“And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.” 1 Corinthians 7:35
The Apostle Paul addressed many sensitive subjects in his letters to the Christians who lived and worshipped in ancient Corinth. One of those subjects was about marriage, but Paul’s answer takes us much deeper than whether we should marry, divorce, remarry or stay single, along with many other issues that concerned the Corinthians 2,000 years ago and continues to be of interest to people today. Paul took the issue of heart motive and desire to the deepest level possible. Will we be devoted to God or distracted from devotion to God?
Ancient Corinth was not much different than where many of us live today. It was one of the leading cities of its day. Corinth was a wealthy city and many of the people who lived there enjoyed the luxuries of their time. Many Corinthians were also involved in different religious cults and loose morals were part of everyday life in Corinth. Paul reminded the Corinthians of that fact as he encouraged them to live for the glory of God –
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Living in ancient Corinth included many distractions, much like living in the United States and other countries today. Paul used the Greek word ἀπερισπάστως – “without distraction.” It comes from περισπάω, which means “to draw away, distract, trouble greatly, hindrance.” There are many things in life, even good things, that can hinder us from serving God with complete devotion.
“There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.” 1 Corinthians 7:34-35
Paul is not saying that marriage is a bad thing. God instituted marriage and spoke of it as having a high purpose. However, Paul is pointing out that even something that’s good, like marriage, can be a distraction to living a life fully devoted to God. Keep that in mind as we look at some of the distractions that can keep us from living life fully devoted to God.
Some English Bibles choose the words “serve”, “devoted” or “undivided devotion” to translate the Greek word εὐπρόσεδρος. It carries the idea of “constantly attending to, ready to obey.” That’s what Paul was emphasizing to the Christians in Corinth. He wanted them to live their lives so as to be constantly attending to God – serving God – ready to obey God.
What could possibly distract a committed Christian from being fully devoted to God? Just bad things or good things, too? Could our marriage, family, career and church involvement distract us from being fully devoted to God? How about sports, hobbies, social media, television, movies and even our service to others in the name of Christ?
Paul, of all people, was not introducing a new kind of legalism into Christianity. His comments about marriage take us into the spiritual realm of being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Considering Paul’s encouragements to devote ourselves to God and be cautious about anything that distracts us from that devotion is a positive thing for every Christian to consider.
Paul was not the first to speak about this kind of devotion to God.
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke 16:13
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” Mark 12:30
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” John 4:34
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17:4
Is there anything in our lives keeping us from being ready to obey God, constantly attending to God, devoted to God? Even good things? If so, how do we deal with it?
The process of considering how to live a life fully devoted to God does not mean throwing away everything in our lives. In the context of marriage, Paul wrote this –
“I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress—that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.” 1 Corinthians 7:26-28
I think the same is true for other ‘good’ things in our lives. We should do an inventory of how we spend our time, energy, finances and influence to see if they support us in our devotion to God or if they are a distraction from serving God.
If we find some good things that are distracting us from serving God, ask God for help in approaching those good things in ways that please Him. You may also want to talk with a mature Christian who can help you in how to serve God with full devotion in this world.
We have one life to live on earth as we are now and being fully devoted to our wonderful God and Savior Jesus Christ is the best decision we can make – for now and for eternity.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.