Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Only Have The "Gift of Singleness" if You Want to Be Single

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Matthew 19:9-12

Jennifer Vaughn at à la mode de les Muses posts about the unfortunate tendency of many Christians who advocate little else but waiting for those singles who would rather be married:

It’s very suspicious that the Christians advising this are, more often than not, either married (i.e., have a legitimate sexual outlet) or admittedly uninterested in sex (i.e., asexual, voluntarily celibate, or in possession of a naturally low sex drive). And they generally don’t even stop lecturing a moment to put themselves in others’ shoes. Rather than give up belief that fleeing and waiting is the only solution, many even accuse struggling singles of neither trusting God nor attempting to control themselves. The Apostle Paul was more sympathetic.

I not only agree with her, I would take it a step further and say that the repeated telling of single Christians that they have the "gift" of singleness, when in fact they have a strong desire to be married, can be a very damaging thing.  It's like saying that to have sexual desires or the desire to marry is a slap in the face of God.  Refuse a "gift" given you from God?  That's like biting the hand of the one who feeds you.

But notice the words of Jesus above.  He only lists three categories of eunuchs.  Those who were eunuchs from birth (i.e. those without the correct plumbing, anatomy, hormones, etc.), those who were made eunuchs by men (i.e. male slaves who were castrated as part of being taken as prisoner of war, etc.) and those who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom (i.e. remaining single by personal decision).  Those who are involuntarily celibate (i.e. haven't found the right match, a quirk of providence, etc.) aren't listed.

An additional problem is in limiting the application of Paul's admonition in 1 Corinthians 7 about it being better to marry than to burn (i.e. with passion) to the length of the engagement period for those who are already considering somebody for marriage.  Having problems with lust before even meeting somebody?  Tough.  Get it under control before you start to consider marriage or you've got no business marrying in the first place.  If this line of thinking doesn't place somebody in a difficult position, what does?

Jesus places a very light burden in his statement.  Only those who can accept his statement should apply it to themselves.  The rest are free to pursue marriage and shouldn't be judged by the rest of us.


  1. Great thoughts, Steve. After reading your post, I started thinking about how many Christian books for singles that I'd devoured. It's really, really easy to preach (regurgitate) the "gift of singleness" line. What's difficult is providing helpful suggests one how to take action.

  2. Well said! There is a danger though of pursuing marriage just to placate one's God-given sexual desire and passion--that doesn't help either. But with the right motives and active prayer about who you marry, those passions can be a blessing. One more note though--as Christians we need to acknowledge that there simply are no guarantees of a sexually fulfilling marriage. Julie at Intimacy In Marriage talks about this:

    ...and sadly, women face the same potential problems and issues with a husband who could care less about sexual intimacy as well.

  3. Jennifer and Gregory,

    I'm going to combine your thoughts to say, "the difficulty in providing helpful suggestions can lead to pursuing marriage just to placate one's sexual desires." Both points are well taken.