September 12th

Undivided Devotion

1Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. 2But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
29What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30those 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; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife-- 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world--how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:1-9,28-35 NIV 

Living as a single person in this world has many benefits that are often overlooked by those of us who are single.  Paul used the comparison of singlehood and marriage to illustrate a major benefit of being single: the opportunity for undivided devotion to God.  Paul’s main intent wasn’t so much to promote singlehood as it was to encourage people toward a God-centered existence. Therefore, whether married or single, we call all benefit from the points in this passage. 

Being single offers the opportunity for people to maximize their devotion to God.  Singles are free to live without the concerns and obligations that come with being married.  For example, they don’t have to share ownership of their bodies or worry about fulfilling a spouse’s desires.  Additionally, they are free from the “many troubles in this life” that marriage brings which can draw their attention away from God.  

Some people are created by God with a gift to be single.  Paul was one of those people and he wished that everyone could enjoy that gift.  Paul seemed to write from the perspective that the joys of an intimate relationship with the Creator far surpassed the temporary joys of sex.  Unfortunately, many singles find themselves pierced with the lusts of the world early on in life with the help of porn, promiscuous dating, explicit television and peer pressure, among others.  These all have a way of weakening their self-control, and sabotaging their ability to give undivided devotion to the Lord.  Too often singles fix their hearts on getting married or having sex and focus their efforts on what they need to do to realize those goals.  In this fashion, they can completely miss the opportunity for a deeper experience with God while they are single.   

Whether single or married, God wants us to live with an eternal perspective.  He doesn’t want us to get too focused on the here and now issues of life, and lose sight of the fact that the world in its present form is passing away.  One of the problems that comes with living in a pornographic world culture is that sex tends to be promoted everywhere we turn. Billboards, TV commercials, magazine covers, spam emails and internet pop-up ads all compete for our attention.  It’s no surprise that many people battle to keep their thoughts pure.  If we allow the pleasures and cravings of the world to take center stage in our thoughts, we’re by default going to be less concerned with how we can please God.  

What really matters in life is that we connect with God and carry out his will. If we can align our thoughts with that reality and entrust our needs and desires to God’s capable hands (Matthew 6:33), we’ll be much better able to experience the joy and peace that comes from abiding in God.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God, I respond to your call in my life for a higher level of devotion.  Please help me recognize any sin that is distracting my attention from you and repent from it.  Help me to honor my commitments, while at the same time rising to that new level of devotion.  If I am married, please help me to show your love to my spouse while shedding any bad habits that are weakening my marriage or my relationship with you.  If I am single, please help me avoid the temptations and snags of the world, so that I may fully serve you in body and spirit.  I pray for an eternal perspective on life, Lord.  Help me to see things the way you see them.  Thank you, Father! I praise you now and forever, Amen.”