Singleness Can Be Rewarding
“There are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him that can make room for it make room for it.”—Matt. 19:12.
1. Compared with singleness, how did Jehovah’s servants of ancient times view marriage and parenthood?
MANY people find it hard to understand how singleness could be a desirable way of life. Since Jehovah God united the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in marriage, the majority of the human family have chosen, in due course, to marry rather than to remain single. Among God’s servants of ancient times, too, it was the exception to remain single. When, in fulfillment of her father’s vow, Jephthah’s daughter had to forfeit the right to marry, this initially resulted in sadness. With her father’s permission, she and her girl companions went away to the mountains for two months, there to ‘weep over her virginity.’ (Judg. 11:38) Yes, not singleness, but marriage and parenthood were viewed as the superior blessings.—Ruth 4:13-17; Ps. 127:3-5; Prov. 5:18; 18:22; 31:10; Eccl. 9:9.
2. What changes in the viewpoint regarding the binding nature of marriage resulted from Jesus’ coming to the earth?
2 Not until some 4,000 years after the first marriage was singleness pointed to as something better for certain men and women. At that time a new era, the Christian era, had its start. The changes that this brought about also affected the view of singleness and marriage that had long existed among the Israelites under the old Law-covenant arrangement. The founder of Christianity, Jesus, in answering a question on divorce, made it clear that, among his disciples, God’s original standard for marriage would be restored. Polygamy and divorce on grounds other than marital unfaithfulness would be a thing of the past.—Matt. 19:4-9.
3. (a) How did Jesus’ disciples react to his statement about the binding nature of the marriage tie? (b) Were the disciples correct in their conclusions about singleness? (c) What did Jesus say as to why certain men are eunuchs?
3 How did Jesus’ disciples react to his statement about the binding nature of marriage? “If such is the situation of a man with his wife,” they said, “it is not advisable to marry.” (Matt. 19:10) They felt that it would be better to forgo marriage than to risk getting into an undesirable relationship that could not be terminated at will. Fear of an undesirable marital situation or an unwillingness to give of oneself unselfishly for a mate, however, are not good reasons for a person’s trying to maintain singleness at all costs. This is evident from what the Son of God next told his disciples: “Not all men make room for the saying [as regards remaining single], but only those who have the gift. For there are eunuchs that were born such from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him that can make room for it make room for it.”—Matt. 19:11, 12.
A SPIRITUAL REASON
4. What is the noblest reason for remaining single, and why?
4 Accordingly, the noblest reason for remaining single is a spiritual one. No grander purpose in life could any man or woman have than to devote himself or herself to Kingdom work, helping fellow humans to seize the marvelous reward of eternal life and to keep fast hold on it. Free from the cares and anxieties involved in having a marriage mate and children, the single person can serve God more fully. How desirable and rewarding this can make singleness!
5. Can all men make room for singleness, and how is this evident from the instructions regarding men who qualify to be ministerial servants and elders?
5 However, such singleness by choice is only for those who “can make room for it.” Among first-century Christians only a minority were able to do so. This is evident from the instructions given about men who would qualify as ministerial servants and elders. The manner in which they presided over their families was to be considered, showing that men old enough to be appointed would customarily be married men with children.—1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6.
6, 7. How can a person be sure that he can make room for singleness?
6 Since the majority of God’s servants throughout the centuries have in due course married, it may be asked, How can a person be sure that he is one of the few that can make room for singleness? The apostle Paul provides an inspired answer: “If anyone stands settled in his heart, having no necessity, but has authority over his own will and has made this decision in his own heart, to keep his own virginity, he will do well.”—1 Cor. 7:37.
7 The person with the “gift” of singleness, therefore, should be able to see, on his own, that maintaining singleness for spiritual reasons, in his case, is the better course. It is not a matter of simply suppressing a nagging heart’s desire for marriage and family life. No, a person should be fully convinced at heart that maintaining singleness is right for him, and he should be willing to put forth whatever effort is necessary to maintain it in chastity. There should be nothing in his disposition or inclination that would be unduly disturbed were he to continue in the single state indefinitely.
8. (a) Does singleness make one a superior person? (b) According to Romans 12:3-8, what is the balanced view of “gifts,” and how should they be used?
8 Of course, the one who can remain single for the Kingdom’s sake should not look down on married Christians. From God’s standpoint, he is not a superior person by reason of his singleness. He should appreciate that he is what he is by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. The balanced view regarding any “gifts” that Christians may have individually is set forth by the apostle Paul at Romans 12:3-8:
“I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith. For just as we have in one body many members, but the members do not all have the same function, so we, although many, are one body in union with Christ, but members belonging individually to one another. Since, then, we have gifts differing according to the undeserved kindness given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the faith proportioned to us; or a ministry, let us be at this ministry; or he that teaches, let him be at his teaching; or he that exhorts, let him be at his exhortation; he that distributes, let him do it with liberality; he that presides, let him do it in real earnest; he that shows mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness.”
Accordingly, gifts should be used, not to elevate ourselves, but to benefit the congregation, building up its members.
THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE THE “GIFT”
9. In the case of adults who cannot make room for singleness, why can waiting a number of years before getting married be beneficial?
9 But what of a Christian who really desires marriage? While he may not have the gift of singleness, this does not mean that he has to rush into marriage. Especially when a person is still in his twenties, much remains to be learned about life and there is experience to be gained in the field of human relations through association with single people, married couples and children of all ages. A number of years spent in living as a single adult may give one the experience and insight needed to use good discernment in choosing a lifelong mate and to care well for marriage responsibilities.
10 A Christian should never forget that the Most High is interested in the marriages of his faithful servants. He knows full well how spiritually disastrous a poor marriage can be and, therefore, commanded the Israelites not to enter into marriage covenants with worshipers of other gods. (Deut. 7:3, 4) Likewise, the apostle Paul pointed out that a Christian widow “is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) Hence, if Jehovah God sees that one of his servants truly needs a mate, is it not reasonable to conclude that he will answer that one’s prayers about finding a good marriage partner? Most assuredly, if the need is really there!
11. (a) What should Christians do who really need to marry but who have not as yet found a suitable mate? Why? (b) What Biblical examples show that Jehovah can provide even a marriage mate for those who truly need such?
11 This does not mean that marriages are made in heaven and that for each Christian there is but one ideal mate among the many adult servants of Jehovah. No, it simply means that Jehovah can see to it that his devoted servants have what they need, including a marriage mate in the event that maintaining singleness with chastity becomes very trying. (Prov. 19:14) The Most High provided a fine wife for Isaac and a good husband for Ruth. In both cases rich blessings resulted because the prime concern was the doing of Jehovah’s will. (Gen. 24:2-4, 12-27, 50, 51, 67; Ruth 1:16, 17; 3:10; 4:13-17) Therefore, Christians who need to marry should pray about this and then wait patiently upon Jehovah, confident that he is interested in their happiness and welfare.
CONSIDER FINE EXAMPLES OF SINGLENESS
12. Why can we benefit from considering the example of those who made a success of singleness?
12 Whether an unmarried adult has the gift of singleness or not, he can profit from considering Bible examples of those who made a success of singleness. It can make his own life as a single person more meaningful and rewarding. Even married couples can benefit, as time and circumstance can deprive a person of a mate and thus confront that one with a decision as to what to do about remarriage.
13. As a single man, what was Jesus Christ fully absorbed in doing, and what was his attitude toward his service?
13 As a single man, Jesus Christ is certainly the outstanding example. He was totally absorbed in doing his Father’s will. “My food,” said he, “is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) The Son of God would rise early in the morning and serve on into the night, teaching the people, healing the sick and liberating those under demonic control. (Mark 1:32; Luke 21:37, 38) His was willing service. This is illustrated by his reply to the leper who said, “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” The Bible reports: “Stretching out his hand, he touched him, saying: ‘I want to. Be made clean.’”—Luke 5:12, 13.
14. What shows that Jesus enjoyed association with men, women and children?
14 Noteworthy, too, is the fact that Jesus Christ was at ease in the company of all—men, women and children. He would accept invitations to meals and even banquets, using the opportunities that presented themselves there to impart vital spiritual instruction. (Luke 5:29-32; 14:1-24) Married men were among his closest associates. (1 Cor. 9:5) He had special affection for Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, in whose home at Bethany he may have been a frequent guest. (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1, 5) Jesus also enjoyed children. There was the time when the disciples tried to discourage parents from bringing their little ones to him that he might touch them and pray over them. “At seeing this,” the Scriptures tell us, “Jesus was indignant and said to [the disciples]: ‘Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them . . .’ And he took the children into his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands upon them.”—Mark 10:13-16.
15. What lessons can we draw from the example of Jesus Christ as to what contributes toward a happy contented life as a single person?
15 The example of Jesus Christ reveals that those who would enjoy their singleness must be totally involved in giving whole-heartedly of their time, energies and abilities to help fellow humans. They must have a genuine interest in people, finding pleasure in the company of men, women and children. They should also be able to get wholesome enjoyment from life, and this without practicing extreme self-denial, which is of “no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”—Col. 2:23.
16. (a) What shows that Paul’s singleness was a real blessing to others? (b) In view of the apostles’s words at 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, would it have been possible for him to accomplish what he did as a married man?
16 As an imitator of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul was one who derived real satisfaction from his sacred service as a single man. By Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, he was able to labor in excess of all the other apostles, traveling thousands of miles on sea and land and establishing many congregations in Europe and in Asia Minor. (1 Cor. 15:9, 10) Obviously, with a wife and children, he could never have undertaken such an extensive evangelizing work that repeatedly brought him into dangerous situations because of the then-existing circumstances. About the year 55 C.E., he could speak of himself as having been “in labors more plentifully, in prisons more plentifully, in blows to an excess, in near-deaths often.” (2 Cor. 11:23) Through his unselfish, whole-souled service, Paul experienced the superlative happiness that comes from giving. This also endeared him to his fellow believers.—Acts 20:24-27, 31-38.
17. Just what kind of life is involved in being single for the Kingdom’s sake?
17 Clearly, when Paul, under inspiration, recommended singleness, he was not encouraging a life of self-interest, ease or self-indulgence. No, he was recommending a course of life that would mean “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” Free from the cares and anxieties for a mate and children, the single adult can be at the complete disposal of the Lord Jesus Christ, serving in behalf of others. (1 Cor. 7:32-35) Based on his own experience, Paul was convinced that continued singleness for those who had the gift would mean a happier life if it was spent in giving. (1 Cor. 7:40) He wrote: “I wish all men were as I myself am. Nevertheless, each one has his own gift from God, one in this way, another in that way.”—1 Cor. 7:7.
18 Women, too, have found great joy in remaining single. A fine example was Anna. After being married just seven years her husband died, and she continued in the single state for the rest of her life. How did she fill her days? Spiritual things came first. Even at the age of eighty-four she “was never missing from the temple, rendering sacred service night and day with fastings and supplications.” (Luke 2:36, 37) Later, in the Christian congregation, there were unmarried women who proved themselves to be a real blessing to others. Dorcas* must have been one of these. “She abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy.” She would make inner and outer garments for needy widows in the congregation. (Acts 9:36, 39) Her good deeds must have included hospitably receiving Christian strangers into her home and giving comfort and help to those in any kind of need. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:10.) As a disciple of Jesus Christ, doubtless she was eager to tell others about the Kingdom.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
19. Why should Christians who have made room for singleness be appreciated?
19 Today, as in the first century C.E., there are single men and women who are proving themselves to be an asset to the Christian congregation. Their greatest joy comes from spending themselves completely for others, both inside and outside the congregation. Their singleness is rewarding because they are serving, not their own interests, but those of the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. And should not their gift be appreciated by all others in the congregation, because of the fine service that it has enabled so many of them to perform?
20. Why do devoted single Christians enjoy a satisfying life, and what encouragement can they draw from Isaiah 56:5?
20 In their having forgone marriage and parenthood, their life is surely not a waste but continues to be meaningful and satisfying. Though having no families of their own, they have in the Christian congregation found those who love them as deeply as natural mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, yes, and as sons and daughters. (Mark 10:30) They are thrilled about Jehovah’s assurance: “I will even give to them in my house and within my walls a monument and a name, something better than sons and daughters. A name to time indefinite I shall give them, one that will not be cut off.”—Isa. 56:5.
In connection with the death of Dorcas, no mention is made of mourning on the part of a husband. This suggests that she was single at that time.
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Jesus Christ, who was at ease in the company of all—men, women and children—is the outstanding example of one who made a success of singleness
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The apostle Paul, who recommended singleness for those with the gift, set a fine example in appealing to the consciences of others