I love Valentine’s Day, not for the sappy cards, movies, chocolate, and date nights, but because of the creativity of comments of single people on facebook. You know the ones that I am talking about, right? “Happy Singleness Awareness Day” or while holding up a cat “My Valentine.” Even in our highly individualistic culture, there is an unwritten rule that being single is not okay. Singles feel slighted on Valentine’s Day, five-person dates are always awkward, and couples are constantly trying to pair up their single friends.
I’ve already explained in a previous post that early Christianity challenged their culture’s view of marriage and singleness. Both the founder of Christianity and the writer of much of the New Testament were single. Christianity teaches that marriage and singleness are gifts, but what we do with them determines whether or not they are good or bad. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
Think about it like this: imagine there are four buckets.
Bucket #1 Bad marriage
- Adultery and sexual sins
- Constant fighting, arguing, manipulation, and/or selfishness.
- Earthly-focused, not eternally focused. Lives for practices, work, and mortgage payments.
- Marriage only exists for mutual companionship and self-satisfaction.
Bucket #2 Good marriage
- Unconditionally committed
- Hold each other tightly and loosely.
Bucket #3 Bad singleness
- Sexual promiscuity
- Not wanting to be “tied down”
- Unbalanced desire for a passionate romance to fill their life and complete them.
Bucket #4 Good singleness
- Sexually pure in love for Christ
- Lives for others
- Eternally-focused, growing and learning
- May or may not desire to be married one day, but finds hope and security in Christ, not in future romance
Adultery, fights, and divorce can make marriages bad, but so could marriages that only exist mutual satisfaction, or for mortgage payments and tax benefits. Sexual promiscuity, overly-inflated independence, and selfishness can make singleness bad, but so could over-attachment to earthly possessions or an obsession with future romance. The point is that neither marriage nor singleness is bad, but it is what you do with what you have.
John Piper says in This Momentary Marriage, “Neither marriage as a physical parable nor singleness as a physical parable is to be idolized or feared. Marriage is beautiful and physical. Singleness is beautiful and physical. God made them both. Both are designed. Like all of nature, to display the glory of Christ. Marriage and celibacy can be idolatrous. Spouses can worship each other or worship sex or worship their children or worship double-income-no-kid buying power. Singles can worship autonomy and independence. Singles can look on marriage as a second-class Christians compromised with the sexual drive. Married people can look upon singles as a mark of immaturity or irresponsibility or incompetence.”
In the Bible (Luke 12:13-21), there is a parable of a man who was blessed with an abundant crop. He chose to use this gift of abundance for his own pleasure. By tearing down his old barns and building newer and bigger ones, he planned to take a few years off and enjoy life. Before he could even start to build the new barns, his life was taken away. He had focused so much on earthly things that he forgot about eternal things. Jesus says, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
All of us have been given the gift of singleness or the gift of marriage. Neither is better or worse. If we take God’s gift and use it for ourselves, our own gratification, our own goals, our own dreams, then we miss the point of this life. If, however, we use our singleness or marriage as opportunities and resources to help others, show God’s love to others, and serve others, then we are rich toward God.
Jesus Christ came to this earth as a single man. He lived for eternal things, not for selfish gain. He gave his body and life to die on a cross for singles and marrieds across the world. He was absolutely perfect, but he died a death that was owed to cheating spouses, selfish partners, and earthly-focused marriages. He died a death that was owed to sexually promiscuous singles, selfish independents, and love-struck romantics. God put our sins on Jesus at the cross and punished him for them. In return, we are given Jesus’ righteousness, his perfect single life. If we believe in Christ and repent from our sins, he will forgives us and welcome us as his children. As God’s love for us impacts us each day, we long to hear God say “Well done” for how we handled his gift of marriage or singleness.