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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 this world’s way is passing away

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, February 10, 2023

29 Brothers, I also say this: the time is 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,
    those who buy
      as though they were not going to keep anything,
31 and those who use the world
      as though they had no use for it.
For this world’s way is passing away.

Paul isn’t suddenly changing his tune and advocating a kind of Christian stoicism. But due to “the present crisis” or distress (v. 26), he warns against becoming too caught up in the affairs of this present world. If he said this about the most intimate relationship, marriage (v. 27), we should expect that he would say nothing different about the other concerns of life. It would appear from verse 31 (“the world’s way is passing away”) that he is encouraging Christians to adopt this attitude at all times, at least all times of distress, between now and the end of the world.

Mourning for a loved one who has died is natural for a believer (Genesis 37:34; John 11:35, 20:11), and a time of mourning is even acknowledged in the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 21:13). But for those who serve God, there is something beyond grieving as we continue to hold out the gospel of forgiveness to God’s people. God did not allow Aaron or his sons to mourn when Nadab and Abihu perished in the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:6), and Nazirites were to use caution even when a member of their immediate family died (Numbers 6:7). Paul does not go that far here, nor does he command those who grieve to stop it. But he tells us to live as though we were not “in mourning,” that is, to continue with life, because the time is short. Yet we also remember that Jesus blessed those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). Perhaps Jesus’ words about fasting say what I am getting at better than anything else: “When you fast (or mourn), put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting (or mourning), but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:17-18).

Rejoicing is no sin (Matthew 5:12; Romans 12:15), but whatever makes you rejoice, rejoice even more that Christ is preached (Philippians 1:18) and that your name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Buying is no sin (Luke 22:36; Genesis 23:16), but whatever we buy or use, we should use as if we were a guest and not the owner forever of a thing.

Using a thing in the world, whether a tree, an orchard, a garden, a rose bush, a patch of ground, or even a house, is something we do from necessity and with God’s blessing (Genesis 2:16; Exodus 23:16), but whatever I hold in my hand today will belong to someone else when I am dead. It was not really mine at all, but the Lord’s.

If I eat an apple, I may rejoice in its taste and benefits. But I should give thanks to God for it, and let the matter rest there. The same is true of everything I have, hold, or use in this lifetime. None of it will come with me into heaven. So inwardly, in my heart, I should treat each day and night like a traveler, with a goal in mind, and glad of the use of a stove, a pan, a towel, as I move along my path through life. But what is a house, a car, a farm, a business, or a priceless work of art? Such things are mine to care for while I am here, but they will either perish or belong to someone else later on. I must not be a slave to possessions any more than I should be enslaved by passions or lusts. Things do not and must not replace our eternal joy. Let such things go, and serve the Lord with gladness.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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