A life, a world, free from worry, from burdens! Workload; Rent, Mortgage, utility bills, groceries etc. What else? Cost of Childcare or Nursing Home care or “HomeHelp” or Special Needs care. There is so much. And how to make sure not to lose sight of what is important. ‘Being a Burden’ can also be a huge issue.
St Paul in our second reading talks about being “free from all worry” and later says “I say this only to help you, not put a halter round your necks.” “Halter” as in “burden”. St Paul’s focus throughout chapter 7 is about not being distracted from the things of the Lord. Although he regards the single state (his own vv.7) as best, he did not glorify it and ultimately refused to make it obligatory for others (v.35). Throughout this chapter, his fundamental objection is to those who claim to know what is best for others.
In Corinth at this time there was an ongoing discussion between Stoic philosophers and the more radical Cynics on the nature and purpose of marriage. The Stoics generally considered marriage to be a benefit to society and in that way, it has a cosmic purpose. The Cynics, on the other hand, urged sexual abstinence in order to be fully focused on philosophy. These discussions often involved the issue of freedom, as St Paul does here.
When we know our priorities, what is most important to us, why we are doing what we are doing, we have a better chance of not just coping with our worries or burdens, but able to not just carry them, but able to deal with them and live a full life. St Paul wants the Corinthians to make sure that they really are as concerned “to please the Lord” as they claim to be and nothing else. That too is our challenge and goal!