Steven Furtick - Those Who Have Wives Should Live as if They do Not
As we study this passage today, we want to talk one more time about the Bible's best keep secrets about sex, marriage, and being single. But this week, I think will bring us to the heart of the matter. So listen closely. I will read the scripture. I will make a few comments and then, I just want to pull out a few ideas in our remaining time. 1 Corinthians 7:25, Paul starts off saying, "Now, about virgins...", isn't that always an awkward way to open a conversation? If you don't think that's awkward, try it this week in a conversation just as an ice breaker. Now, about virgins... and then, just look at them. I have, he says, "I have no command from the Lord but I give a judgment as one who, by the Lord's mercy, is trustworthy". Here's what I take from that. Paul says, there's not a chapter and verse for the advice I'm about to give you, but if you have the spirit of God inside of you, you don't always need the Bible to tell you everything to do and not to do.
A lot of the questions we get, and I looked over some questions this week so I could work them into my sermon, that people in the church had been asking. And a lot of them are, like, "well, how far can I go if we're not married and can we do this and can we do that"? And they almost want, "is there a Bible verse saying that I can't do this"? And it's, like, "Well, you don't always need a verse to tell you what's right and what's wrong". You don't always need, I mean, sometimes you just got to know on the inside what God is telling you. There's not a Bible verse for everything. There's not always a clear scriptural command, but God's given you his spirit and he's given you a conscious and he's given you the ability to know sometimes this is not right. And when we ignore that, we do it to our own detriment.
So Paul said, "That by the Lord's mercy I have some advice to give you because...", verse 26, "of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to...", love this verse, "remain as he is". That's not what culture is preaching. Culture is preaching, you know, newest, bigger, better, faster. Paul says, "Right where you are...", right where you are, "God is there". Wherever you are, God is there. And there may be things he wants to do in your life and new places he wants to take you. But in the meantime, be where you are. Be where you are. Because there was some kind of crisis he's referring to in Corinth. A crisis of morality to be sure that maybe something else was going on. But he says, "It's good for a man to remain as he is". Verse 27, "Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released".
Uh oh. Some of y'all can't get God to bless your marriage because all your focus is on escaping it. And God can't bless it until you commit to it. And how is he going to bless it with your hand all up on the back door looking for the fire escape all the time? But when you embrace where you are, God can bless it. He says, don't seek to be released. Marriage is not a prison that you're trying to get out of. Time out for good behavior. He says, "Be blessed where you are". And then, he says, "Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife". And single people right here, you know, you may take issue with that, but, he's going to build some logic that's pretty hard to argue with and he's going to say that singleness is an advantage in serving God.
And so, let me read it. I didn't say that, Paul did. He said, "But 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 all the married men said? You better not say anything. If she's here sitting next to you, you better look confused at this point, huh? Trouble? "Those who marry will face many troubles in this life". And Paul's almost like the single dude who's just really negative about married people. He said, and I want to spare you this. And almost as if he can feel our confusion register and he sees that Elevation Church is highly confused by this line of thinking because it's so different than anything we're ever thought and heard.
He said, all right, verse 29, "What I mean, brothers and sisters...", let me break it down, "is that the time is short". I got fascinated studying different interpretations of this. Some scholars say that Paul thought that Jesus was about to come back any minute and he didn't think that he would even live long enough to die because Jesus would come back first. And so, maybe, he thought that or maybe, he was just referring to the fact that even if you live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity if you believe in the concept that your soul lives on forever and this life is not all there is, in comparison to that, time is short.
It's funny how many people give me parenting advice. I don't know if it's because I sound like a horrible father from the sermon illustrations I share. That's possible, but, maybe they're just trying to help me out. And especially if they have kids that are a little older and they say, you know, it flies by. That's what they usually say. And I actually preached about this in a series called, "Times and Seasons". And I used a quote that helped me a lot where they say, "The days are long but the years are short". And what they're saying is when you're in the middle of these days where, you know, you don't want to be a dad or mom, you just, kind of, want to do your own thing. It feels like, man, this day is never going to end. It feels like this stage is never... we're never going to get out of this stage. But you'll look back on it one day and go, where did it go?
And so, people are trying help me. They're, like, "Hey, don't miss recitals and don't check out and give it your all because it's flying. I know it doesn't feel like it's flying but it's flying". And so, Paul wants us to have that perspective. You'll see why in a moment. He says, "Time is short. From now on, those have wives should live as if they do not. Those who mourn as if they did not. Those who are happy as though they were not. Those who buy something as if it were not theirs keep. Those who use the things of the world as if not engrossed in them for this world, in it's present form is passing away and I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs, how he can please the Lord but a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world, how he can please his wife", or at least he better be concerned about that. He needs to be. He should be.
"And his interests...", verse 34, "are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs. Her aim", I love the archery term right in the middle of the passage. He's, like, quit living your life just shooting in all these directions and then, draw a target after you shoot. And just, okay. He's, like, put something on the wall and aim for the center. And he said, like, your aim should be, and he defines it single or married but here he's talking about singleness. He said, "Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit". See, the worst thing in the world is not to be single. The worst thing in the world is to be aimless. To not even know what am I getting up for? What's this all about? And you can have an aimless marriage. You can raise a family aimlessly, but, not if you come to this church because I'm going to preach about hitting that target and aiming straight.
And he says, "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". Listen, Holly. "How she can please her husband". And he said, verse 35, we'll stop with this one, not stop the sermon just stop reading. "I am saying this for your own good". Now, what if you just believed that? That what God says, he says for your own good. If you just believe that about relationships, about sex, about marriage, about life, man, if you just believe that it would be a framework of favor that would make it so much easier for you to trust God. It's hard to trust somebody when you're not convinced of their motives. He says, "I'm saying this, God is speaking this through me for your own good not to restrict you but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord".
I've been staring at this passage a long time and God's given me some clarity. I want to key off on verse 29 where he says one of the most bizarre things that I've ever seen in the Bible. He says, "Time is short. From now on, those who have wives should live as if they do not". The title of this final installment of Meant to be, "is those who have wives should live as if they do not". Is this not the strangest, possibly worst marriage advice that you've ever heard in your life? And we're going to talk about it today. Taken out of context this could create some problems. "Those who have wives...", think about what he's saying now. I know some of the Bible just sounds like, what, what, what, what, but think about this. "Those who have wives should live as if...", everybody say, "As if"? "as if they do not".
So I want to break this down like Paul broke it down just a few things. A few topics. I'll give you three. First off, let's talk from the passage about conflict of interest. I think what Paul is describing in the passage is a conflict of interest. He wouldn't have used that term because the term didn't exist. It's only recently been invented in the last several decades and it's used to describe scenarios, professional scenarios, you've heard the term. It's a conflict of interest. We hear it in politics. We hear it in medicine. We hear it in the legal profession. And it's a conflict of interest. You hear it in businesses, high-level business decisions about a conflict of interest. What is a conflict of interest? I'll read you a definition. It may be, kind of, boring but try to zone in. There's something important in here.
A conflict of interest, "is a situation occurring when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests". That's pretty straight forward. "One of which could possibly corrupt the motivation. The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Just because there's a conflict of interest doesn't mean you're necessarily doing anything wrong. It just means that there is a great potential for you to get what's important mixed up". Watch this. "Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs". So just if you know about it, it will help you to build parameters to protect yourself from the consequences.
A widely used definition is, "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest". Okay? Yes, yes, I hear you, Jesus. I remember. In the sermon on the Mount when you said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the Kingdom of God...", see Jesus was listing all these things that people are worried about, all these interests, all these concerns. And he got to this part where he had listed all of it and all the things that we're responsible for and all the things that are a part of daily living. And the people are listening and they're burdened just like we're burdened, and then, they multitask and just like we're multitasking. And in some ways their life is even much harder because of the daily necessities, the basic necessities were harder to come by.
And Jesus said, but, in light of all this, "Seek first", primary interest, "the Kingdom of God", the way God does things, "and his righteousness and all these things...", secondary interest, "will be added to you as well". Now, if you thought I was giving you a business lecture when I was reading Wikipedia article to you, you missed the whole point. Because what I'm saying here is that what can happen in the halls of justice, what can happen in a hospital, when you get the primary thing influenced by the secondary thing and the secondary thing becomes the primary thing and the primary thing gets edged out and the secondary thing gets screwed because when you don't keep first things first, everything falls apart. And Jesus is saying, beware of this conflict of interest.
Everybody say, "First things first". I know it's so simple but is so important because we sabotage ourselves when we lose sight of it. And that's what Paul is saying here. He says, hey, it's easier to serve God when you're single. Single people are winning in some categories. It's easier. Like, if you're single and you just want to give some money away if have money, you can money away. No conversation. No committee meeting. No kid's college fund to think about. But now, look, as a married man I'm responsible, because, the Bible tells me to provide for my own family. But the Bible also tells me to be generous with others. And now, I got a tension. I got a conflict of interest because I want to be generous towards others but I also want to be responsible with my family.
And sometimes, that's, kind of, hard to know where one ends and the other begins. And I don't have a verse for that. And it creates a conflict. But Paul says, "There's a present crisis in Corinth and because of the crisis I want you keep things simple". And it's not the crisis in Corinth that we're concerned about. It's the crisis and the conflict inside of us. He says, there's a conflict interest. See, I have this theory. I don't know if it's correct. I'll never get to test it. But I think if I could only have one calling, because we talk about marriage as a calling, and it is, but it's not the only calling you're going to have if you're married.
You're going to be called to be a husband then you might be called to be a dad, then you might be called to be a good employee and you might be called to be a good neighbor. You might be called to be a good soccer coach. Then you might be called, you know, to take care of your parents who took care of you. And you might be called... I feel like, I don't know, I never tested it, if I could just do one calling, I think I could rock it to death. I really do. I think I could blow your mind if I could just do one calling. I think I could blow Holly's mind if I only had to be her husband. I mean, I blow her mind a lot anyway, but, even more. I think I could be mind-blowingly good at being a husband.
Hey, back in Antiquity when the Bible was written, when the Old Testament was written, they had this thing where, a lot of time, the married men would get to take one year off work just to focus on learning how to please his wife. How many want to bring that back? The year of pleasure. The mandatory year of pleasure. That sounds amazing. Let's vote that in, can we? Do we know any congressmen? Can we do something about this? Anyone? Anyone? But I don't. I don't just have one calling. Like, I'm a Pastor. Okay. If being a Pastor meant all I had to do was preach, ho, ho, ho, you would listen to the podcast like you wouldn't even want to go the movies. The podcast would be so good if all I had to do was preach.
I would mind the depths of but, then "Chunks" comes in my office on Tuesday and starts telling me about this building and this thing and we got to do this thing. And it's all important but, like, if I could just, just preach. I'm blessed, man, as a Pastor. A lot of Pastor's have to run around. They don't have a really good staff. We have a great staff and they free me up to focus on what I'm called to do, the primary thing. But it's crazy how the secondary stuff just pushes it. And I have this theory, like, if I could just be a dad. Or I even think this about my kids sometimes, if I only had one of y'all. Not that I regret having any of my kids, usually, sometimes I do. But not that I regret it for a sustained period of time. But if I could just...
And so, I take them out one at a time because I'm so much better at it one at a time, because, I'm a man and we can't do all three of your needs at once. Like, I want you this week and you this week and you this week. And then, I'll do okay, maybe. And it would be great if I only had to do once. But now, I took Graham to the football game, so now I got to take Elijah to the arcade and Abby now wants a doughnut. And so, I'm just, I'm just, like, oh, if I could just... I all I had to do was be a good dad to one of you. I think I could really impress you. But I have many callings and my call... okay, so there's, like, conflict. There's conflict between the bad and the good but what about the good and the good? Can I preach?
So now, I'm wondering, like, okay, how much should I focus on my job and how many days a week should I travel because that's going to provide for my family but am I not providing for my family what they need in order to give them what I think they want. And it creates a conflict. It's complicated. Everybody say, "It's complicated". Just admit it. Marriage is complicated. Relationships are complicated. It is complicated to bring two people from two different backgrounds together. Well, we used to fry our turkey on Thanksgiving. My dad used to fry the turkey on Thanksgiving. On Christmas, we used to have lights that were wrapped the.... And the dude's looking at her, like, you knew I sucked at this stuff when you married me. Get your dad over here to hang the lights if it's such a big deal. Bring him on over.
And it creates a conflict. It's a conflict. Well, "we used to always"... and "my family"... and then, you're trying to figure all this out and you thought money was, you know, meant to be saved and she thought it was meant to be enjoyed or vise versa and it's just Paul's saying this, here's what he's saying, he's, like, it's complicated. So go ahead and declare it and maybe that will diffuse it just to acknowledge the complication. It's complicated. When you're single and your friend asks you to help him move, you can just say, "yes". But what if Saturday was supposed to be for your wife? Do you ever feel divided? Divided? Divided? Anybody feel divided? Anybody feel divided? Yeah. And Paul's acknowledging this.
So the other day, I took Graham, as I mentioned, to a football game. Graham is our 6-year-old who's about to be 7 who loves sports. Is always knocking something over with a ball. And I'm trying to treasure those lamps that he knocks over because I know that, you know, time is short. And one day I will long for broken glass on my kitchen floor, I'm sure. And so, I took him to a football game. We actually had a great time. He wanted to go see number 89 in purple and we did that. It was great and Graham is for about a sermon illustration a month. He'll just say the best, most perfect thing I can put in a sermon.
And he leans over to me during the Ravens game and he goes, "Daddy", they had just called a penalty for unnecessary roughness and he goes, "Daddy, I think unnecessary roughness is the dumbest penalty in football". And then, he goes, "Football is about roughness". Then he goes, "So it's always necessary". "It's never unnecessary". And then, I had to explain to him, no, like, yes, football is about roughness but there's a certain type of roughness that the players have to be protected from so they don't get their neck broken. So they're able to play this game. There is a certain amount of roughness. So I don't want to just stop with Paul saying, hey, it's complicated. It's always complicated. Because here's the thing, you can't always uncomplicate your life but you can uncomplicate your approach to life.
See, I want to talk to you secondly about unnecessary complication. And here's where I want to hurt your feelings for a moment. We have a million ways of complicating situations unnecessarily. We all do. In fact, raise your hand if you're in the unnecessary complication club where you know you're doing it and you feel yourself doing it and you feel everybody else around responding to you doing it. And so, you invited three people over but three turned 30 and now, you've got to wax the floors and you hate them as they're tracking in dirt to your house which you invited them to and you're sweeping underneath their feet as they're walking through your hallway and your cursing the day that you ever met them because it took you all week to get ready for this event that you organized in the first place that could have been simple but you turned it into a production.
And now, it's as if the camera crews are showing up any moment and your floors never get cleaned anyway because they're dark oak and so, you hate the people who... and you just, what did you just do? You just created a flag a play, an unnecessary complication. Touch somebody and say, "Unnecessary complication". Are you being unnecessarily complicated? I like what you preach to the staff ladies on Thursday. She did this thing with the staff and the spouses of staff. Holly does these teachings that are, kind of, off the record but they're... you should try to bootleg a copy of this if you can, if you know anybody on staff. But she talked about becoming an uncomplicated woman. And she said something that I thought was so powerful. She said, "I'm complex but that doesn't mean I have to be complicated".