1 Corinthians 7:31
And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away.
I. THE REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT ABUSE THIS WORLD: the fashion of it passes away; literally, the scene changes.
1. The world itself is a stable thing. Its face changes, but its matter and laws are fixed. The same mountain-tops point toward the sky to-day that seemed to touch it when we were children. The same plain stretches out from the Pyramids that the Pharaohs saw from their summits. The inhabitant is often changed; the habitation remains the same.
2. But it does not remain the same to me. The green grass looks not
so lightsome when those whom I loved are laid beneath it. This is not the world on which I trod so lightly when I was a child. It was a brighter world then. That fashion went out, and the one that came in after it, was hard and busy. Faster and faster it moved, and I moved with it, until I became giddy with the whirl. At the next change of fashion the breathless runner is left behind.
3. But, besides those which time inexorably brings to all, there are other changes peculiar to each.
(1) The owner of a beautiful estate was conducting a visitor through his park. At a bend in the path a lofty beech-tree suddenly hove in sight, wanting one hemisphere of its once symmetrical and stately head. In the last winter's blast one of these twin boughs had been rent off, and the survivor, bare on the side where his marrow grew, seemed a stricken, widowed thing. "See," said the visitor, "the emblem of a husband standing alone in the world, after death has torn away the wife of his youth!" Then a stifled sigh revealed to the speaker that he had unconsciously hurt, by touching, a wound still green in his companion's side.
(2) How many living victims are kept in continual torture! Clinging to wealth, when wealth is taking wings; to the trappings of beauty, when the beauty has gone; to the gaiety of youth, when age, unwelcome, unconfessed, is stealing quietly, quickly on. If you allow your heart-strings to twine around the fashion of the world, you are torn and tortured every day you live; for the fashion of the world is moving past you. The only possible method of living either pleasantly or safely on a shifting scene is to sit loosely on its surface.
II. THE ABUSE OF THIS WORLD WHICH THE TEXT FORBIDS. When the gifts are turned aside from their wise and kind intent, the Giver takes it ill (Ezekiel 16:19). The abuses of the world cannot be all named; let two or three suffice.
1. Day and night are precious constituents of "this world." To shuffle them out of their places is to abuse them. An assembly of dancing men and women in a heated hall, a merchant leaning over his ledger in the counting-house, a student before his lamp in the silent chamber, are all guilty of abusing the world, if they occupy the long dark night, and sleep on the morrow while the sun is running his race rejoicing.
2. The fruitful earth is systematically and to a great extent compelled to minister to the vice of men. Nothing in nature is lovelier than the poppy-fields of India. The best land, in the most sheltered situation, is appropriate to the cultivation of the plant, and its product — opium — is a most precious medicine. But when we presume to use it as an indulgence to an unhealthy craving, and force it upon an unwilling people on whom its effects can be only baneful, then we abuse it. At home, too, in a similar way, we abuse the world, by converting a large portion of the grain which it brings forth for the food of man, into a stimulant which is chiefly employed in ministering to his vices.
3. Civilised nations have long abused in the gross a whole continent of the world. Instead of buying from the Africans the products of the soil, so stimulating arts and industry, we bought the people — the weak from the strong — so stimulating war and rapine.
III. THE USE OF THIS WORLD WHICH THE TEXT PERMITS AND ENJOINS. Observe how God uses this world, that we may fall in with His purpose. He has made it the dwelling-place of creatures formed after His own image, and capable of communion with Himself; but the grandest use of the habitation was made after the inhabitant fell by sin. Leaving behind all the shining worlds, the Son of God lived here; here the sons and daughters of the Lord obtained their birthright, and are prepared for their inheritance. Such are the purposes for which the Father employs this world; and for these chiefly the dear child values it. This earth shines only in the sunlight: if it were dark it would be also barren.So, morally for man, the world in which we live owes its beauty and its worth to the light which reaches it from heaven. Christians —
1. May use the world. Practical religion does not consist in denying ourselves the use of temporal good, or in tasting it with terror. Every creature of God is good. A Christian, with a clear mind and a good conscience, tastes more sweetness in this world than he who has no other portion. The relations of the family, e.g., are touched in the context. He who has entered the family of God, has not thereby forfeited his place or his rights in the families of men. Make one thing sure, that it is the use of the world, not the abuse of it; and then use it with a will.
2. Must use it. Don't permit the riches, e.g., to lie so long still that they shall rust. Whatever God may have given you of personal qualification, or social position, or material means, take the use of it yourself, and let your neighbours participate in the benefit. Conclusion: In vain do you tell a man that the fashion of this world passeth away, if you have nothing more to tell. A drowning man will grasp straws; and you cannot put an end to the useless effort by standing on the river's brink and proving that straws will not avail to make his body buoyant. How shall we persuade him to let them go? Heave him a life-buoy, and no persuasion will be necessary. When he feels the contact of the better preserver, he will throw away the worse. So no demonstration of the world's changefulness will keep a human soul from cleaving to its dust. Nothing but faith's possession of the better portion can wean our hearts from the worse.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.