Many sermons have been preached about the blessings of marriage and family. As the inspired writer wrote, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). In the beginning, God saw Adam and said “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Hence, God created Eve to be a wife and companion for Adam. Therefore, if any Christian is able to find a man or woman, to be bonded for life, he/she should count it a blessing.
Nevertheless, despite the emphasis that is often placed on marriage, we must also realize that marriage is not for everyone. We may have even observed with our own eyes that not all marriages lead to a “happily ever after.” Furthermore, many faithful people in the Bible were not married, most notably, our Lord Jesus Himself. Does the Bible give any reasons for Christians not to marry, but instead, to remain single?
1. To avoid adulterous unions
Although marriage is a blessing from God, not all marriages are allowed by God. From the beginning, God meant for marriage to be: one man, one woman, for life (Matthew 19:4-6). Jesus gives us only one valid reason for divorce: fornication (Matthew 19:9). Hence, as Jesus Himself explains, those who would divorce without valid reason, and subsequently remarry, would be committing fornication (Matthew 19:9). Unfortunately, in this world, many have divorced and remarried without God’s approval. Hence, they find themselves in in a union that is not recognized by God.
Regarding Christians whose spouse had divorced them (without valid reason), the apostle Paul instructs them to “remain unmarried, or be reconciled” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Unfortunately, reconciliation is not always possible. Hence, in order to be right in God’s sight, these Christians have no other option but to remain single and unmarried. Are these instructions hard to bear? Yes, even Jesus said not everyone can receive this saying (Matthew 19:11). Nevertheless, many have submitted themselves to God, and remained unmarried, so that they can enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:12). Ultimately, entering the kingdom of Heaven is more important than being married!
“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:12)
2. To avoid being unequally yoked
It is a blessing when Christians are able to find a spouse of like faith, so that they can help one another go into Heaven (1 Peter 3:7). However, some Christians have chosen to marry non-believers instead. Since the beginning, God warns against intermarriage between believers and non-believers, due to the likelihood of apostasy. During Noah’s time, when the “sons of God” preferred to marry the “daughters of men,” this appeared to have led to the great wickedness on the earth (Genesis 6:2-5). During the Mosaic age, Moses warned the Israelites that, when they enter the land of Canaan, they ought not to intermarry with the heathen (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Under the New Testament, Christians are warned not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers, because light cannot have fellowship with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Based on all these warnings, it is most certainly recommended for Christians to seek out a spouse of like faith.
However, circumstances may be that a Christian is unable to find a spouse of like faith. Circumstances may be that a Christian is unable to convert his prospective partners into Christ. This leads to the dilemma on whether to proceed with the marriage or not. Each Christian has to make his own decision on this matter. However, if we were to heed the Biblical warnings seriously, it would be wiser to remain single, rather than be joined together with an unbeliever. It is better to go to Heaven unmarried, than to endanger our salvation by marrying a non-believer! After all, when we all get to Heaven, marriage will no longer exist anyway (Matthew 22:30).
Note: The above instructions apply to the unmarried. For those who are already married to unbelievers, do not seek to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). Rather, seek every opportunity that you can to save the souls of your spouse and children (1 Corinthians 7:16).
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
3. To avoid distractions from serving God
Marriage was intended for both the man and woman to help one another, and especially to help each other go to Heaven (1 Peter 3:7). However, sometimes marriages did not serve their intended purpose, but instead, caused apostasy. King David, King Solomon, and King Ahab are just a few examples of men who fell into sin and faithlessness due to their marriages. If marriage were to cause apostasy, then it is better to remain single!
The apostle Paul himself wished that all men were unmarried, just like himself (1 Corinthians 7:7-8). As he explains, “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:32-33). This is not a rule, but rather, a general observation. While marriage ought to be spiritually beneficial for the Christian couple, it can unfortunately become a distraction instead. Sometimes, the married Christian forgets that his first love ought to be God, and not his spouse (Revelation 2:4). No wonder Paul suggests that it may be better for Christians to remain single.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-40)
From the beginning, God Himself instituted marriage, and He meant for marriage to be a blessing to us. However, as discussed above, there are situations where God may actually prefer us to remain single. There are times when being single may be even more advantageous towards our faith, than being married! At the end of the day, marriage is not the be-all-and-all, but rather, a means to an end. The most important job we have in this life is to serve God, until we reach our home in Heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Whether married or single, let us give God first place in our hearts, and serve Him wholeheartedly, giving all glory and honour to Him.