29 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.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
If you haven’t bought into this already you may have missed a big opportunity. It is worth more than twenty times what it was worth at the beginning of 2017. You can’t hold it in your hand, but to the right person it is very valuable. It’s the bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency. For some people, this relatively new form of currency is the future, for others, metal coins in a jar in the family safe will never go out of style. The bitcoin buzz has been all over the media, so it must be something important that we all need to put high on our priority list to understand and perhaps even buy into.
There were no bitcoins in the Roman Empire during the 1st century. When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to Corinth, he did not pay for the message to be delivered with an app on his phone. The world of Paul and the 1st century Christians in Corinth did not have to worry about bitcoins or cryptocurrency, but they did have questions for Paul about what they need to be spending their time on in their lives. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he responded to their questions by reminding them to Invest Your Time Wisely.
The short section of Scripture from our second lesson in 1 Corinthians 7 doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Christian life. If we are to take what Paul wrote in these few verses as the gold standard for Christian life, then all of our lives should look something like this…we are all single, not sad, but not happy, renters with a nonchalant attitude toward everything in our lives. If that were the case, then the Millennial generation is on the right track…that was a joke. What Paul wrote in these verses was not the gold standard for Christian life, but they come in a long response to questions from the new converts to Christianity in Corinth trying to understand what their new life in Christ needed to look like.
The Corinthians were wondering what they were supposed to be doing with their lives now that they believed in Jesus and were waiting for his second coming. From what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we understand that they were struggling with questions about marriage, sexuality, money, lawsuits, what to eat and many more issues. Paul’s response addressed each question they had and a few more they didn’t ask about. His letters to the Corinthians are some of the longest letters he wrote, but his many applications can be summed up by the principle he wrote in 7:29.
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.
All Christians live by the principle that Jesus can return at any time, in other words we live as though we only have a short time left in this world. All believers are encouraged to live in a constant state of readiness, waiting to see the clouds open and the angelic trumpets sound as Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. The principle is simple, but living it is difficult.
The struggle to live in a constant state of readiness for Christ’s return affects all of us because we have so many things that take up time in our lives. We all have to wrestle with the question of marriage, who to marry, what age to get married, should we have kids, can we have kids, who takes care of the kids, who works, why are men the way they are, why is it impossible to know what a woman is thinking and some people wonder if getting married is worth it.
On top of marriage, there are a host of other things to occupy our time. There are things that make us sad like bad news about a huge cold front bringing freezing temperatures to Texas or news that a good friend is moving away. Things that make us happy like enjoying a good meal or going on vacation. Things that we need to make sure we have every day like food and transportation or things that we want like a bigger flat screen or a pool. All of these things occupy our time. Some of them are good for us and we need them, others may be bad for us and we wish we didn’t have to deal with them.
When it comes down to it, we need to spend our time on good investments. A good investment is an investment in something that lasts. If we spend half an hour in the drive through line deciding what to order, then we are wasting a lot of time on something that we won’t remember ordering a week later. On the other hand, if we meet someone nice on a first date and the next day decide to fly to Las Vegas to get married, then we have not spent enough time on an investment meant to last a lifetime. We can spend our whole life working to invest our time in the right things, but there is one investment that will outlast them all, Jesus.
When we live under the principle that the time is short until Jesus returns, then we will make time for Jesus each day of our lives. Making time for Jesus amid all the other things in our lives can be a struggle. It may be hard for us to picture leading a balanced life with Jesus first and all our other priorities second to him, but we do not have to become nuns or monks to have Jesus as number one in our hearts nor do we put Jesus in a box we only open on a few Sunday mornings each month.
Paul wrote under the principle that all believers need to invest their time wisely because “this world in its present form is passing away.”
When a believer loses focus on Christ, they risk being lost with the rest of the world. What Paul is really saying in these verses is that a person who does not have Christ at the center of their marriage, remember him when times are good or bad and treat their earthly possessions as treasures they are amassing for their own little kingdom will be very disappointed on the day they die or the day Christ returns because all of those things will fade away. Everything we have in this world has been given to us by God for our time in this world, but the short time we spend here will pale in comparison to our time in heaven.
Ever since Adam and Eve plunged mankind into the darkness of sin, this world has no longer been the paradise God intended it to be and our lives have been cut short. The shadows of the great things God wanted us to enjoy in this world still endure like marriage, happy times, work, food and material goods, but now they also tempt us to spend all our time worry about them, rather than spend our time using them to serve God.
Jesus freed us from our obsession with this world by giving us a new life. Through our Savior Jesus, we have been born again as a new creation. We no longer live to serve ourselves or the things of this world, but to live eagerly expecting Jesus to come and bring us to live with him in heaven. In heaven, we will finally be free from things that disappoint us, get old, break and hurt us. In heaven, our relationships will be joyful, faithful and loving all the time. In heaven, we will finally stand in the presence of God and there will be no more waiting to enjoy all good things.
And again, our new life in Christ is not something that we wait for as nuns and monks nor do the blessings of having a new life in Christ only wait for us in heaven. When Jesus called some of his first disciples in our gospel lesson from Mark 1, he told them that
“The time has come,”… “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Jesus’ call to the first disciples was specific, they were to follow Jesus and share the gospel. They would follow him until he died, they would serve as eye witnesses to the resurrection and they would share the message as leaders and missionaries in the early Christian church. Our callings are different, but we have the same message to share and we can share the message by living our faith as Paul said toward the end of 1 Corinthians 7,
“live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
You can live in undivided devotion to the Lord by remembering to invest your time wisely. Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, you can invest your time in prayer, in reading your Bible and by going to church. These are wise ways to invest your time and in doing so, someone may notice. One of those people who notices may ask why you believe or even join you at church. One of those people who notices and ask, may someday even come to faith. Either way, you have invested your time wisely by putting the Lord first and trusting him to work out the benefits.
When you experience moments in life that make you sad, you can make it through by placing your hope in the Lord. Some may see you getting through your sadness and believe you are a strong enough person to get through it. Others, may see your sadness and realized that it has not affected your faith. You may even have someone see your sadness and realize it is your faith that gets you through the sad times and ask what you believe in. God may work through your sadness then to bring someone to hear about Jesus.
You may experience many good times in your life, be able to buy all that you want and be the envy of others around you, but all the while you give can thanks to God recognizing he gives and he takes away. As believers, we must remember that they time is short and whatever we have or lack in this world will be taken away from us. There is only one thing that will remain and it is not the bitcoin.
Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians guided by the Holy Spirit who knows the time is short and the things of this world will pass away. Therefore, whether we are married, mournful, happy, wealthy or poor, there is one thing we must hold onto, Jesus. He has freed us from the things of this world by giving us hope in a new life in heaven. And while we wait for him to come back, we get to have him in our lives to give us hope when things go bad and to give him thanks when things go well. Invest Your Time Wisely and spend it with the Lord. Amen.