Two Idols of Singleness

Can being single ever be a good thing? Of course it can. Singleness has wonderful advantages. You have a lot more freedom and time to work for the advancement of the Kingdom in more ways than a married person can. In 1st Corinthians 7:8 Paul actually says that he wished people were like him – celibate, i.e. gifted and called to be single: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” Also, Jesus was single. The one who was truly human and truly happy and truly devoted to the Kingdom of God was called to be single. That’s a very interested point to ponder.

How do you know if you have the gift of singleness? It doesn’t mean sex and gospelthat you never struggle with desire for relationship or sexually lust; but it does mean that you are knocked down by these occasional desires. More or less, you can deal with it, move on, and they’re not things that rule over you. The opposite of being called to singleness would be 1 Corinthians 7:9 which reads: “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” So let’s face it. Most singles are not called to singleness (to be celibate); but, if, in God’s providence, you are single for the time being you have the duty of singleness until God brings you that special someone. So, what are the common struggles or pitfalls of singleness? Well, the Biblical worldview basically breaks the struggles of singleness into two general, over-arching categories. Which one are you?

Idolatry of Independence:
The idol of independence works a little like this: I like my freedom. My independence is very important to me. I can do what I want, when I want, and how I want. I free to spend my money as I choose. I free to go where I want to go; and have relationships with who I want to have relationships with. I like my freedom. A relationship would only bog me down and take these freedoms away from me. Plus, they convince themselves, I don’t really need a relationship…I fine on my own.

Idolatry of Dependence:
The idol of dependence works a little like this: I have to get married. If I don’t I will be absolutely miserable. In fact, I’m miserable right now. I’m lonely. All I want is to be in a wonderful relationship and spend the rest of my life with that special someone. The single suffering from the idol of dependence usually throws in ….and I want a family. I won’t be happy until I’m married with children. That’s when I will have everything I ever wanted.

Sexually Immortality (sex outside of marriage) is what fuels both of these idolatries. How so? For the independent person, sex gives them what they want with the opposite sex without the oppressive commitment. (So they think.) For the dependent person, sex gives them a taste of their fantasy and the only way they can feel connected and close with someone is to have sex. (FYI – the independent single is typically male and the dependent single is typically female and it is amazing how often the two opposites hook up! Abstaining from sex outside of marriage protects you from so much heart-ache and regret during your single years.)

Making Marriage Unimportant and Ultimate:
There’s also another problem with these two pitfalls. The dependent single makes marriage into something it isn’t. It makes marriage the ultimate relationship, instead of penultimate. This, of course is idolatry. We were made for God, all other relationships are to stem from our union/relationship with him.

The independent single deemphasizes marriage. I think this is a major problem in our culture. Present day statistics inform us that many Americans are marrying later and later in life. Their sexual peak has already past and couples in their thirties have a harder time getting pregnant and starting their families. It seems to me, in principle at least, that this is not the way it is supposed to be! The natural inclinations of our bodies point to younger marriages. But the many of today’s young adults prefer, mostly for selfish, sensual, and materialistic purposes, to postpone marriage and reside within the “independent single” category. I do not believe Christians ought to participate in this mindset & lifestyle.

Furthermore, I believe the framework of the Bible would suggest, and possibly encourage, younger marriages. There is no biblical category for the “waiting for marriage because I’m enjoying my new freedoms as a young adult” type of person. The categories the Bible speaks of are…

  • children (Eph. 6:1-4)
  • those engaged waiting to be married (1 Cor. 7)
  • those burning with passion needing to be married (1 Cor. 7)
  • those who are married (Eph. 5:22-33)
  • those who have been married and are now content to remain unmarried (1 Cor. 7)
  • and those who have the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7)

I think young adults ought to honor marriage and if you are not called to a celibate life you ought to want to get married. Genesis 2:24 says, “A man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…” When a child is old enough to leave the security of his mother and father and take care of himself (in modern terms – a young adult), he is to leave them, I believe, with the purpose and goal of getting married.

Of course this view is not an explicitly taught principle in the Scriptures; but I do think it an implicitly taught principle in the Scriptures. It seems to me that this is God’s way. And, may I add, this is an incredibly joyful and satisfying way! Young adults ought to honor God and pursue his way, not the way of our “independent single” culture.

So, my advice to young adults is…Don’t buy into the secular idea of needing to wait a long time before you get married. I believe this unnatural, unbiblical, and a breeding ground for sexual sin. We say “true love waits” but how long is it supposed to wait? Let’s be careful not to model our romantic relationships after our culture; instead, let’s use the Scriptures as our guide to “whos”, as well as, the “whens” of our romantic relationships!

To learn more about the case for this perspective, listen to a panel discussion between Mark Dever, Joshua Harris, & Al Mohler:

Biblical Dating - Mark Dever, Joshua Harris, Al Mohler