What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.1 Corinthians 7:29-31
All Paul says here hangs on the words
the time is short. While Paul did anticipate the Lord Jesus Christ returning in his lifetime, I view this as Paul referring to the general brevity of life. The longer we live the more we sense how time seems to fly. As someone has said,
About the time your face clears up, your mind begins to go. That's how life seems to be.
But not just Christians see that; non-Christians also speak of the shortness of time, and their reaction is,
Well, if life is so short, then let's grab all we can. Let's live life with gusto. There is nothing beyond, so let’s get all we can. Their philosophy seems to be:
If you are going to be a passenger on the Titanic you might as well go first class. Live it up. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. But that's not to be the Christian's philosophy, Paul tells us.
Clearly the Christian response is:
Use your short time for eternal purposes. Be sure that the aim and center of your life is not just making a living, but making a life. That's what he is saying, and why he says,
let those who have wives live as though they had none. He is not encouraging you to neglect your wife or your responsibilities to your children and your home. What he is saying is that we are to keep things in proper focus. Do not let maintaining your home be the major reason for your existence, or give all your time to enjoying this present life. Life has higher demands and higher challenges.
Therefore, even marriage, God-given and beautiful as it is, is not the highest choice an individual can make. If some choose not to marry, to instead pursue other standards, especially spiritual involvement, their choice should be affirmed as good and proper. No one should put them down for it. So his word to us is,
Do not let things that the world around you lives for become the center of your life. Joys and sorrows are seen quite differently from the viewpoint of eternity. Success in business is not life's greatest aim, for all in this world is passing away, even its fame and glory.
I once visited the museum tomb of General Douglas MacArthur, who was in my day a great American hero. I remembered his welcome in San Francisco when he finally returned home after World War II, and the ticker-tape parades he received both there and in New York. Cabinets held his medals and memorabilia, letters he had written during his life, and uniforms he'd worn. All were gathering dust, and paint was peeling from the ceiling. Standing there I suddenly and deeply sensed the fading glory of earth. I began to compare it with what the Scriptures say awaits the believer in Jesus Christ: that
exceeding weight of glory ( 2 Corinthians 4:17) which Paul says is beyond all comparison. It is something so fantastic, so mind-blowing, so unbelievable that nothing we know of on earth can remotely compare to what awaits those who have found God's purposes and realized God's fullness in this life. How tawdry this tomb seemed. The glory of MacArthur was nothing compared with the glory of the simplest believer in Christ. How important therefore it is to pursue that kind of glory, rather than empty baubles that only gather dust. This is Paul’s point — this present world is passing away.
Thank you, Father, for the hope I have in you, and that nothing in this short life can compare with what you have in store for me. Help me live, not for things that are passing away, but for that which will last for eternity.
Whether brief or longer, time is given us by God with a view to eternity. Are we investing this priceless gift in the tawdry and perishable things of earth, or in the timeless, imperishable and invaluable purposes of God's good and perfect will?