THE TIME IS SHORT
I Corinthians 7: 27-31 says, "Are you bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you. But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they that have wives be as though they had none and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world as not abusing it for the fashion of this world is passing away." What an odd but intriguing statement! Christians who are married are exhorted to live as though they were not married. The sorrowful are told to live as if they were not sorrowful,and joyful people are cautioned to live as though they were not joyful. People who are successful in business are directed to live as though they were not prosperous. This is strange talk, for the apostle mentions those things that are among the most highly prized possessions of life.
These verses occur in the middle of a discussion on marriage. In writing to the church at Corinth the apostle had to answer several questions with regard to marriage. As the church was in a time of great persecution and men often had to flee their homes suddenly, some were of the opinion it would be better to remain unmarried. Others had questions about mixed marriages. If a Christian were married to a non-Christian, some wanted to know if it would be lawful to separate from the person with whom he was unequally yoked in marriage. However, Paul's message applies to much more than marriage; he tells us how we ought to regard the things of this life and how we ought to use them. Paul reveals the great spiritual truth that because time is short and the things of this world are so fleeting, it becomes us always to look at earthly things in their true character and never build substantial hopes on unsubstantial comforts. The first thought in the text is the need for Christians to be spiritually independant. It is urgent that we be fearlessly independant of all things earthly We are in grave danger of becoming dependant on the things of the here and now. There have always been two extreme attitudes toward the material things of this life, and most of us come somewhere in between. One extreme is to account everything in the world as evil; accordingly, the one way to live is to avoid all contact with the world as is humanly possible. Religious people have been known to take a vow of poverty to free their souls from money and material things, and in this way they hope to save their souls. The other extreme is excessive worldliness which leads people to seek wealth and to snatch frantically at every prized possession within their grasp. They approach life from the viewpoint that life at its best is short and death is long, so they crave and diligently labor for the satisfactions which this present world can provide.
However, the majority of us take our stand between these two extremes; we do not lean toward excessive self-denial; nor do we permit ourselves to be altogether materialistic in outlook. Divine wisdom directs us to seek a balance between these exaggerated attitudes toward things of earth. Paul, it seems in this passage, is pleading for such a balance and for what we would call a happy medium. The book of Proverbs in the Bible is distinguished for its wisdom in the practical matters of life. Proverbs 30:8says, "Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny you, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." Both revelation and experience teach us that we usually find the most contentment when we are neither too materialistic nor renounce the world too utterly. But Paul's thought goes much deeper than this, for he wants to give us a more positive understanding of this question. He wants us to know what we are doing. It will be well for us if we let him teach us, for our habits of life and natural desires cannot be trusted to solve the urgent problem of how to live in this world. It cannot be said of us that we have learned as we should how to deal with the treasures, pleasures, hopes, and losses of mortal life. If there is any point at which we very clearly need Paul's counsel, it is here.Paul states that we should not be wedded to earthly things because "the fashion of this world is passing away"(I Corinthians 7:31). The word "fashion" literally means the external form, the essence of the world as it appears, the present state of things. The figure is derived from the scenes of a theater in the actual process of change. The fact that the present condition of the world is not to last long and the fact that our participation in its joys and sorrows is to be shortlived leads to the logical conclusion that we should not be wedded to earthly things.What are some of these earthly enjoyments and sorrows which are compared to the changing scenes of a theater which change and shift with every rise and fall of the curtain? The first fleeting and temporal, earthly enjoyment referred to is marriage. Paul said, "It remains that both they that have wives be as though they had none." One of the greatest enjoyments of life comes from the relationship between a loving husband and a happy wife. Home is a word as sweet as heaven, and a healthy race of children is as fine a possession as even angels could desire. But the word of God reveals that all this is but a changing scene which will one day pass away, for time is short and wife and children are dying creatures. Most people think that if there is anything permanent in the universe it is marrying and giving in marriage, bringing up a family, and seeing them all comfortably settled. It is right to love and value this blessing, but it is wrong to make it your all in life.
upon us. We must not allow ourselves to become dependant upon our wives, husbands, business, pleasures, or our family life. Remember to hold all earthly relationships with a loose hand. Never so hold your earthly joys as if they were all in all to you. Though it be a wife, husband, child, property, health, wealth, or fame, still ever stand ready to surrender all these things into the Father's hand, feeling that these, after all, are not your real joys. You have better springs to drink from than those which earth's summers can dry up, and you have rivers of pleasure deeper and broader than any which earth's winter shall be able to freeze. Handle all the good things of earth, knowing that they take to themselves wings and fly away; look at them as transient objects which are to be used as things not your own, but only lent to you for a time. A man may be as rich as a Rockefeller, and his wealth will never hurt him if he does not hold it with a tight hand. People may be as happy as happiness can make them here, and yet it will not hurt them if they learn to keep it under their feet. And, as my death is inevitable, so it may be very near. Let each person remember that! How soon it may be we cannot tell! Death will end the marriage relationship, as it will every other earthly attachment. We must never forget the fact that marriage is a transitory, human experience as is every other earthly experience. If you have become too attached to loved ones, when death takes them away it will tear your life apart. Build your hopes on eternal things, not the earthly things that will pass away with time.
We must not allow ourselves to become dependant upon any earthly ties or enjoyment. When it comes to religion and serving God, married people should live as if they were single people. Marriage must not be allowed to interfere with our responsibility to God. We cannot excuse oWselves from being faithful, dedicated, and active Christians because of the responsibilities of marriage. This truth applies equally to our business, pleasures, sorrows, and family life. We are sbill in this world, and we must deal as best we can with marriage, business, and all the pressing matters of every day. Indeed, we must faithfully discharge our duties and earthly responsibilities. We should be thankful to Gcd for prosperity, good times, and happiness. We should by all means enjoy all these good things God has so graciously given us, but we must not become dependant upon them. Should these things be deprived us, we must not allow our lives to fall apart. The primary reason we should hold all things earthly with a loose hand is stated in I Corinthians 7:29, "But this I say brethren, the time is short." It is the brevity of life that makes it wrong to be overly attached to temporal, mundane things. In view of this fact all that is said in the text makes sense. It is very difficult to keep men and women in mind of the fact that they are mortal. We confess that we are mortal,but we profess by our actions that we are immortal. A man who was 82 wanted to buy a piece of land from a man who was 70, but he couldn't get it at the price he wanted. So he said, "Never mind, So-and-so is an old man; he will soon be dead and then I will buy it." Although he was twelve years older than the other, still he thought the other man must of course soon die, while he,in his own thoughts, must live for many a year. How short time is! It seems but the day before yesterday that God granted us the privilege of entering into a new yeare At what a rate we whirl along! Childhood seems to travel at a snail's pace, but manhood at jet-speed. As man grows older and begins to bald and turn gray, he looks back upon his life as being but a day. If we could live to be a hundred-thirty, I am sure we would feel the same. Jacob lived to be that old but said, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life"(Genesis 47:9). The oldest man who ever lived was Methuselah, and he died at the age of 969. Even if we could live as long as Methuselah, I am sure that our life would seem shorter still.
The time Paul calls short is the time God has allotted to men and women on this planet. The Bible says that God has allotted us 70 years, sometimes 8O. Only a few live beyond the 8O year limit. The design of God in allowing us but a brief period in this xrorld is that we not become too earth-minded. Not only is time short, its end is absolutely sure. I cannot prevent my death by the most regular habits of life, and the most skillful physician cannot preserve my life for me. When the time comes, die I must!
The best way to make the most out of your earthly possessions, the way to have the most pleasure in them is not to become dependant upon them. If we become dependant on anything we have as our possession, we no longer possess it; it possesses us. When we become servants to our possessions instead of masters, then it becomes possible for us to be utterly desolated by the loss of what we prized as our possessions. You are going to lose your wife, husband, children, and your possessions. So don't let it tear you apart, if you should lose them before you expect to. When we love anything too much, the loss of that thing can cause us to go to pieces. Therefore, do not love any earthly thing too much, and when you lose it it will not shipwreck your life.
In saying these things Paul is not being cold, unsympathetic, and philosophical. He wants us to come through this life whole and entire, having done all that was given us to do, having enjoyed all the pleasures He sent our way, yet remaining a faithful Christian. It is God's will that we make the most of this earthly life, without being swamped by mortal things. May God help us to use the things of life rightly and not be lost and ruined when they vanish. Build your life on things eternal. One of the things that will not pass away but live forever is the Church Jesus purchased with his own blood. The church will shine like the stars in heaven forever; the church is the bride of Christ. At the marriage supper of the Lamb, Christ and his church will be united forever. What are you doing for the church? Out of all the multiplicity of churches in Christendom, do you know which one is the Church which Jesus purchased with his own blood?
Acts 2:41 says,"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Peter was the gospel preacher and the year was 33 A.D. in the first century. This was the beginning of the original New Testament church. Three thousand Jews obeyed the gospel and
became Christians in one day. Acts 2:47 says of those early Christians, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Becoming a Christian is more than just joining some religious organization. The Bible says, "The Lord adds" people to his church. If he has not added you to his church, you are not a Christian. I Timothy 5:6 declares, "But she that lives in pleasure is dead while she liveth." What an awful thing to say
about a human being! She is dead even while she is living. The meaning she is spiritually dead. If I devote my life to God, to Christ, to his church,to the souls of men and women, and if my own soul is saved, then I am living. But if not, then I am dead while I live. Let us live while we live! It is my hope that you will not continue to be one of the many thousands of people who are dying while they live. It is my hope that you will seek and find the church for which Jesus died, then become a member of that church
by obedience to the gospel. If, as Christians, we will live above dependance on any human thing, we will arrive safely at eternal life: whether in marriage or out of it; whether in laughter or in tears; whether in work or in play.