Paul continues to address the subject of sex within the body of Christ. He returns to the question regarding remaining free of sexual relations. He specifically addresses marriage. Does one marry or remain single?
There is no “Thus saith the Lord” here. Paul instead gives his opinion as a trusted servant of God. He also makes sure we recognize it as his opinion and not a commandment from God.
Paul is convinced that Jesus will be returning soon. But he also realizes that if Jesus waits a while we will still need this instruction. If Jesus were returning right away, remaining unmarried would not be a problem. However, if everyone had adopted Paul’s advice we would have ceased to be as a species.
The main point in Paul’s recommendations is based on dividing one’s focus as well as addressing temptation to sin. Because sexual relations outside of marriage is sin, Paul encourages those who can’t control their desires to marry and remain so. This protects them from sin. But for those who are able to control their longing, remain single to be able to direct ALL their attention to God.
Anyone who is or has been married knows that the relationship demands attention. Even with my spouse, who because of disability sleeps more than he is awake, requires my attention. We care about our partner’s safety, their happiness, their dreams, and their struggles. We often find ourselves putting aside our wants in order to meet our spouse’s needs. Our time is taken up with caring for the other. That is simply what one does when you love someone. Add children to this mix and you have even more demands on your time and resources. Paul points this out to his audience. He reminds them of the tradeoff of marriage.
Those who remain single don’t have this time and resource division. With less demands on their time Paul contends that they are freer to focus on the Lord. I have to admit that it is much easier to care for one person (myself) than it is to divide my time with the many that come with marriage.
Something that threw me in our reading was Paul’s comment; “From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 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 gods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (verse 30). I wondered why he was advising us to “live as though we had none.” What did he really mean?
I believe he is telling us to set God first, above all the other things of this world. “Live today for the Lord for the time is short.” All these other things are important but if you set aside time for God first, then everything works better.
I started to say that everything else falls into place but that’s not how it usually goes. It never ceases to amaze me how when you decide to “get serious” about your bible study or prayer life, how everything else starts demanding your attention. Satan has a way of keeping us distracted or too busy to set aside time for God. I am as guilty of this as anyone else. If I give God my “left over time” there will be none left over to give. But if I give him my time first there is plenty left over for the rest of my world. Funny how that works.
Father God, I want to put You first. I used to try and do bible study time first thing in the morning but I found myself falling back to sleep more often than not. I don’t know why that was. Now I have a time set in the evening for us. On more than one occasion I have chosen something else I wanted to do or got wrapped up in instead. I’m sorry for robbing You of our time. When the grandkids are over and there is no quiet place to think, instead of carving out a place for us, I go without our time. Please forgive me Father for this. I have seen firsthand how my time with You impacts them. It makes them ask questions. And when they ask questions I can plant seeds. Thank You for those seed times. Remind me of this the next time I am tempted to put our time aside when they visit.
Thank You for bringing songs to my heart as another way to spend time with You. Thank You that sharing those songs throughout my day also ministers to my husband. I touch his soul with Your words when I sing what You place in me. Thank You for that rare gift. Help me recognize the importance of it every day. This is often the only time he gets with You.