I Corinthians 7
The Lawfulness of Marriage and Its Duties (vs. 1-11)
corrupt; religion sanctioned and spread the prevalent moral corruption. No place was more
remarkable for the union between splendor and impurity. When a Christian community was
appear and threaten to corrupt the mass. Hence the tolerance of fornication and, in one case,
even of adultery and incest in this church. Apparently, some members of the church had
written Paul about the matter.
1 Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not
to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his
own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.” – (The question seems to
be “to marry or not to marry?” – CY – 2010) Paul is saying that neither state, the
wedded or non-wedded, is in itself more holy than the other. He assumes and
directs that all who marry should live in conjugal union. Marriage is an institution and a
relationship based upon the command of God – (Genesis 2:24) The Lord Jesus Christ
gave His blessing at a wedding (John 2:1-11) and repeats and sanctions the original
commandment as to the lawfulness and inviolability of marriage. (Matthew 19:4-12)
Also, marriage is the chosen analogue of the relation between Christ and His Church
(Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:6-9. 3 Let the husband render unto the wife due
benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not
power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not
power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be
with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and
come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” In marriage
the sensuous impulse, by being controlled and placed under religious sanctions is refined
and purified from a degradation into a sacrament. Instead of being any longer the source
of untold curses to mankind, it becomes the condition of their continuance and an element in
their peace, because it is then placed under the blessing of God and of his Church.
(Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:15-21) Marriage is not a capricious union, but a holy bond.
“They two” become “one flesh.” (Wouldn’t it be great if every marriage could say,
“If two were ever one, then we!” – in our sexually oriented society saturated with
sensuality everywhere, believe you me, Satan will “tempt you for your incontinency” –
ajkrasi>an, — ak-ras-ee’-an; - want of sel-frestraint: excess, incontinency - CY – 2010)
6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.” All that Paul here says
of marriage is in answer to some communication which the Church had addressed to him
On the subject, and what he says he declares is not “of commandment,” that is, not by
Divine authority, but by “permission.” So desirous did he seem to be that all he says on
this subject should be regarded as coming from himself without any command of God, that
he declares it not only in the sixth verse, but also in the twenty-fifth verse, in which he says,
“I have no commandment of the Lord.” 7 For I would that all men were even as I
myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and
another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for
them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: (compare
I Timothy 5:14) – “for it is better to marry than to burn.” The original tenses give greater
force and beauty to this obvious rule of Christian common sense and morality. The “marry”
is in the aorist (past tense) “to marry once for all,” and live in holy married union; the “burn”
is in the present — “to be on fire with concupiscence.” Marriage once for all is better
than continuous lust; the former is permitted, the latter sinful. 10 And unto the married
I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart (by divorce or otherwise)
from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be
reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.”
ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 1-11)
AFFECTIONS OF HUMAN NATURE IN THOSE WHOM IT UNITES.
There is no institution which so emphatically strikes at the very root of selfishness.
The man is weaned away from the too common practice of self gratification; the
woman has called forth all the latent affection and devotion of her being; and the
family becomes the sphere of self denial and self sacrifice, of mutual forbearance
and helpfulness. That such is always the case is not asserted; but such is the proper,
and to a very large extent the actual, tendency of this institution. True, there are those
among the unmarried who cherish love which animates them to many labors; but
there is no room for comparison between the virtues of the married and the
unmarried, inasmuch as, amongst men, those who shrink from marriage usually
do so avowedly to escape serious obligations and to indulge unbridled desires.
BEST AID TO VIRTUE. Paul seems to have admitted the contention of his
Corinthian correspondents, that in some cases it was expedient to avoid marriage,
and that such a course might be admirable in the passionless and peculiarly spiritual.
But what in modern English is called “common sense” was very strong in the apostle,
and he gives a very plain reason for a very plain precept. In the presence of the
are few and pungent. And whilst human nature is what it is, his counsels will hold
good, and those of superfine and ascetic moralists will be discredited by the
facts of human life.
AND THE PROSPERITY OF THE CHURCH. The family is the true unit
in human society, and the enemy of marriage is the enemy of humanity.
It is in the family that virtuous and honorable citizens are bred and reared, and
there principles are instilled which are at the foundation of national stability.
And the old saying is equally true, that by marriage heaven itself is replenished.
It is hence that the Church draws its members and its officers; it is here that the
natural life and the eternal life are alike commenced and nurtured.
Directions about Mixed Marriages (vs. 12-16)
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that
believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased
to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified
(the bond is still holy; its holiness rests in the believing wife or husband) by the wife, and the
unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but
now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a
sister is not under bondage in such cases: - Our Lord assumes only one cause alone –
unfaithfulness – (Matthew 19:9) – “but God hath called us to peace.” - rather, in
peace. Peace is to be the sphere
in which the calling comes, and in which it issues.
in his ‘Tetrachordon,’ quotes Maimonides to the effect that “divorce was permitted by
Moses to preserve peace in marriage and quiet in the family.” Similarly, a voluntary
separation might be the only possible means of preserving moral peace where the
union was between souls separated from each other by so vast a gulf as those of a
pagan and a Christian. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save
thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?
ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 12-16)
the most solemn, whose temperaments, beliefs, tendencies, tastes, and habits are
soon found to be so antipathetic as to produce nothing but constant quarrellings
and mutual miseries, are they to “abide” in that state? If Paul means this, we
cannot accept his counsel, for such unions are not marriages at all. But he does
not mean that, for in the fifteenth and other verses of this chapter he seems to
authorize a separation. “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother
or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Chain two vessels together on
the ocean, allowing them to be some yards or even feet apart, and in the storm
they will soon tear themselves to pieces and go down into the depths. But if you
so rivet them together that the twain will be one, they will be mutual helps, and
they will stand the tempest. So in marriage, unless the two souls are so tightly
riveted or clasped together by the strongest mutual affection, it is better to
separate. If they are only joined by a chain forged by civil or ecclesiastical law,
the speedier that chain is snapped asunder the better for both. Philanthropy is
justified in promoting the divorce of such, and in this age methinks, it will find
plenty of this merciful work to do.
There were several obvious and powerful reasons why a Christian husband
or wife should not leave a partner who was married in days when both were
unbelievers, and who had not experienced conversion from heathenism or
Judaism to Christianity. And to some extent the same reasons hold good when
one has passed from merely nominal to real and spiritual Christianity.
ü An obligation has been undertaken from which only flagrant immorality
can liberate either party.
ü Children may have been born during the union, whose welfare depends
upon its continuance.
ü Affection may have sprung up which it would be a cruel outrage to
suspend or check. And then, in addition, there is the reason given in the
ü The continuance of the union may make the Christian husband or wife
the minister of spiritual blessing to the “unconverted” consort.
THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. The standard of moral excellence
presented in the Word of God is indeed singularly high and admirable. But
morality in a book is one thing, morality embodied in the life is quite
another thing, Morality proclaimed from a pulpit is far less impressive than
morality speaking from the domestic hearth. There are such virtues as
truth, meekness, pity, patience, and charity, which are peculiarly Christian;
and the exhibition of these is likely to lead to the inquiry — Whence come
these traits of character? What is the secret of a life so different from the
life of the selfish and the ungoverned? How many a husband has been won
to Christ, beholding in his Christian wife a “a chaste conversation coupled
with fear”! (I Peter 3:2)
MAY BE EXERCISED BY ONE PRAYERFULLY SOLICITOUS FOR THE
SALVATION OF A SPOUSE. Who can know, unmoved, that a dear consort
is seeking his spiritual welfare? There is a tone imparted to the intercourse of daily
life by the habit of intercessory prayer. And there is a dignity, a gentleness, a
spirituality, of manner and of language, which cannot escape the observation of such
as are associated in the tenderest intimacies of life. There is no desire and prayer so
all penetrating and all influential, as the desire and prayer for the spiritual and
eternal welfare of those who are nearest and dearest, united by the most
sacred and endearing of earthly ties.
EXPRESS INSTRUCTION AND PERSUASION WHICH MAY ISSUE
IN SPIRITUAL GOOD. In many instances it may be unwise to make a special
and formal effort to convince and to persuade; it may be better to leave religion to
tell its own tale and do its own work. But cases do occur in
makes an opening for an effort.
quoting: “The verse so understood has probably conduced to the frequent instances
of the conversion of unbelieving husbands by believing wives. Even the stern severity
of Chrysostom relaxes in its presence into the declaration, ‘that no teacher has
such an effect in conversion as a wife,’ and this passage, thus interpreted,
had a direct influence on the marriage of Clotilde
Bertha with Ethelbert, and consequently on the subsequent conversion of
great kingdoms of
There are few Christian ministers who from their own observation could
not tell of similar instances in lowlier life, where God has blessed the influence
of wife to husband, or of husband to wife, so that they have become heirs together
of the grace of life. (I Peter 3:7) Whilst, on the one hand, the mere hope of
exercising such influence should never lead a man or a woman to marry an unbeliever,
on the other hand, when unequal unions have been formed, (II Corinthians 6:14) the
possibility opened up in this verse should lead to wise and affectionate effort, and to
earnest and unwearying prayer.
Corroborative Instances of the Duty of Remaining in the Marital State
Wherein Each was Called (vs. 17-24)
17 But - literally, if not. The phrase introduces a caution. The rule is that the circumstances
of our lives are regulated by the providence of God, and must not be arbitrarily altered at
our own caprice. Christ allotted His portion to each Christian, God hath called each man;
that lot and that call are to guide his life – “as God hath distributed to every man, as the
Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” Paul
proceeds to give specific instances to which this rule applies. 18 Is any man called being
circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision?
let him not be circumcised.” The early fortunes of Christianity had been almost
shipwrecked by the attempt of Jewish rigorists to enforce this odious bondage on the
Gentiles, and their deliverance from it had been due almost solely to Paul. It was his
inspired insight which had swayed the decision of the
and at a later period his Epistle to the Galatians was the manifesto of Gentile
emancipation. He proved that after Christ’s death “circumcision” (peritomh>, —
per-it-om-ay’) became to Gentiles a mere physical mutilation (katatomh>, —
kat-at-om-ay’; concision – [Philippians 3:2]; a contemptuous term for the Jewish
circumcision with its Judaistic influence, in contrast to the true spiritual circumcision of
the heart! 19 Circumcision is nothing” - The Jews regarded it as everything;
and to make this assertion at so early an epoch of Christian history, required all the courage
of Paul, and proved his grand originality. He was the first to prove to the Jews that
circumcision had become a thing intrinsically indifferent, which might, under some circumstances,
be desirable (as in the ease of Timothy), but could never be reckoned among essentials (for
salvation) – “and uncircumcision is nothing” - were, the liberty which it had cost him
endless peril and anguish to achieve. Each time he concludes it with a weighty clause to show
what is everything: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the
keeping of the commandments of God” (v. 19); “... but faith which worketh by love”
(Galatians 5:6); “... but a new creation” (ibid. 6:15) - “but the keeping of the
commandments of God.” So John says, “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if
we keep His commandments.” – (I John 2:3) 20 Let every man abide in the same
calling wherein he was called. 21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it:”
Do not be troubled by the fact, because in Christ “there is neither bond nor free”
(Galatians 3:28), and because earthly freedom is as nothing in comparison with the
freedom which Christ gives (John 8:36) – “but if thou mayest be made free, use it
rather.” The words may mean:
interpretation is the fact that there is nothing extravagant or fantastic in
Christian morality; and that, considering what ancient slavery was — how
terrible its miseries, how shameful and perilously full of temptations were
its conditions — it sounds unnatural to advise a Christian slave to remain a
slave when he might gain his freedom. Yet the other interpretation, remain
a slave by preference, seems to be required by the language.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman:
likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” Clearly the entire
bearing of this verse favors the view which we have taken of the previous verse.
“Christ’s servant” - The sharp antithesis of this verse was often present to the mind
of the early Christians. They knew that the bondage of Satan was so crushing
that mere earthly bondage was, in comparison, as nothing; and that the liberty
wherewith Christ has made us free, though it might seem to take the form of service,
was the sole perfect freedom. The freedmen of sin are the most hopeless slaves;
the servants of God alone are free (see Romans 6:22; II Timothy 2:26; I Peter 2:16).
23 Ye are bought with a price” - rather, ye were bought, namely, by Christ; and
the price paid for you was his blood and that purchase was the pledge of
ABSOLUTE EMANCIPATION - (see I Corinthians 6:20; I Peter 1:18-19).
“be not ye the servants of men. 24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is
called, therein abide with God.”
Advice for the Unmarried (vs. 25-40)
25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my
judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. 26 I suppose
therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man
so to be. 27 Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed
from a wife? seek not a wife. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and
if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the
flesh: but I spare you. 29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short:” (the main
theme of this web site) - literally, the season has been contracted; in other words,
“The end of all things is at hand” (I Peter 4:7). The word sunestalmenov -
sunestalmenos cannot mean “disastrous.” The verb is used for “folding up” in Acts 5:6).
The reading and punctuation are here uncertain. The best reading seems to be “The time
has been shortened henceforth, in order that,” etc. The very object of the hastened
end is that Christians should sit loose to earthly interests –“ it remaineth, that both they
that have wives be as though they had none. 30 And they that weep, as though
they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy,
as though they possessed not” - Earthly sorrow and joy and wealth are things which
are merely transient and unreal when compared with the awful, eternal, permanent realities
which we shall all soon have to face. 31 And they that use this world, as not abusing it:”
rather, as not using it to the full — not draining dry the cup of earthly advantages (compare
ch.9:18). Like Gideon’s true heroes, we must not fling ourselves down to drink greedily of
the river of earthly gifts, but drink them sparingly, and as it were with the palm of the hand -
“for the fashion of this world passeth away.” - So John says, “The world passeth away,
and the lust thereof” (I John 2:17). It is but as the shifting scene of a theatre, or as a melting
vapour (James 4:14). 32 But I would have you without carefulness.” - If they were
“overcharged... with cares of this life,” the day of the Lord might easily “come upon them
unawares” (Luke 21:34). He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the
Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things
that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” Paul’s opinions here are, as he tells
us, opinions only, and admit of many modifications. In Paul’s later Epistles he does not revert
to this advice, but assumes that marriage is the normal condition. 34 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” - (divided interests) -
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.
36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin” - The
word “uncomeliness” is terribly illustrated in Romans 1:27 - “if she pass the flower of her
age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry.
37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but
hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his
virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that
giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 39 The wife is bound by the law as long as
her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to
whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my
judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God.”
The Shortness of Time (vs. 29-31)
ü “The time is shortened.” The apostle seems to have in view the coming
of Christ, of which the troubles of the time appeared to be the harbingers.
Any day the “sign of the Son of man” might be seen in the heavens, so
brief was the interval. Long centuries have rolled away since then, and the
strained eyes of the Church have not yet beheld that sign. Still, the
utterance of the apostle is not mistaken. Though the horizon that bounded
his vision has been widening with the ages, the time is still short. For us the
practical truth is that our life span here is brief, whether its boundary be the
Lord’s coming to us or our going to Him.
Ø The time is short as compared with other periods. Brevity is a relative
thing, according to the standard of measurement. The present average
of human life is brief compared with the limit of “three score years
and ten;” (Psalm 90:10) - this term is brief compared with that of
the antediluvians; the years of Methuselah are but an handbreadth
compared with the duration of the earth; and this again is as nothing
compared with eternity. LIFE SEEMS LONG IN PROSPECT,
SHORT IN RETROSPECT. “Few and evil have the days and
years of my life been” was Jacob’s testimony (Genesis 47:9) and
is ever the old man’s plaint.
Ø The time is short as compared with our life task. Every true ideal of life
seems to mock the little space we are given to reach it. “Art is long and
time is fleeting.” We learn little more than the alphabet of knowledge.
We have but placed a few stones on the building when our work day is
over, and we leave the structure to be completed by others. What can
we accomplish in one short life for the perfecting of our Christian
manhood, the extension of Christ’s kingdom, the redemption of our
fellow men? But let us not either lower our ideal within attainable limits
or fold our hands in despair. The true work of this life, stripped of its
temporary form, is carried over into the life to come and continued there.
ü “The fashion of this world passeth away?” (v. 31). It is like a scene in
a theatre — vanishing while you gaze on it.
Ø This is true of external nature. All is in a condition of flux; there is
nothing permanent. The face of the earth, the boundaries of sea and
land, even the everlasting hills, — all have changed and are changing.
And at last, when the day of the Lord comes, “the earth and the
works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).
Ø This is true of human life.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.”
(‘As You Like It,’ act 2, sc. 5.)
Within a single lifetime what changes do we see! Nations rise and fall;
governments come and go; public men play their parts and then pass
out of sight. How few of the friends of our youth and manhood remain
with us till old age! New actors are ever coming on the stage and the
old disappearing. The customs of society, modes of living, the whole
environment of life, are like so many shifting scenes.
Ø This is true of ourselves. The seven ages (see reference above) are the
seven acts of our little life drama; and each successive age brings its
characteristic habits of mind. Standing amid all this transitoriness, where
nothing is stable and abiding, we need to hold by the Unchanging in
order to keep our balance. (The hardest lesson in life has been
“there is change” – thus the hope of heaven – a land in which we
will never grow old and God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the
Holy Spirit – the same world without end – CY – 2010)
been shortened that we may sit loosely to all earthly things. Their
temporary character is to be remembered in all our relations to them. This
is illustrated in several particulars.
ü The married life. “That those that have wives may be as though they
had none.” The apostle does not say that celibacy is a more spiritual
condition than marriage. There is no asceticism in his teaching here or
elsewhere. The married are to be as the unmarried, remembering that
marriage is one of those things that are passing away. While loving
husband and wife, we are not to forget that the time is short. This stage
of existence is but preparatory to another, where “they neither marry
nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).
ü Sorrow. “Those that weep, as though they wept not?” Tears are not
forbidden to the Christian. This is no stoical precept, bidding us refrain
from weeping as inconsistent with our dignity. Grief is human, and all that
is purely human Christianity encourages. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The liker we are to Him, the more tender of heart, the mere sympathetic
shall we become. But we are to weep remembering that the time is short.
Sorrow also is transitory. It must not master us or break our hearts.
Whatever touches the spring of tears — bereavement, loss, pain, the
sufferings of others — belongs to the temporary condition of things.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”
(Psalm 30:5); “And he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,”
(Revelation 21:4). Therefore weep as though you wept not.
ü Joy. “Those that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not.” Christianity does
not frown upon earthly happiness. It is the part of Satan to represent the
religious life as one of gloom, and the teaching of some Christians gives
color to the falsehood. Nature, literature, the arts, society, domestic
fellowship, — all may pour their tributaries into the stream of our gladness.
None should enjoy God’s world like God’s own child. But here the
tempering thought comes in — “The time is short.” Even this is not our
highest joy, for it springs from a source that will soon be dried up. The
“joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8) belongs to the region of
faith, and flows from those things which faith alone apprehends. Apply this
to amusements. Pure and wholesome entertainments are to be encouraged,
especially for the young. But whatever will not bear the thought of the
brevity of life is not good for a Christian. The believer moderates his joy
with the thought that “the Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5)
ü Possessions. “Those that buy, as though they possessed not.”
Christians are not forbidden to engage in trade or merchandise with a view
to the acquisition of property. Every lawful calling is open to them. They
are not prohibited from possessing wealth. The real question is — What
place has it in the heart? Earthly possessions are to be held under the
recollection that they belong to a transitory state of things. The man of
substance is to sit loosely to what he possesses, not forgetting that “the
things which are seen are temporal” (II Corinthians 4:18).
ü The use of the world. “Those that use the world, as not abusing it.”
All that God gives us of this world is to be used as ministering to our need.
The thing to be guarded against is the wrong use of it. It is to be our
servant, not our master. God has put it under our feet (Psalm 8:6), and
we must keep it there. We abuse the world
Ø if we seek it as the chief good of life, or
Ø if we use it so as to hurt or hinder our spiritual life.
(May we be like Philip Henry, Matthew Henry’s father, who was known for
praying “Lord, help me to be ready to leave this world or to be left!”)
Religion and Business (v. 24)
The apostle, in this and the connected chapters, is giving to the Corinthian Christians a
variety of counsels respecting the various relationships of life which they were called to
sustain. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which brings its influence first to bear on the individual,
next exerts its power on the family and social relations; and we can well understand how,
in those early days, a number of serious practical questions would arise and demand
consideration. One of these questions concerned the condition of servitude, serfdom, in
which many of the early converts were placed. The apostle points out that personal religion
is independent of calling or of social position. Whatever our earthly lot may be, we can be
truly godly as we fulfil it; and Paul recommends that every one should continue in the
business which he happened to be pursuing when the grace of God came to him,
provided it was an honest and honorable business. His one counsel is that, whatever may
be their place or their work, they should therein abide with God, in fellowship with God,
in obedience to the will of God, in openness to the leadings of the Spirit of God, and in
reliance upon the daily strength of God. Regarding the text in this light, it may direct us to
consider the practical influence of Christianity on a man’s business. We dwell on three points.
§ Religion is above business.
§ Religion comes into business.
§ Religion must not be lost in business.
RELIGION IS ABOVE BUSINESS. “Seek ye first the
and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) “What shall it profit a man if he
gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
ü Religion is above business in its character. Its interests are different; its
aims are different; its prevailing spirit is different and nobler. It is the
heavenly occupation and the heavenly spirit.
ü Religion is above business in its demands. Business calls for the exercise
of mind and skill; it asks the culture of our bodily powers — it develops
skill of hand, promptness of judgment, keenness of insight, and
perseverance in effort. It goes even further than this, and calls out certain
moral qualities, the more simple and natural qualities, such as honesty,
integrity, diligence, and truthfulness. But religion demands more, even
purity, unselfishness, a fine consideration for the well being of others,
rightness of motive, and the inspiration of a supreme purpose to glorify
God. Business does not touch the affections. Yet we are only cold,
grasping, self seeking creatures, if life and conduct are not toned by
affections; and the religion which purifies and nourishes our affections
must be above business.
ü Religion is above business in its issues. Business results are a certain
measure of worldly comfort in our home, a share of the pleasures which
the world can afford, and a position of respect and influence among our
fellow men. What more than this can the most successful business bring? It
wins nothing that can go through the “great gates” with us. “For we
brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry
nothing out” – (I Timothy 6:7) Its issues have rather to do with quantity
than with quality; they are bounded by life, and have no out teachings into
eternity. Religion is above it, since “godliness hath both the promise of
the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (ibid. 4:8)
Religion shines down on common life all the golden rays that make the
beauty of the present prospect, and it assures us that all it can shed now are
but a few scattered rays of an “exceeding and eternal weight of glory,”
(II Corinthians 4:17) which will shine forever on the “good and faithful
than business, it claims to take it up into its grasp and glorify it, breathing
its own noble spirit into all business relations. Some men do not hesitate to
say that religion and business occupy separate spheres. Ward Beecher says,
“How hateful is that religion which says, ‘Business is business, and politics
are politics, and religion is religion’! Religion is using everything for God.
But many men dedicate business to the devil, and shove religion into the
cracks and crevices of time, and make it the hypocritical out-crawling of
their leisure and laziness.”
ü Religion comes into business as a new force, nourishing diligence.
William Jay used to say that Christian tradesmen ought to be the best
tradesmen, and Christian servants should be the best servants, and he
would sometimes quaintly add, “There’s many a good woman who is not
a good washer woman.’
ü Religion comes as a Divine help in bearing disappointment and loss.
Many by the troubles of business life are made reckless and hard. It is a
great tiring that religion, in a world where “man is born to trouble,”
(Job 5:7) should help us to suffer well.
ü Religion comes into business to elevate our standards of honesty and
uprightness. We need not affirm that integrity is only connected with
religion; but we may fully admit that the high standards are maintained by
religion, and that it stands foremost among the forces that preserve
ü And religion comes into business as a spirit tempering business
relations. It makes men more gentle, considerate, and gracious towards
others; and elevates the tone of masterhood and servanthood, establishing
mutual helpfulness as the ruling feature in all relationships.
ü By excess of ambition and exertion preventing due attention to religious
duties and personal culture (see II Timothy 2:4).
ü By the wealth getting spirit spoiling the Christian spirit. Illustrate by our
Lord’s saying, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of heaven!” (Luke 18:24)
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