1 Corinthians 7:31
And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away.
To "use" anything is to turn it to account in the direction of those ends for which it is really needed. To "abuse" is simply to turn a thing away from its true and proper use. This "world" has its "uses." According to the original purpose of God, it is a servant to minister to our wants, not a tyrant to oppress or degrade us. It may become a dangerous foe; but only when we stand in false relations to it. This world is designed to aid —
I. IN REVEALING GOD TO US. "The heavens declare His glory, &c." What an "abuse," then, of the world it is, when men employ it to conceal God! An astronomer once said that what he found in the study of the starry sky was the "glory" of Newton, &c., and not the "glory of God." And it would seem as if some men deliberately try to forget God, by busying themselves about the things which God has made. They plunge into business and into politics, as if they would forget that the Most High has anything to do either with the growth of cotton or the growth of nations. Even the faces of their little children cease to speak to them of "The Father"; the selfish, worldly love they have for them becomes a pretext for ignoring the claims and commands of God.
II. IN THE FORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. The material exists for the sake of the spiritual. This earth has been furnished as a school for man's education. The monastic life is just a kinder "playing truant." The true "use" of a school cannot be to run away from it. On the other hand, there are those who turn the schoolroom into a playground — who seek to convert the means of education and training into the instruments of mere selfish gratification. Some men are like little children burning their lesson-books for the momentary pleasure of the blaze! Others are like children trying to carve out their names on forms and desks of the school, when they ought to be learning lessons. Others are like children, with heads bent over their books, making a show of diligence, in order to conceal an indolent frivolity. And others, alas I are like children who, through self-willed folly, break their limbs in the very gymnasium which was intended and adapted to strengthen them! Oh what an "abuse" is here! A whole world made for men — and, all the while, men living as if they had been made for the world!
III. IN SERVING GOD. He appoints us duties to discharge, and burdens to bear. His holy and loving commandment meets us everywhere — at home and in the market, &c.; and not a day passes in which He does not give us opportunities of expressing our loyalty to His law. Only see, again, how men "abuse" the world! They convert it into a sphere of disobedience. Suppose that, in order to secure a higher kind of service from an employee you were to promote him to a confidential position — giving him full access to your books, and an insight into the secrets of your business; and suppose that he were forthwith to employ the knowledge thus obtained in order to injure your business or embezzle your property! And yet this is but a faint emblem of your own conduct towards the Heavenly Master! You take the bread which He places on your table; you come out into His sunshine; you breathe His air; and then, with the health and strength you thus obtain, you pollute His air with words that ought never to be spoken, or commit actions too foul to bear the light of His sun. God reveals to you some of those wondrous secrets which He has lodged in the bosom of Nature, and then you go, perhaps, and employ this very knowledge for the retarding of His spiritual kingdom. You take the subtle electricity, and with it you flash your lying, fraudulent message along the wire — breaking God's own law of truth and justice with God's own mysterious forces! He gives you wife and children and friends; and lo! you .make them do the devil's work. Here is one man whom God's Providence places in a position of power. How that man might use his power in the cause of truth and justice and liberty! But, instead of this, he becomes tyrannical. Here is another man who bus been placed in a position of wealth. How that man might multiply manifestations of loyalty to God! But, instead of this, he practically worships .his gold, and employs it to corrupt and degrade others, and to supply fuel for his own lusts. Conclusion: "The fashion of this world passeth away." Let us, then, not live as if the visible were the eternal. And let us remember that we do not necessarily escape worldliness, by belonging to what is called "the religious world." Men may seem to be engaged in the service of God, and yet all the while be only serving themselves. A selfish ambition does not cease to be worldly merely because it is ecclesiastical. Slander and spite do not cease to be worldly merely because they appear in a "religious newspaper." "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," do not cease to be worldly, even in a household that is daily summoned to family prayers.
(T. C. Finlayson.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.