The Blessing and Hardship of Marriage – 1 Corinthians 7:25-40
The fourteenth message in our study of 1 Corinthians.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
Larry David, the head writer for the hit sitcom Seinfeld once jokingly asked, who do you think has more freedom, A married man in the USA or a Single man in Communist China.
As comedians often do, he was poking fun at the difficulty of marriage. While marriage is a wonderful gift from God, one that should be pursued by believers, one that should be very present and sacred among gospel believing people-
that doesn’t mean that it’s all wonderful.
Typically we only talk publicly about the blessing of marriage until we come to a breaking point and we start to only talk of the hardship.
Marriage is a blessing but marriage is also hard.
No marriage, however good it is, has had it easy.
When you bring together two separate wills, two separate sets of opinion, two separate broken and selfish hearts in an effort to make them one, there is going to be difficulty.
So Paul doesn’t pull any punches- he is once again completely honest and transparent.
1 Corinthians 7:25-40
On July 4th of 1776, the United States of America declared their independence- but notice that they also declared their dependence. They referred to themselves as the United States.
They were joining together to establish this new country.
That’s a good picture of marriage- there’s a balance independence and dependence. There’s a separating and uniting.
What we’ve experienced for the last 200 plus years is that while our independence is magnificent, it’s also a lot of work. Marriage can be magnificent, but it is also a lot of work.
- Marriage is permanent and temporary.
In verse 27 Paul says if you are married
“Seek not to be loosed.”
Because marriage is permanent.
However, in verse 29 he says
“The Time is Short”
and even more clearly he says in verse 31
“for the fashion of this world passeth away.”
Marriage is to be permanent but no marriage will last forever.
Jesus made it clear in the gospels that marriage is not something that we experience in heaven. So if you and your spouse go to heaven, you will know one another- you will love one another, but marriage will not be thing in heaven.
Those of you with great marriages might be a little sad at this prospect. Those of you with bad marriages are saying “Oh thank God” to yourselves right now.
When I lead a couple in marriage vows I have them make a commitment for life and lead them to promise to love one another forever. There’s something you need to understand about Paul and something that we should seek to copy-
Paul’s life was a journey that was shaped by his final destination.
Paul was always looking ahead- looking toward the end.
Paul was living in light of eternity. The end of all things shaped everything for him.
He didn’t live “in the moment” by deciding what best suited him today, but rather he lived for the kingdom of God and decided what would be best as it related to end of all moments.
While Paul strongly believed that marriage was to last a lifetime, he also strongly believed that this life was short and eternity was long. Paul believed that he could best serve and work toward eternity if he was single in this life.
- Marriage is a responsibility.
In verses 33 & 34 Paul points out that a married person is going to have some cares and responsibilities that are very much focused on this world.
33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
Now, let me be quick to point out, Paul isn’t saying this is sinful or foolish, he is just saying it is what is.
If you are married, you will be seeking to please your spouse and that’s just the way that it is.
Paul makes it really clear in this passage that this is his perspective but that he doesn’t make any rules or give any commands.
“ I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment,”
“And this I speak for your own profit;
not that I may cast a snare upon you,”
Then peppered throughout the passage are qualifications.
Paul is not giving a command, but he is explaining his perspective on this- He is pointing out that there are advantages and disadvantages to both- the disadvantage to marriage isn’t that you might end up being married to a loser, but that in your efforts to please your spouse your attention will be diverted that could be given completely toward serving God.
Marriage is a responsibility. Marriage is to be taken seriously.
Marriage is hard and tough. There are blessings that only come in marriage, but there are a unique set of challenges that come along with those privileges. Don’t try to cash in on the benefits of marriage without fulfilling the obligations and responsibilities of marriage.
- Singleness can be a great freedom to serve.
With the responsibilities of marriage in mind, Paul then points out that there can be a great freedom in being single. Paul isn’t talking about a freedom to see and date who you want or even freedom to spend your money as you want, but rather a freedom to serve the Lord with a more robust devotion and commitment.
“But I would have you without carefulness.
He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:”
“The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, t
hat she may be holy both in body and in spirit:”
“And this I speak for your own profit…
and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
If you don’t have a marriage and family to manage, you can give yourself more completely to serving the Lord.
Being married with kids is not an excuse to not serve God.
Paul wasn’t saying that married people can’t serve God or please God, rather he was saying that they could not serve with the same amount of freedom that a married person could.
However, if you are single, you are free to jump into ministry with both feet, you are capable of living in a more sacrificial way with your time and your money.
A good example of this was a woman who I heard about. She was married but her husband passed away at a fairly young age. She realized that being a widow provided opportunities that she didn’t have when she was married, so she went overseas and served as a missionary living in a small home and focusing all of her efforts on serving the mission.
Paul argues here that the single person can focus more of this life working toward the next, it wasn’t a command that he was giving out, but rather it was a strategy that he had chosen for his life.
It may be that God is calling some of our people to serve in a way that they will best be able to accomplish as a single person. If that is the case, or even if it just possibly the case, the church should not pressure them into marriage or make them feel less important or less than complete if they are single. It may that God has a plan for them and who are we to interfere?
- The Question of marriage should be, “what pleases the Lord?”
This issue should be determined like all of the others in our lives, what will be most pleasing to the Lord?
The last several verses speak of a man who perhaps has chosen to remain single and has a female friend- as long as he is able to remain pure he does not need to marry her, but if he knows that his desires and will are going to make it difficult for him to please God with this relationship- to stay celibate, then he should marry and he hasn’t let the Lord down or stepped down a notch spiritually.
The question the single person need to ask himself or herself, is the same all of us would answer,
“how can I best please the Lord with my life?”
Remember Paul told the Corinthians at the end of chapter 6, you were bought with a price. You don’t belong to yourself- you belong to the Lord.
In every area of life, I believe that the we should answer the question, will this honor the Lord?
Will I be able to serve the Lord well in this? Will I be better capable of doing what God has called me to do?
I know for me, the answer to this was my wife.If you are around here for any length of time, you’ll pick up real quick on the fact that though the church hired me, Nicole is the brains of the operation. I could not do what I do without her.
One of our photographers snapped this photo at VBS and I think it captures what I’m talking about this morning. God blessed me with a spouse who helps me serve God.
Whatever your current station in life, God want to use that for the building of His kingdom.
If you’re single, there are things that you can do to serve God that I can’t. If you’re married, God wants to use that to give you an opportunity to serve the Lord. If you’re a parent, if you’re a grandparent, etc. the same is true.
But this is not just limited to family-
If you are wealthy, if you are an athlete, if you’re an outdoorsman, if you are artistic…
Paul said, whatever condition you are in, do not attempt to change, to leave your spouse or to get married so that you can serve God.
You don’t need a change of circumstance to serve God,
you need a change of heart.
So serve God right where you are at.