“Marriage” series: (post #3)
(Note from the author: This blog post was originally written as part of a series on the subject of marriage. I wrote the post to answer the question, “What if I don’t want to get married?” However, in the years since I published the post, I’ve noticed that many of the comments have come from people asking the question, “What about the person who wants to get married but can’t?” The post really doesn’t speak to that question, but several of the comments, as well as my replies to those comments, do. So if that’s the help you are looking for, take the time to read through the comments and replies. And be sure to click on the “older comments” to access them as well. We’ve had a pretty spirited debate on the whole subject over the years, and my prayer is that God will use it all to help you find the answers you need. Thanks for reading, and God bless you.) Pastor Russell Mckinney
Is it God’s will for each person to get married? The Bible’s answer is, no. However, the reason the Bible names for remaining unmarried is an interesting one. It has to do with the single person being able to devote more time, energy, and resources to service to Christ.
The passage on this is 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. In those verses, the apostle Paul presents the advantages of remaining, as he puts it, “without care.” He says of the man:
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world — how he may please his wife, (1 Corinthians 7:32-33, N.K.J.V.)
Then Paul applies this same thought to the woman, as he says:
There is a difference between a wife and a virgin (Paul’s term for an unmarried woman). The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world — how she may please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34, N.K.J.V.)
Needless to say, we shouldn’t take these verses as an indictment against married people. After all, God’s ordained way of propagating the human race is through marriage, and a person can certainly be married and still serve the Lord. But Paul’s point is a good one. Anyone who has been married for one week knows that married life carries many responsibilities with it, and those responsibilities will eat away at time, energy, and resources that could be spent on matters that are more obviously spiritual.
I purposely use that word “obviously” because the fact is that every aspect of a Christian’s life is, in a very real sense, “spiritual.” This same Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17:
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (N.K.J.V.)
He says basically the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10:31:
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (N.K.J.V.)
Those two verses remind me of that little story about the woman standing at the sink, washing the dishes. A sign above her sink reads, “Divine service rendered here three times daily.” You see, even a marriage responsibility such as washing the dishes can become “divine service” when it is done to the glory of God.
But what Paul is saying in the 1 Corinthians chapter 7 passage is that single people can do certain things for the Lord that married people just can’t do. I was a pastor before I got married. Back in those days I could sit up all night working on sermons and not worry about bothering anybody else in the house. Do you know what made that possible? It was the fact that there wasn’t anybody else in the house.
Similarly, I could pray out loud while I laid in bed. I could plan my pastoral visitation schedule with no thought whatsoever to what was going on with my wife’s day. I didn’t have to concern myself with the cares of grocery shopping for anyone other than myself. I didn’t have two boys to get to their ball practices. I didn’t have a mother-in-law or a father-in-law to include in my plans for the holidays. I was, to use Paul’s words, “without care,” except the care I put into serving Christ.
In Matthew 19:12, Jesus gives this same teaching. He says:
“For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” (N.K.J.V.)
With these words, Jesus describes three different types of eunuch. First, the eunuchs who were born eunuchs would be those people who shouldn’t get married because of physical or mental problems from birth. Second, the eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men were men who were castrated in order to serve in royal service to a king. (In the East, it was common practice to castrate certain servants, particularly those who were placed in charge of kings’ harems.) Third, the eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake are those who have voluntarily committed themselves to celibacy and remaining unmarried in order that they might completely give themselves over to service to the Lord.
And so we see that there is nothing wrong with remaining single. However, if you are going to go that route in life, you must ask yourself the question, “Why do I want to remain single?” Is it because you don’t want to be “tied down” to one person? Is it because you want to be free to “play the field”? Is it because you are far too self-absorbed and self-centered to ever think about sharing your life with someone else? Or is it because you want to keep yourself free so that you can devote 100% of your time, energy, and resources to Jesus?
If that last one is your motivation, then you are in the good company of Christians such as Paul, people whom God is able to use in ways that are different than the ways in which He uses married people. You see, remaining single is certainly nothing of which you should be ashamed. You just need to make sure that you take the time, energy, and resources that you would spend on a spouse (and potentially children) and spend them exclusively on Jesus.