Don't be Distracted from the Coming Kingdom (7:28b-31)
28b But those who marry will face many troubles (thlipsis) in this life, and I want to spare you this. 29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (7:28b-31)
Paul's thought is summed up:
"The time is short.... For this world in its present form is passing away." (7:29a, 31b)
Because of the shortness of time in these last days, we don't have time to just live as pagans do as if they had all the time in the world -- like they did in Noah's day, for example. Paul may be recalling Jesus' own words about his soon return.
"For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:38-39)
Paul's words are designed to help his readers understand that they shouldn't be caught up in mere human life and pleasures.
The key idea for these verses is found in 7:31, to "use" (chraomai, "use, employ") the things of the world, without becoming "engrossed" (katachraomai) in them. "Engrossed" (NIV), "have no dealings" (NRSV), "abusing" (KJV) is katachraomai, "use up, use to the full." If we enter fully into the world without reference to Christ's coming and the end of the age, we get distracted from serving Christ with all our heart.
It's important to understand that in verses 29-30, Paul is speaking hyperbolically -- overstating to make a point. Verse 29 gives husbands no scriptural basis to ignore their wives' needs, or to be constantly unhappy.
"Those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep" (NIV) says it pretty well. Though, of course, we need to make purchases and have a place to live, we are not to hold onto these things tightly. " As Job said,
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
As the old gospel song goes,
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through...."