The Advantage of Singleness

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. . . . In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.

1 Corinthians 7:32-34

Throughout much of the church today, Christians rightly see marriage as a gift from God. But they wrongly conclude or suggest that singleness is somehow a curse, a lesser state of human life. When I became Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, for example, I got an earful from single members who were tired of feeling like second class Christians. I quickly discovered that their frustration was warranted. In particular, I remember a special communion service where families were encouraged to serve each other. Husbands, wives, and children had a blessed moment of spiritual intimacy. Single people served themselves, a blistering reminder of their aloneness.

Given the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7, it’s odd how much the church tends to value marriage and discount singleness. The Apostle Paul clearly makes the opposite point. He sees singleness as advantageous, as better than being married. He is not discounting the importance of marriage, but rather noting that a single person has greater freedom to serve the Lord because he or she can focus on God and not a spouse. (I cannot say this without thinking of our Lord, who was not married and therefore had freedom to devote himself to the ministry of the kingdom of God. If you’re wondering about whether Jesus was actually married or not, you might be interested in my online article Was Jesus Married?)

Time and again, I have seen in action the biblical principle of singleness giving people freedom for service. I think, for example, of some of the single adults at Irvine Presbyterian Church who were leaders in several ministries. For example, some of them had freedom to go on church mission trips because they did not have family responsibilities back at home. Their singleness gave them exceptional opportunities to serve in ways that were much more difficult for married people.

If you are unmarried, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 should encourage you in your discipleship. You are not a second class Christian, but a first class disciple with unusual freedom to serve the Lord. If you are married, let this passage remind you to make sure you and your church are valuing single people. By opening your heart and your homes, you can provide single adults with a loving family where they belong, as well as a secure foundation for ministries of outreach and service.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: If you are single, do you see your singleness as an opportunity for serving the Lord? If you are married, are you including and encouraging the single adults in your church family? PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for giving us good gifts in every situation of life. To be sure, marriage is one of those good gifts. But so is singleness, and this is often overlooked or even denied in the church.

Today I pray for unmarried disciples, that they might take advantage of their freedom to serve you. I thank you for many I know who use this freedom wonderfully. Continue to call them and use them for your purposes.

But I also want to pray for your church, Lord, because sometimes we do not provide the family that single members need and deserve. May we open our arms to those who are unmarried, not only to encourage them in their ministry, but also to embrace them with your love. Let us truly be the family of faith!

I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.