7: Jesus validates being single.
This is a fascinating question, isn’t it? Jesus has challenged their thinking so much that they ask is it worth getting married. And the call to marriage is a hard one, and that’s why we shouldn’t just rush into it. If the disciples as this question, though, I do wonder what the state of their marriages was like!
So let’s look at Jesus’ answer, and I want to read it from the Message translation to help us understand it.
Matt 19:11-12 (Message)
But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it."
Look at this - Jesus doesn’t say that everyone should get married. And this is important, especially for Christians. As I said at the start, I have married for over 22 years. But before I was married - I had been single for 25 years. And that’s the commonality amongst us - we have all been single, but we don’t all get married.
And this is important because so much our culture is built around couples. This is especially true of the church culture. At the time of Christ, it was thought that you were in sin if the men were not married by the time they were 21. And in a lot of ways, we have carried this over into the church too. Single people are almost made to feel second best…and that is simply not the case as Jesus shows us.
Did you know that 1/3 of the adult population in British Churches are single? Some choose a life of singleness and others are single and frustrated about being single.
The Bible is very positive about singleness. Let me say that again. The Bible is very positive about singleness. Paul was single. John the Baptist was single. Jesus was single, despite what Hollywood would try and get us to believe. We could leave it right there!
So we know what Jesus said about singleness, what did Paul say?
Paul on Singleness
1 Corinthians 7:7
I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Here Paul is calling singleness a gift from God. He isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it. We should receive our situation in life, whether it is singleness or marriage, as a gift of God’s grace to us.
The Bible talks about two key advantages of being single:
1 Corinthians 7:28
But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
Notice here that Paul clarifies that it is not a sin to get married. This again was counter-cultural because they believed you had to be married by 21 and if you didn’t, it was a sin. The other thing to notice here is that Pauls says those who marry will face many troubles in this life. So being single, you avoid those. In other words, marriage is hard work - and it brings its own set of troubles with it.
Paul goes on to say
1 Corinthians 7:32-34
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs —how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.
So the second advantage of being single is that you can devote yourself more fully to the work of God. I appreciate that if you are single you may have had enough of people saying this to you, you may not see it as a good thing - but it’s true none-the-less. So we know that singleness has advantages and that both Paul and Jesus validate singleness.
But we also know that singleness is hard. Our culture and our church culture are built around the idea of couples. Relationships are often glorified in the church which means being single can be super isolating and just plain lonely.
And if I am honest, the church doesn’t always deal with singleness in a healthy way. Christians don’t always deal with singleness in a healthy way. And I apologise to you if the church or Christians have made you feel second best, isolated and lonely.
Not Good to be alone
One of the first things recorded in the Bible -
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
It’s not good to be alone. So even if you are single, can I encourage you to get into a family and friendships. Don’t be alone. We see this with Paul, and with Jesus who was single. They had family that they were part of. And it’s a Biblical thing.
God sets the lonely in families
So get involved with families but don’t think of singleness as second best. Singleness may not be where you stay - but if you are here now, do make sure that you receive it as a gift from God, focus on the things of God and get involved in a family.