Sufficiency Of The Bible And Dating

One of the things we are taught in Christian culture or at least the evangelical/protestant version of it, is that in every area of life we should ask what does the bible say about it?  In other words if I have a question in a certain context, I can look to the bible to find the answer to that question.  This is because not only is the bible inspired, inerrant, and authoritative, it is also sufficient.

This is supposed to work on all moral issues obviously, but the idea here is that it also works for everything else.  The bible is the “road map” that we are to follow. It is God’s instruction to us.  In it is everything we need.  Some will go so far to say that not only is a way to hear God’s voice, but it is the only way.

Now this works pretty well on a lot of moral issues.  It can even work when you think about how we as people are supposed to treat each other.  However, we can sort of start to run into some problems in certain contexts of life.

Now before you all think I’m about to commit heresy here in the blog, let me assure you that I believe the bible as written is indeed inspired and inerrant.  It is also authoritative, although I’ll qualify that in a minute.  Being solely sufficient is a bit tougher to back up and it is for sure not the only way God speaks to us (which the bible itself never claims and in fact itself gives us example after example of that not being true).

The Bible is not God.  We don’t worship a book, we worship who the book points to.

In the context of our subject matter here at the blog, that is singleness in the church today, it does not offer a step by step road map.

Now to be sure, it does give us a lot to work with.  Because it is indeed authoritative, we need to understand that anything that is given as instructional in the bible is authoritative for the single life.  This includes things like sexual immorality, how to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as if we get married how to set that relationship up as well.

But even when it comes to sexual ethics, the bible is more authoritative as a whole than it is a verse by verse instruction manual.  For example, while you can’t find the verse that says premarital sex is wrong (go ahead and look for that verse) you can be sure that it is wrong because of what the bible teaches as a whole about what sex is, what it is created for as well as example after example of how that goes wrong.  In the bible there are only two example of sexual desire being fulfilled.  In marriage as good and outside of marriage as bad. Again the bible as a whole is authoritative.

But in our current Christian culture, we want the verse by verse answers.  This desire comes from a limited rather than an exhaustive view of biblical theology.

When we get trapped in this we run into two big problems in the singleness context (as well as many others).  The first is that who gets to interpret what it says?  In other words one person (pastor, denomination, etc) teaches, using this or that verse, that the biblical truth in the area of singleness says this.  But another person (pastor, denomination, etc) teaches, using this or that verse, that it doesn’t mean this, it actually means that.

No where is this more apparent than in the area of dating.  Is there biblical instruction for dating?  Is the bible alone sufficient for finding a spouse?  The short answer is: it’s complicated.  Here’s a better question: What, if anything, does the bible offer us as singles about singleness, dating and finding a spouse?

So let me try to break it down simply and honestly – again assuming that the bible is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.

The bible as a whole does tell us at the least the following:

  • Celibacy and marriage are both options for the temporal life.
  • Celibacy and marriage are both pictures of the Kingdom.
  • Sex is created for the context of heterosexual marriage
  • We are all called, regardless of context to sexual purity
  • If I’m not called to celibacy then I should seek marriage – not a bunch of relationships
  • If I get married what the basic parameters, relational dynamics and commitments  should be.  In other words what the covenantal relationship looks like.  What marriage itself is.
  • To some degree what I am looking for in the other person and what person I need to be in the marriage.
  • That we do not have a soulmate or perfect person that God has ordained for us to marry
  • How to in general think of and treat my brothers and sisters in Christ

What the bible as a whole does not tell us is the following:

  • The exact person that I should marry or for that matter that God has predestined a person for me to marry
  • How to get married
  • The step by step process that I need to follow to get married
  • How to attract a potential spouse
  • The proper dating (or courting or whatever) system for me to follow in the pursuit of a spouse
  • What exact role the man and woman play in the process of getting married
  • The exact role that the family, church or community plays in helping people get married

Now there are obviously those who disagree with the second list.  Those people are wrong.  Ha!!  It’s funny but true.  While I can point to both verses as well as the scripture as whole to support the first list, I don’t think anyone can point to scripture as a whole to show me how the second list is wrong.  You’re welcome to try in the comment section.  I have no doubt that one can massage a verse here or there to answer those questions (I’ve seen it done) it’s just not really in the bible any sort of consistent way.

For example you might be able to prove that modern dating is not in the bible but you can’t show that “courting” is THE biblical path to marriage.  You can certainly show that many modern sexual practices are un-bilical but you can’t prove that your plan is THE biblical way find a spouse.

Why does this matter? It matters because we live in the real world right now.  It matters because the bible is indeed inerrant and authoritative in what it does say. When we make it say things that it doesn’t we mess up both our expectations and we cheapen the very inerrancy and authority that we are seeking to preserve and follow.  In other words it confuses the whole concept and creates a bunch of false dichotomies and platitudes.

On the other hand, when we recognize what it does say, and put those things into practice, we then have the freedom, within those parameters, to work in the current temporal context that we find ourselves in.

We Are All Called To Chastity

A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage.  Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:

  • We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
  • We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex.  In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage.  This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.

But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy?  Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?

Let’s start with this truth:  There are a lot of different contexts that people trying to follow Jesus find themselves in right now.  There are those who are married, divorced, widowed, not yet married, celibate by birth, made celibate by men (or the fall of man) and those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom. (I have a whole series of posts coming on these last three).

Each and everyone of these have different biblical instructions.  Each have sub contexts within them.  But there is one path that every one of these is called to follow towards holiness.  That is each and every one of these is called to chastity.  Indeed, all of us, regardless of context, is called to chastity.

Marriage as THE way to holiness is a non starter because:

  1. Not all of these people are called, or for that matter biblically instructed to, get married.
  2. It assumes that no one can have holiness in their sexuality outside of marriage – which basically means that you can’t actually be called to chastity to begin with since none of us are born married.

So what is Chastity.  Chastity includes, although it is not limited to, the proper ordering of sexual pleasure.  It is an understanding that sexual pleasure itself does not bring lasting joy.  It it not the goal.  All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life.  In other words, regardless of marital status we are called to chastity.

What this means is that chastity is not the same as celibacy or even abstinence.  The chaste unmarried person refrains from sexual pleasure while the chaste married person seeks sexual pleasure only within the marriage covenant.

Now within these different contexts, the Lord can use our chastity to help us become more holy – more devoted and set apart for God.  This is because in order to be chaste, we have to submit and often surrender our personal sexual desires to God.  Doing this consistently changes our focus from fulfilling our own desires selfishly to conforming to God’s.  Living a chaste life impacts how we view God, ourselves and others.

As a bonus it also protects us and others.  It protects us from the sin and consequences of fornication and adultery.  It protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It also sets us apart in a fallen world and therefore strengthens our witness to others.  In fact I would suggest, and have suggested, that living a chaste life is one of the four ways that we can set ourselves apart so that others will listen to what we have to say about Jesus.**

Now it is important to note something here.  Chastity is not the so much the goal as the means to the goal.  In other words chastity is more than just avoiding sexual sin, it is avoiding sexual sin in order to walk more closely in obedience to God – which is the goal.

This by the way is true of many things and important to our understanding of how this life works.  Chastity, orthodoxy, the sacraments, the bible, etc, are all tools not the end goals. They are things instituted by God to help us on our path of to Him, not the other way around.

So what we can know is that regardless of marital status, we are called to live chaste in that context.  It is not impossible with the help of God to live that way.  That doesn’t make it easy, but we are not doomed to unholiness without marriage.  In fact we are called to holiness regardless.  Not only that but God can give us the grace to live that out in each of these contexts if we seek Him and do it with Him.  And that seeking of Him and obedience to His calling is what sends us towards holiness.

 

** – I believe that in our current culture if we do four things in accordance to the teaching of the scriptures we will have a platform to share Jesus.  That is, what we do with our money, our time, our sexual desire and how we handle reconciliation.  If we do those four things the way the world does them, then we look no different from the world and very few if any will take our witness seriously.

F R I E N D S – Don’t Let The “Friend Zone Anthem” Be Your Song

So there’s a new song out by Marshmallow and Anne-Marie (No I had not heard of them either) called Friends.  It’s all over pop radio right now.  The song and video encapsulate what we call the Friend zone.  In fact it is often called the Friend Zone Anthem.

Here’s the videowarning, there are a couple of bad words in the song.  If that bothers you, don’t watch it.  Here’s a video with just the lyrics without any bad words.

Now I’ve written extensively about the friend zone and avoiding it here at the blog for years.  (Some posts are linked below).  But I haven’t written on it in a while and I know that there are a lot of people, especially younger guys, who find themselves in these situations.

Let’s first define some things.   I’m not saying now, nor have I ever said, that you can’t have friends of the opposite sex.  That is not what the friend zone is.  I have had many female friends over the years.  The friend zone instead occurs when one person (usually a guy**) is romantically attracted to another person (usually a gal) but the feeling is not mutual.  What the woman says to the guy is that “I don’t want to date you, but I want to be just friends” or something to that effect.

What happens next is that the guy thinks that if he stays friends, and in fact increases his friendship with the woman (because after all she just invited that friendship verbally), that eventually the woman will see him in a different light and become romantically attracted to him.  The guy does all sorts of nice things for his friend.  The woman, may well appreciate some of those things, but at the same time doesn’t become more attracted, and in fact usually less so.  This is because that plan is no where in the vicinity of how female attraction works.

Some might say, what’s the big deal?  Everyone needs friends right?  What’s the harm?  In a way that is what the song/video seem to be saying.  That’s why its the Friend Zone Anthem.  Just a part of life, poor guy.

But the truth is there actually can be a lot of harm.

First, it isn’t really an honest relationship.  What I mean is that the guy is being a friend to “get the girl”.  That’s not usual friendship.  Also, many times when the woman says this, it is her way of saying no, not her way of saying let’s hang out more.

Another thing that can happen is that the guy can get mad at the woman.  This happens because in his mind he’s working to win her affection.  She gives it to other “unworthy” guys who don’t treat her as good as he does.  Let me be clear right now on this part.  No woman owes you her romantic feelings.  You owe no woman yours.

It’s also a colossal waste of energy, emotion and time.  If you spend all of your time as a guy trying to “win your friend” you just become more emotionally invested.  You don’t spend time meeting and trying to date other women.  The truth is, if you want to be married, you don’t have time, energy, emotions or resources to waste chasing someone who wants to be “just friends”.  It’s not worth it.  There are plenty of others.

Here’s the point:  The harm in the friend zone is that people get more hurt than they have to.

Look, I lived this as a young adult male.  I was always this guy.  So I’m not writing this as someone who has always been above this speaking down to you.  I’m writing it to implore you to avoid it.  Like the plague actually.

How do we do that?

First, let me say this to the ladies.  If you are in this spot where you have someone in the friend zone, I get it.  But you have to draw a harder line.  Say no.  Don’t say, “no but I want to be friends”.  Just don’t.  You are not being nice.  You are either being naive or you are using this guy for whatever he does for you.  The best thing you can do for him is tell him no and then not hang out “as friends”.  It might be hard.  But it’s right.  Better for you and better for him.

If you are a guy who finds himself in this spot, it’s time to change.  Right now.  Walk away from it.  Now.  You won’t be hurting her by doing this.  You aren’t missing an opportunity with her later.  She is not The One.  You are only hurting yourself.

Don’t be friends to get her to like you.  Don’t be friends and hang out with someone you break up with.  Don’t hang out with someone as friends who you went out with a few times and she still wants to hang out as friends but not date you.  Don’t do things for her thinking it will change her mind.  Walk.Away.Now.  Move on.

Again, is it easy? Probably not.  But is it the truth?  Yes.

What you don’t want be ever is the guy in this video:

This is a real life picture of what it looks like.  Even better, he’s still hanging out with her apparently:

Take a good look at this guy.  I’ve been this guy.  Don’t be.

Friend Zone Post Links

Get Out Of The Friend Zone

Avoid The Friend Zone

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Treat Her Better

Don’t be Friends First

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

Quit Being Nice

Avoid The Nice Guy Trap

** I understand that this can happen the other way around where the guy tells the woman that he just wants to be just friends.  However it is far, far less common and usually ends much, much more quickly.  But, if you are in that situation, everything I just described applies the other way around.

You Can’t Have It All

Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family.  This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.

Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid.  She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.

I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.

First, we have convinced ourselves that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40.  But that simply is not true.  We tell folks not to hurry and grow up, to enjoy life before marriage, to take advantage of singleness.  Frankly we worship youth in our culture.

One reason the secular culture (with the western Christian culture often tagging along) worships youth is that we don’t have a right view of eternity vs. the temporal life.  Without going into a complete ten page theological dialogue here I want to address this.

In the temporal life we have a physical, and even eventually a mental peak.  What I mean is that at first, physically we are growing and then maturing.  But at a certain point, we start to age in a different way.  We have passed our peak physicality.  This is true for me at 45 years of age.  I can get in the best shape possible but odds are I won’t jump or run or even lift what I did in my 20’s.  All of my reverse dunking on the basketball court is in my past, not my future.  Eventually my body will diminish even more.  Someday, my mind will probably start to do the same.  This is called reality.

In our current culture people don’t want to peak, so they come up with ways to extend the peak.  Now I’m not suggesting that we should quit working out at 40.  Not my point at all. But the goal isn’t to stay young, it’s to stay in the best shape possible because our bodies are from God (not to mention we will feel better and all the other benefits of that).

What I’m suggesting is that worshipping youth and denying reality is not healthy.  It is especially not healthy if it is used to justify not growing up, not being committed to growth as a person while denying consequences.  I think this mentality is one of the things that really hurts single people today.

We’re telling people, and in frankly in particular women, that you can have it all.  But you can’t.  None of us can. Our choices have consequences.  If we don’t talk about those consequences with young people we are setting them up to be severely disappointed as they get older.

Now I know that there are exceptions.  I also know that science and medicine have in many ways extended not only our age expectancies but also women’s fertility.  But there are costs even to that.  If a woman waits until her late 30s to start having kids she is more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and more likely to have complications affecting both her and the child. These are actual facts.

This doesn’t even include the fact that it is harder for a woman in her 30s to get married than a younger woman.  Again, we can cry that it’s not fair.  I get that.  But that won’t make it any less true.

Now here’s the thing, I’m not telling anyone what choices to make.  What I want to suggest is two things.

First, understand that you are probably not the exception.  In other words, count the cost of your decision making.  Do you want to get married? Do you want a big family?  Then go ahead and work for that.  If that’s not what you want, then don’t.  But don’t believe the lies that you can have all that you want whenever you want it without any cost.  Live in the real world.

Secondly, I want to encourage you regardless of what you want to see the eternal view not the secular one.  What I mean by that is that when you view your life as a believer from an eternal perspective, it changes the peak dynamic.  You will still have a physical and mental peak in the temporal life.  But that’s not the end.  Instead, when you die you will be with Jesus in the present heaven, which will be better than any peak you had here.  Then at the resurrection and renewal of all things – the final heaven – you will never peak.  You will continue to grow and grow and grow.

What this means is that I can go ahead and grow up.  You don’t have to fight to “stay young” so to speak.  We can have a long view and understand that God is growing us overall, calling us to grow more and more.  That even in my aging in the temporal life, God is growing me.  There is no need to delay adulthood.  There is no reason to delay responsibility.  In fact the opposite is true.  You want to grow as much as possible.

Should You Budget Money For Dating?

The other day while driving I was listening to some Dave Ramsey.  In case you’re not familiar, briefly, Dave wants people to live biblically with their money, meaning stay out of debt, control your money instead of letting it control you and be generous along the way.

He has a radio show and people call in with all kinds of scenarios asking his advice.  Very rarely do I ever see Dave not have an answer.  In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it . . . until the other day.

A young never married guy called in and said, “Hey Dave, I’m following your plan.  No debt, I have a budget etc.  I’m not married but I want to be.  Here’s my question, how much should I budget for that pursuit?”

One thing about Dave is that he’s always honest with people and he just laughed and said, “I have not been in that world for so long, I have no idea.”  After both he and the caller laughed a little, he did toss out a couple of thoughts, but it made me think of a couple of important ideas and some practical ones if you find yourself in that position.

To begin with, as a single person you need to have a handle on your money.  I’ve written once about this before, but you and your money are not less important because you are not married.  The biblical principles for money apply to all of us, no matter what our marital status is.  I messed this up quite a bit in my 20 years of singleness (as well as doing a few smart things) and I’ll share more about that later.

Secondly, I think it can be really healthy, if you are in search for a spouse mode, to intentionally budget both some money and time in that direction.  It is ok, and in fact I would suggest a good idea, to be intentional about looking for said spouse.  As is well documented all over this blog, I’m not a big believer in platitudes that say, “It will just happen” or “God will bring you the one at the right time” or “being content with singleness“.  Again, there are probably double digit posts here on this.  We have to act.  Especially if you are out of college and living in the “real world” so to speak.

Now this is different than obsessing over it, making it an idol, being desperate for it, or letting it run your whole walk with God.  That’s all bad and admittedly it can be a fine line.  But intentionality, especially when involves doing it with God and within His guidelines, is always good.  In any context including this one.

That means I’m going to have to carve out time and, as the caller mentioned, carving out some budget money is not a bad idea either.  But again, I need to be intentional with both, because I don’t have a limitless supply of either.

Let me throw out a few ideas about how one might do that. A couple of caveats here.  I did some of these at some level, but I did not really handle my money as well as I should have as a single.  Also, these are just ideas.  I would really love it if some others would chime in here with either ideas that they’ve used or that they might try out if they thought about it.  Finally, this assumes that you actually have a budget.  If you don’t I’d start there**.

I think I’d start with an overall spouse search budget.  Then I’d have a couple of sub categories.

I’d have a meet people budget.  Depending on your mode of operation this could include different things.  But as an example budget an amount for online dating.  Look for deals.  A couple of hints here.  Rotate your paid subscription to different sites.  For example, sign up for three months of Eharmony, then if you want, sign up for three months of Match.  They’ll let you keep your profile for free so you can easily rotate the one you are paying for.  Look for promos.  Eharmony will do free weekends for example.  The point is, part of your monthly budget could go to this.***

Then have an an actual go out with these people budget.  If you aren’t in a relationship this does not need to be large amount.  I know there is debate in certain circles about the guy paying which I get.  I think in general it’s good for us to pay.  However, we should have a budget for what we are paying and frankly I wouldn’t bust your budget meeting someone the first couple to times.  It’s ok to go somewhere nice, but just be smart.  Too much too soon is not helpful anyway.

Now, if you get serious about someone, it is time to stop putting money in the meet someone budget, for now, and start putting more into the actual going on dates budget.  Eventually if things go really well, you could start a ring budget.

A question I thought of is this, “What if I have dating budget money left over at the end of the month?”  Maybe nothing shook out or led to any dates.  Or maybe a couple of inexpensive meet ups but nothing beyond that.  Great.  Now I have extra money.

I don’t think I’d roll it over into the dating fund of the next month although maybe now and then you could.  Perhaps put it toward savings or towards a particular purchase you’d like to make in the future.  Maybe some months you spend it on you.  The point is, you don’t have to spend all you have allotted each month, but you have it if you need it.

The point here is have a plan.  See what works.  Try different things.  But budget for it.

I welcome other thoughts here.  What do you think?

 

** For a great budgeting app go here.

*** This is a pretty good breakdown of some different sites.

Holiness Is Not The “Point” Of Marriage

One of the recent trends in that I see in much of Christian culture is the idea that marriage makes you holy or that the point of marriage is holiness.  In fact, as you look back over the last few decades (if not centuries in Protestantism), you see some groups state that it is the path to holiness.

Some of this was a reaction to celibacy for the kingdom previously being seen as more holy than the domestic life.  But I see this idea of marriage as the path to holiness all of the time and frankly it’s not helpful as it views the whole frame in the wrong way.

Here are a couple of ways that this plays out in our culture:

One place that this comes from is the thought that going into marriage we need to understand that the point of marriage is to make us holy, not happy.  A lot of this is an attempted reaction to the divorce culture that started decades ago.  The thought is that if we go into marriage looking for it to give us happiness, or fulfillment in and of itself, then when we don’t feel happy or fulfilled we will be in trouble in the marriage.

To be fair there is obviously a lot of truth to this.  We should’t look to marriage to fulfill us.  Jesus does that.  We shouldn’t enter marriage purely for our own self happiness or only because of romance and attraction because no matter how great the marriage there will be times where we don’t feel any of that.  If one enters marriage thinking they will always feel those things, or that those things (attraction, happiness, etc) are the main barometer of the marriage, then there are going to be problems.  All of that is fair, and a good thing for both singles seeking marriage as well as married folks to realize.

But in a culture where people are delaying or not even seeking marriage (80% of people between the ages of 19-29 are not married) this can become sort of counter productive.  I’ve written a whole post on the Marriage is Hard Movement™ previously.  But suffice it to say, focusing constantly on how hard marriage is probably isn’t going to change that.

But a second less discussed idea that that comes out of the marriage makes you holy line of thinking is that marriage makes sex holy.  This line of thinking goes something like this: we all want sex, in fact we’re actually driven by sex.  It is an unstoppable animal instinct.  We can’t control it.  Especially men.  We are told that we can’t control any of this.  So what is the answer to this uncontrollable desire?  Marriage.

But this misses some very serious biblical truths about us as humans and about marriage as instituted by God.

First, we are not just animals with uncontrollable desires.  We are created in God’s image.  We have this thing called choice.  I’ll say more about desire soon, but the fact is that if we were just animals we’d have no responsibility whatsoever for sin.

Secondly, God did not institute marriage as a concession because we wanted sex.  It’s not as if we were created, then we desired sex and so God said, “Whoops, didn’t think that through, what am I going to do here. . . . Oh wait. . .  I’ve got it: Marriage!”

Marriage was instituted before sin and before sex.  Marriage was not created for sex.  Sex was instead created for marriage.  

This matters because it changes the entire frame of following God in our unmarried state by not having sex and in marriage itself.  By telling people that marriage is the answer to sex and our uncontrollable desires, we put the emphasis on sex instead of the covenant relationship of marriage.

Marriage doesn’t legitimize sex.  Marriage doesn’t redeem sex.  Marriage doesn’t fix our sexual sin.  When we place marriage as created for sex we are opening the door to all of that.  The implications of that are enormous in our current culture.  I’ll spell those out more at a later date, but you can see it everywhere both inside and outside of the church.

What we’ve discussed here doesn’t even get into the fact that if marriage is what makes you holy, then what does that say to the unmarried?  Can they not be holy?  What is that person to do?

The bottom line is that marriage is not what makes you holy.

This of course raises several key questions.  If the marriage doesn’t make you holy, then what does?  If holiness is not the the point of marriage, then what is the point?  If marriage doesn’t make sex holy then what is the point of the creation of sex?

I’ll explore more of this soon.  But let’s start with this truth:  God wants us to be holy.  He is constantly calling us and pulling us towards holiness.  But assuming we let Him, He is going to do that regardless of marital status.

Should You Be Content With Singleness?

One of the things I used to hear all the time when I was a in my twenties and single was the idea that I needed to be “content” with my singleness.

Now there were at least two origins that this thought came from.  Some were espousing this advice because, “it’s when you’re not looking that you find someone”.  In other words if you were content and not striving to get married, you would be more likely to find someone to marry.  Just typing that makes me laugh.

I addressed this particular angle long ago but let me just touch on it here.  If you are actually content in your singleness, meaning that you do not have the desire to marry, and/or feel that God has called you to celibacy for the kingdom, and/or you don’t desire sex then there would be no reason to get married.  This is an actual viable vocational path within the kingdom.

But if you want to be married and don’t feel called to celibacy for the kingdom, then you are either sort of feigning contentment or at the least simply trying to be content for a different motive.  The other reality here is that if you are over 24 years old or so, chances are that you are going to have to make and effort find someone to marry.  It’s not going to just happen.  That’s not how it works.

I also think that this can lull people asleep in the sense that it’s ok to be content being single for now.  This actually could be necessary for a time.  For example you may need to be focused on a short term mission or for schooling.  But even then, your desire at the end of the day is to be married.  Putting something off is not the same as being content without it.

The second reason people pull out the content with your singleness line is that they think that they are referring to what Paul says in Philippians 4.  The basic message from many well meaning believers is something to the effect of, “Hey Brother, this is where the Lord has you right now, so you need to be content with that, and trust Him.”  That sounds really holy.  The problem is that’s not what Paul says.

Let’s look at it.  Paul is closing out his letter to the Philippians.  In the preceding verses, he asks them to not be anxious about anything, but instead, pray about everything, make requests to God and He will meet you in it.  He then encourages them to focus on the things of God and do the things that he’s taught.

He then thanks them for being concerned for him in his current hard circumstances.  In verse 10-13 he writes,

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

What Paul says is that he can be content in any situation.  What he does not say is that he will be content with any situation.  There is a huge difference between those two things.

Paul is constantly urging change.  He implores people to action constantly.  He is continually advancing the kingdom.

Look at it this way.  If you are being abused should you be content with that situation?  If you are broke and jobless are to be content with that situation?  If you are overweight are you to be content with that situation? Would you say, “God has me overweight right now. If God wants me to lose weight I will, for now I’ll have to be content with it”.

What I understand Paul to be saying is this, no matter what situation you are in God is with you.  I can be content overall because at the end of the day, I have Jesus.  I know how this all ends.  I am content in Him.  It is because of this – that I can do all things through Him.  I can survive a current tough circumstance, for my entire temporal life if necessary, but I could also grow, change, act, heal, and advance, through Him.

Think about your current spiritual condition. God loves you right where you are.  But he doesn’t leave us where we are.  Through whatever circumstances or context, He is pulling (often dragging) us towards holiness and sanctification.

Let’s bring this full circle back to singleness.

It is good not to be anxious about your singleness.  That doesn’t do us any good and in fact is harmful on many levels, not the least of which it can make us desperate.

It is good to be content in Jesus in the circumstance of singleness.  Singleness (or any other context or circumstance) does not define us – Jesus does.

It is ok, to not be content with singleness.  In fact not being content with it is part of what drives us to actually work to get married.