(1 Corinthians 7:25-31)
This is an interesting section of scripture for although Paul spends a significant amount of time in this whole chapter speaking about issues of marriage and those who are married or seeking to be married, in this section of scripture he is teaching a principle that extends to all parts of our life.
All aspects of life in this world are fraught with anxiety. Opportunities to be worried and anxious abound for the people in this world, Christians as well as non-believers. There are climatic events that can affect livelihoods and wreak disasters upon people’s lives on a large scale. Then there are the interpersonal problems that affect relationships, business acquaintances, friendships, marriages and so on that are causes for concern.
And in my opinion it is the latter that are the hardest to deal with because they affect the inner person. The interpersonal conflicts get into the heart, mind and soul of a person and deeply affect their whole manner of life. And it is this that Paul is providing a principle of life to overcome. That principle can be summed up as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
The focus of this old saying and Paul’s teaching here is that it is better to not get involved in a problem than to try and fix it afterwards.
This is great wisdom and worth remembering.
Paul’s initial focus is around those who are betrothed or single, who have not yet gotten married. His recommendation to them is that if they are able, they should remain single. Note, this is not a command but a suggestion or recommendation only.
Why? Because when two people get married they will have a new set of troubles and issues that the single people do not have. Also their thoughts and focus of their lives will change because their lives become entwined together in marriage as the “two become one.” Their thoughts, deeds and actions change because in order to maintain the marriage they need to spend time seeking how to please their partner.
Is there anything wrong with this? Absolutely not! Marriage was instituted by God so that a man and woman could join together for the purpose of supporting each other in love and to have children. Marriage is a good thing. But it brings its own set of challenges and issues.
Paul, in this section, is trying to spare people those issues. He is NOT anti-marriage as some people have suggested for he goes on to say that if they DO marry, it is no sin. It’s just that when people do marry they will have a whole new set of worries and problems that need to be dealt with and Paul is trying to spare them those issues…IF and ONLY IF they are able to restrain their natural human passions and desires and remain single. If they cannot, he says…get married.
And we see Paul’s reasoning where he says;
26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. – (1 Corinthians 7:26-28)
In verse 26 he speaks of a “present distress” or as it is translated in other versions, an “impending distress.” What is this present or impending distress? Some people have thought this refers to the distress that was prophesied to come onto the world in the last days. But that will affect every person on the earth.
Instead it is my opinion that Paul is relating this back to the distress that he has seen come upon the partners in a marriage once they are married. There are many troubles that they will face, simply learning how to live together. All of the rough edges of the two partners in the marriage need to be smoothed until they find peace with each other.
And then as we see Paul make the comment in verse 28, “Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.”
Paul is concerned for the people that they have as few troubles as possible. And so what he is recommending is that they consider abstaining from marriage if they do not feel compelled to do so by the natural urges in man and woman for a partner. But if they can’t control those urges then they should marry, but be aware that there will be troubles ahead they need to face.
Cure versus Prevention.
So what Paul is suggesting to the single and betrothed is to avoid the pitfalls and troubles by not going into marriage if you are able to. It is better to stay out of a place where there is trouble if you can than to go into it and have to find a solution after doing battle. And as many people will testify, there are times when marriages can become battle grounds, and unfortunately for some, the marriage becomes an out and out war zone ending in divorce and all of the pain that brings.
Paul is saying if you can avoid it then do it. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. And it is many times more difficult to cure a deep wound than to avoid it in the first place.
But this principle does not restrict itself to just marriage. It is a universal principle that cuts across all areas of life.
For example, you don’t walk down dark alleys at night in areas of towns known for mugging or violence. You don’t enter into business transactions without appropriate collateral and trust in those you deal with. You don’t provoke an animal known for attacking violently. You don’t go swimming in deep water when you can’t swim. You don’t enter waters where there are known to be alligators or crocodiles who can easily grab you off the bank. You don’t get involved in someone else’s fight. And there are a million other situations you should avoid (prevention) because once you are in them it may be costly, difficult to get out of or even life threatening.
This is the underlying principle of what Paul is writing here. Don’t get yourself into situations that will cause you grief, and although he uses marriage as an example, it applies to all areas of our lives. To avoid difficult situations is wisdom and it is peace.
Learning To Live
But what if you are already married? What if you are already in a situation that is difficult, anxious or stressful?
Paul advises how we should live in such situations as he continues in these verses.
29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. – (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
The reason Paul is teaching these things is because he wants people to put their focus on Jesus Christ. He wants them to be devoted to the Lord and not have their attentions divided through having to deal with other things.
Thus we see that he says above that if you are in any kind of a situation, live your life as though you are not. While things may be going on around you that could take away your peace, do not allow them to take your peace. Live in your heart and mind by being focused on the Lord rather than being distracted by the problems and troubles of this life. Deal with the many matters of this life but don’t let them steal your peace by taking your focus off Jesus.
When he says that those who have wives should live as though they have none, he is not saying you can go out and live a single life. He is advising you to keep your focus on Jesus and not be swayed into the troubles of marriage which will take away your peace. A single person does not have marital problems and so a married person needs to find the peace within to overcome the problems that may arise in marriage so they can live in the same kind of peace that a single person has.
Likewise with all the other matters he raises about those who have dealings with the world, that is business, as though they had no dealings, those who mourn as though they were not mourning, those who rejoice in the world as though they were not rejoicing and so on.
The thrust of this message is to not let any of those things or anything else get in the way of your walk in Christ. All anxieties or anything else that may impact your life should be treated as though they do not exist so you can keep a solid and steady focus on the things of the spirit.
The blessing is that if you can do that then you will have peace, and by asking the Lord, He will deal with those issues for you.
So it is better to refrain from things that will lead you into trouble than to get into trouble and try to get out of it. But if you are already in a place where there may be troubles, then focus your mind on Jesus Christ and do not be anxious or let those troubles take away your peace. Learn instead to walk in the spirit and to follow Jesus Christ.
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