Is Situational Singleness A Gift?

One of the things that I’ve read on occasion and heard in conversations as well as from the pulpit, is the way to know if you have the gift of singleness is if you are single right now, then you’ve got it.

Now, in some evangelical circles, there is of course debate on whether singleness is a gift or even a calling at all.  But I’m going to go ahead and side with 2000 years of Church history along with a straight reading of the scriptures and say that it is.

Here is the general idea of what these folks are selling.  The basic idea is of course that God is sovereign and therefore whatever context you find yourself in is the one that God is “gifting” you with right now.  If you are unmarried then right now you have the gift of singleness.  Married?  Then right now you have the gift of marriage.  Both are gifts.  All contexts we find ourselves in are gifts.

But in our current culture this idea is fraught with problems.

First of all, we don’t do this with other contexts of our lives.  For example.  Let’s say that you don’t have a job.  One might say, “God will bring you a job” or “God will show you how to get a job”.  We might even say, “take whatever job you can to provide for your needs but look for what God is calling you to do.”  What we don’t do however is say, “sit around and in the right time God will bring you a job.”  I’ve never heard anyone preach about the “Gift of Joblessness” simply because you don’t have one.  “God is gifting you with joblessness right now.”  Yeah no.  Do you have the gift of being thousands of dollars in debt because that’s your financial context?

This also flies in the face of what Paul says, (What is amazing is that they will quote Paul while teaching exactly what he doesn’t say – it’s confounding).  What Paul says is that if you are single and not content – go get married.

One of the big results of this sort of teaching is a bunch of Christians sitting around waiting for their spouse that God has for them or their Christian soulmate.  This creates all sorts of issues which we’ve discussed ad nauseam here.  The worst might be that it turns God into the Great Withholder and puts all the blame for our rise in singleness on Him.

Now we can be content in Jesus no matter what our circumstances.  And every day is indeed a gift from God.  But not everything that happens is a gift from God – although He can use it all.  In fact if we are content in Jesus, frankly that should make us discontent with our context at some level.  If for no other reason than I should at least be discontent with my sin.

Which brings us to the next problem.  It doesn’t take into account sin.  If you are single and sleeping with someone, or a lot of someones, do you have the gift of singleness right now?  If you are living with someone do you have the gift?  If you are divorced do you have the gift?

Whatever else Paul is implying he is not saying, “stay single and date around if you are called to singleness” or “remain single and irresponsible for as long as you can”.  He is in no way talking about the space of extended singleness we have created in our culture. That season did not exist in Paul’s world.  Certainly not as long of one.

We need to understand that in the secular vernacular anyone who is not married is single. And the Church has played right into this.  Rather than lead, we’ve surrendered the terms. Biblically speaking there are those who are celibate via one of three ways, those that are divorced, those that are widowed, and those that are not yet married.  Those are all completely different contexts with completely different instructions.  It would probably be better if the word single was never spoken from the pulpit again.

We need to rescue the call of celibacy for the Kingdom that Paul and Jesus are actually talking about from the contexts of our culture that frankly the church has helped create. We need to help people follow their actual calling.  We need to stop demanding everyone get married while at the same time telling them that God has them gifted as single “for now” which makes no sense whatsoever.  Downgrading the gift/calling of celibacy into a situational gift is hurting both those who are called to it and those who aren’t.

I realize that if you are currently not married, none of this helps you with the actual question of do you have the gift/calling of celibacy.  I plan to write a post soon with some help on that question.  But I want you to hear this:  Your circumstances do not define you or your gifting.

9 thoughts on “Is Situational Singleness A Gift?

  1. What we’re really talking about is sex. And the church doesn’t know how to lead on that subject. Any effort is simply a reaction to the culture. It’s not like sexual sin and confusion is a new issue for humans. I think human nature is multi-sexual – that’s why God went to the trouble of spelling out the best plan for sex for us in the Bible. Unfortunately the church operates from a position of fear on the subject. It is incredibly sad and frustrating.

  2. A while back I right into an elderly (80s) man in a grocery store I had not seen in church in a while. He was in a wheelchair and I helped him get something off a shelf. He recognized me too and said, “Hey, are you married yet?” I told him no and that I thought God had called me to remain unmarried. He said, “Well, that’s exactly where I am. I decided that I had that gift of singleness after I divorced my third wife.”

  3. Don’t expect any changes soon. Just heard some preaching at a “mens fellowship” (not at my church, but one I attend at another church).

    Quotes not in order……..”if you are single, and want to be married get out of mom’s basement, ask women out, get back to college or trade school and get a marketable degree / job to be able to provide for a family………”

    “If you are a man who is not going to bed exhausted every night, it’s a good reason why you are single……Christian women today want a man who is going places, and she’ll notice the ones who are giving 110% at their job, in their church and their evangelism”

    I had stiffle a loud laugh on that one

    “for many of you porn is a problem. a woman and your future wife is not just a thing for your pleasure. she lives and breathes and has expectations in a man, as she should……if you are using porn, this is a reason why you are single……”

    “Plenty of single mom’s here who just want a man who loves Jesus, and many of you single brothers only want barbie”

    Most of this mens fellowship was over 50 and married. Thunderous applause. Shouts of “preach” and similar yells. I just politely refused to clap.

    It’s sad…….beacuse this fellowship is actually pretty decent otherwise…..the pastor has no clue on this for the fact he met his wife when he was in high school. Been married since 1975 or whatever.

    I can’t get too mad at him, but a room full of Christian men…and the single brothers there from his church and others (many other men from other churches attend this fellowship) are not like this. We all work. We come weekly. I don’t know any man that lives in mom’s basement at this fellowship. Porn use? I have no idea….but I do know that porn is a problem for the “single sisters” too today….and lets not forget the emotional porn “christian romance novels” that take up half the space in “christian bookstores” today

    Idk. This topic has been talked to death. I have such a desire to meet someone but still batting 600 and there really isn’t much I can do at this point. It bothers me, but doesn’t. It frustrates me, but doesn’t. I wish I was more gifted to put it into words.

    I’m not mad at women….I’m more upset of what qualifies for a date today in the Christian world. I can’t be Jesus. I’m not young anymore…..sigh, my gorgeous head thick blonde hair is silverd and thinned………just……well……dissappointed but I guess there really isn’t any one place to get mad at.

    I always greet the pastor after his message at this fellowship. After this sermon I did not. I doubt he missed me, and could care less what I thought 🙂

    • Not a man. My experience is different from yours in some ways.

      But I too am sick and tired of all these fellow Christians assuming they know what today’s dating scene is like when they married straight out of high school or attending Bible college.

      We don’t presume to give them marriage advice. Yet they think they know all about years of fruitless waiting and dating. And alienation in our church community.

      Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

      LORD please help me to love these clueless, calloused people!

  4. I would consider sending the pastor a letter detailing some of what you wrote above because he needs to hear it and his comments are hurting the body. It is excruciatingly slow, but I’m finding that persistence helps and over the years I’ve managed to get a few initially unsympathetic people to listen and understand and even become advocates and supporters.

  5. T…, I suppose I could. When I have spoken to Officers in The Salvation Army (my church) about this issue…………I am listened to. Nods. Then the usual “I speak Hebrew and Greek / been a pastor for a long time……and its the men who need to buck up / I’ve studied this issue and men are not manning up in the church today / you may be the exception but the evidence is that men are into porn, into legalism, and refusing to grow up……….”

    I mentioned once very high expectations from sisters………wish I never did. I mean, I was gentle tried to convey properly into words (I admit I am not the smartest man in the room) that the disciples were fisherman. They left their wives to follow “the rabbi” and they failed him on many occasions. They had to be taught. They had to learn. They had to grow. They didn’t have it all figured out from day one. Sure, many were probably ‘good Jews’ in their trades, at Temple, and as men…..but none of them were rich merchants, nor owners of vast flocks of sheep and goats. They were not scribes, nor were they leaders in their local temple. Jesus chose them. Like He does with all of us. I was told I was excusing men today for laziness and bad behavior.

    What man has it all together at 23? What woman? The answer is almost zero. What couple when they marry has a college fund saved up? Enough saved for a downpayment on a home? A good job with excellent benefits and potential for growth? What if the company shuts down and a husband loses his job????? He wasn’t trusting God enough???? He wasn’t prepared with enough savings to live for six months without work………??????

    Its a creeping and sorta-nasty back door prosperity gospel. The doctrine of happiness. The “be a provider”

    Countless married Christian men throughout the centuries were not “rich” in provisions…… todays world, if this standard was applied 75, 100, 200, 800, 1000 years ago…….it would only be a faith for “people who had it all figured out” and in the Christioan marriage / dating world….its fast becoming that. The well off are getting married……everyone else is sitting afraid to make a move because they still are not “rich enough / established enough / goood looking enough / educated enough / not good enough”

    Is every Christian man supposed to be a chemical engineer???? An architect? A professional job in order to marry?

    • This is just my opinion: I would rather Christians be honest about their lack of experience (or their varied experience/mistakes) in this department. It’s not a horrible thing to admit that you don’t understand why some who desire marriage are single. “I don’t know” is not a dirty phrase. Be honest, Christian leaders. If you’re uncomfortable with the number of singles you have in your congregation, then that’s an issue that you need to work out on your own, and NOT in a sermon. If you’re tired of hearing your single congregants express a desire for community and connection, then SHUT UP and listen (with an actual desire to hear the other perspective, not to “fix”). Push past your discomfort, and ask clarifying questions about what is being asked of you. You may very well be surprised about what their frustrations are about, and what they’re also willing to give in terms of what they want as well.

      Also: Be willing to confront your prejudices/stereotypes/biases that you have about single people. Sometimes I don’t think married people realize how much their behavior actually creates more of a division in the church than they realize.

      I could say more, but I’ll stop for now.

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