I am a 27-year-old single man. I would like to get married as much as the next guy. In fact, I don’t even plan on being single the rest of my life.
But what if marriage isn’t part of God’s plan for me? What if I am going to be single the rest of my life? Does that mean that I got second-best? Is God treating me unfairly, compared to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are married?
God doesn’t owe me a wife
One thing that we must recognize is that God has not promised that anyone will get married. In fact, 1 Corinthians 7 tells us that it can be a very good thing not to get married:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. [i.e., it is good to be single] (1 Corinthians 7:1)
For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Corinthians 7:7-9)
The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)
If you’re familiar with the chapter, you know that there are more verses on this subject in between the ones that I quoted. I skipped them because it is specifically stated as Paul’s opinion on the subject and not commandments of God. However, they do contain some great nuggets of wisdom that we would do well to listen to.
Look at the first two passages above. They both specifically state that singleness is a good thing! The last passage says that Paul believed a widow will be happier if she remains single! That’s the opposite of what we usually think. We think that we will be happiest if we are married!
Paul pointed out some of the benefits of singleness:
But I would have you without carefulness [anxiousness]. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
Paul, a single man who made a huge impact for the Kingdom of God, says that he is giving these recommendations for the Corinthians’ benefit and profit. He knew, from personal experience, what he was talking about. I can’t imagine Paul doing all the traveling he did and going through all the persecution he endured, if he had been married. He would have been too tied down, caring for his family.
A Greater Reward?
Even if you believe that God’s best, His purpose, for you is singleness, it can still be tempting to think that God didn’t treat you fairly. It is easy to look at singleness as getting the “short end of the stick”, as though “God’s best” for the single person is $50, while the married person got $100 from God. After all, the single person never gets to experience the intimate joys of marriage, the pleasure of having children and grandchildren, the ability to continue the family line.
However, this time on earth is an infinitely small blink in comparison to the infinite span of eternity. I believe that if we could actually grasp the significance of getting to enjoy our Heavenly reward forever, it would reshape the tiny amount of time that we have to accumulate that treasure. Jesus told us:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Considering Paul’s words above, there is an excellent possibility that a single person will have the ability to gather more Heavenly treasure than a married person, or at least some married people. In Heaven, there will be no marriage, so when we get to Heaven, it’s not as though we will be able to continue our marriage relationships that we formed on earth. Therefore, marriage could actually end up being a ball and chain around my leg, preventing me from accumulating everlasting Heavenly treasure.
However, if I look at singleness as a ball and chain, preventing me from living life to its fullest, I will not experience the benefits that Paul talks about. I will be too busy trying in vain to find a mate, trying to find purpose in life, chafing at the bit, never accomplishing what God has for me, and ultimately, never surrendering my life to the Lord Jesus–because if I did, that surrender would require me to accept that singleness was good for me.
Benefits of singleness
- Easier for me to totally dedicate myself to serving the Lord Jesus and accumulating Heavenly treasure.
- Less need for money, so less need to work a secular, money-making job.
- Ability to handle bad circumstances without having to worry about taking care of a family.
- No need to raise children (my dad calls it the world’s hardest job).
- No need to care for a spouse.
- No chance of becoming a widower/widow or having to nurse a spouse or child through a long, protracted, fatal illness such as cancer.
- Freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want, without having to take care of a family.
- Freedom to serve the Lord in unusual ways, such as ministering to people in the middle of the night.
- No chance of having the heartache of a wayward child.
- The potential of being able to impact the world for Christ in a greater way than I ever could as a married man.
When singleness is not good
There is a time when singleness is not a good thing. 1 Corinthians 7:7 alludes to this when it says, “For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.”
In other words, not everyone is called to singleness. For some people, marriage is God’s best, and His plan for their lives. If they decide, against His will, to be single, they will not experience the benefits of singleness. They will not accumulate the Heavenly treasure that they would have if they had married.
Therefore, it’s very important for each of us to find out God’s will for our lives, and whole-heartedly pursue it, rather than doing our own will. In the end, doing our own will can never have the reward that doing God’s will would bring.
The point of this article is not that marriage or singleness are superior, but that they are equally good (Hebrews 13:4 tells us that “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled”). Neither one is “the short end of the stick”. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks. The bottom line is, “God’s plan for you is good–very good!”
Singleness and divorce
There is another aspect to this subject, and that is the subject of the divorced person. Often, when we teach that the Bible prohibits divorce and remarriage, somebody will jump all over us for saying that a divorced person can’t remarry, even if they were divorced by an unfaithful spouse or had to leave an abusive marriage.
Here, however, is where the results of entering into a life-long union come into play. Because God has united you and your spouse in a permanent, one-flesh union, you are not free to marry someone else, even if you think you would be much happier with that person.
“How terrible!” some people protest. “How dare you say that?”
And here we need to recognize the underlying belief: that marriage is “best” and singleness is inferior, even a curse. That remaining single is a terrible deprivation, an undeserved punishment.
As we have seen above, this is simply not true at all. Singleness is not a curse or a punishment. It is just as good as marriage.
Remember, God does not owe us marriage. Singleness is not inferior to marriage. Therefore, there is no excuse for a person to remarry after divorce, even if they were abused.
In other words, the forced singleness of a divorced person (unless they can reunite with their spouse) is a consequence–the result of marrying the particular person that they married–but not a punishment per se, or a curse. In fact, it may be a blessing from God!
The Stay-At-Home Daughter
One subject I briefly want to touch on is the patriarchy teaching that a woman should remain in her father’s house until marriage–even if the daughter is in her thirties, forties or even until her parents die. Consider this quote from Steve and Teri Maxwell:
Our girls have chosen not to work outside our home, and they have also chosen to live in our home until marriage. They have made those decisions because of the protection and sheltering they have within our home…
They said that if they don’t marry, they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. They said they love living here. Yet, if the Lord brings the right man along as a husband, each will be happy for that too…
Allowing our adult, unmarried children to live in our home provides accountability for them that they have wanted, and it is economical as well. They are our best friends, and we are delighted that they want to live in our home. Our girls are welcome here until marriage, and if they are never married, they can stay until we are gone, and then the house will belong to them.
While all of this is said to be the girls’ (I should say the “ladies'”–Sarah is in her thirties) decision, this was the sort of position taught by Doug Phillips and his now-defunct Vision Forum–that a woman should stay in her father’s house until married. Phillips seems to have had a definite influence upon the Maxwells. Having come from this sort of background myself, I can definitely see that they might not be able to imagine living anywhere else–because they wouldn’t ever think of doing so. It’s just not “the way it’s done”.
Without pounding patriarchy into a pulp, let me just point out that this mindset keeps young (and not-so-young) ladies from being free to use their singleness to serve God. There seems to be no real consideration that God may not have the daughter to get married, but instead to serve Him from somewhere other than her father’s home. Once again, the mindset is that marriage is the ultimate goal for everyone, so just wait around for Prince Charming.
Unfortunately, it tends to work out like this:
Is singleness a punishment? NO! It is a blessing from God. A single person is not cursed, treated unfairly, or underprivileged.
Fellow singles, let us seek to passionately follow God’s leading for us, whether that includes marriage in the future or not. Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, so that we know how to love others as He wants us to.
And to my married brothers and sisters: we are not second-class citizens. We are not less important, less privileged, less blessed or less mature than you because we are not married. Please seek to follow God with all your being, and let us work together for the Lord, hand-in-hand.