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Lesson 4: When Alone *

Introduction: After thirty-three years of marriage, my work location changed so that I was only home on the weekends. During the week, I was free to eat dinner wherever I wanted, and go wherever I wanted. No need to make a joint decision with my wife. At first it was fun. After a while, however, I became lonely when eating out by myself. Although I was not really alone because my adult daughter was living with me, and I was working long hours, it gave me some idea of what it would be like to be alone. Let's explore what the Bible has to say about the positive and negative aspects of being alone!

  1. Rope

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9. Why do two have "a good return for their work?" (Read Ecclesiastes 4:8. The context shows that having someone with which to share your wealth creates a "return" for your work.)

    2. Read Ecclesiastes 4:10. Is this statement only about emergencies? (I've learned that in many marriages the husband and wife share the same tasks. For example, they take turns cooking. In our marriage, my wife and I have a division of labor. She does some jobs and I do others. An extreme example is that I do not know how to cook, but I installed the stove and repair other appliances. I think my incompetence in some areas satisfies the "falling" reference. When it comes to cooking, I'm a failure.)

    3. Read Ecclesiastes 4:11-12. I was following along until we got to the "three" strand cord. Solomon had hundreds of wives. Is he suggesting polygamy is best? (We have been assuming that the text refers to marriage. In fact, it does not for it refers to a "friend" helping the fallen.)

      1. Since these verses have application outside marriage, what do they teach those who live alone? (Make friends! If you have several close friends, that is even better.)

  2. Marriage v. Being Single

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 7:25. Are some things included in the Bible not from God? (Paul tells us that what he is about to write is not from God. However, he says he thinks he has pretty good judgment.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 7:26-28. What motivates this advice? ("The present crisis." This is not advice for normal times.)

      1. What is the "present crisis?"

    3. Let's focus on 1 Corinthians 7:28. Do you have many troubles in your marriage? (Thankfully, I do not. But, I know some who do.)

      1. If you have observed the same thing I have, what percentage of marriages would you say face "many troubles?"

      2. What lesson should those who are single and would prefer to be married learn from this?

        1. Is this a lesson that is based on the "present crisis?" (I don't think that is a point Paul is making.)

      3. Can wisdom improve your odds of having fewer troubles in marriage? (Over the years, a number of women have discussed potential husbands with me. Many times I was sure that marrying a particular man would create many problems. Remaining single would be better. I should admit, no one who spoke to me remained single. They either ignored my advice or found better men.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. Is Paul right about "the time is short?" (If he is talking about the Second Coming of Jesus, and I believe he is, then he is wrong.)

      1. Paul is not just talking about marriage. He mentions mourning, being happy, buying things and enjoying things. What is the common thread for the way we view all of those things? (Paul says that in light of Jesus' soon coming, ignore the sadness and joy of what is happening around you, and stay focused on the end of time.)

      2. What drives the overall teaching of Paul in this section? (This is about an emergency situation.)

        1. What is the blessing of Paul's approach? (I'm sure Paul applied this advice to himself. What we know is that Paul wrote a great deal of the New Testament. Limiting his joy on earth greatly advanced the Kingdom of God.)

    5. Read 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. Paul seems to have moved to being "concerned," a slightly different approach to the same subject. Does marriage increase your worries? (Paul says that a married person is concerned about their spouse, and not merely about pleasing God.)

      1. Do you find this is true in your life? (I recall a couple of instances where I thought I had a conflict between what God was leading me to do and what my wife wanted to do. On the other hand, I think my wife has greatly reduced the number of "concerns" in my life. She does many things that would otherwise burden me if I were single.)

    6. Read 1 Corinthians 7:35 and 1 Corinthians 7:39-40. Paul says that remaining single is for our own good. He also says that you are happier. If you are single, do you find this is true? Is it is an advantage to be single?

      1. Is this advice for any time? Or, is Paul still giving emergency advice?

      2. Notice that in 1 Corinthians 7:39-40 Paul is writing to someone who has been married. He writes that someone who was previously married would be happier if single. If you are in that situation, what is your opinion?

  3. Unyoked Marriage

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 7:12-13. Is this Paul's opinion? (No. He says this is from God.)

      1. How many couples that you know do not agree when it comes to religious belief?

      2. How many of those disagreements arose after they were married?

      3. What does Paul advise when one spouse is converted to Christianity and the other is not? (He says to remain in the marriage.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 7:14. Why does Paul advise staying in the marriage? (The unbelieving spouse "has been sanctified.")

      1. What does that mean?

      2. Recall that when we were studying whether we should make friends with pagans, the advice in 1 Corinthians 15:33 was that good would be corrupted by the bad. Why doesn't that apply here? (This situation is much different. Both were pagans and one spouse decided to change and become a Christian. The spouse that changed has already shown independence and strength.)

      3. How do children play into the advice in 1 Corinthians 7:14? (The children are benefitted by the marriage remaining intact.)

      4. In my family, my maternal grandmother and grandfather represent an unequally yoked marriage. Grandmother regularly attended church, while grandfather never did. How would you predict this would affect their children? (This had a big impact on my mother. She refused to marry my father until he became a church member. My mother's brother, however, followed in the footsteps of my grandfather.)

        1. How far does the decision to marry an unbeliever reach? (It appears to me that generations were affected by that decision.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 7:15-16. What if the pagan decides to leave the marriage? Should the Christian cooperate? (Paul says, "yes.")

      1. On what does Paul place a high value? (Peace. But, notice, this is the peace that comes from letting the unbeliever go. Paul does not commend peace when it is the Christian who wants to leave.)

        1. Why do you think Paul makes this distinction? (Because if the unbelieving spouse wants to stay, the loving Christian has a real opportunity to convert the unbelieving spouse.)

    4. Friend, the general approach of the Bible is to favor marriage. However, Paul believes that in certain situations being single is better and can lead to greater happiness. If you are alone rejoice in that. If you are alone, making friends will bless your life. Why not place yourself in the position to be blessed?

  4. Next week: Wise Words for Families.
* Copr. 2019, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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