Back in the book of Genesis God said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (2:18). How do we reconcile these words with the message of 1 Corinthians 7 where we read that it is better to be single than to marry (vs. 8, 9, 26 – 40)?
The state of being alone as mentioned in Gen. 2:18 is not necessarily describing the state of being unmarried. At that point Adam was the only human being on earth and that state is definitely not a good thing. In other words, if a person is not married it is important to have other people in life, rather than living as a hermit. God intends people to have interaction with and be accountable to other people.
However, it is clear from the context of Gen.2 that God had marriage in mind for Adam. At the time of creation everything was good and sin had not entered the world and thus marriage was perfect and untainted as well. Even today God intends most people to get married and thus singleness is an exception, especially among Christians who tend to be more family-oriented than the present world around them and view marriage and the family as ordained by God.
An Opportunity for Service
That being said, it is a mistake to see singleness as a “problem and this problem can only be fixed by getting married”. It is clear from passages such as Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:25-38 that the single state should be seen as an opportunity to serve the Lord in a way a married person cannot do. Many great men and women of God who were single served the Lord in a great way. I personally was single until my early forties and always disliked it when people pitied me for being single. They no doubt meant well, but this kind of pity is not helpful to a single person.
My advice to (young) single people is not to view your single years as just a waiting room for getting married, but rather use those years wisely for the Lord Jesus. Make it your aim to grow in your relationship with Him and develop good spiritual habits. Be involved in your local assembly of Christians and enjoy good friendships. Don’t believe the lie that being unmarried makes you inferior to those who are married. The single Christian has advantages married people do not have. I believe this is what is meant in 1 Cor. 7:32-35, where we read that single people have less responsibilities than the married people and thus can be more focused on serving the Lord without distraction.
Of course, being single has its challenges, such as greater proneness to sexual temptations, a lack of accountability, an unhealthy development of shying away from responsibility, and selfishness. However, being married has challenges too. Many Christian young people have the wrong idea that getting married is the ultimate goal which is all about living happily ever after. This notion can get so strong that some Christians will actually marry the wrong person. They start seeing marriage as an end in itself rather than a means to an end (the glory of God). Usually the wake-up call happens some time after they’re married.
Serve Him Now
The message of 1 Cor.7 is actually summarized in verse 20, “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called”. The Corinthians thought ,”If only I were not married to this unbeliever”, or “If only I were not a slave”, “If only my marital or social status were different than what it is now, I would have more liberty to serve God.” Verse 24 says, “remain (or abide) with God”; He might change your status or He might not, but abiding in and with God and Christ is and should be the Christian’s goal. You do not need a change of circumstances to serve Christ better – serve Him now. So these verses could be applied to a Christian who is single not by choice, but nevertheless wants to please the Lord in his/her single state.
The last phrase of Matthew 19:12 says ” there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” I believe this means that these people have chosen not to get married so they can serve God better and His interests. (Compare Mat. 6:33).
What does 1 Cor.7:7 mean, “But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that”? The gift here is not some miraculous spiritual gift that makes it easy for a person to be single. The gift is the “state of being single” or the “state of being married”; this is the portion that God has given to each. Before I was married, God’s gift to me was being single, and now His gift to me is being married.
So which is better: Single or married? What God has given you is best.
And by the way, lest I get misunderstood, I’m happily married!