“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife. . . I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-33, 35, ESV)
Sometimes you can just become overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. It can get so bad that you might shut down in frustration, not knowing where to start. It is a problem of multiple priorities. While attending Drexel University in pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering, I remember having many semesters carrying 21 or more credits. The homework was overwhelming and when you added this to my commitment to the ROTC Rifle Team, Drill Time, and time I spent in leadership of the Cadet Corps, I did get somewhat overwhelmed.
I figured that when I graduated college and received my commission in the Army that things would improve. I got to my first unit assignment and the Company Commander laid a lot of responsibilities on me. So, I prioritized them. Then he wanted results on one of my perceived lower priorities. I told him that I had that on my priority list but there were other things higher. His response was, “Everything is priority number one.” I came to the realization that the number one priority was what ever the person in charge wanted.
Paul begins this section stating that he wanted his reader to be free from anxieties. Often, we get anxious when we have to divide our time between many important priorities. Paul had written to the church about the benefits of the single life. Here again refers to this indicating that every believer has concern for pleasing the Lord, but the married believer has another concern, to please the spouse. This is very true. The old adage goes, “Happy wife, Happy life.” The reverse is also true but it doesn’t rhyme, “Happy husband, happy life.” Just ask my wife.
Yes, marriage does add a significant priority to the couple, for each must consider how to please the other. This in addition to the believer’s heart’s desire to please the Lord. Unfortunately, it seems that in many cases the ability to please all parties may seem impossible. This is especially true when you have a couple that is unequally yoked, that is where one is a believer and the other is not.
Yet, this difficulty is not only limited to unequally yoked couples either. Often believing couples may not be on the same page in understanding and following God’s will. The man may sense the Lord directing the family in one direction and the wife in another. In this case, the division will cause much stress.
Paul concluded the paragraph with a word of encouragement and purpose. He stated, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you.” He wrote these things to profit the readers and not to hold them back. The phrase, “lay any restraint,” literally means to cast a noose upon, like a cowboy lassoing a calf. Believers were free to marry, but Paul believed it was better to be single. In Paul’s mind it was the difference between the better and the best. It was so the believer would experience full devotion to the Lord unhindered by other demands.
Yet, as we have seen, marriage is not forbidden and is advisable for most. For the married couple, they must understand that their number one priority is to the Lord individually and as a couple. This works when both the husband and the wife realize this and reach for the Lord together. the closer they are to the Lord, the stronger their devotion to him, the stronger their marriage will be.