Questions From Readers
● What is meant by Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:29, “Let those who have wives be as though they had none”?
The apostle Paul’s inspired admonition is part of a discussion recommending singleness as the better course, for the reason that it permits the Christian to be in “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Cor. 7:32-35) The advice for husbands to be ‘as though they had no wives’ therefore must relate to serving Jehovah God with full devotion.
Many married people conduct their affairs as if their marriage were the only important thing in life. They are so concerned about pleasing their mates that spiritual things, if not ignored completely, are at least neglected. The Christian husband, though, appreciates that his relationship with God must come first in his life. He must live wholeheartedly to Jehovah. (Rom. 14:8) His love for God must be no less exclusive than that of those who are single. Regardless of what might develop, he should not permit his marriage to interfere with his rightful service to God as a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. This would be in harmony with Jesus’ words: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate [love to a lesser degree] his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:26; compare Matthew 10:37.
Paul’s counsel should not be understood to mean that Christian husbands are to ignore their wives, treating them as if they did not exist. To the contrary, Paul instructed Christians at Ephesus: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:28, 29) So a Christian husband should not neglect his marital responsibilities. At all times, however, he ought to follow Paul’s counsel by building his whole life around his relationship with God. He should not make his marriage his whole life but should see to it that, as far as possible, his marriage contributes to his relationship with God.
The admonition given by the apostle Paul should also be viewed in the light of the hope entertained by those to whom he wrote. The ones addressed (husbands, wives, as well as single persons) were spirit-anointed Christians who had set before them the prospect of being united with the Lord Jesus Christ in the heavens following their death and resurrection. Hence, all earthly bonds and attachments, including marital ties, would eventually come to a complete end, never to be resumed. No earthly sorrows, joys or possessions would accompany them to heaven. Since they would have to leave everything of an earthly nature behind, they should not permit such things to take on undue importance in their life.
Then, too, even during the time of their life on earth, things would not necessarily remain the same. As the apostle Paul pointed out: “The scene of this world is changing.” So it was unwise for Christians to become unduly attached to relationships and possessions that were not permanent. Were they to do so, their losing a wife, a friend or even material possessions could lead to their becoming so discouraged as to giving up their precious relationship with God.—1 Cor. 7:30, 31.
Today servants of Jehovah God who hope to gain life on earth can also benefit from Paul’s inspired admonition. In their case, too, earthly possessions and relationships are not permanent. Time and unforeseen occurrences befall all people, at times depriving them of possessions, friends and marriage mates. As for material possessions, no one should expect Jehovah to preserve these through the “great tribulation.” Jehovah has promised to preserve life, not material possessions. So the thing of supreme importance in the life of every Christian should be, not marriage, possessions or any other earthly thing, but his good relationship with God. Our life depends upon maintaining that relationship.