At least 30-35% of the adult population is currently living the single life. In the Old Testament there was a clear stigma to being an adult single; this was to be avoided at almost any cost. The perception was that happiness and God’s blessing could not be found outside of marriage and children. While marriage is still God’s plan for the majority, He does call some to live a single life temporarily or permanently. It is not because God “has it out” for some believers relegating them to a second class life of drudgery and dreaming. The New Testament clarifies the Old Testament mindset and perhaps a traditional western cultural mindset as well. Single believers can have useful, fulfilled, and completely satisfied lives for good reasons.
Because it is good
Read Genesis 1 and listen to the staccato pattern of “It was good.” Who decided that it was good? Good is an absolute standard that is found in God’s essence. All creation was consistent with His person, His plans, and His Word. Of course, it could not be criticized, improved upon, and would be the very best for Adam.
But then God showed Adam, “it is not good for man to be alone.” Notice please that He did NOT say “It is not good for a man to be single.” Many believers and commentators jump to that conclusion and thus apply His words to the sexual side of man (so he could reproduce). While that might be included, it is also referring to more than just the fact that God gave Him a woman to be His emotional help. More likely it refers to how God would fill a void in Adam; this void was filled by another human being. It is not that God alone could not meet that need Himself, but rather that, in Divine providence, His choice instrument to help fulfill Adam’s role to fill the earth was, of course, a woman.
This does not mean that a single brother or sister is lacking. It just means that single believers must recognize the need of others in their role for the Lord, whatever that may be. Obviously, it is not a role of childbearing and spouse caring, but still there will be others involved in completing a role for God.
Paul suffered great loneliness at times, especially when his coworkers forsook him, but he first found full satisfaction and fulfillment in the Lord Who always stood by him. He then recognized his need for other workers to help fulfill the mission that God had for Him, which is why he mentions dozens of fellow helpers in His role and mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
For a couple married in the Lord, each spouse is intended to help the other reach their full purpose and usefulness for God. As a single man, Paul knew that God could meet his needs alone or do so through others. He wrote with honesty when he said, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I” (1Cor 7:8). Singlehood does not lack anything as God can meet any true needs to accomplish His will directly by Himself or indirectly through others.
Because it is a gift
God does not practice April Fool’s day. James says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Paul shared the same sentiment when he wrote about civil status to the Corinthians. He said, “but everyone has his own gift of God: one man thus, and another thus” (1Cor 7:7). So which is better, marriage or singleness? Wrong question! According to Paul, they are, equally, gifts from God. Even better, every believer has “his own gift.” The Lord has personally selected the civil status that is best for you right now. Therefore, both the married and the single believer need to view their civil status the way God does, which is that He has personally given you the gift of being married, or the gift of being single, at this very moment.
Therefore, Paul is putting the current civil status of the believer in a new perspective. This is not some special empowerment to live alone, that without which life would be miserable or impossible. This is a privileged position given by God. Do you really think an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Lord would give you a gift as a cruel joke? Never! His immense love matched with His infinite wisdom gives each believer whatever civil status is best for them at any given time. Wouldn’t it be appropriate then, to thank Him for whatever civil status gift you have today? No wonder Paul wrote with such enthusiasm about the single life.
Because of its guidelines
One day on the coasts of Judea the Pharisees tossed the Lord Jesus a spiritual and political “hot potato,” hoping he would get severely burned. They questioned Him about divorce, a topic that had led to different camps and much heated debate. Masterfully, before answering their question on divorce, He instructed them on marriage, emphasizing the permanence of the marriage bond. When the disciples heard the Lord prohibit divorce for “any reason” (a very common notion and practice at the time), they quickly concluded that if marriage was so binding, perhaps it was better not to marry.
The Lord Jesus went on to explain that for some people it is good not to marry because they are born with a capacity to live that way or they are made eunuchs by men. In other words, circumstances in life have so made them that they are not interested in marriage or able to be married. As well, He then mentioned a third case that describes almost all Christian singles today. He said, “Some have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 19:12). Christian believers are not single because nobody found them desirable or because they could not find anybody. They are single only because they have taken and applied principles of the Kingdom of Heaven to their lives.
The goal in the heart and life of a Christian is to live out God’s will according to Scripture. In a very practical way of thinking, consider the narrowing of choices when a spiritual single believer says, “I love the Lord and will follow His guidelines. Therefore I will not consider dating and marrying any person who is not saved (unequal yoke) and any believer who is not fully committed to the Lord’s will, Word, and work (marry in the Lord).” For the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, this believer is choosing to limit possibilities down with the guidelines of the Word of God for His glory. Let’s be real. With nearly 7,000,000,000 in the world, any believer could easily get married. Imagine the joy in God’s heart, though, when a believer chooses to honor the King in devotion to His will and Word and remains single for a short time or a lifetime.
Because of the goal!
Singleness is never viewed in the New Testament with anything less than absolute excitement. Paul was so thrilled at his life as a single believer that he said his personal preference would be that others live single as well. His reason was, “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1Cor 7:32). Singles have fewer responsibilities (no spouse) so that they can give themselves to greater involvement in His service. According to Scripture, married believers serve God in their marriages by serving one another and their families. Singles, though, are free from occupying their minds, emotions, time, and financial resources to care for a spouse. Their personal and financial resources can be directed into unique and exciting ways to please the Lord. How inspiring for singles to know that their choice of singlehood will open unique opportunities as to what they could do and be for God.
Consider the Lord Jesus. His sojourn here was singly devoted to His Father and the Kingdom of Heaven. He obeyed and fulfilled Scripture completely. He manifested the perfect life and we can safely draw from the pure guidelines in His life – whether we are single or married.
Therefore, perspective on the single life is key. Choosing to be single for your own career, your own hobbies, or your own liberty is disobedience to Scripture. However, if God calls you to serve Him and others as a single believer, His plan is best for you. Satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, and usefulness are all available to the Christian single. Taking God’s perspective, “you may learn by experience what God’s will is – that will which is good and beautiful and perfect” (Rom 12:2 Weymouth New Testament).