Looking at this passage, it would be easy to say that Paul was less than enthusiastic about the institution of marriage.
He never says with exuberance, for example, “Yes! Marriage is a great thing! Get married.”
Instead, he says things like, “If you get married, you haven’t sinned (verses 28,36).” Hardly a ringing endorsement.
He later says the one that marries does what is right, but the one that remains single does even better (38).
What do we make of this?
Perhaps rather than seeing it as Paul downplaying the goodness of marriage, we should see it as Paul trying to make crystal clear the goodness of being single.
Paul’s words go so against the words we often hear from our family and friends.
“Hey, isn’t it about time you get married? You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
“You’re such a beautiful young woman. Why aren’t you married yet? How about this guy? Or that guy?”
But Paul makes it clear: “Hey, if you’re single, that’s a good thing! Why?
An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (32-35)
Speaking from experience, I can agree with Paul that it is much easier to serve the Lord as a single than as a married man. As a married man, I always have to keep my wife in mind and my daughter as well when it comes to ministry. It of course helps that my wife is also a Christian and is fully supportive of what I do. But I have to keep everything in balance: spending time with my wife, spending time with my daughter, spending time in ministry.
The single person doesn’t have to worry about keeping that kind of balance. And Paul says that if you can live your entire life without any urge to get married, that’s a gift from God (7).
How can you tell if you have that gift? Well, let’s put it this way. If you don’t consider your singleness as a gift, you probably don’t have that gift. 🙂
But whether you have that gift or not, remember this: God can use your time as a single for his glory. You can touch so many lives around you, and make a huge difference in this world for him. I know so many people who have used their time as a single to do just that. For some, God blessed them with a spouse later. For others, God gave them contentment with being single.
So if you are single, don’t mope around, depressed that you haven’t found that special someone yet. Rather, determine to take advantage of the time you have as a single person to serve God, trusting that if it’s his will, he will bring the right person into your life at just the right time.
How are you using this time God has given you as a single?