‘What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.’ (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Paul says some, what appear to be strange things in this text. Let’s see how each of these five rhetorical examples are about setting good priorities in light of the fact that the time is short.
1. ‘From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not’
This is not an encouragement to neglect our marriages or be unfaithful. Paul is encouraging us to live for God’s mission rather than idolising and living for our marriages. Marriage is to serve God and others. Let’s talk and pray with our spouse so as to have a shared vision of serving Jesus wholeheartedly together.
Christopher Ash, in his fantastic book, Married for God writes,
‘The moment I make my ‘relationship’ the goal of my life I doom myself to disappointment. Surprisingly, the key to a good marriage is not to pursue a good marriage, but to pursue the honour of God. We need to replace this selfish model of marriage with one in which we work side by side in God’s ‘garden’ (that is, God’s world), rather than gaze for ever into each other’s eyes.’
2. ‘Those who mourn, as if they did not’
Christians are to mourn with hope. We know that those who die in the Lord are in heaven. We will be reunited with our loved ones when Jesus comes. Paul urges us,
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ (Romans 12:15)
We do mourn but we are to continue to trust Jesus and walk with Him toward healing.
3. ‘Those who are happy, as if they were not’
This is not an encouragement to live without joy. Life has many good gifts and joys for which we are to be thankful and joyful. This is an encouragement to find our ultimate happiness in that coming life. We are not be be caught up with the joys fo this world.
4. ‘Those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep’
What we buy we do not keep. We came into the world naked and naked we will depart! Christians are not to be possessed by their possessions. We hold our wealth lightly. We are generous because we have eternal vision.
5. ‘Those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them’
Phones, cars, tech, houses, boats, planes… are not our obsession. We are engrossed in serving Jesus. His worth and work are of superior and eternal worth.
Gordon Fee wrote,
‘Those who have a definite future and see it with clarity live in the present with radically altered values as to what counts and what does not.’