That we all work together so that those who are lacking in one area will be supported by those who are strong in that same area and so there is harmony and balance.
So don't worry if you can't do what someone else can do, and more importantly don't get envious, jealous or covetous of that other person's gifts. Instead seek the Lord and let Him show you how to use your own gifts in His service so that you are in harmony with the body and with the Lord.
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