You Are Single For A Reason – But Probably Not The One You Think

In my 20 plus years of being single I’ve heard a lot of reasons for singleness.  Some of it was attempted pastoring or self righteousness, but most times it was attempted encouragement which I learned to appreciate because I knew people loved me.

As I’ve said almost ad nauseum here we in the Christian single culture have basically settled for spiritual platitudes that don’t really deal with the issue at hand – either individually or as a whole society.

One of those is the idea that God has you single right now. This is of course often followed by other platitudes such as “God has you single right now for a reason”, or “Since God has you single right now, take advantage of that”. Or “God has you single right now so be content in that”.

One of the big problems we have in protestant culture when it comes to singleness is a complete lack of understanding of what Paul is talking about when it comes to the unmarried.  It kills us because we keep bringing “the word” to the situation without even understanding what we are saying.  We mix and match scriptures in an attempt to make the current singleness culture fit into our favorite theological leanings.  It ends up being “help us sleep at night theology” that frankly doesn’t help many people live well single or get married.

Now before I say more and make some people really uncomfortable, let me say this clearly for the record – God may indeed want you to be single right now.  No doubt He calls us to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different seasons.  So I’m not negating that possibility in someone’s personal life.

But it is a terrible blanket answer to singleness.  It would mean that God has suddenly in the last 40 years of history decided that people shouldn’t get married until 30 or older.  Or I guess it could mean that for thousands of years people disobeyed God by getting married earlier.  I’m not comfortable with either of those answers.

First off, the bible never talks about singleness as we know it.  It just doesn’t.  In the oft referred to passage in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about marriage and sexual immorality.  There was mass confusion and he was attempting to clear some things up.

Paul says a lot of things here but when it comes to the “gift” of being unmarried, Paul is NOT talking about a call to a season of singleness.  He is instead talking about a call to (or gift of) celibacy.  He is saying that some are called to serve God from an unmarried state. He is not saying you have the gift of singleness until you get married.  He is saying if you have it, don’t get married.  That is a HUGE distinction.  

What we’ve done is taken this and turned it into a way to avoid dealing with why we are single.  Or we take other things Paul says in other places and transpose it into this passage.  For example in Philippians 4 Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances.  We transpose that to mean, “God has called you to singleness right now and you should be content in that.”  But that isn’t what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7.  He says if you aren’t content (read called, or gifted) in celibacy – Go Get Married!

This is so critical.  Paul is not saying if you are unmarried that you don’t have to worry about the things of marriage.  It would be more accurate to say that one of the ways to see if you are called to celibacy is to ask if you are worried about it.  Otherwise he would be saying that celibate people are better followers of Jesus than married people.  If that were true then no one should get married.

My biggest problem with this is that we end up saying to people, if you are single right now that is where God has you and you should just sit there and be content in it.  That is not what Paul says.

There are lots of reasons our society is where it is in terms of marriage.  Most of it is not God’s plan.

God is not calling you to be insecure around women you like.  He has not given you the “gift” of lack of commitment.  He has not called you to live with someone you are dating instead of marrying them.  He is not calling you to consumer date.  He is not promising you that if you are called to marriage that it will magically happen without your effort.  He has not “gifted” you with the fear of divorce.  He has not given you the “gift” of extended adolescence.  I could go on and on.

We as singles need to quit hiding from our crap in bad theology and the Church needs to get off it’s butt and quit enabling us to do it.  The Church should be the safest place to deal with all of the reasons why we are single, not just the ones that make a nice sermon.

You are single for a reason – lots of reasons actually.  Some of that may be God’s timing or calling.  But a whole heck of a lot of it isn’t.  The way out isn’t mixing and matching scripture to feel better.

4 thoughts on “You Are Single For A Reason – But Probably Not The One You Think

  1. Hey Justin,

    Again, this is a great article. My question for you is, if a single friend of ours is talking to us about not liking or being frustrated with their singleness or not wanting to be single anymore, what IS the best way to approach that situation then? Obviously, when you’re able to bring scripture into the conversation it’s better, but I agree with you that we shouldn’t be tossing bad theology around. All in all, I couldn’t agree with you more about not wanting to speak in spiritual platitudes, but what would be the best way to begin a conversation like this then?

    • Hey Angela. Great question. Maybe I should write a post about good things to do instead of just challenging the bad – haha.

      It totally depends on the person and their context of course. But here are a couple of things I think are helpful. First – sit in it with them. Think of what Job’s friends did right – they sat in ashes with Job. I think just acknowledging that it’s hard and being in it with them is most important. Second as far as scriptural truth, I think fighting for their identity to be in Christ not marital status (or anything else for that matter) is key. They might not like that either (I often didn’t) but it’s for sure true and right.

      Finally, I think if you are sitting in it with them, what do you see that they could do to actually act. What can they do to improve their situation. Not formula, and not to “earn it” but just what do you see in their life that might be in the way. There might not be anything, but often there is. But that’s only going to work if you do the first two things first.

      Does that help?

  2. Great article and great question and reply! When I was married, we would try to host dinners and bbq’s, etc, and invite our single friends who we thought might be good together. Being widowed now for 6 years, oh how I wish some of my married friends would do this. I had one friend tell me he had met a great guy at a men’s breakfast…and he sure hoped God would find a way to bring us together! Um, dude? It never occured to him that God’s way might have included him!

  3. Great post Justin. “He is not saying you have the gift of singleness until you get married. He is saying if you have it, don’t get married. That is a HUGE distinction.” Very well put. The only thing I would add is outlined in 1 Co 7. Those few of us who have been called to lifetime celibacy are concerned with the affairs of the Lord. We are not concerned about the affairs of the world, including marriage. There is a huge difference. Very little has been written on that distinction. As a matter of fact, it’s the only place in the Bible where two distinct sets of Christian values are identified – values held by those who have quenched their fire through marriage and those who have been given the gift of contentment in celibacy. To simplify: We’re the Marys sitting at the feet of Christ attending his every need (especially those marginalized by society). Then there are the Marthas who are married and caring for the affairs of this world, including their spouse and children. The difference in those values are as great as the difference between male and female, probably greater.

    I’m also glad you’re using the word celibacy because singleness has very little meaning today. I like to tell people I have a single pencil on my desk and ask what deep meaning that has for them. I remember back in the 70s and 80s the word single did have more meaning, back in the days when it was bizarre if you had had sex and were in a singles Sunday School class. But then the world crept into the church and we were forced to pretend that divorcees had the same needs as all other singles. Actually, the real reason oftentimes was that they didn’t won’t their pool for remarriage limited. Then homosexuality crept in and put everybody, especially never married older men, under suspicion.

    You’re probably aware that the SBC hierarchy, including Al Mohler and Russell Moore, has called for early marriage because men today can’t control themselves and they will eventually fall into fornication and pornography. Mohler has called older men who don’t marry living in sinful “extended adolescence.” Moore has recently said on his blog that all never married men over 35-40 were homosexuals and urged all church goers to “be careful” around them. He has also condemned waiting on marriage before having sex and criticized his own denominations “True Love Waits” program because he said it was impossible to wait. To quote him: “True love does not wait. It mates.” Then there’s David Platt who is up and coming in their ranks and pastor of the largest Baptist church in AL who recently stated “man up and get married.” Since all SBC churches are autonomous, they could have a gay preacher marry two lesbians and a kangaroo. Nobody would bat an eye. The church I attend routinely marries second time arounds and teenagers with a baby in their arms. All in the name of comfort and feeling good, and of course money.

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