Unmarried but Complete for God’s Service
“He also that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better.”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:38.
1. How has marriage proved to be a blessing?
JEHOVAH never expected the first man to remain single. Rather, God created a marriage mate for Adam, the progenitor of the human race. (Genesis 2:20-24; Acts 17:26) And what a blessing marriage proved to be! It supplied companionship, made mutual assistance possible, was an honorable arrangement for producing offspring, and contributed greatly to human happiness. Why, even the poor and downtrodden can enjoy what no amount of money can buy—marital love!—Song of Solomon 8:6, 7.
2, 3. (a) What view did one religious publication take of celibacy and marriage? (b) Scripturally, how should marriage be viewed?
2 Some, however, view marriage in a different way. Says one religious publication: “Celibacy is the ecclesiastical law in the Western Church imposed on clerics forbidding those in the married state from being ordained and those in holy orders from marrying. It includes the obligation of observing perfect chastity under vow. The reasons for this are: that those being ordained may serve God with a greater singleness of purpose (1 Cor. 7:32), and that so living a life of continence they observe the state of virginity, which is holier and higher than that of marriage. In the NT [New Testament] the celibate or virginal state is raised to a higher calling than that of the married.”—The Catholic Encyclopedia, compiled by Robert C. Broderick.
3 Is it really possible that enforced celibacy is ‘holier and higher than marriage’? Not according to the “New Testament,” which says in the Catholic Jerusalem Bible: “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith and choose to listen to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from the devils; and the cause of this is the lies told by hypocrites whose consciences are branded as though with a red-hot iron: they will say marriage is forbidden, and lay down rules about abstaining from foods which God created to be accepted with thanksgiving by all who believe and who know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) Actually, marriage is a gift from God, and it is good.—Ruth 1:9.
4. In view of 1 Corinthians 7:38, what questions arise?
4 Although marriage is a gift from God, the apostle Paul wrote: “He also that gives his virginity in marriage does well, but he that does not give it in marriage will do better.” (1 Corinthians 7:38) Why did Paul indicate that it would be better to remain unmarried? Should a single person feel incomplete? And can singleness be rewarding?
The Centerpiece of Christian Life
5. What should be the centerpiece of Christian life?
5 Serving Jehovah should be the very centerpiece of our Christian life, whether we are single or married. Sacred service joyfully rendered to God gives evidence of our attachment to him as the Universal Sovereign. Wholehearted obedience and zealous participation in the Christian ministry are ways to demonstrate that attachment. (1 John 5:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 9:16) Both the ministry and other obedient actions in harmony with the divine will can be accomplished if a person is unmarried.
6. Whether we are married or single, a zealous ministry enables us to do what?
6 Evangelizers are now carrying out the Kingdom-preaching work to Jehovah’s praise. And whether we are married or single, a zealous ministry affords us opportunity to focus at least some of our personal resources and endowments on God’s service. But we must develop and control our circumstances so that the ministry is never relegated to a place that is less than central to our life. We must ‘seek the Kingdom first.’ (Matthew 6:33) There is joy in concentrating on divine interests rather than merely on personal interests.
Complete for the Ministry
7. What example is there to show that an unmarried Christian can be complete for the ministry?
7 Christians can be complete for the ministry whether they are single or married. So the unmarried state is a foundation not necessarily requiring a change. (Compare 1 Corinthians 7:24, 27.) God’s Word does not take the view of some tribes that a man does not reach his full estate unless he is married. Jesus Christ died unmarried, and a spiritual bride in heaven is the only wife Jehovah has authorized Jesus to have. (Revelation 21:2, 9) Yet, God’s Son, though unmarried as a human, was the foremost example of a person complete for the ministry.
8. As Paul shows, being unmarried allows for what?
8 Actually, being unmarried allows greater personal freedom and time for the ministry. Recommending singleness, Paul said: “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. . . . Further, the unmarried woman, and the virgin, is anxious for the things of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) This applies to single Christians and to those once married but whose circumstances have changed, returning them to an unmarried state.—Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:2, 3.
9. How does Jesus’ example show that being unmarried does not make a person incomplete for the Christian ministry?
9 Attaining physical, mental, and spiritual maturity brings completeness for God’s service. Jesus Christ needed no marriage mate to be complete for the role of God’s Chief Minister and the one through whom the ransom would be provided. (Matthew 20:28) Being unmarried, Jesus was free to focus his full powers on his ministry. His unmarried state differed sharply from the Jewish norm, under which marriage and children were emphasized. Nevertheless, Jesus was fully capable of finishing his God-given work. (Luke 3:23; John 17:3, 4) Hence, being unmarried does not make a person incomplete for the Christian ministry.
Married Persons “Divided”
10. Because of the “one flesh” bond, what did Paul say about those married as compared with those unmarried?
10 In contrast with single people, married Christians should pursue the ministry with recognition of their “one flesh” bond. (Matthew 19:5, 6) Because of that bond and its various responsibilities, Paul said that married individuals are “divided.” He wrote: “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 Corinthians 7:32-35.
11. What was Paul showing at 1 Corinthians 7:32-35?
11 Clearly, for a more undistracted life, Paul recommended singleness. He himself may have been a widower who did not choose to remarry. (1 Corinthians 9:5) In any case, he knew that there are anxieties associated with married life in this world. He was showing the comparative freedom that unmarried Christians can enjoy and how the interests of married believers necessarily are divided between fleshly and spiritual matters. The married person does not exercise full authority over his body, for his mate is one flesh with him and therefore has a claim upon his body. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) In view of this, Paul correctly said that the unmarried Christian is able to be holy, that is, fully set apart and reserved for Jehovah God’s direct use, both in body and in spirit.
12. Having no spouse, what can an unmarried person do?
12 The single Christian’s spirit, or mental inclination, moves him to the active, undistracted service of God’s Kingdom. Having no spouse claiming partial control of his body, he can follow the spirit, or inclination, of his mind and heart. He can specialize on Jehovah’s service with concentration of body and mind. So the unmarried man or woman can best look to pleasing only the Lord with the greatest personal liberty. We cannot rightly take exception to what Paul said, for Jehovah saw fit to have it recorded for our instruction.
A Married Person Incomplete?
13, 14. What mistaken course slights the “one flesh” bond and would make a married person incomplete for the Christian ministry?
13 With the mistaken idea that they could do more in God’s service, some married Christians might relegate their marriage to a rather insignificant place in life. For instance, the wife might start acting independently of her husband in consequential ways. The husband might become preoccupied with congregational activities. Under such circumstances, they might conclude that they are doing quite well in Jehovah’s service. Actually, however, they might be taking a course that slights the “one flesh” bond. If so, that would not please Jehovah.
14 In fact, slighting the “one flesh” bond would make a married person incomplete for the Christian ministry. Marriage does not add to ministerial completeness but reduces personal attention that can be given to the ministry. (Compare Luke 14:16, 17, 20.) Yet, if married people are to please God and be complete as his ministers, they must live up to their marital obligations.
Unmarried for the Kingdom’s Sake
15. (a) Unmarried Christians should cultivate what quality? (b) What basic point about marriage and singleness did Paul make at 1 Corinthians 7:36, 37?
15 While married servants of Jehovah should live up to their marital obligations, single Christians should cultivate contentment in their unmarried completeness. As Paul said: “Now I say to the unmarried persons and the widows, it is well for them that they remain even as I am [unmarried]. Are you bound to a wife? Stop seeking a release. Are you loosed from a wife? Stop seeking a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:8, 27) With Jehovah’s help, as a single person, cultivate the settled state that God makes possible. Any change of status should not be a foregone conclusion, just a matter of custom or a reaction to peer pressure. Rather, it should arise from Scriptural necessity, for Paul said: “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. But 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 Corinthians 7:36, 37.
16. (a) What does it mean to be “past the bloom of youth”? (b) Of what should the Christian remaining unmarried be convinced?
16 Thus Paul showed that it would not be wrong to marry if a person was behaving in some unseemly way toward his virginity, although the apostle doubtless was not alluding to gross sin. As he said earlier, “It is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:9) Of course, he was referring to marriage under those circumstances if a person was “past the bloom of youth,” beyond the time when sexual interest first became strong. If a mature individual had “authority over his own will” and had firmly decided in his heart to make room for singleness, he would do well. Successful singleness does not mean suppressing a nagging and nearly overpowering desire for marriage and family life. Rather, the Christian choosing to remain unmarried should be fully convinced at heart that maintaining singleness is right in his or her case and should be willing to put forth whatever effort is required to maintain that state in chastity. The Christian doing so would have fewer distractions and greater freedom to serve the Lord.
17. According to Jesus, why do some remain unmarried?
17 Unmarried Christians will be helped to maintain the single state if they cultivate the mind of Jesus Christ. Though he was unmarried in a culture that stressed marriage, he concentrated his time and gifts on his unrepeatable ministry. Like Jesus, an unmarried Christian can rejoice in the gift of singleness that God grants to those who make room for it. Concerning this, Jesus said: “Not all men make room for the saying, 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.”—Matthew 19:11, 12.
18. What keeps “eunuchs” for the Kingdom’s sake from getting married?
18 Jesus did not say that a single person is superior to a married person. He did not urge singleness simply to have a carefree life, and he surely did not recommend it so that the unmarried person could spread his or her attentions to a number of the opposite sex. No, but those who make themselves “eunuchs” for the Kingdom’s sake are morally upright persons who make room for this in their hearts. What keeps them from getting married? Not some physical disability but an overpowering desire to apply themselves as fully as possible to God’s service. This service is especially important now since the Kingdom was established in heaven in 1914 and “this good news of the kingdom” must be preached earth wide for a witness before the rapidly approaching end of this doomed system of things.—Matthew 24:14.
Commend Unmarried Christians
19. As regards those remaining single for the Kingdom’s sake, what should all Christians do?
19 All Christians should commend and encourage those who remain unmarried for the Kingdom’s sake. After all, being single “means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:35) Parents will do well to teach their children what the Bible says about the unmarried state and its advantages for the service of Jehovah. All of us can encourage unmarried fellow believers and should never weaken their resolve to remain unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom.
20. If you are an unmarried Christian, what should you do?
20 Unmarried Christians can rejoice as complete ministers of God. In these climactic times, they are delighted to share in the urgent work of Kingdom preaching. Therefore, if you are single, rejoice in being used by Jehovah as a complete unmarried Christian minister. ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, while you shine as an illuminator in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life.’ (Philippians 2:12-16) Concentrate on Kingdom interests as you remain united with the international brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses and fulfill the Christian ministry. Doing so as a single person is a rewarding way of life, as we shall see.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What should be the centerpiece of Christian life?
□ Why can unmarried servants of Jehovah be complete for the Christian ministry?
□ In what way could a married person be incomplete?
□ What does it mean to be a “eunuch” for the Kingdom’s sake?
□ Why should we encourage unmarried Christians?
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Though unmarried, the apostle Paul was complete
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Jesus was the foremost example of a person complete for the ministry
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Do you commend those who remain unmarried for the Kingdom’s sake?