A Theology of Singleness

What does the Bible have to say about the season of singleness? Whether you are single or not, I hope you will take time to make sure your point of view on this stage of life is Biblical, and not influenced by the culture around you. And remember, those of us who are married may again enter this season. We are not promised forever with our spouses, and any one of us might be widowed one day.

So let’s look at a few verses first that might not seem immediately to apply to singleness, but have direct implications.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:27-28 

“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44

ALL THINGS IN COMMON
Unfortunately, we tend to categorize ourselves and others by our relational status. Looking around we subconsciously see those within our church walls in groups of singles, married people, married-with-kids, and so on. This type of division should not exist in the body of Christ. As the above verses state, there are no divisions for those who are clothed with Christ and all those who believe should have all things in common. This division of married and single is unnecessary and unhelpful to the unity in the body of Christ.

On top of that, the lie is often believed that those in the married category are automatically more mature than singles simply because they are married. Biblically, there is no precedent for singleness being a less-than state. There is also no Biblical pattern for married people being automatically more mature than single people. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, not with marriage. (Psalm 111:10, Prov 9:10)

Married people have often contributed to this problem of division as much if not more than singles. If you, as a married person, don’t find that you can be friends with or relate to a single person, then you have based too much of your own identity in your marriage and not in Christ.

THE GIFT OF SINGLENESS

“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corin 7:32-35

Singleness is a gift. It should be a season for us to learn what pleases the Lord and devote our attention to him alone. The Bible gives us no other way to view this season of life. That means in all our conversations about singleness and marriage, we need to speak and act as though this is an absolute truth.

Marshall Segal makes this point on desiringgod.org:

Paul makes marriage out to be a kind of problematic Plan B of Christian life and ministry. Marry if you must, but be warned, following Jesus is not easier when you join yourself to another sinner in a fallen world. While marriage may bring joy, help, and relief in certain areas, it immediately multiplies your distractions because you’re intimately responsible for this other person, his or her needs, dreams, and growth. It’s a high calling and a good calling, but a demanding one that will keep you from all kinds of other good things. Therefore, for the not-yet married, our (temporary) singleness is a gift. It really is. If God leads you to marriage, you may never again know a time like the one you’re in right now. A season of singleness is not merely the minor leagues of marriage. It has the potential to be a unique period of undivided devotion to Christ and undistracted ministry to others.”

Whether single or married, let’s all cast a bigger vision for the temporary season of singleness! Let us speak of what is true: it is a gift. Let’s dream together about what it could look like to use the advantage of singleness to advance the Kingdom of God with the time and influence they are given in this season.

WE SHARE THE SAME STRUGGLE
What does it mean to have all things in common despite our relational statuses? First of all, I think it means not identifying ourselves primarily by our relationships, but rather our spiritual status as children of God. As redeemed sinners, we are all in the same boat: We all wake up each day with a desperate need to believe that Jesus is enough.

We share the same struggle, whether married or single. It’s just the consequences of our lack of faith look different. For an unmarried woman, failing to look to Jesus as savior may mean obsessing over fictional guys through chick flicks or actual guys in their lives, moving from boyfriend to boyfriend. For a married woman, failing to look to Jesus as savior usually means placing inordinate expectations on her husband, looking to him for things he is neither able to nor called to give her. But each one of us needs to daily answer the question, “Is Jesus truly enough for me?” Let’s fight together, whether married or single, as sisters in Christ for a deep, abiding faith in Christ.

SINGLES IN LEADERSHIP
Most single Christians sense the subtle hierarchy that they are below married Christians concerning whose lives they can speak into. Let’s not allow this! Any student of the Word is capable to speak truth in love, whether single or married. We need to encourage mature singles in our churches to speak up! Encourage them to speak into marriage and parenting issues. When an issue comes up related to these, ask them what they think. Often times they have a more objective perspective and truth-telling opinion anyway.

Remember, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Some singles are more mature and wise than married people of the same age. If so, treat them as such and invite unmarried believers into leadership roles. Invite them to speak into others lives. To speak truth in love. 

VALUE THEIR SUFFERING
Elisabeth Elliot (who has been widowed twice), defined suffering broadly as “having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” This means that for an unmarried woman who wants to be married, she is experiencing a measure of suffering.

Unfortunately, many people belittle this form of suffering with trite comments like, “just think of all the free time you have” or by diminishing their own current life experience, “it’s really not that great.” But rarely would anyone dream of saying these things to a woman in the throes of infertility or miscarriages. We need to give proper weight to the suffering of those with unfulfilled longings for marriage. And like the barren woman, we should value her longings, hear her heart, pray with her for those desires to be filled, and yet always be pointing her to Jesus as the only place where there is fullness of joy.

UNITY IN DIVERSITY
We’re not a church of married people with a few singles thrown in. We are a church of Christians. We should have all things in common and be unified in Christ. And because our unity is based on so strong an object as Jesus, there can be great diversity as well! This means all kinds of diversity: racial, economic, educational, generational, and relational. Let’s promote this kind of unity in our churches through having all things in common in Christ as married and unmarried Christians.

*For more posts in this Biblical womanhood series, click here for the intro and list of topics.*

15 Comments

  1. Niki

    Amen Kelly Amen!

    1. Niki

      I can’t get over how excellent this article is written from the standpoint of the Word of God. I’m not a writer myself but this article is everything I have wished to be communicated to the Church at large.
      An excellent example we see from scripture of believer’s coming together irrespective of their marital status is in Acts 18, where we see Aquila and Priscila a married couple and Paul an unmarried/single man working together side by side with the same one purpose which was to build the Church of Christ. It must grieve Christ so much to see such division in His Church, the Church He died for. Its sin and it must be repented of.

  2. Anna

    Kelly, thanks for sharing your thoughts. As a 26 year old woman, I am tired of feeling like an outcast (at times) among Christians because I am not married. Somehow we have this ridiculous idea that life ‘starts’ when we get married. (sometimes we (myself included) forget that Jesus wasn’t married) If you don’t happen to be married, then you get stuck with the rejects, oops, I meant the single college and career groups (who are more than likely 6-8 years younger than you).
    And although I know that singleness is a gift, it’s also hard to hear that over and over and over again…from married people. I mean God did create Eve because it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.
    I appreciated your encouragement for all of us to pursue God wholeheartedly and realize that in Christ no divisions should exist. I just often wonder what we can do as believers to change the fact that they unfortunately do exist in many communities of believers.
    Thank you for this post!
    Anna

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you. I really really needed this.

  4. Reblogged this on Love 1st Movement and commented:
    This is an incredible post and I think that every Christian should take the time to read it and meditate on it. It’s true: a lot of people in the church value marriage above singleness. However, God does not value marriage over singleness. Each person will stand before God as an individual and answer for how they lived. Whether they glorified God through their marriage or as a single person, if they have followed his commands then he will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21)

  5. Kirsten

    Hi Kelly, this series is such a blessing thank you! Its refreshing to think and discuss womanhood through the perspective of the Word rather than our own cultural biases. I have been really challenged. One question re singleness; I see you have referred to it as a ‘temporary’ season throughout your post, I wondered why you would call it temporary as for some Christians, whether they choose singleness or just never find the right person for them, it is a season that lasts a lifetime.
    Kirsten

  6. Thanks for sharing this! Often I copy some highlights of your posts into a Notes App to keep it where I may need, and in this post I came close to copying the whole thing! I hope this encourages you into writing. You bless me a lot Kelly, may God continue to inspire you! Greetings from Brazil! (:

  7. this is great and so refreshing!

  8. Liz

    As someone who got married at age 22, I have to admit that marriage does bring about a certain amount of maturity in young-mid 20’s that is simply not evident in single 20-somethings.

    That being said, I think some of the singles who are older than me in our church have an incredible amount of wisdom that I wish they would share with me more. A single friend in his mid 30’s even said that he has opinions on parenting and marriage that he feels he can’t share. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do I plan to ask him, because he is a wise man, married or not.

    I think the difference in whether I can relate to (and respect the advice of) single people has to do with what stage of life they are in. As a married person, I am ready to settle down. I have a house, a job, and I want to be involved in my church. Most older singles are in the same stage (even though they are not married), and I relate to them much better than to singles still living at home, not sure what to do with their life, wanting to go out every night and planning travel the world.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Liz! You’re right that often marriage produces maturity. But not always. Even in my own experience (getting married at 20), I responded immaturely to those changes, was arrogant and was in willful rebellion to God. If I would have let some of my single friends speak into that season, I think their mature love for God would have been extremely beneficial. (You can read about this season here: http://www.truewoman.com/?id=2800)

      My challenge in this post is that we should be able to relate to and respect the advice of ANYONE who is seeking the Lord… be it a college student, grandmother, older single, middle aged mom, or young married person. Some of my favorite conversations about the Lord are ones I have with the college girls who come to our homegroup.

      There is value for sure in hearing from those in our same life stage, but I think we err too much on only asking the advice and seeking community with those in our stage of life. Sometimes a mature unmarried person who understands the idea of Biblical submission can call us to a higher standard in our marriages than other wives who “understand” how hard it is and tend to allow our excuses for disobeying the Word of God.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I think this is a valuable conversation to start in our communities and churches.

      1. Liz

        I think I may have miscommunicated a little here because I actually completely agree with you! I have often been challenged by some of my mature, Godly single friends and I have been concerned with the lack of respect hey often receive. However, Mature and Godly are the key words here. I have a hard time respecting the opinion of adults who continue to actively try to not be adults. This is the case for the majority of 20-25 year olds in our society. Most of my single friends also happen to be 20-25. There are a few in that age range who I would say are also Godly and Mature and I greatly respect their opinions but honestly they are few. I was just saying that I have found myself more able to relate to single people in their 30s, probably because they are more settled down and have gleaned wisdom from more life experience that I have not had.

  9. Patricia Household

    Thank you for your thoughtful and wise words. I have been married 36 years, since I was 18, but God has shown me the struggle of singles in the church, they have been ignored, not taken seriously in leadership and patronized. As you say, we need to recognize the value of individuals, their gifts and potential, regardless of “status”. Keep writing, I pray for God’s blessing on you and your family. (I also love Jimmy’s music).

  10. Hi friend,

    I really appreciated this particular post! I really loved how you quoted Elisabeth Elliot’s definition of struggling, because it absolutely can be a difficult struggle to be single when you don’t want to be. I also loved how you talked about how neither single nor married is better than the other and used the verse to remind us that we are all one in Christ… When I am having a difficult time being single, and I ask myself where my discontent is coming from, I think one of the things that comes up within me more than anything else is the frustration that as more and more friends get married and I remain single, it often feels like I’m constantly losing friends in a way, or as if I still need them in many ways, yet they don’t need me anymore. And that is frustrating for many reasons including this piece inside of me that is frustrated about it simply because “but that’s not how it’s supposed to be”… Anyway, all that to say, I appreciated this post 🙂

    Lauren

    1. Lauren! Thanks for your feedback girl! Great to hear from you and thankful for your pursuit of the Lord over the years. Since the days that we met in college to “learn what is pleasing to the Lord” through loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Keep chasing Jesus. I know it’s hard. I’m grateful for you. =)
      ~Kelly

      1. Joyanne

        Thank you for this post (and the rest of this series!).
        Your awareness of, and sensitivity to, how things affect and apply to singles is something I had noticed and appreciated earlier in the series (and previously on your blog).

        I SO relate to Lauren’s comments above – especially about the feeling of losing friends as our friends get married! Another thing I have struggled with more and more as I get older (almost 35 now!) is the prospect of never having any children of my own!

        Anyway, thank you again for this perspective on singleness – I wish I’d read it years ago!
        Joyanne.

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