Marriage Isn't the Goal for Christians
From middle school through college I thought having a girlfriend was very important and I honestly took it too seriously. Frankly, I didn’t go very long as a single person. I always seemed to want a girlfriend. Looking back, it was a major priority in my life and I was dissatisfied being single and alone. It was not until much later that I could see what a big problem that was.
The Church has often mistakenly treated marriage like some sort of holy grail. We’ve treated it like it’s #GOALS, which is problematic for at least a couple of reasons. First, it makes single people feel like second class citizens in the life of the church. Second, it is an entirely unbiblical notion. In fact, when we look in Scripture, we actually find the opposite to be true. Singleness is set as the standard to aspire to while marriage is the concession.
In our culture (and even in the church at times) one must date to find the right person to reach the holy grail of marriage and a family. If the person you’re dating doesn’t work out then it’s time to find the next one and maybe he or she will be the right one. It’s easy to see how this can become an endless cycle in a culture driven by consumerism.
But in reality, we as Christians should be championing singleness and singles. We shouldn’t be making them feel like second class citizens; we should be putting them on the front lines of ministry. Paul—being single himself—knew this well and was a strong advocate for singleness. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he makes a clear and convincing case on why—if you can—it is better to be single. He says in verses 32-35:
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.
Paul’s argument is that a single person can have their full attention on the Lord. A married person must—and rightly so—worry about their spouse. A single person can devote lots of time to the Lord. A married person must take care of their family. Single people are able to serve God in ways that married people just aren’t able.
When I lived in New Orleans I was single for quite awhile and I can point to that time as the period when I felt the closest in my relationship with the Lord. There were some days where I would literally pray for hours! It’s hard to imagine, I know… But can I just tell you that was an awesome time in my life!? There were times I couldn’t wait to get back to my bedroom to pray. It was amazing. I felt so close to God. Now, as a husband and a dad, I don’t just have hours of free time in my day like that. One of my main concerns in life is taking care of my wife and my two daughters, which of course, is a very important thing for me to do.
Singleness is honestly a gift (vs. 7). It’s not something everyone can or should do. Paul says it is better to marry than to burn with passion (vs. 9). That was definitely the category I fell into and I have been greatly blessed by God through my marriage. But he makes it clear that if one can be single, they should be. “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (vs. 38).
It’s time to champion our singles in the church. It’s time to quit acting like marriage is the holy grail. Marriage is a gift from God, but so is singleness. In fact, Paul makes it clear that singleness is to be preferred. Single people can serve in so many unique and amazing ways. Let’s cheer them on and thank them instead of asking, “Are you dating anybody?”
Paul makes it clear that there’s nothing wrong with marriage and for many people, marriage is good and necessary. More and more, there are many people who aren’t single by choice and desire marriage, but the Lord has not granted it to them yet. For those of you reading this, thank you for serving the Lord in your singleness. I pray you’ll keep pressing on. The Lord knows the desires of your heart and I know many of you know Him as enough and are trusting His goodness day by day. Please keep serving our churches; we are so grateful for you.
To those young people reading this. Enjoy this single time of your life. Use it to know God intimately and deeply. Use it to serve the church and make your presence known. If marriage is in your future then you will never have another time like this in your life. Our churches need you. Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your youth. You can do big things for God right now!
I wish I knew when I was younger what I know now. I was trying to make all of those girls I dated my savior. I was unfairly setting us both up to fail. I wish I had found satisfaction solely in my Creator. I hope as we begin to quit painting marriage as the holy grail that young people may date less and love the Lord more. I hope singles will be seen as some of our heroes. I hope that we all will glorify and enjoy God more together.