By Candice Watters
(Editor’s Note: If you have a question you would like addressed please send it in to [email protected])
I know that marriage is not for everybody, myself included. From many Christian articles I have read, it seems that young women are to live their lives in wait for their husbands to come. But what about we women who do not want to get married but would rather live in blessed singleness? Do we also have to live our lives as if we are waiting for someone who we know very well, never will come, or can we pursue careers and live our lives (while still obeying God’s Word of course)? Just wondering because I know there are a lot of women like myself who know they are not going to get married, but would also like some direction and encouragement from time to time.
I think you’re asking, “Is it OK to not desire marriage and not live as if I’m waiting on it?” It’s a provocative question, and I’m glad you asked it. But you’ve also made several assertions and assumptions, some consistent with Scripture, others in conflict, and I want to address those first on my way to answering your question.
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” All believers, married and unmarried, are commanded to honor marriage because God created it and declared it good (Genesis 2:18-25) and because it points to a mystery greater than the covenant between bride and groom (Ephesians 5:32).
What we’re not supposed to do is consider marriage the most important thing, without which life will be incomplete. There is only One with whom we are to be completely taken, and that is God. He made us, and we owe Him all our affections. To place anything above Him, to desire anything more than Him — even if it doesn’t look like a metal statue — is idolatry.
Americans do love marriage, so much that they keep getting married, repeatedly, seemingly every time they get divorced. Andrew Cherlin’s book, Marriage Go Round, shows how atypical American culture is in its near preoccupation with getting married. Staying married, well that’s a different matter altogether.
You say, “I also know that marriage is not for everybody, myself included.” You’re right that marriage isn’t for everyone, in fact, some are called to a life of celibate service. When the disciples asked Jesus if it was better not to marry, He said, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:11-12).
Jesus is clear that to remain unmarried requires a calling, or measure of grace, and also that such a station should be “for the sake of the kingdom.” I would ask you, in view of this, how do you know that you won’t get married? How do you know “very well, [a husband never] will come”? Why do you not want to get married? If you say that you are content being single and with the idea that you’ll never have children, never have sex and never have the companionship and company of a husband, all the while feeling driven to serve the kingdom, unencumbered by the responsibilities of being a wife and mother, then I’d say you’re following the will of Christ who said, “Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
If your reasons are other than that, however (whatever they are), I would challenge you to consider them in view of what Scripture teaches, as well as to pray to God, as Christ did, “Father, if you are willing … Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke22:42).
If the “blessed singleness” you describe is consistent with Paul’s charge in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 — “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” — then, yes, it is wonderful to live contentedly in that state with no eye to a future wedding. But if you’re tired of all the “marriage is good” messages you read online and hear in church and frustrated that it seems to be happening for everyone but you and your friends, then I’d urge you to reconsider your rationale.
Marriage is, by design, for God’s glory and our good.
When asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31). Whether married or single, we’re called to live as unto the Lord, to work as unto Him, in community with fellow believers, serving one another, loving one another and laying our lives down for one another. It’s not enough to “still obey God’s Word of course” while pursuing your career and living your life, if by that you mean to make your desires your focus. But that’s true for married believers, too. Whatever we’re called to, whether marriage or celibate service, we must make God’s glory our goal. Last night I was reading N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, and this summation of Augustine’s philosophy jumped off the page:
St. Augustine: Love God and do as you please. If you love Him, then you love holiness. What you please shouldn’t present a problem.
The Christian life is a daily, all-consuming (Mark 12:30), life-directing (Colossians 3:23), sacrificial one that is others-directed (Mark9:35, Philippians 2:3) — regardless of your marital status. Whether a Mrs. or a Miss, you are called to live for God, acknowledging Him as Maker and giving Him the praise He’s due.
By Grace Alone,
Candice Watters is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen and co-author with her husband, Steve, ofStart Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses live in Louisville, KY where Steve serves as vice president for communications at Southern Seminary. They speak, write and feed their blog, FamilyMaking.com, in between enjoying, guiding, and being stretched by their four children.
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