God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 The Lord’s things
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 13, 2023
32 I want you to be free from concerns. The unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s things; about how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things; about how to please his wife, 34 and so he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are concerned about the Lord’s things; about how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is concerned about worldly things; about how to please her husband.
Paul has not yet exhausted what he has to say about married and unmarried Christians. After describing what the present distress means to everyone in Corinth, now he turns to what our spiritual interests should be. He takes up the four groups: The single man (v. 32), the married man (v. 33), the single woman (unmarried, widowed, divorced, or virgin, v. 34a), and finally the married woman (v. 34b).
In both sexes, the unmarried one is concerned about “the things of the Lord.” “Things” is represented in Greek by the neuter article ta (τά), and stands for all things, concerns, means, roads, and so on, that are connected to the Lord. In this context it is especially the will of God. The single person can focus more attention on the Lord’s things and the Lord’s will because he or she doesn’t have anyone else to please or to care for. In fact, the single person could perhaps devote themselves entirely to the service of the Lord and the study of God’s holy word. This is what Paul says to Timothy: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13), adding: “Be diligent in these matters. Give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress” (1 Timothy 4:15).
On the other hand, the married Christian is going to be concerned about their spouse, and their children. “For a married man,” Luther says, “cannot give himself up entirely to reading and praying but is, as St. Paul here says, ‘divided’; that is, he must devote much of his time to making life agreeable for his wife, and like Martha, he is bound up in the multitude of concerns demanded by married life” (LW 28:53). But then again, the married person has this instruction from the Lord as well: “Impress my commandment on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
We all need to pay attention to Paul’s little word, “is.” “Is” is here mostly in the present tense verb that keeps showing up: “is concerned.” Both the married and the unmarried should be concerned as Paul describes them, but it is when they are not caught up in these essential concerns that problems appear. If an unmarried person is truly concerned about the Lord’s things, this is excellent. But if they are not really concerned about the Lord’s things, ways, and will, but are really concerned with how to please themselves, then their status of being single “for the Lord’s sake” has unraveled, and then where is the return the Lord expected for his gift (Luke 19:23)?
On the other hand, the married person may find that in the jumble of their married life and of caring for their children, unexpected opportunities for godly service present themselves. Also, the joy of sharing what one has found from Bible study with your spouse and children has lasting and unexpected benefits. And so Paul’s “is” that is tucked neatly within his present tense verbs doesn’t need to be an ominous “should,” but a joyful “is able to.” Both the single person and the married person are able to please the Lord with their lives, and we all should remember this and think: In my present status, how can I best serve my God (1 Thessalonians 1:9)?
35 I say this for your own good, not to restrict you, but to encourage good order and undistracted devotion to the Lord.
To be married is a fine thing, a good choice for the Christian, and God’s will for mankind since the Garden of Eden. On the other hand, to be single is a fine thing, a good choice for someone with the gift to remain single. Paul does not want to rope us like a wild animal or to tie us down into one way of living. If you can live as you are to God’s glory, then live as you are to the glory of God.
Pastor Timothy Smith