Let me say up front, before you keep reading, for the sake of this post by “status” I mean your marriage status – single or married.
I am sure I am not the only one who has heard or been taught on the idea of the “gift of singleness.” I was 27 before I was married. I am now 32. I remember at least once a year from 20 – 26 being taught on this concept from Scripture. In most cases the biblical support used for this teaching was 1 Corinthians 7:7-17 (specifically verses 7 & 17). When I first heard this teaching I often wondered if I had “the gift.” Most of my friends were dating someone, many quite seriously. I was not and there were no real prospects at the time. Maybe I had “the gift.”
As I approached the end of my undergrad days (again with no real prospects) I grew weary of all of this. So I embarked on a study of 1 Corinthians 7 for myself. The results were so helpful; I have found it worthwhile to reconsider several times since.
In some ways this passage can be a bit complicated. It is not my intention to discuss every verse and all of the issues Paul addresses here. The overall point Paul is trying to make is quite clear. For me when I saw this point, it was very freeing.
- Paul is teaching that each person’s state (married or single) is a gift from God (v. 7). Paul is not giving some kind of instruction on this special “gift of singleness” that some have received from God. Rather he is stating that each of us have received a gift from God.
- Paul is teaching that we should not make it our aim to exchange our gift for something else, but rather we should make it our aim to wholeheartedly serve the Lord with the gift He has given us (vv. 17 – 35).
- Paul is teaching that if while we are making it our aim to wholeheartedly serve the Lord with our gift, he chooses to give us another gift; we should welcome that gift and then serve Him with it (21, 28, 35, 36 & 39).
The implications of this understanding are quite helpful.
Each and every person has been and/or was given the gift of singleness. No one is born married. Every one of us has this gift for a period of time. For some it is longer than others, for some it will last their entire lives. But everyone has this gift until God chooses to give another.
This was very helpful to me when I was single. I didn’t have to wonder if I had “the gift.” I had it! I was single, and that was a gift from God. What I needed to focus on was how I was using the gift He had given me to serve Him.
This is still very helpful to me now that I am married. I now have a different gift. On January 8, 2000, God gave me a new and precious gift. However, His expectations are the same. I am to make it my aim to please Him with this new gift. Although 1 Corinthians 7:32, 33 clearly tell me that I should also strive to please my wife, the point is that I should desire to please her out of a desire to please my Lord.
This is very helpful to me has a father. I have two daughters and one son. My four year old is already infatuated with the idea of getting married. I think she has had her wedding planned since she was two. Almost daily she will make some comment about getting married or having a husband. We have made an effort to use these times to teach her that this will happen only when God chooses and that she should be content even if God never chooses.
Recently, when my daughter said this, I was reminded of this passage in 1 Corinthians 7. It is not just an issue of being content and waiting until God chooses. It is a matter of seeing her life as a gift from God, a gift that God expects her to use for His pleasure and not her own. We need to teach our children not only to be content, but to joyfully thank God for their gift and to make it their aim to please Him.
The fact is if we do not see our current status this way, it is unlikely we will see things this way when and if our status changes.
Truly I hope my wife and I die on the same day at the same exact time so I never have to experience life without her. However, if the Lord were to choose to take my wife home to be with Him before me, I will surely not view that “new status” as a gift from God with which to serve Him if I am not viewing my marriage now as a gift from God with which to serve Him.
Just limiting the concept of “gift” to that of singleness is not only inconsistent with the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7, but unfortunate because it misses a great opportunity to remind all Christians that God has given each of us a gift.
This morning I was reminded on another implication of this understanding of 1 Corinthians 7.
This article is addressing the increased practice of intentionally postponing marriage until later in life and the consequences of such a decision from a woman’s perspective. It is not written from a Christian perspective which in some ways makes it all the more profound.
What struck me again was 1 Corinthians 7. There is no doubt that this practice of postponing marriage has worked its way into the church. There are more and more Christian men and women who are choosing to postpone marriage for the same reasons as unbelievers – a career, experience, adventure, freedom, etc.
However, our understanding of 1 Corinthians 7 would not allow such a practice. One’s singleness is not to be used to pursue a career, adventure, freedom or anything else other that pleasing God. Singleness is a gift from God and we are not free to use it as we please.
In addition the only reason to postpone marriage would be due to God not choosing to give us the gift of marriage.
Now it is not my intention to address the “choosing” of a mate, the practice of dating, etc. Those are important topics to discuss, but for another time.
The point here is…
You have been given a gift, what are you dong with it?
1 Corinthians 7:
7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.