1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 52
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|The apostle Paul said over and over again and would want you to know that the supreme goal of every believer’s life is not whether he is married or single. That is not his supreme goal. His supreme goal is to live attached to Jesus Christ, to be a vessel through which God might do His work. Paul would shout that at us in the midst of a chapter that is dealing with whether I should stay single or whether I should be married.|
1 Corinthians 7:32
Our Supreme Goals in Life
We are going to pick up in verse 32 and talk about “Our One Supreme Goal.” The apostle Paul said over and over again and would want you to know that the supreme goal of every believer’s life is not whether he is married or single. That is not his supreme goal. His supreme goal is to live attached to Jesus Christ, to be a vessel through which God might do His work. Paul would shout that at us in the midst of a chapter that is dealing with whether I should stay single or whether I should be married.
As a matter of fact, in verses 29 through 31 Paul brought to our attention that one’s spouse, one’s joy, one’s sorrow, one’s possessions, and one’s business should never be a hindrance to that one supreme goal of living surrendered and attached to Jesus. Nothing should detract us from that. Nothing should in any way hinder that surrendered relationship. That is the silent theme that’s been behind everything Paul said in chapter 7. Whenever he suggests remaining single, whenever he suggests getting married, it should be factored in that the main purpose is not being single or being married. The main purpose is being surrendered to Christ, a vessel that God can use.
I want you to go back to chapter 1. I don’t want to be redundant and keep repeating this, but it is so important to see it. This is the grid through which you see the whole book of 1 Corinthians. Verses 29 give us that grid and show you what life is like for a believer, what a believer is, how he should live right side up. The church of Corinth was living upside down, but Paul tries to show them what it is to live right side up. The whole passage there, verses 29, is a series, but verse 2 really covers it. In verse 2 Paul says several things that we need to remember over in chapter 7, you see. The contexts have to mesh.
First of all, he says we are the called out ones. The word for church, ekklesia, means to be called out of. We have been called out of the world’s way of doing things into God’s way of doing them. We are the church of God, not the church of man, purchased by His blood. He says, “to the church of God which is at Corinth.” Now we don’t live like we want to live, we live the way He wants us to live. If that involves being single, so be it. If that involves being married, so be it. We are imperfect but totally sufficient in Christ.
He says, “the church of God at Corinth,” implying there that they have everything they need. What they are doing does not deny who they are. It just shuts it down and hides it, but they are complete in Christ. They have everything they need. Just like we are the church of God. We have everything that we need. If we are not living out of it, that’s our fault. God has given us everything we need. Therefore, if we are single, we are complete in Christ. If we are married, we are complete in Christ. We live in the light of that truth.
It also says in verse 2 that we are sanctified. We are called saints, as a matter of fact. It means we have been set apart. We have been set apart of His use. His Spirit has come to live in us. His blood has cleansed us. We are brand new creatures, as Romans says. We are not the same anymore. We can never be the same anymore. The old man has died. We are brand new creatures in Christ Jesus, and He has a purpose for us now. He lives in us and wants to live through us. So we live sanctified. That’s that one supreme purpose, that we live attached to Him. We are totally dependent upon Him in this new purpose, in this new relationship.
He says, “with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We live dependent upon Him. It’s not, “I need Thee every hour,” it is “I need Thee every breath. Oh, God, I need Thee every breath.” If I am single, I need you, oh God, every breath. I need you to be in me all that I cannot be for you. If we are married, it is the same cry. Nothing changes, whether we are single or whether we are married. The supreme purpose of our life remains steady, and we must be focused upon that at all costs.
Now, with this in mind, we should have no trouble with the things that Paul says in chapter 7. Since we are not our own, since we don’t live like the world, whether we remain single, whether we stay married, whether we get married, whatever, the purpose is still the same.
You know, Paul knew that their flesh was just like his flesh and like our flesh. No good thing dwells within it. Galatians 5:1617 says, “The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.” Sometimes when you start talking about being single or getting married or remarriage and divorce and all these kinds of things, the flesh just rises up because it doesn’t like what the Word of God has to say. But it might be good to remember there is a battle going on. Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” I sure am glad he says that. I sure am glad he didn’t say you won’t have the desire of the flesh. That would leave me out of the picture real quick. But he says you will not carry it out.
He says in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another so that you might not do the things that you please.” Folks, there is a war going on, and it’s not with the adversary alone. It’s with our flesh. We look at our biggest problem every day in the mirror. So what Paul is saying is keep your priorities straight. Keep that one purpose where it ought to be. Be surrendered to Him as a person bought and paid for by the blood of Christ and listen to His Word and to His will and realize you are His property. Live attached to Him. Marriage or singleness is simply a means to an end. It should never be the end in itself. We are to be vessels for Christ. That’s the end, to be surrendered to Him.
Well, we come again to this truth. I am not just saying that to be saying it to find something to introduce the message with. That’s exactly what Paul brings back to our attention once again in the midst of all these questions concerning marriage, singleness, etc. If a person can best accomplish his one supreme goal being single, so be it, be single. If a person can best accomplish that living surrendered to Christ by being married, so be it, get married. But whichever you do, remember that’s the one supreme goal for all of us. There are problems either way you go, on both sides. The key is that we don’t allow any of our concerns, any of our problems to distract us in that one supreme purpose that we have of being surrendered to Him.
Learn to live undistracted
Let’s listen to what Paul has to say. There are three things that we will get into. First of all, he gives advice to everyone, single or married, that is, learn to live undistracted. Verse 32 of chapter 7 says, “But I want you to be free from concern.” Now that term “free from concern” in the New American Standard is one word. It’s the word amerimnos. It is the word that means to be without care or anxiety, to be free from anxiety, to be free from worry, to be focused in on what you are doing, to be without anything that pulls you off course or disturbs your priority in serving Christ. The word also an idea in it of being divided. When it is used in a wrong sense, it has the idea of being divided to where you have this here and you have Christ over here and you are kind of divided as to which way you are going to go and it overwhelms you as a result of it.
The root word merimna, without the little prefix, when it is used in the New Testament has a twofold idea. One is in a good sense, and one is in a bad sense. The word merimna itself means to care, to be careful or full of care for something, to be concerned. But it can have a devastating side to it in the Christian’s life if you can understand what he is saying here. The bad meaning is, when we let the care and concern so overwhelm us that it distracts us from the one supreme goal of surrendering to Christ. When we let circumstances or people or whatever it is that gets in our way detract us from Christ, even though we are concerned properly for them, that concern has a bad turn on it. It sours and it causes us to become bitter and worried and anxious and lose track of what life is all about for the believer. It is to allow these things to distract us from our main purpose.
Now you can illustrate that. You know, a person gets married, and he cares for his wife or she cares for her husband. Down the road something happens, a trauma hits them, a problem, a sickness, an illness and that person so cares for that loved one, but allows that good care and that good concern towards that loved one to turn against him and he becomes anxious about that loved one. He becomes worried about that loved one and all of a sudden he finds himself no longer in a walk surrendered to Christ. That’s when it has a bad turn. That is the bad sense of this word.
You see, all of our cares, all of our concerns, legitimate and commanded by God, are to be rolled over onto Christ. We cannot handle them. Romans 8 tells us that. We can only pick up our end of it. He helps pick up the other end. We are not here to bear it by ourselves. He walks through whatever we walk through with us. We take those cares and we take those concerns and we give them back to Him. We ask Him now to use us as vessels through which He can properly dispose that care and that compassion for others.
Paul says in Philippians 4 some beautiful words. He is talking about the bad sense of the word merimna, the anxiousness, the worry that can come when you are not handling it right. He commands us as Christ commands us in Matthew 6. It says in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.” The word “anxious” again is that wrong usage of the word merimna. The word for “nothing” means nothing. Be anxious for nothing.
Then he says the antidote for being anxious. He says, “but in everything [isn’t that amazing, “for nothing” “but in everything”, the contrasting words there] by prayer and supplication.” Prayer has within it more of the attitude towards God, that trusting attitude towards God, whereas supplication is the request that you are bringing before Him. And then he says, “with thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving always implies looking back. Something has happened and you are thankful. If you are not thankful, then you can’t qualify here. An anxiety has overcome your life. Worry and all the stress has moved in and taken over.
He says, “let your request be made known unto God.” So again, the antidote for anxiety is to pray and to trust God, which is exactly Paul’s theme in all of his epistles. It is the gospel message, to live attached to Him. Colossians 2:6 reads, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him.” The same attitude you had when you bowed in desperation before Him and He saved you, you live that way every day, every moment. You take every care and you lay it before Him and let Him in you be what you are supposed to be.
Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God.” I like that; not the peace with God, we have that already with Christ. That is a position. But the peace “of” God, the rest. You know, the word “peace” means rest, lack of conflict. Have you entered your rest by taking all your cares and concerns and laying them at His feet and saying, “God, I am not going to be anxious over these things. I trust You. You use me as a vessel and You strengthen me to be whatever You want me to be in the midst of this. But you are in charge and I lay them at Your feet.”
He said, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.” If somebody would ask you why you are so at peace in the midst of this very difficult situation, you can say, “I don’t know. It surpasses my comprehension. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain it to you. It is God in me.” It says, “shall guard.” Where do our problems come from? Emotionally from the heart; mentally from the mind. He says, “This peace will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” You see, it can be transferred over to Him. It doesn’t have to work against you in the bad sense and become worry and anxiety which causes you to be distracted in your walk with God.
What happened in your life this past week that distracted you in your walk? Immediately the cloud of anxiety overwhelmed you. Immediately you have been distracted.
Paul’s wish for them is that they learn to live undistracted, to learn to live so surrendered that the things of life do not deter them in their Christian walk. If they are not properly dealt with, they will hinder and distract you.
Jesus uses the word merimna in the very same sense Paul uses it in Philippians 4. Jesus begins to show the things that cause us to be pulled off track. What causes us to be distracted? What causes us to be anxious and worried? Matthew 6 is so beautiful. This is one of the most wonderful sermons every preached. Jesus preached it Himself. It is just incredible in your study of it, if you have ever studied the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:25 is a beautiful picture here. Paul had the very same idea, except Jesus is a little more explicit on the things that can cause us to be distracted from our walk with God. Matthew 6:25 says, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life.” The word “life” there is psuche. It is more of the idea of your surroundings, the things that you relate to day by day, in and out.
Have you found out that traumatic experiences normally don’t throw you as quickly as the little mundane everyday things that come your way? He says, “do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink.’” Don’t be overly concerned with that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be concerned for it, but don’t let that concern turn into worry and anxiety. He says, “nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? … And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?”
Then in verse 28 He says, “And why are you anxious about clothing?” He gives that beautiful illustration of how He clothes the birds and the field. Then in verse 31 He continues, “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’”
In verse 34 He caps it off. “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow.” That is usually where it is, it hasn’t happened yet and you are worried about it. Anxiety usually traps you in the past or in the future, never in the present. And here you are in the present worried about something back here or here you are in the present worried about something that hasn’t even happened yet. He says, “Don’t worry, don’t be anxious.” It is the bad sense of the word. Don’t let it distract you, don’t let it overwhelm you.
I am so grateful that the things that are over my head are under His feet, aren’t you? That’s why you’ve got to learn to live undistracted. He says, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And everybody said, “Amen!”
Man, I don’t want a crystal ball, do you? But I tell you what, I want to be undistracted so that whatever comes tomorrow, I won’t be distracted from my surrender to Him. Because only in my surrender to Him can the care and the concerns of this world be properly addressed. Otherwise, they are going to overwhelm me. They are going to hinder my walk with Christ. Clothing, food or tangible things that we could be concerned about, but the main thing is we should be trusting God. To worry over them is sin.
I remember how God taught us this. We were up in Kentucky, and I needed some shoes. I remember one night we had our family prayer time. And I remember we all prayed. I asked the Lord for a pair of shoes. Now, I didn’t just ask Him for a pair of shoes. It was snowing outside and I had to have a pair of shoes that would look dressy enough but also be able to walk in the snow because we couldn’t afford two pair, so I just needed one pair. And we prayed.
The next day a fellow in the church came by. He said, “You know, I’ve been praying.” We had told no one. He said, “God put on my heart to buy you a pair of shoes. You do wear a size 13, don’t you?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He says, “You do wear a D width?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “I think they’ll fit. God just told me to do it.” I want to tell you, we had a shouting time in my house that day. I remember my children, you couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces; you couldn’t convince them that God did not care about us.
It is so precious, folks, when you learn that God cares about it more than you do. What’s wrong with us? We get so distracted over the dumbest things. He said, “Don’t worry about them. Put them in My hands. Let me do it. You trust Me. You walk undistracted, surrendered to Me.” Listen, life is just built on experience after experience after experience. Jesus said, “Why in the world won’t you just depend on Me! Don’t be distracted. Don’t let the little things of this world pull you off track. You have one purpose and that purpose is to be surrendered to Me.” And how beautiful it is when God shows you the other side of trusting Him.
The word merimna, in the good sense, is seen in several verses. Look over in 1 Corinthians 12:25. This is the good kind now. The enigma of this is we are to be concerned, but if we aren’t living attached to Christ, then our concern is going to be the wrong kind of concern and it’ll overwhelm us. That’s why He alone can produce this kind of concern, “that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” That’s the word right there, “have the same care for one another.” You ask, “Is that bad?” No, that’s good. Well, how could it be bad? When you let that care for one another overwhelm you and distract you from your walk with Christ, you can put the cart before the horse. You’ve got to be connected to Him. He in you will express that concern and care through you. You can’t do it apart from His energizing by the message of grace. Grace is what does that. Grace is what instructs us. Grace is what enables us.
Look over in Philippians 2:20. He shows you again the proper use of the thing. The word is good word in itself. It becomes bad when we let it distract us from our surrender to Christ. Philippians 2:20 says, “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” You think that’s bad? Oh, no. Man, we ought to be concerned for each others welfare and so he sends them one of his trusted ones so that he would be concerned for them. But the key is, it becomes bad when you let that concern distract you from your surrender to Christ.
So in a good sense, the word is used for genuine concern for someone that comes from a trusting relationship in Christ. But in a bad sense, it is used of one who has allowed a genuine concern to turn sour and distract him from his own trust in Christ. So in our text, 1 Corinthians 7:32, Paul says, “But I want you to be free from concern.” He’s talking about the kind that is bad. I want you to be free from anxiety. I want you to be free from stressful living. I don’t want you to have to be up under that. I want you to put it over at my feet. I want to be in you what you cannot be for me. I want you to be securely focused upon your purpose in life as a believer.
Now in the context, if that means being single, so be it. If that means being married, so be it. But don’t be distracted by being single and don’t be distracted by being married. Be free of that kind of anxiety and worry. If that means whichever, accept it and go on. We must learn to live undistracted.
To the single man – learn to live unwavering in your surrender to Christ
Now, he begins to move from “everyone” to giving advice to single men. Now the reason I say single men is because that is what he addresses. He will address single women a little later on. So if you’re a single man, listen up! He is about to tell you something you need to hear. All single men pay attention. Here is his advice. Learn to live unwavering in your surrender to Christ.
Look at verse 32: “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” Note the masculine there in verse 32, how he may please the Lord. There is no question he is addressing single men. He will address single women. So in verse 32 Paul makes a distinction between the single man and in verse 33 the married man. He is going to make a distinction there, but he is going to tell each one of them something here that will keep them from being distracted from their walk with Christ. “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.”
If we could somehow resurrect Paul we could say, “Now, Paul, sit down. I am going to ask you your advice, off the record. Should I get married or should I stay single?” What do you think Paul would say? He would say very clearly, “stay single. That’s the way I am. That’s the way you ought to be.” But now wait a minute. He wouldn’t say that as a command. He would say that based on that’s how he lived. He had found to be surrendered to Christ and be single was the best thing for him to carry out the purposes that God had given to him.
Back in 7:7 Paul told you that, but he had a twofold meaning in it. Look back in 7:7. He says, “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am.” Now how was he? He was single. But also, he was speaking there of what he is bringing out in this verse that we are studying. He was speaking of the fact that he lived content in whatever circumstance he lived in. His singleness was not his problem; being married was not his problem. He just lived content with Christ in whatever circumstance he found himself in. So that was the balance to it. Paul would have a balance. He would have an opinion, but he would have a balanced opinion. The key would be not in being single or married; the key would be in what we’ve been talking about, living in that attachment to Christ. He was content in his state. He was content being single. But he knew the balance of the equation.
He goes on in verse 7 and says, “However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” To some they can accomplish what God wants them as being single. To others, they accomplish what God wants being married. And that is okay, because God will give the gift and the grace to do whichever He assigns. So the key: surrender to Christ. If He brings a wife or a husband into your life, wonderful; if He doesn’t, wonderful. You see, the key is, what does He want in your life?
This is important to review when you read verse 32. You could come up with all kinds of conclusions. It might make you think that single people are the only ones really serious about their commitment to Jesus. It could read that way, couldn’t it? Now that is the ideal, but sadly it’s not the reality. What he is simply saying is, the single man does not have the added responsibilities on his life that a married man would have. And with the added responsibility comes more and more the opportunity to be distracted, to be hindered. The single man is not that way. The single man, yes, he has burdens. Paul himself had the burden of all the churches on him. It didn’t mean you don’t have pressure. It didn’t mean you don’t have responsibility. But you don’t have the responsibilities that a married man has. He has every one you have, but he has a whole bunch more added on because he is married.
Paul says that the one who is unmarried, single men, listen, has no excuse not to have the purposes of God as your total focus and concern. You have no excuse. That’s basically what he is saying. A single man is totally unhindered by other relationships so that he can fully serve the Lord Jesus, fully be everything God wants him to be.
He goes on to say of the unmarried man, “how he may please the Lord.” That’s a very important phrase. All he wants in his life is to please the Lord. Like I said a moment ago, that’s the ideal, isn’t it? But that’s not the reality. I want to tell you something. If you are a single man and you have anything else as your focus in life, whether it’s getting rich, whether its finding a mate or whatever and it’s not being surrendered to Jesus, Paul just nailed you to the wall. If you don’t feel conviction, it might be a time to get saved because that is what he is telling you. He is telling you, single men, “Don’t you understand chapter 1:29? Don’t you understand you are a brand new creature in Christ?”
Now, if you are single, you ought to be wholly, absolutely unhindered in anything in serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Find all your sufficiency in Him. Find all the joy you are looking for in Him and go on and live that way. So if you are single, I encourage you and challenge you because that is exactly what Paul is saying. The fact that he is a single person, like Paul, he is not tied down to the things that can pull him off the path. How would Paul know that? Because that’s the way he lived and he has every right under God as an apostle and as a single, committed man to say that to single men.
So the word to the single man, live a life that is unwavering in your surrender to Christ. Let this be your focus. Don’t let it be finding a mate. Don’t you dare. That’s what he is saying. Don’t let it be being successful in life. Don’t you dare. Let it be being a vessel that God can use. All these other things will find their place, but your main supreme goal is living surrendered unto Christ.
I want to tell you something. Anything you are looking for in a wife, you are really not going to find. You are going to find it in Jesus Christ, whether you have learned this yet or not. I love the expression that we run into overseas. They know it. They say, when Jesus is all you have, that’s about the only time you ever realize Jesus is all you need. But see, over here, we haven’t come to that place yet. We always have Plan B. But what he is saying to the single men is, get your lives attached to Jesus. Don’t be distracted by anything. You just continue on living that way.
I’m telling you. You got single men, I guarantee you, who are as mad as a wet hen at what I’m saying. But I want to tell you something, I didn’t write this. The apostle Paul is telling you face to face, nose to nose, “Single man, get your priorities straight and get yourself attached unto Christ and quit looking for a mate and start living for Him. And if He wants you to have a mate, He will send her. And if He doesn’t, He won’t. And if you are single or if you are married, it doesn’t matter. Neither is to distract you in your walk with Christ.”
To the married man – understand the avoidable concerns of marriage
So he has a word for the single man. Be unwavering in your surrender to Christ. But then he has a word for the married men. Now he has had a word for everybody generally. I don’t want you to be full of anxiety. I don’t want this thing to get in there and distract you. The advice he gives to the married man is to understand the unavoidable concerns of your marriage. Now, by understanding I mean, don’t let your concern which is right for certain things in your marriage which now has been added to you because of marriage, don’t let that distract you from your walk with Christ. Make sure you put it in proper understanding within the text, within who you are as a believer first, then who you are as a father and as a husband.
Verse 33 reads, “but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” Paul had been around some married folks, hadn’t he? I am sorry. He is not saying it’s wrong to be married. He’s not saying that it is wrong for married people to be concerned about what they should be concerned about. He knows that there are unavoidable concerns to being married. Paul doesn’t have to live with that. He’s got his own concerns. But there are unavoidable concerns that come with the turf. You choose to marry, that is your decision. But with the decision comes the responsibility. And that’s very important.
Paul himself taught upon this in many of his letters in his epistles. Providing for your family now becomes an unavoidable concern. Understand it, but put it in light of the teaching. Don’t let it distract you from your walk with God. Let God get involved in it, and God through you will enable you to do what He has commanded you to do. Second Thessalonians 3:617 speaks to this. I love this letter because the church at Thessalonica sprung up and boy, what a tremendous church. But they had a lot of problems. Paul hadn’t spent much time teaching them, and these letters were to instruct them. It is just a joy to study them.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 he says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” Now, what is an unruly life? Well, the context will show you. “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without praying for it.”
Paul knew and even preached in Galatians that whoever teaches you is worth double wages. He knew it was okay to receive money to minister. But Paul also knew that many of the people he was ministering to were lazy and would not fulfill their responsibilities. So he chose not to go that route. He chose to be a tentmaker. He chose to be bi-vocational. He did this to set an example to the people so they would understand they are to work also.
So it says in verse 8, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you that you might follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.”
Verse 12 continues, “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” Now, see, in that context of doing the mundane things that some people were too lazy to do, the natural concerns of life, they were not willing to do, others were doing it. He said, “To you that are doing it, don’t grow weary in doing good. This is good what you are doing.”
Verse 14 reads, “And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” In other words, if that man is not going to accept the unavoidable concerns of life, if he is not going to care for his family, you treat him and make him ashamed of himself because that is not the way he is supposed to live. He is supposed to rightfully concerned for the provision of his family.
You know, when you took your marriage oath, when you stood before that altar and before that preacher and promised to take care of your wife, men, you have an unavoidable concern here. It is built in. It is part of the responsibility. However, that concern is never to distract you from your walk with God. As a matter of fact, your walk with God is to enable you in that concern.
Again in 1 Timothy 5:8 he says it even more succinctly. “But if anyone does not provide for his own and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” A married man has unavoidable concerns of life. But he is to understand that they are there and then through his attachment to Christ, let God through His grace, enable him to meet those concerns. He is not to distract from his walk with God and let his concerns overwhelm him, make him anxious and hinder him in his surrender to Christ.
Now, Paul knows that the married man is going to have to deal with specific things and he mentions some of these. Again he speaks of the married man. Verse 33 says, “but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world.” Now the word for “married” there doesn’t mean the state of marriage as much as it does the act of marriage. In other words, when you choose to marry, with that choice understand you are accepting responsibilities, unavoidable concerns, that are going to be added on to your life that you didn’t have before. That is what he refers to. And this married man now has the concerns of this world around him.
Things of the world simply means all those things that go along with living in this world. Think of all the cares that were added to your life when you got married.
Those concerns just keep on and keep on and keep on. The apostle Paul is not saying, “Don’t get married, look at all this stuff.” That is not what he’s saying. He is saying, “Whether you are single or whether you are married, your main goal in life is to be surrendered to Christ.”
Now I want you to understand something. When you get married those responsibilities are going to increase like you never dreamed they would increase. But don’t ever let those genuine, God commanded concerns for your family, etc., distract you from your walk with Him. In fact, if you’ll walk with Him, He by His grace will enhance this and enable you to meet every one of those concerns. That is what he is saying.
If you read this just as a surface translation it will look like Paul said the only people who are spiritual are single people and you married people don’t have a chance. That is not what he is saying at all. The thread that has run through this whole book has been “Live attached to Jesus.”
Pay attention to context. Pay attention to what Paul is saying. If you don’t pay attention, it can cost you. Friday night I went to Hendersonville. My friend gave me directions. And you know what, his directions were right, but I didn’t pay any attention to them. He said when I passed Murfreesboro take Highway 840 and follow 840 until you come to I40 West. Then go one exit, hit 109 and go to 109 ByPass. From there hit 31 and go to Hendersonville. Simple.
I got past Murfreesboro, there was 840, piece of cake. Turned on that thing. It is nighttime now, and I had failed to ask my friend where 840 goes, because in my mind, Hendersonville is on the western side of Nashville, north of it. No, it is on the eastern. Well, anyway, I didn’t know that. So I drove. It is 22 miles to Lebanon on that road. I drive 20 miles. Folks, I noticed it by my speedometer. If I had just driven two more miles, I would have been okay. But by that time I had talked myself out of the fact that this was the right way. So I turned around and drove 20 miles back. I am going to go 840 West. I get to I24 and there isn’t an 840 West. It deadends right there.
I said, “Well, I missed it. It’s back up the road a piece.” So I went back towards Chattanooga and I go to the next exit and didn’t see it, so I turned around and came back. I said, “This has got to be right.” I got back on it again. Drove 20 miles, talked myself out of it again. Turned around and drove back. Then I got on I24 North and I got to Nashville. For some reason my mind was so confused by that time, I didn’t know which way to go. So I hit I40 East, and I started heading towards Knoxville.
Then it dawned on me that 840 must run into I40 way down here and if you go west and I’m coming east, I’ve got to hit 109 somewhere, so I kept on going, kept on going, forever. I found it. I found 109. He was right, I followed it right on in. Instead of getting there in 3 hours, it took me 4 hours and 20 minutes.
I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I think God is just reinforcing the fact, pay attention. You don’t want these detours in your spiritual life, folks, you don’t want them because they are painful. Stay surrendered. Don’t be distracted.