St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Time Is Short

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Text: 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; 30 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; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Time always seems to be in short supply. We never seem to have enough of it. There are so many things that we want to accomplish, but never seem to have the time to do them. We always promise ourselves that we will do this or that, when we find the time. We say things like, “I’d like to help you, but I don’t have time right now.” We’re constantly checking our watches to make sure that we stay on schedule. We rush and speed to try to get everything in, because there are time constraints to many things. In the end, we feel rushed and dissatisfied because we didn’t get everything accomplished that we had hoped to during that day. Why does this happen? We might be setting too high of goals for ourselves. We schedule more things in a day than are possible for us to accomplish. Part of the problem might be that we haven’t learned to prioritize. We have trouble distinguishing between what is important and what is not quite as important. Today Paul also teaches us about time and time management. He tells us THE TIME IS SHORT. We are going to look at 1. What This Means For Our Marriages, 2. What This Means For Our Emotional Life, and 3. What This Means For Our Use Of This World’s Goods.

In this seventh chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, he had been addressing the topic of marriage and celibacy. He addressed the intimacy of husbands and wives. He wrote about the marriage of believers and unbelievers. In the section just prior to our text, Paul addresses the idea of getting married and how that might affect their faith and life. He wrote: “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (Verse 28) Paul isn’t speaking against marriage. As a matter of fact, he was inspired to write many beautiful things about marriage, such as we find in Ephesians 5. What he was saying was, in light of the coming persecutions, it might be better for those who have the ability to not be married to remain so, lest they be tempted to deny their faith for the sake of their family.

That is why Paul begins this section with the words, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.” The opportune time for doing the Lord’s work has become increasingly short. There are only so many days and hours that the Lord has given to each of us to do his work. Life on this earth is fleeting. Since that is true, we do not want to become unduly concerned with the affairs of this world. Christ wants us to be so focused on his gospel mission that nothing gets in the way. Our reason for living in this way of constant readiness for Christ’s return is not so that we do not get into trouble, if he should come when we are not ready. Our reason for living this way is to thank God for all that he has done for us. Our greatest reason for thanks is the fact that Jesus came into the world to be our Savior. If Jesus had not come, we would have been lost in our sins for all eternity. Any single instance of a wrong thought, word or action is enough to condemn us. Each of us has sinned far more often than that. But, in his love, God sent Jesus to pay for all of our sins. We have been forgiven. Now we want to show our thankfulness by the way that we live. To help us understand the urgency of this, Paul wrote, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.”

Then, continuing with the subject matter of this chapter, Paul tells us how this urgency of time affects our married lives. He said, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not.” What does Paul mean by this? How should those with wives live as if they had none? Is Paul saying that the marriage vow is of no use, whatsoever?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Earlier in this chapter Paul spoke of the importance of marriage. But, remember that Paul had just spoken about the very real possibility of persecution. There would be temptations to denounce the faith. Paul is reminding the Corinthians that loyalty to Christ is to take first place, even over that of husband and wife.

Does that apply to us today, who do not face persecution for our faith? Yes, it does. Even in the most intimate of bonds on the earth, there is one that is to be closer and that is the bond between believer and their Lord. No matter how deeply a husband may love his wife or a wife love her husband, each must be aware that their first loyalty is to God. How will this affect the marriage? It will affect it in a number of ways. First of all, if the husband or wife is loyal to the Lord and his plans for their lives, the marriage will be better and stronger. If husband and wife each seek to fulfill their God-given roles, the marriage will be filled with love and contentment. As the hymn writer put it, “Oh, blessed home, where man and wife Together lead a godly life, By faith their love confessing! There many a happy day is spent; There Jesus will consent To tarry with his blessing.”

This single purpose of mind will also show itself as we deal with our spouses. If they should do or say something sinful, we show our love for our God and our spouse by gently correcting them. ‘But I don’t want to start any trouble,’ you might think. If your spouse were going somewhere and they had a big spot of mud on their clothes, they would want to know. Even though it might make them uncomfortable for the moment, they would probably be more upset if you didn’t tell them. Out of love for them, we want to tell them. This also is showing our first loyalty is to our God. That is what Paul means when he wrote, “From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none.”

Paul goes on to describe the urgency of the days by writing, “those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not.” The emotional life of a Christian is often the exact opposite of the world’s. There are times we rejoice while the world weeps, and probably far more often, times we weep while the world rejoices. For example, the world may cheer a ruling from a court that legalizes something, which God’s Word clearly forbids. Those type of cases seem to fill the news every day. We weep over the fact that God’s will is so clearly being thrown to the side. We, also, weep over our sins, while it seems like those in the world glory in the depths of depravity that have attained. People will tell you that it’s bad for you to feel guilty, that it just comes from some outmoded sense of morality. But, we realize that there is a purpose for our feeling sorrow over sin. It reminds us of what Jesus has done for us. It urges us to go to him to again hear those beautiful words, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

We also rejoice while the world weeps. Paul would write to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Do you realize that when Paul wrote those words he was in prison? Yet he rejoiced. Only believers can rejoice, no matter the circumstances, because they know that their gracious Lord is in complete control and has promised that everything in our life is for our benefit. In the meantime we do rejoice in the fact that Jesus is our Savior and heaven is waiting for us at the end of time. This helps us to keep our priorities straight in this life.

It is on the subject of proper priorities that Paul continues by saying, “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.” Here Paul is talking about something where is a great deal of temptation to misplace the priorities and that is in getting the material goods that are here. He said, “those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep.” There is an old adage that goes, “You can’t take it with you.” How true it is. No matter how many things you get while you live here on the earth, no matter how much money, how many vehicles, no matter how many movies, you cannot enjoy them when you are gone. Your heirs will enjoy all that you have accumulated, but you won’t benefit from them at all. So then, if they are not eternal, why should we get so worked up in getting as much as we possibly can?
Does this mean that we should not enjoy the things of this world? Absolutely not. Everything that we have, including our physical things, are blessings from our gracious God. There are many examples of people that God richly blessed in the Bible. There is Abraham, David, Joseph of Arimathea, as well as others. That is why Paul wrote, “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” God has given us these many blessings to be used. They are to be used to support our families, government and church. They are to be used to help those in need and to have recreation. In many ways we are like warehouses of God’s blessings. God gives them to us through work, gifts, and inheritance. We distribute them for things that are pleasing to him. No where does God speak of our hoarding his blessings for ourselves. Because we realize that the time is short, our attitude toward the material blessings of this life is different than that of many of the people we run into. There will come a time when it won’t matter how many things we owned or how large our bank account was. All that will matter is our relationship that we have with God. If we have been brought to faith, we will have an eternity of bliss in heaven. Those heavenly riches will far outshine anything that this life might have to offer.

The White Rabbit in the Disney animated story of “Alice in Wonderland,” runs past Alice saying, “I’m Late! I’m late for a very important date! No time to say, ‘Hello,’ ‘Good-bye.’ I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” Maybe we can identify with that rabbit more than we would care to admit. He felt the time crunch and he had to get something done. There is an urgency in his words. May we feel that same urgency when it comes to living in a way that gives glory to God. May it show itself in our marriages, as husbands and wives show their love for each other and their God. May it show itself as we count important the things that God values and put behind us those things that would drag us down. May our attitude toward earthly things be that, while we are glad to use all that God gives us, we dare never become engrossed in them. And, as we feel the urgency of living for God, may we also look forward to the rest and peacefulness of heaven.