3. Living Out the Dream
A remarkable feature of 1 Corinthians 7 is that Paul is giving advice that is contrary to the popular dream of our society. He is stating that an appropriate single life is a better thing than to get married. It's as if he is shattering an age-old dream that young people have,
1 Corinthians 7:32: But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33. but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. 34. There is also a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35. This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction. WEB
We can ask ourselves whether this is evidence of a gap between the way that we understand the world, and the way that God has put before us. In order to secure this “pearl of great price”, we need to look for all the other things in our life that can be sold to make way. If there is a difference here, then this could represent a separation we have from God's purpose.
For countless generations, there has been a dream among the young to find romance and get married. Where does this come from? To some extent, it fulfils an internal designed need we have. But another source is the story-media. There are the movies, and before that the books, and before that the fairy-tales. They showcase the tension and excitement, and eventually the happy ending as the couple “live happily ever after”.
This concept is so entrenched in society that it would be hard for us to escape its influence. So are our dreams in life more driven by the fairy-tales than they are by the promise of God? If so, that would be a cause for concern.
It's possible that we are so blinded by the conventional thought of the society that we live in, that we can't see the bigger picture. When we see these sorts of differences, we really need to ask whether we are seeing the full picture.
2 Corinthians 4:3: Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in those who perish; 4. in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. WEB
It's like the supporters of a sporting team watching a game, and only seeing half of it. The umpire is only wrong when its a decision against your own team. We have an amazing capacity to only see the things that we are conditioned to want to see. As a result, we may be seeing things from the perspective of the team of humanity, rather than the team of God.
Brain as a Sponge
The things that we value in life are directly a result of our past experiences. When we immerse ourselves in a particular culture, it becomes part of us, and starts to dictate the things we value in life. In living in the 21st century developed world, it shapes who we are and the opinions we form.
Our environment affects the direct vision we have in front of us at any one point in time.
What we are thinking in day to day life determines who we become.
Prov 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. KJV
We can consider our brain as a sponge, soaking up the water that we expose it to. It could be the water of the sea of the nations, or it could be the living water offered through Jesus.
Developing our Thought Process
Sometimes we can't choose the type of thoughts we will have, as they are dictated by the situation. However, there are also many times that we do have that luxury. If we sit down to watch a movie or television or read a book, we are feeding ourselves spiritual food. Similarly if we listen to music, watch sport or go to a party, we are shaping ourselves and our future thoughts. Long after this event, it will continue to shape our thought process, because it has become part of us.
We can evaluate whether that's something we want to be part of us: whether it is a spirit from God, or the spirit of man. Our thought process learns to focus on the things we feed it with. In Philippians, the people were urged to direct their thought process, and make a choice about what types of things to fill their minds with.
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. WEB
Similarly, in writing to Timothy, Paul urged him to consciously direct his thought processes by choosing his actions.
1 Timothy 4:14: Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. NKJV
It as about feeding his mind with the things that would make it grow in the right direction.
Singles more Devoted to God
The single-mindedness toward God is one of the reasons that Paul gives for people to stay unmarried.
1 Cor 7:32: But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33. but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. WEB
It's highlighting one of the problems of marriage in that the marriage takes up time and attention. It shows that being a single person gives more time to devote to doing and thinking God's purpose.
For single people, this raises the challenge of whether that additional time is genuinely spent on this purpose. Or instead is it spent in making effort to become married, or progressing career, or simply having fun and enjoying the present world?
An ongoing theme through 1 Corinthians 7 is that of maintaining present life conditions, and not actively seeking change in our physical circumstances.
1 Cor 7:21: Were you called being a bondservant? Don't let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it. ... 24. Brothers, let each man, in whatever condition he was called, stay in that condition with God. WEB
It's all about what we have in our minds as the focus of our lives. We are called not to be using our time to meditate about our marital status, our career status, or the status of our possessions. There's something more valuable that we can put our attention into.
As Jesus stated,
It all about putting attention into that one pearl of great price, because it is so much better than the other cheap trinkets we have.
Matthew 6:33: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. KJV