She was sitting in a classroom of random students; some men, some women, some old, some young, some married, others not. It was the first day of her junior year at her Christian university, and they were doing the usual “get to know each other, talk about the syllabus, leave a little early” class hour. As Sally’s history professor walked about the room facilitating the introductions, she noticed a particularly disturbing pattern. With each new student, he would ask the usual: name, where they’re from, their degree program, and marital status. If they answered back with married, the conversation would spring off into children, church, goals, life-calling. If, however, they happened to be the black-sheep of the Christian relationship world and answer single, they were simply told that, “You’re a blessing waiting to happen,” and then were quickly passed by, as if family, church, goals, and life-calling were inconsequential facets of a boring single life – a life waiting to happen. When it came Sally’s turn to be questioned, she was overcome with waves of emotion. At first she was indignant. She wanted to retort back with quick wit, “What? I’m not a blessing until I’m married? Do I have some form of singleness cooties that I’m unaware of?” Then she found it comical, wanting to message her other single friends to join in with her on the laugh. But instead, she simply answered the question, took one for the team, and went on her way. Single Sally may not really exist, but how many of us singles can completely relate to her plight? As we sit and analyze the pattern Sally experienced, we can see a problem emerge.
Do I have the Singleness Cooties?
Singleness seems to have this stigma of being a curse on civilization. Many churches, unfortunately, don’t know what to do with the single church member. So they shuffle them along into the back Sunday School room like a mutant toy from Toy Story, in hopes that maybe they’ll find a common bond in other singles and marry each other. But they aren’t diseased, contaminated, or vile. Sure, some might be a tad more socially awkward than the average Joe, but they certainly don’t have cooties.
Singleness is a gift.
Honest! And it’s not the kind of gift you get at Christmas where you have to fake it when you pretend to be excited that you got it. It’s a good gift. A really good gift. How can I say this? For starters, Paul said it first. “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 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.” (1 Cor. 7:6-8) So often, we can read these outlandish statements of Paul’s, like this one, and forget that they weren’t just the scribblings of an ancient apostle who may or may not have been slightly off his rocker, these are the inspired words of God. It’s not just true because the apostle Paul said it and he was an honest sort of fellow, it’s true because God inspired it, and He IS truth.
The second reason singleness is a really good gift is because God is a really good gift-giver! Let’s face it, most singles aren’t completely contented with their singleness status…not 100% of the time at least. Sure, they may find contentment in their singleness, but if they are honest, they’ll admit that the contentment vacillates. They desire at some point to be married. But most singles are single because God has determined it to be this way. He’s either not brought someone into their lives or He’s taken someone out. Each single comes to a crossroads in their trust in God in this regard: Do they trust Him with their singleness or not? Those who struggle with this lonely status can tend to view God as holding out on them, withholding good from them. This couldn’t be further from the truth though. Because God is good (Exodus 33:19;Psalms 31:19; 107:1), the situations He brings into our lives are good (Romans 8:28-29), and the gifts that He gives are good for us (Matthew 7:11).
Life is short, and there is much to do. (1 Cor. 7:25-31)
In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives several reasons why singleness is a good thing. The main reason he gives is kingdom work. A lot was happening on the spiritual forefront when Paul wrote to the church of Corinth. Christ had just risen and the church was in a state of immense growth. There were so many who had not heard the Good News of salvation, and Paul was singularly focused on this mission. “For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). He was willing to forgo the momentary pleasure of a marriage relationship for the sake of spreading the Gospel. Paul knew that compared to eternity, this life was a mere vapor, “here one moment and gone the next,” as James states. Imagine if Paul had been married; he could never have had half the ministry God gave him to do if he was dragging wife and children behind him. Looking at this passage through the lens of our culture today, not much has really changed. The present form of this world is still passing away, there is still much work for the kingdom of God to be done, many still need to be reached with the Good News of salvation, and we still only have one lifetime in which to do it. For the single reader, what are you doing for the kingdom of God right now? Are you busy working for the Lord, spreading the Gospel, lengthening the outreach of your church with your service? Or are you looking at your church to minister to you? How do you view your singleness status? As a burden to bear, a problem to fix, or the freedom to serve? For those ministering to singles, are you seeking ways to actively use them within your church? After all, they have more time and flexibility than your married members.
Freedom from Anxieties & Undivided Devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32 – 35)
Another reason Paul gives in advocating for singleness is because the single has the freedom to be entirely devoted to the Lord. She is free to make God her only concern. Her relationship with Christ is the only relationship on which she needs to focus. The married woman, however, has her husband’s needs and concerns to occupy her thoughts. While the Lord should always be her first focus, her family is a close second. When there is a call to ministry, the married woman must first consider how her family is going to be affected by this added responsibility before committing. When you are married, the husband and children are your first ministry. But the single woman is free from that worry. I know for me, personally, I was given an opportunity to serve as a missionary overseas. Because I was single, I was able to pack all my worldly possessions and move to Europe for a year! I would have missed out on that opportunity to go and serve if I had a family, husband and children, to consider.
Do YOU have the singleness cooties?
Many of life’s issues can be fixed with a change of attitude, singleness cooties included. If we as a body of believers see singleness as a problem to overcome, a holding pattern of which to get out, or a blessing waiting to happen, we do a disservice to Paul’s wisdom and God’s inspired Word in 1 Corinthians 7. We also continue the stigma of singleness cooties into the next generation of believers teaching them that singleness is something with which to struggle instead of a gift to embrace.
Sally left class that afternoon with a sneaking suspicion that this wouldn’t be the last time she would come across the pattern her teachers unknowingly exhibited. She would meet it with friends whose only aim was to set her up with every single guy they knew. She would meet it in a variety of Sunday school classes she would visit. She would even meet it in her own devotional life as she wrestled with loneliness here and there. But for every time, Sally met this attitude that singleness was a problem, Sally determined to fight her attitude. She decided to be a blessing in return, serve the Lord tenaciously, and become more solely devoted to God.
Let us learn from Single Sally that singleness cooties aren’t real, and allow God to get the glory through our attitude about singleness.