What does the Bible say about singleness – or more precisely – unmarriedness? I Corinthians 7 is the “go to” chapter since it and Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19 are the only New Testament verses which specifically speak to that state. Knowing that those words were written during a time when singleness was a rarity unless it came with death of a spouse, may explain the scarcity of instruction, and has not made it an easy subject to talk about with clarity through the centuries.
But, guess what! Everyone starts out single and unmarried! Even Adam. Now, Eve seems to be the only exception in the history of the world since she became an instant wife. And, of course, neither of them started out as babies, making them a unique couple. But, for the rest of us, initial singleness is a universal given.
Most of the attempts to explain Paul’s words in I Corinthians 7 leave me with more frustration than comfort, because the emphasis is usually that singleness can only be understood in light of what marriage is. This emphasis is understandable, since even Paul gave the majority of this chapter over to speaking to married folk. But, as a single woman who falls in the age category of “ancient never-married,” the sort of cursory mention of singleness in this chapter or a sermon or book is not satisfying. Hearing a panel discussion a few weeks back with three married women whose marriages ranged from 15 years to 45 served as a catalyst to my decision to take a fresh look at this chapter. I found their comments flippant. I decided it was time to look at this chapter from another angle: that understanding Godly singleness can bring more understanding of marriage.
I believe that every word of Scripture is “breathed by God” to teach and train us in righteousness. So, I think the shortness of instruction in I Corinthians 7:32 and 34 to unmarried men and women is exactly what God intended to say to us. Both have the freedom to be more concerned about the Lord’s affairs because they do not have a spouse. That is unequivocally true! But, with all due respect, trying to encourage singles with only these words may fall short.
- What do we do with our hearts?
- Who serves as our sounding board?
- Who is as fully vested in the decisions we must make, and helps us make them?
- How do we have meaningful conversations without having to make an appointment?
- How do we handle intimacy when even simple things are not ours to enjoy, let along deep things?
- How do we satisfy the need to be touched?
- Who chooses us?
- Who puts romance in our lives?
These are places unmarrieds live every day!