Concerning the Unmarried - Page 8 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord,
This cannot be understood as a general statement, because not everyone that is unmarried “careth for the things of the Lord.” That is something that can only be said about those who are blessed to have the grace of God. When they are single, they have more leisure time available to use as they prefer; to pray, study the Bible, listen to preaching, and if they have the gift for it, they may sing in the choir, teach Sunday School, or involve themselves in many of the other ways men and women can serve God. The woman that is unmarried cares about spiritual things, the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. The unmarried woman, has more opportunities to partake of religious activities, and has fewer temptations to neglect her proper duty to God. Celibacy is not in itself a state of greater purity and sanctity than marriage; but the unmarried would be able to devote themselves to religion, because they would have fewer distractions from worldly cares. Mary and Martha were unmarried and lived with Lazarus, their brother. Martha was worried about fixing dinner for Jesus, while Mary just wanted to set at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me…And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things...But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42; KJV). What is the one thing needful? To Listen to Jesus! Isn’t that what we all should do?
that she may be holy both in body and in spirit:
She cannot have only a holy body, but her spirit must also be holy; because outward chastity, without internal holiness, will be of little benefit. That which is of the utmost importance is a close adherence (devotion, obedience, faithfulness) to the Lord, and to his worship and service, since that may be a means of preserving the body from external pollutions, and carrying on the internal work of grace upon the soul. That does not mean that unmarried persons are the only ones that are holy in body and spirit; there are some that are not holy in either body or spirit; and there are many married persons that are virtuous in their bodies, and possess their vessels in sanctification and honor, and are blessed with inward spiritual purity.
“Both in body and in spirit” means entirely holy; that she may be entirely devoted to God. Perhaps in her case the apostle mentions the "body," which he had not done in the case of the man, because her temptation would be principally in regard to that—the danger of decorating and adorning her person to please her husband.
But she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
“She may please her husband” in many ways, but not by coloring and styling her hair or by wearing costly jewelry, such as gold ear rings, and beautiful pearls; although this is all that some care about; but with good works, taking care of her household and family affairs, bringing up her children in an orderly manner, honoring and obeying her husband, doing everything to oblige him, and to engage his love and affection. This is not intended as criticism, only that this is her situation in life, and as a result she does not have the opportunities and advantages that the unmarried person has of serving the Lord. That is the reason the single life is represented as the most desirable lifestyle.
One must take care not to misconstrue the force of Paul’s argument here. It is not that he views the married life as less spiritual than the celibate life, but that the celibate life is less distracted by worldly cares. Hence, the single man or woman enjoys greater freedom, and has a greater potential in terms of service
Marriage often brings care along with it, and sometimes it brings more than at others. It is the constant desire of those in that relationship to please each other; although this is more difficult to do for some reasons, and in some cases, than in others.
The apostle undoubtedly means to empress upon us the dangers to personal piety that exists in the married life, which would not occur in a state of celibacy; and that the unmarried female would have greater opportunities for devotion and usefulness than if she were married. And he implies that the married female would be in danger of losing her zeal, and marring her piety, by giving most of her attention to her husband, and by a constant effort to please him. Some of the ways in which this might be done are the following:
1) As in the former case (see 1 Corinthians 7:33), her affection might be transferred from God to her husband.
2) Her time will be occupied by giving attention to him and doing his will; and there would be danger that that attention would be allowed to interfere with time allotted to prayer and Bible study.
3) Her time, by necessity, would be interrupted by the cares of a family; and therefore she should set aside a time (perhaps early morning, when everyone else is asleep) for secret communion with God.
4) Before she was married she may have been zealous for the Lord, and actively helping others, but now she uses her time to please her husband. Now she may have laid aside her zeal and no longer helps the needy, and she has little to distinguish her from others.
5) Her piety may be greatly injured by false notions of what should be done to please her husband. If he is a worldly and fashionable man, she may seek to please him by wearing "expensive jewelry." Instead of cultivating the ornament of "a meek and quiet spirit," her main wish may be to decorate her person, and render herself attractive by adorning her person rather than developing her mind.
6) If he is opposed to religion, or if he has liberal opinions on the subject, or if he is skeptical and worldly, she will be in danger of relaxing her personal views in regard to the strictness of Christianity, and she may become conformed to his ideas. She will become less interested in Church, the Bible, prayer-meeting, Sunday-school, Christian charity, and the doctrines of the gospel.
7) To please him, she will be found with the party-goers—joining clubs, entertaining, and being entertained—and she will forget that she has professed devotion to God only.
8) She is in danger, as the result of all of this: of forsaking her old religious friends, the humble and devoted friends of Jesus; and of keeping company only with the rich, the proud, and the worldly.
I wonder, how often does it become NECESSARY for God to step in, and to remove by death the object of the affection of his wandering child, and to clothe her in the black clothes of mourning, and to bathe her cheeks in tears, so that by the sadness of her loss she may be made better! Who can tell how many widows have been made such for this reason? Who can tell how much religion is injured by those who take away their affections from God?
Paul is making it very clear that the important thing is to put God first. That should be the determining factor for every person in a marriage relationship. I don’t care who you are or how spiritual you think you may be, if you are not putting God first in your marriage, then your marriage, my friend, is not the ideal Christian marriage.
35 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.
And this I speak for your own profit;
The apostle when giving the advice he did to unmarried persons—to remain single—had nothing in view that would demonstrate his apostolic authority or benefit him in any way; rather, he had nothing else in view than their secular and spiritual advantage. He wanted them to be better able to meet and grapple with persecution for the sake of the Gospel; that they might be freer from the cares and burdens of life, and more at liberty to serve the Lord. He desired for them to promote His glory, and that the Lord would bless them spiritually; that they would avail themselves of all their advantages and privileges, and pursue a course that would tend to advance their personal piety.
There is nothing within the text that might indicate that he thought that marriage was unlawful, or that the single life was a more sincere, and a more virtuous way of living, or that it was absolutely necessary and their duty to remain single. Everything he had said was meant to be simply advice; he had very skillfully laid before them the advantages and disadvantages of both states, and now he allows them the Christian liberty to do as they pleased; to take his advice, or not. And so Paul is able to say, “And this I speak for your own profit (advantage).” It is not that the apostle is trying to ensnare them, or mislead them; and he is not trying to contradict a divine ordinance. Rather, he is concerned about the distress which will surely accompany them should they become married.
Paul's personal preference is celibacy, but only for persons who were capable of it, and in certain circumstances, celibacy has always appealed to some in every age, who sought a more complete dedication, and it is not right to devalue such behavior. Shore pointed out that England's Queen Elizabeth I was one who made exactly the choice Paul recommended in these verses; although it was for a different purpose, nevertheless it served a high purpose. Elizabeth I declared that England was her husband and all Englishmen her children, and that she desired no higher character or fairer remembrance of her to be transmitted to posterity than this inscription engraved upon her tombstone: "Here lies Elizabeth, who lived and died a maiden queen.”