1Co 7:32-35 “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”
It is important for us to realize that Paul is still continuing here with his advice and not something that he has received as a commandment from God (1Co 7:25). At no time should we read Paul’s counsel here as disparaging towards marriage or the ability of married couples to serve God. He is, however, making a clear point that serving God while single is simpler (without carefulness) than serving God when married.
When we are single, we do not have to keep in mind the plans of our spouse. If an unexpected opportunity arises to go to a church service, we do not need to check our schedule to be sure we have not made a promise to our spouse to do something with or for them during that time. Rather than having to stop and prepare a meal for the family, we can grab a drink and a pack of crackers and hit the road. We are not concerned with clearing our plans with anyone else.
Our care for the things of the world is not necessarily about having eyes filled with lust for the latest and greatest this world has to offer. However, as a single person we might be perfectly content with that little one bedroom apartment, even if it is showing some wear. Once married, we want to give our spouses something better. We men might find that old couch that Aunt Bessie was throwing away perfectly acceptable when single, but we want our wives to have something nicer, cleaner, and more comfortable.
Paul carefully points out that he is not trying to lay a trap for the saints. He is simply sharing his perspective that it is easier to serve God when we only have ourselves to think about, whether we are male or female. It is not just beneficial to God’s service. Having a time in our lives that we can be singularly devoted to the service of God is a great blessing to us as individuals, but remaining in that state may not be one of our gifts.
For those of us who are happily and thankfully married, we can find instruction here without feeling like Paul is belittling the marriage state. It is beneficial to marry a believer, and if not a believer, at least an unbeliever who is not opposed to our belief and labor in God’s kingdom (1Co 7:12-14). As a believing couple, we must agree to give each other the needed space for study, prayer, and meditation in God’s word. We need to always be aware of what He expects of us in the marriage union as well as what He expects of us in His service. If we are truly one flesh, we will find a way together to serve, love, and honor Him.
May God bless us with the realization that being blessed to be in married state does not mean we cannot serve Him well and faithfully, but that it will require a greater degree of determination and communion both with Him and with our beloved companions!