1 Corinthians 7:32
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord…
I. NOTE THE PRECISE MEANING AND DRIFT OF THIS SHORT SENTENCE. It refers to the anxieties of married life. Neither in Old Testament nor New is any disrespect shown to the state of matrimony. St. Paul himself, when writing of the reciprocal duties of life, gives most sympathetic counsels to husbands and wives; and, far from placing marriage in an unfavourable light as compared with celibacy, describes it as a sign of the sacred union of Christ and the Church, But, in this part of his letter, he is replying to a question put to him from Corinth regarding the course most expedient in the special circumstances of the time, i.e. in view of impending persecution and distress. Should unmarried persons marry at such a time? Should parents give their daughters in marriage? Should married Christians, if joined to heathens, remain in the marriage bond? These questions the apostle deals with, giving his opinion, not for all time, but for a time of trouble. It was no sin, or even fault, in any one to marry; but it would be wise to form no new ties at such a crisis, not to burden one's self with new anxieties. In this sense the text is not for us, except in special emergencies and exceptional circumstances. It is hardly needful to say that a man who is about to start on a dangerous expedition, or one who is involved in serious pecuniary difficulty, or one who has some arduous task to accomplish by a given date which will require incessant attention, ought not to marry. Men in such conditions ought not to drag another into their difficulties or dangers, nor should they gratuitously add to their own anxieties. Let them keep their minds undistracted, and defer marriage to some easier and more auspicious day.
II. DEDUCE A PRINCIPLE WHICH WILL APPLY TO ALL OCCASIONS. It is this: the Christian life ought not to be hampered with cares. Well for it to move on simple lines, as much as possible free from distraction and solicitude. Novelists and poets have said much against over anxiety and the black curse of care. Spenser describes care as forging iron wedges day and night.
"Those be unquiet thoughts that careful minds invade." Shakespeare says -
"Care is no cure, but rather corrosive,
For things that are not to be remedied." Another writes of "low-thoughted care." And it is easy to show that it clouds the judgment and defeats itself by restlessness and over anxiety which betray men into ruinous mistakes. But after all that has been said against care, it is not shaken off - no, not by those moralists and poets themselves. Every man we meet has some vexing care about money, or reputation, or health, about the conduct or misconduct of others. We want some deeper teaching and some stronger help. We have both in and from our Master Jesus Christ - the most profound teaching and the most timely and effectual help.
1. The life without care. Our Lord spoke of it in the Sermon on the mount. His disciples should not be anxious about food, or raiment, or the possible mishaps of tomorrow. Such wisdom they might learn from the birds and from the flowers, that are fed and clothed by God. If it be rejoined that the life and wants of birds and flowers are very much more limited than ours, who have to run so many risks and are vulnerable at so many points, the reply is obvious. We ought so to conduct our lives as to keep our grounds of anxiety at the lowest possible limit; in short, to simplify our habits, restrain our self tormenting bustle, and, reducing our external wants, give more voice to those which are inward and spiritual.
2. The modal of that life. It is Christ himself; for the perfect Teacher lived all his doctrines, practised all he preached. The way of human life which the Son of God selected, and to which he adhered, was the best for the purpose of developing a model humanity. We pass over the station in which he was born, because we have no discretionary power over our own birth. But we take note of this, that he grew up in a home of piety, remote from those excitements and temptations that render our modern town bred youth so precocious. He had. a quiet time among the hills and valleys round Nazareth, to let his thoughts grow large and his character acquire deliberate strength. Then, when the time was ripe for opening his prophetic mission, he kept his personal life as simple as possible, and allowed no room for anxieties on his own account. He also surrounded himself with friends who were of simple habits and little worldly ambition. He taught them as they walked from one village to another or rowed their boat upon the lake, and did good everywhere without a particle of ostentation. And so he went on to the end, implicitly trusting and obeying the heavenly Father who had sent him and was always with him. Thus was he always calm and self possessed. No dust of brooding care lay upon his heart. And, indeed, it was because he held himself so free of petty entanglements, that he could be and was so engrossed with the work which the Father gave him to do. Easily satisfied as to food, and raiment, and lodgings, and things that perish, he devoted all the strength of his thought and purpose to the supreme object for which he had come into the world. It may be urged that this, though admirable in hint, is really no model for us. We cannot lead anything like that simple, untrammelled, unconventional life of which we read in the Gospels. Now, no one alleges that in form we can live as our Saviour lived, or his servant Paul. But we do maintain that Christians ought to catch the spirit and principle of the life of Christ, and therefore should not let artificial wants multiply or needless anxieties entangle their hearts. Unless pains be taken to prevent it, life becomes in modern times very much of a grind - heart wearing and perplexing. Our hones and brains are weary. Our time slips away from us, and with all our fagging, we find our work drag. We are caught in the tyrannical grasp of the conventional, and go on in a laborious fashion, not happy, certainly not Christ like. They are the wisest and the happiest who lay down simple lines for themselves, reducing the cumbrousness of the outward life in order to cultivate more fully the inward life of faith, hope, and charity.
3. The principle of the care renouncing life. It is faith in God. Lot us cast our care on him, for he cares for us. On this principle the Man Christ Jesus walked, believing that the Father heard him always and compassed his path. On this principle he assured his followers that the very hairs of their heads were numbered. On this principle have all patient and humble Christian lives been sustained. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." The thirty-seventh psalm teaches it well. Art thou anxious about temporal wants? "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Psalm 37:3). Art thou keen and eager for a lawful object? "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart' (Psalm 37:4). Art thou concerned about the issue of a matter? "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5). Art thou hindered or discouraged by the success of unscrupulous rivals? "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, fret not thyself" etc. (Psalm 37:7). With these simple directions laid to heart and obeyed, one may go through the greatest vicissitudes and most exhausting toils with a spirit cheerful and serene,
"There are, in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime,
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat."
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: