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  • Chad Werkhoven

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 - "Upward" Mobility

Evaluate your position in life from God's perspective, not the world's.

Read / Listen

Read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 124

Q. What does the third request mean?

A. “Your will be done on earth

as it is in heaven” means,

Help us and all people

to reject our own wills

and to obey your will

without any back talk.

Your will alone is good.

Help us one and all to carry out

the work we are called to,

as willingly and faithfully

as the angels in heaven.



Some consider this passage to be controversial, alleging that the 19th century American church used it as an excuse to continue the practice of slavery. But this allegation doesn't hold much water, since immediately after telling slaves to be content in their situation, Paul encourages them to gain their freedom if possible (v21).

Far from being a rationale for the oppressors to continue their oppression (as so many in our day and age want to think the Bible does), this passage completely dismantles the human class system that supposedly defines the level of a person's status in society. As Christians, you are to consider yourself as the Lord eternally defines you, rather than the way others see you based on your current temporal situation.

Our sinful instinct is to see the wealthy upper crust as intrinsically better people than the poor and downtrodden, so, especially as Americans, we do all we can to improve our upward mobility. While it's not wrong in and of itself for you to want to better yourself, this desire quickly turns into a dominating sin when your entire self image becomes based on the subjective standards that have been foisted upon you by society rather than responding to God's calling.

Dig Deeper

The entire doctrine taught in this passage is encapsulated in the opening verse (v17): Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.

In other words, be content no matter what your societal status is, with two very important caveats.

First, be certain that the Lord has "assigned" you the position that you're in. If you can fully serve the Lord and grow in faith in your current life situation, it's a good indication that you're where the Lord has assigned you to be, no matter what the rest of the world thinks about it. But if you sense growth opportunities which require doing the hard work to change stations in life by moving either up or even down(!!) the societal ladder, then perhaps God is changing your assignment in life and you must respond.

Second, and somewhat similarly, are you where God has "called" you? You may have found a very comfortable niche in life that you'd just as soon remain in, but by doing so you might be evading God's calling, putting you in a dangerous situation. Think of how comfortable Jonah was sleeping in the hold of the ship before God sent a storm to remind Jonah of his calling.

Evaluating life from a divine perspective rather than the world's wisdom is massively difficult. Just remember, it doesn't matter what other people think. "Keeping God's commands is what counts (v19)."

This is why your prayers must often include the words "Thy will be done."

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who called you and assigned you the life you're living;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God's will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, and that He'll help you to discern where He's assigned you to be;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Revelation 6


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