So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
If you’re not careful, this well-known verse can be easily misinterpreted to mean that the only thing of eternal significance at work are the souls we come into contact with.
But based on what we see throughout Scripture, we know that can’t be right. Isaiah 60 makes it clear that some of the things we make today will physically last forever. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul said that some of their work would “survive” God’s judgment (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). And of course, Jesus’s own ministry was just as much about redeeming the “seen” material world as it was about the “unseen” spiritual one. He turned water into wine, multiplied food, and spent as much time healing physical bodies as he did preaching to immaterial souls.
OK, so if Paul is not telling us to ignore the material world of work, what does 2 Corinthians 4:18 mean? The answer is found in the context of this passage. In verse 17, Paul says, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Paul’s not saying that the seen material world is bad and the unseen immaterial world is good. He’s saying that in light of the unseen eternal rewards awaiting those who persevere in the Lord, the “troubles” we can see in this life are relatively inconsequential.
So, what troubles are you experiencing because of your faith today? Are you choosing to make less money so you can be at home to disciple your kids? Are you ostracized at work for sharing the gospel with your co-workers? Have you lost your job for calling out injustice within your company? The troubles these things produce are real and seen. But they cannot compare to the unseen “glory that far outweighs them all.” Fix your eyes on that hope today!