Intentionally or not, the Church seems to have expectations, and even a timeline, for when people who are single will grow up and get married. If we operate outside of that trajectory, we are often treated as if we have some sort of problem.
You’d think there was some hidden Scripture that says, “Thou shall be marriedeth by this time, or thou be a freak.”
The zeal with which the Christian community reacts to singleness is perplexing, especially in light of what the Bible says about it. For the sake of clarity, let’s draw a distinction between those who just happen to be single and those who are single but genuinely looking for companionship. When we try to “match” the latter it’s trying to help a friend find what they are looking for. But here’s where the problem comes in: Just because a lot of single people are looking for relationships that doesn’t mean they all are.
Honestly, this cycle doesn’t necessarily stop at marriage. When you’re single, fellow Christians often ask when you are going to “settle down” and get married. And then as soon as you get married, the question shifts to “When are you having kids?” Maybe instead of just barraging people with personal opinions—typically based on nothing but our personal viewpoint—we should seek some expert advice on the issue.
So what does the Bible say? Here’s the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Corinth:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
The Bible clearly states that singleness can be a gift from God. That’s right: Singleness can be a spiritual gift. Not a curse. Not a source of pity. Not a problem. Single people can be devoted to God in a unique way. Paul even gives the impression that he prefers Christians stay single when possible. Yet in the Church, we can treat singleness like Selena Gomez fans at a Justin Bieber party.
Here are three of the benefits of singleness that Christians—married and single alike—need to remember:
People who are single avoid the ‘challenges’ of marriage.
Even the best and happiest marriages are not free from challenges. Apart from communication, there are two people to think about, worry about, meet the needs of and accommodate. I have been married for about a decade. I love my wife and wouldn’t trade that relationship for anything in this world, but only a willfully defiant person could claim that marriage doesn’t have troubles. Paul wants to spare us from that. But his reasoning is not because the relationship isn’t worth the work. It’s that the marriage divides our attention.
People who are single have more energy for ministry.
The married person’s primary ministry is to his or her spouse (and children). When you’re married, a great deal of time and energy goes to caring for your family. And that’s biblical. But imagine having all that to devote to serving in the kingdom of God, serving people in the Church and the “least of these.” On a very practical level, one of the hardest things for the modern Christian is to find the energy to serve. Because let’s be honest, after working all day and then coming home and taking care of their family, they don’t have much left in the tank.
People who are single have more time.
If you’re single, you have the ability to devote time (along with energy) to the work of God. That’s an incredible gift both for the Christian and the Church. Like it or not the work of God takes time. For families whose time is completely monopolized by caring for their family, again, not a bad thing, it’s biblical to care for the family first, there isn’t as much they can do to invest in the mission of Jesus because they don’t have a lot of time. Those who are single do.
The point here is not that singleness is better so don’t get married no matter what you do. And it’s certainly not to abandon your marriage so you can focus more on God. Marriage is a gift from God, and it’s a good gift. And so is singleness.
So if you are married, stop trying to make all the single people like you. Maybe some of them have the gift of singleness. If you are single, here’s the deal: Your highest priority isn’t finding your spouse, it’s devoting yourself to God. He will provide what you need when you need it. You may have the gift of singleness for a year. You may have it for life. Instead of being dissatisfied that you don’t have a partner, enjoy the time God has given you.
Tyler Edwards is a pastor, author, and husband. He currently works as the Discipleship Pastor of Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is passionate about introducing people to and helping them grow in the Gospel. He is the author of Zombie Church: breathing life back into the body of Christ. You can find more of his work on Facebook or you can follow him on Twitter @tedwardsccc.