29 “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.”
Paul addresses five contingencies of Christians living under distress:
Those in sorrow
Those in joy
Those using the world
But this I say, brethren, the time is short,
The Greek word “time” refers to a fixed period, an appointed time. That appointed time is short (literally, contracted). Life is short as a vapor (James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24), and this is especially true in times of duress. Marriage can encroach on time we have for the Lord. Every day we live, our allotted time on earth is shortened.
So that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none,
In times of duress, it is better for husbands to live as if they do not have wives. In a time of crisis, husbands and wives must focus on the Lord. Marriage can be a distraction in times of trouble. Distraction is the test. Pain may be a distraction; joy may be a distraction. Someone said, “Two can live as cheaply as one.” Yes, that is true, but they can live only half as long! The believer is to transcend outward circumstances or even relationships. Thus, the marriage state is bound to time and is transient.
those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice,
Also, in times of trouble, believers must put their emotions into perspective and poise. Paul’s point is not that we should be emotionless or indifferent to emotions but that we should orient our thinking with a sense of toughness. A mature Christian does not unravel under duress. The point is that even legitimate areas may hinder our Christian life under certain circumstances. We need to beware that even legitimate functions of life do not hinder our use of time. Never let the good overtake the best.
Those who buy as though they did not possess,
The business world is affected by troublous times. Business must be put in abeyance in a spiritual crisis. Our business is a trust and not a personal property. We are stewards of God’s possessions. Of what use is a new suit in a casket?
and those who use this world as not misusing it.
There are times when we cannot take full advantage of normal functions in the world. God expects us to use the world but not abuse it. God does not want us to become hermits or religious recluses. The believer is in the world but not of the world. The ship should be in the sea but not the sea in the ship. The Christian should take advantage of the world but not let the world take advantage of the believer. We march to a different drumbeat. The word “misusing” means to overuse, use to excess. We can overuse business or marriage, or any other field of life in a crisis.
For the form of this world is passing away.
The word “form” means fashion, manner of life, mode of life. The outward appearance of the world is passing away. The fashion of this world is not permanent but is transient and temporary. Marriage is not permanent. There is more to life than purchasing a beautiful house or retirement.
When in crisis, we need a radical perspective about proper priorities in life.
None of the areas of life Paul talks about in this passage is intrinsically bad, but they must be addressed differently in special circumstances. Pressure affects all human relations. There are circumstances in which our view of time changes radically. In these periods, we need a new perspective whereby normal aspects of life are put into a different hierarchy. Pleasing the Lord becomes all-consuming. We are more concerned about making a life than making a living. The issue is not to neglect the daily responsibilities of life but to put those issues in proper focus. We need to learn to hold what we have loosely.
1 John 2:17, And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Paul said, “This one thing I do.” That is concentration of purpose formed out of eternal perspective. The church persecuted is the church pure, and the church popular is the church polluted.