In the Office: Hold On Loosely (But Don’t Let Go)

In today’s New Testament lesson (1 Corinthians 7:25-31), Paul offers some advice about married life. Now, it’s worth noting, I think, that Paul states explicitly that this advice doesn’t come from the Lord but represents his own best judgment; which creates an interesting “tangential question” about how we should view the inspiration of a part of scripture that the author says isn’t inspired. But leaving that thorny issue aside, the bottom line is that Paul seems to offer a qualified endorsement of remaining single —because — “those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this” (verse 28).

Of course, the rest of Paul’s statement makes it clear that he doesn’t have anything against marriage. In fact, he seems to go out of his way to encourage people not to change their marital plans simply because of what he has said. But the real thrust of his remarks comes in his follow-up explanation:

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)

In the OfficeThis strikes me as a useful reminder for a Monday morning. I don’t know about you, but I often start the new week and find that my mind is already “awash in the details” of a world — that in its present form — is passing away. And while these details do matter, sometimes I need to be reminded that they’re not of “ultimate” concern. What matters more is the kingdom of God, which Jesus said was constantly and imperceptibly growing all around me. And so, I need to “hold on loosely” to these concerns, viewing them not in terms of what shouts for my attention and seems to be urgent — but in terms of what matters most in light of eternity.

Having said that, the goal is not to “let go” of the details altogether. We don’t want to become the kind of people who are “so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good,” but to cultivate the kind of Christ-centered thinking that allows the kingdom to be expressed through the details of our lives. If God’s new creation is “breaking in” anywhere, certainly it should be coming in our families, in our work, and in our reactions to the joys and sorrows of life.

Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” May we “hold on loosely” this week to all those things that we cannot keep, so that we can “hold on tightly” to the promise that will never fade.

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