Weighing Wedlock in These Last Days
“He also that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better.”—1 Cor. 7:38.
1. Why was the choice of a wife no problem for Adam?
FOR Adam, the first man, choosing a wife was no problem at all. She was made for him. Man had named the many animals, but for him “there was found no helper as a complement of him.” “Hence,” we are told in the Biblical account, “Jehovah God had a deep sleep fall upon the man and, while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the flesh over its place. And Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and to bring her to the man.” Just imagine Adam’s joy at this! He was moved to exclaim: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called Woman, because from man this one was taken.” No wonder man would stick to his wife. In her sinless state, this woman was his perfect complement.—Gen. 2:18-25.
2. Show Scripturally what Jehovah’s will is for Christians who choose to marry.
2 Today, among imperfect humans, a problem facing some Christians is that of selecting a marriage mate. In this a devoted servant of Jehovah will wisely heed the apostle Paul’s inspired admonition that dedicated Christians should marry believers, thus marrying “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) This is Jehovah’s will for Christians who choose to wed. Centuries prior to Paul’s day, when God’s people, the Israelites, were to come in contact with the heathen of Canaanland, they were sternly warned: “You must form no marriage alliance with them. Your daughter you must not give to his son, and his daughter you must not take for your son.” Dire consequences would follow disobedience, as God so clearly stated: “For he will turn your son from following me, and they will certainly serve other gods.” Not only would the son or daughter thus yoked fare badly, but parents arranging such a union would incur Jehovah’s wrath, for it was said: “And Jehovah’s anger will indeed blaze against you, and he will certainly annihilate you in a hurry”!—Deut. 7:3, 4.
3. What examples from patriarchal times should a Christian parent remember?
3 Earlier, in patriarchal times, parents devoted to Jehovah were distressed when a grown son personally made a marriage alliance with pagans. When Esau took Judith and Basemath, Hittite women, as wives, “they were a source of bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebekah.” On one occasion Rebekah lamented: “I have come to abhor this life of mine because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob ever takes a wife from the daughters of Heth like these from the daughters of the land, of what good is life to me?” (Gen. 26:34, 35; 27:46) Happily, Jacob entered into no marital union that would embitter a godly parent and displease Jehovah. Before this, when Abraham arranged for the selecting of Isaac’s wife, there was no bad choice of a heathen woman. (Genesis, chapter 24) Should you, as a Christian parent today, arrange the marriage of your son or daughter? Surely not like some parents have done. Remember the warning to Israel and these fine parental examples from patriarchal days.
4. How did the Jews of Ezra’s day sin against Jehovah?
4 You may be a Christian parent who will arrange a marriage for your son or daughter. Or you may be an adult dedicated servant of Jehovah God who plans to marry. In either case, let the words of faithful Ezra ring in your ears, his earnest supplication at a time of national wrongdoing. The Jews had been delivered from captivity to Babylon. They had the Scriptures and good examples from the past. These they ignored, and great was their guilt before Jehovah. But how had they sinned? This Ezra revealed as he pleaded: “And after all that has come upon us for our bad deeds and our great guiltiness—for you yourself, O our God, have underestimated our error, and you have given us those who have escaped such as these—shall we go breaking your commandments again and forming marriage alliances with the peoples of these detestable things? Will you not get incensed at us to the limit so that there will be none remaining and none escaping? O Jehovah the God of Israel, you are righteous, because we have been left over as an escaped people as at this day. Here we are before you in our guiltiness, for it is impossible to stand before you on account of this.” (Ezra 9:13-15) The Jews put away their foreign wives in the days of Ezra, in recognition of their great guiltiness before God. Do not forget that they had sinned against Jehovah by intermarrying with the pagan Canaanites. Never minimize the gravity of disobeying God with respect to wedlock.
5. According to Malachi 2:10-12, in what way had the Jews profaned Jehovah’s holiness? What conclusion must a Christian therefore reach?
5 As a Christian dedicated to Jehovah God you undoubtedly hold the Bible in high esteem and you wish to abide by its righteous principles. Well, then, take to heart also these words of the prophet Malachi: “Is it not one father that all of us have? Is it not one God that has created us? Why is it that we deal treacherously with one another, in profaning the covenant of our forefathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, and a detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the holiness of Jehovah, which He has loved, and he has taken possession of the daughter of a foreign god as a bride. Jehovah will cut off each one that does it, one who is awake and one who is answering, from the tents of Jacob, and one who is presenting a gift offering to Jehovah of armies.” (Mal. 2:10-12) Those Jews certainly did not please Jehovah by taking “the daughter of a foreign god as a bride.” In doing so, they had profaned His holiness. Earlier, Solomon had married many foreign women. Because of them he sinned. For Jews of Nehemiah’s day who had married pagan women, Nehemiah used Solomon as an example of a wrongdoer. (Neh. 13:25-27) Christians today realize, therefore, that they could never please Almighty God by marrying an unbeliever.
6. What is Jehovah’s unchanging view of marriage for his servants?
6 Despite the passing of time, Jehovah’s view of marriage alliances for his servants has never changed. “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers,” wrote the apostle Paul to the Corinthians. “For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14, 15) Obey Jehovah, the unchanging God. Do not go against his will in matters relating to wedlock and risk your spirituality and life itself by becoming unevenly yoked with an unbeliever.—Mal. 3:6.
7. (a) Does either the Watch Tower Society or the Christian congregation advocate the marriage of a dedicated Christian to an unbeliever? (b) Who decides whether the Kingdom Hall will be used for a particular marriage ceremony or not?
7 Incidentally, in view of the foregoing, it would be a mistake to assume that the Watch Tower Society or the Christian congregation advocates the marriage of a dedicated Christian to an unbeliever, even if such a marriage has been performed in a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses. Naturally, the congregation service committee is responsible for deciding whether the congregation’s Kingdom Hall will be used for a particular marriage ceremony or not.
AVOIDING AN UNEVEN YOKE
8. How can a Christian avoid becoming emotionally involved with an unbeliever at school? At his place of employment?
8 A person may realize that, as a Christian, he should marry “only in the Lord.” Yet school activities, secular employment, and the like, may throw a dedicated single Christian into contact with unbelievers of the opposite sex. What then? Well, while attending school is not something to be avoided, the Christian student assuredly does not have to engage in extracurricular school activities, regularly attending school dances and other functions that will place him in unnecessary contact with unbelievers. Similarly, one may have to work with worldly persons in the same office, but that does not mean that the mature Christian will attend office parties at which he may become emotionally involved with an unbeliever, even running the risk of falling into immorality. To avoid these things, watch your associations. Be firm, resolute. In your determination to do what is right, Jehovah will surely uphold you.—1 Cor. 15:33.
9. To avoid an uneven marital yoke, what is required?
9 Ardent prayer to Jehovah is also in order. Refraining from association and courtship with an unbeliever may not be easy. But Jehovah can help you. The apostle Peter wrote: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) The psalmist admonished: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Ps. 55:22) And again we read: “Blessed be Jehovah, who daily carries the load for us, The true God of our salvation.” (Ps. 68:19) Despite the hardship, stick close to Jehovah in prayer and you will be able to shun an uneven marital yoke.
10. Besides praying, what else must you do to avoid an uneven yoke? with what results?
10 In addition to your prayers, exercise self-control. It is a fruit of God’s spirit, for which a Christian should pray. By permitting Jehovah’s spirit to operate on you, you can display self-control. Yes, you may already be infatuated with an unbeliever. But you can stop associating with this person. You may have to alter your plans and activities. Doing this will be the course of wisdom. You will be avoiding an uneven yoke, one that merits Jehovah’s disapproval. Then, too, consider the moral dearth of modern society. Why, your wise, though difficult, action may even result in the preservation of your virtue! (Prov. 5:3-14) With God’s aid, then, wait! Wait till wedlock with a dedicated person is possible. Yes, wait until you can marry a lover of Jehovah. Then wedlock will bring you happiness, not sorrow and spiritual difficulty.
11. What course is advisable even if a person is showing some interest in Bible study?
11 But what if a person is now showing some interest in Bible study? Well, to rush into marriage is never wise. So here again, wait! Stop, look and listen! Stop and think about the seriousness of marriage. Look at the individual, not through the beclouded eyes of infatuation, but objectively. Yes, and listen too. Is this person really seeking righteousness and meekness? (Zeph. 2:2, 3) Does he, or she, speak from the heart with loving expressions of praise to God? Has this person made a dedication to Jehovah, symbolizing it by water baptism? Have you evidence that he is progressing toward Christian maturity? Is he serving Jehovah wholeheartedly? Has he the necessary spiritual qualifications for the ministry and for Christian marriage? Time will tell. It will take time to learn the facts about such a newly interested one. After this person makes a dedication, is baptized, is carrying out that dedication to God in faithfulness and has spiritual qualifications, it is soon enough to begin considering him, or her, as a possible marriage mate.
12. (a) As a woman, what should you do if you desire to marry? (b) What will be required of a man who marries?
12 But what about you? Are you really ready for marriage? If you desire to wed, first consider your own qualifications for matrimony. As a woman, be determined to enhance your worth. King Lemuel of old made this appraisal: “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals.” (Prov. 31:10) That makes her someone of real value, someone to be cherished by a loving husband. It is that way with the Christian woman who develops her spirituality. But what of a man? He should be mature and considerate, capable of loving his wife as he does himself. (Eph. 5:33) Many will be his responsibilities. But if he displays Christian maturity and spirituality, think how he may well appear to his beloved. Do you recall the beautiful Shulammite girl of the Song of Solomon? In her eyes her shepherd lover was the very epitome of all that was good and wonderful in a man. “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,” said she, “so is my dear one among the sons.” (Song of Sol. 2:3) As a Christian man, have you such qualities that you could justifiably be viewed in that way?
13. (a) What may be learned from the case of Isaac and Rebekah? (b) If one postpones wedlock, what should he do?
13 But when does a person attain the desired qualities for matrimony? Individuals vary, yet surely the time of attainment is not during youthful years prior to adulthood. In Biblical days there were some early marriages, but at that time most persons were adults before they entered wedlock. Consider Isaac. He took Rebekah as his wife when he was a mature individual. He fell in love with her, too, for the Bible tells us so. (Gen. 24:62-67) He did not just become infatuated with Rebekah. Today some young persons become infatuated with ones of the opposite sex, only to find that interest wanes and their feelings change in a short time. So do not mistake sexual attraction for love. As a young person, why not put off marriage until you have your feet firmly set on life’s pathway as a Christian minister? Wait until you are sure of yourself and can better analyze your feelings. Isaac was forty years old when he got married. (Gen. 25:20) Remember, too, that Rebekah was no mere girl when she became a wife, for she was called, not a child, but a “young woman,” “a virgin.” (Gen. 24:16) So by postponing wedlock for a while, you will not lose out. You will profit. In the meantime, you can work to develop emotional and spiritual maturity.
14. (a) Why is youthful marriage undesirable? (b) A young, single person has what opportunity?
14 Young Christians, now is the time to “remember . . . your grand Creator.” (Eccl. 12:1) Therefore, why emulate the majority of youthful mankind of our day? Caught up, as they are, in worldly pursuits, they desire sleek and powerful automobiles, or wish to be among the financially prosperous, with good-paying jobs. They “date” early in life and marry while still young. Those who are mere boys attempt to assume burdens they are as yet unprepared to shoulder. Girls often become mothers while very young. Many individuals never truly savor youthful freedom from marital responsibility or an adult life of singleness. Actually, several years may be required to change youths into serious-minded adults. As a young person, you now have the opportunity to observe those already married. In this way you can receive valuable schooling that is free. To some extent you can learn what burdens go with adult life and how these may be discharged. Youth is a period in which to enrich life and lay a good foundation for the future by pursuing the interests of God’s kingdom, putting them first in life. (Matt. 6:33) In youth and young adulthood you can enjoy what singleness has to offer in the way of lighter demands and greater freedom from distractions. These years are like a bridge, one to be crossed naturally. Permit yourself to traverse it gradually and your life will be happier, fuller, more rewarding.
BETTER FIELD OF SERVICE FOR THOSE SINGLE
15. Illustrate how there is a better field of service to God open to a single Christian.
15 There is also a better field of service to God open to a single Christian. This may not necessarily be so from the standpoint of privileges that can be enjoyed, though it often is. For example, one who is married may not be able to serve at a Bethel home of the Watch Tower Society, whereas a single person may be so blessed. Singleness will also spare you tribulation in the flesh. The apostle Paul wrote: “If a virgin person married, such one would commit no sin. However, those who do will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Cor. 7:28) Let us illustrate. When illness strikes a family, this means increased concern, responsibility and expense for the married person. If you are single, you are spared such anxieties regarding a mate and children.
16. (a) Contrast the positions of single and married Christians in keeping with Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. (b) If a person devoted to Jehovah postpones wedlock, what benefits will he now enjoy?
16 Fittingly, therefore, Paul said: “Indeed, I want you to be free from anxiety. The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval. But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided. Further, the unmarried woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in her body and in her spirit. However, the married woman is anxious for the things of the world, how she may gain the approval of her husband. But this I am saying for your personal advantage, not that I may cast a noose upon you, but to move you to that which is becoming and that which means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Cor. 7:32-35) So, as a single young man or young woman devoted to Jehovah, can you postpone wedlock? If you do so, you can now enjoy a life free from the anxieties that go with marriage in these last days. You can serve Jehovah without such distractions. Unhampered, you can come and go as you please. This can be a blessing in the ministry. Take advantage of it!
17. In what Paul said at 1 Corinthians 7:36, can we conclude that he had in mind the very young? Why?
17 Paul did go on to say, however: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” (1 Cor. 7:36) Obviously, one who is but a youth or even a young adult, is not “past the bloom of youth.” So, rather than impetuously move ahead into early marriage, a younger Christian wisely considers these words of the apostle: “Now I say to the unmarried persons and the widows, it is well for them that they remain even as I am”—unmarried. (1 Cor. 7:8) The apostle allows for marriage, if the need exists, but it is apparent that he does not have in mind the very young.—1 Cor. 7:9.
18. Singleness is for whom? Why do some persons choose it?
18 Yet singleness is not to be maintained at all costs. Single Christians must lead clean, upright, moral lives to Jehovah’s honor. (1 Cor. 10:31) Singleness is for one who “stands settled in his heart, having no necessity,” one who has “authority over his own will and has made this decision in his own heart, to keep his own virginity.” (1 Cor. 7:37) This does not mean that he is entirely uninterested in persons of the opposite sex. No, but such a person has no necessity and has authority over his own will because of exercising self-control. He “has made this decision in his own heart, to keep his own virginity.” His determination is to remain single at the present time. Some are eunuchs, not by reason of physical mutilation, but “on account of the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 19:12) Such persons choose singleness, perhaps in early life, so that they may now pursue Kingdom interests with fewer distractions.
19. How can one work for the gift of singleness? Can others help?
19 Some have the gift of singleness, but they must work for it. To keep it, they must not yield to passionate inclinations of the fallen flesh. Then, too, since marriage is something for which each normal adult has a proper desire, a single life may at times be lonely, even trialsome. Hence, if you are single, fill any void in your life with study of God’s Word and Christian publications. Have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” keeping your mind centered, not upon fleshly desires, but upon spiritual matters and your career as a minister. (1 Cor. 15:58) Be sensible in habits and develop a balanced way of life. Think on things that are upbuilding and “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (Phil. 4:8; 1 Pet. 4:7) Rely heavily on Jehovah. (Isa. 40:28-31; Phil. 4:13) Others can aid you, too—parents, servants in the Christian congregation and fellow praisers of Jehovah in general—as they offer encouragement to all persons who are pursuing a life of singleness for the sake of the Kingdom. Of course, if you wish to remain single, you cannot think only of what others are doing. You must disown yourself and follow Christ’s steps closely. (Heb. 12:1-3) Incidentally, Jesus Christ furnished the single Christian minister a striking example. He himself did not marry.
20. For what reasons do many pursue singleness today, and what privileges are theirs? Will the majority of them never marry?
20 What a time this is for joyful service to Jehovah! God’s kingdom rules! The end of this system of things will occur in our very own generation! “The time left is reduced.” (1 Cor. 7:29) The field of ministerial activity is large and the harvest is great. (Matt. 9:37, 38) There is so much to be done in the work of preaching the everlasting good news right now by “you young men and also you virgins”—yes, and others too. (Ps. 148:12, 13) For these reasons, many happily pursue singleness today. Some enter the full-time ministry as pioneers, others as missionaries. Still others are privileged to serve in a Bethel home. No, they are obligated to take no vow of celibacy. (1 Tim. 4:1-3) Someday the majority of them will marry. So then, what about you? As a single young man or young woman, can you also postpone marriage and have a greater share now in the preaching work? It is not as though you will never marry. You will just wait until you are older. Of course, whether you are young or old, if you can now remain single, do so. Dedicated Christian ministers who have put off wedlock till later in life have not been losers. They have received richly of Jehovah’s bounties. Possibly you can be among them and can thus reap the satisfying reward that goes with greater service in these last days, to the praise of our heavenly Father.—Mal. 3:10; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
21. If you marry, what should be your course? What should be the determination of Christians whether single or married?
21 Indeed, many centuries have passed since Jehovah formed the first woman, brought her to the man, Adam, and instituted human wedlock. Since then millions of persons have chosen marriage mates, some with good results, others with bad. If you, as a modern-day Christian, intend to wed, marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) This will have God’s approval. On the other hand, you may choose singleness at present, perhaps as a youth or a young adult. You have many years ahead of you, an eternity if you remain faithful to God. Without the responsibilities associated with matrimony, you can now devote yourself more fully to the work of preaching the good news of God’s established kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) But, whatever your decision, as a faithful Christian, single or married, bend every effort to walk with God and win Jehovah’s smile of approval.—Isa. 30:21; Mic. 6:8.
[Picture on page 563]