Wise Counsel on Singleness and Marriage
“This I am saying . . . to move you to that which is becoming and that which means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.”—1 COR. 7:35.
1, 2. Why should a person search out Bible counsel on singleness and marriage?
FEW aspects of life cause more elation, frustration, or worry than our dealings with the opposite sex. The need to deal effectively with such emotions is reason enough for us to seek divine guidance, but there are other motives for doing so. A Christian who is content with being single may feel that his family or friends are pressuring him to get married. Another may want to get married but has not yet found a suitable mate. Some need direction on how to prepare for the responsibilities of being a husband or a wife. And both single and married Christians face tests regarding sexual morality.
2 Apart from our personal happiness, these issues affect our standing before Jehovah God. In chapter 7 of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gave guidance on singleness and marriage. His aim was to motivate his readers to “that which is becoming and that which means constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Cor. 7:35) As you consider his counsel on these important matters, try to see your situation—single or married—as a way to serve Jehovah more fully.
A Weighty Personal Decision
3, 4. (a) How do difficulties sometimes arise when people are overly concerned about an unmarried friend or relative? (b) How should Paul’s counsel help a person to have a balanced view of marriage?
3 Like Jewish society in the first century, many cultures today emphasize marriage as being most desirable. If a young man or woman passes a certain age without getting married, concerned friends and relatives may feel impelled to give him or her some advice. In conversation, they may suggest that he or she search more actively for a mate. They may drop hints about an eligible member of the opposite sex. They may even use cunning to get two unmarried people to meet. These actions sometimes lead to embarrassment, broken friendships, and hurt feelings.
4 Paul never pressured others either to marry or to remain single. (1 Cor. 7:7) He was content to serve Jehovah without a wife, but he respected the right of others to enjoy marriage. Individual Christians today also have the right to decide for themselves whether to get married or to stay single. Others should not pressure them to take one course or another.
Making a Success of Singleness
5, 6. Why did Paul recommend singleness?
5 A notable feature of Paul’s words to the Corinthians is his positive view of singleness. (Read 1 Corinthians 7:8.) Although Paul was unmarried, he did not exalt himself over those who were married, as the celibate clergy of Christendom do. Rather, the apostle highlighted an advantage that many unmarried ministers of the good news enjoy. What is that advantage?
6 A single Christian often has the flexibility to accept assignments in Jehovah’s service that might be out of reach for a married person. Paul received a special privilege as “an apostle to the nations.” (Rom. 11:13) Read Acts chapters 13 through 20, and follow him and his fellow missionaries as they open up territories and establish congregations in one place after another. In his service, Paul endured hardships that few today will face. (2 Cor. 11:23-27, 32, 33) But his joy in helping many to become disciples made those difficulties worthwhile. (1 Thess. 1:2-7, 9; 2:19) Would he have accomplished all that he did had he been married or had a family? Probably not.
7. Give an example of unmarried Witnesses who have used their circumstances to further Kingdom interests.
7 Many unmarried Christians use their current circumstances to accomplish much in behalf of the Kingdom. Sara and Limbania, single pioneers in Bolivia, moved to a village where the people had not received a witness for years. Would the lack of electricity be a problem? They reported: “There is no radio or TV, so the people are not distracted from their main pastime, which is reading.” Some villagers showed the pioneers copies of publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they were still reading but that were long out of print. Because the sisters found interest at almost every door, they had difficulty calling on every household in the territory. One elderly woman told them: “The end must be near because Jehovah’s Witnesses have reached us at last.” Some in that village were soon attending congregation meetings.
8, 9. (a) What did Paul have in mind when he spoke favorably of singleness? (b) What advantages do unmarried Christians have?
8 Of course, married Christians also have fine results when preaching the good news in challenging territories. But some assignments open to single pioneers might prove difficult for those who are married or who have children. Paul thought about the potential he observed for advancing the good news among the local congregations. He wanted all to have joy, as he did. For that reason, he spoke favorably of serving Jehovah as a single person.
9 A single pioneer sister from the United States wrote: “Some people believe that happiness is unattainable for the unmarried. But I have seen that lasting happiness depends on a person’s friendship with Jehovah. Singleness, though it is a sacrifice, is an amazing gift if you take advantage of it.” Regarding finding happiness, she wrote: “Singleness can be a springboard to happiness, not a hindrance. I know that Jehovah excludes no one, single or married, from his tender affections.” She now happily serves in a land where there is a greater need for Kingdom publishers. If you are single, can you use your freedom to expand your share in teaching others the truth? You too may find singleness to be a priceless gift from Jehovah.
Single Ones Who Wish to Marry
10, 11. How does Jehovah support those who hope to marry but have not yet found a suitable mate?
10 After spending some time single, many of Jehovah’s faithful servants decide to look for a marriage partner. Conscious of the need for guidance, they ask Jehovah for help to find a suitable mate.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:36.
11 If you hope to marry someone who shares your desire to serve Jehovah whole-souled, keep this matter before Him in prayer. (Phil. 4:6, 7) Regardless of how long you may need to wait, do not despair. Trust in our loving God as your Helper, and he will support you emotionally in harmony with your need.—Heb. 13:6.
12. Why should a Christian weigh a proposal of marriage carefully?
12 A single Christian desiring to get married may receive a proposal from someone of doubtful spirituality or even from an unbeliever. If that happens to you, remember that the heartache that results from making a bad choice in a marriage mate can cause greater pain by far than the longing that a person feels while single. And once married, for better or for worse, you are bound to your mate for life. (1 Cor. 7:27) Do not out of desperation make a decision to marry that you will later regret.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:39.
Prepare for the Realities of Marriage
13-15. What possible sources of tribulation in marriage should a couple discuss during courtship?
13 Although Paul recommended serving Jehovah as a single person, he did not look down on those who decided to marry. Rather, his inspired counsel assists couples to face the realities of married life and to make their union permanent.
14 Some couples need to adjust their expectations for the future. As they court, two people may come to see their love as unique, extraordinary, a guarantee of marital bliss. They enter marriage carried along by dreamy emotion and believe that nothing can ever destroy their happiness together. Such thinking is unrealistic. The romantic aspects of married life are delightful, but they alone do not equip a bride and groom for the tribulation that comes with every marriage.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:28.*
15 Many newlyweds are surprised, even disappointed, when their mates differ with them on important issues. The two may find themselves at odds on how they should spend money and leisure time, where they will live, and how often they should visit the in-laws. And each one has personality flaws that can irritate the other. During courtship, it is easy to make light of the importance of such matters, but they can later put great strain on a marriage. A couple do well to resolve areas of concern before they marry.
16. Why should a couple agree on how to face the challenges of married life?
16 To be successful and happy, a couple must face their challenges unitedly. They should agree on how to discipline their children and how to care for aging parents. The pressure caused by family difficulties should not push the two apart. By applying Bible counsel, they will solve many problems, endure those that remain, and stay happy together.—1 Cor. 7:10, 11.
17. What concern for “the things of the world” should a couple expect to have?
17 Paul states another reality of marriage at 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. (Read.) Married people are by necessity “anxious for the things of the world,” such as food, clothing, shelter, and other nonspiritual matters. Why is this so? When single, a brother may have poured himself into the ministry. But as a husband, he finds that he must use some of that time and energy to care for his wife and thus gain her approval. The same is true of the wife toward her husband. In his wisdom, Jehovah recognizes this need. He knows that a successful marriage often demands some of the time and energy that the husband and wife formerly used in His service when they were single.
18. What adjustments regarding social activities may some have to make after marriage?
18 But the lesson goes further. If a couple must divert some time and energy from God’s service to care for each other, should they not do likewise with resources formerly used for socializing as single people? What would be the effect on a wife if a husband remained deeply involved in sports with his friends? Or how might a husband feel if a wife kept devoting much time to hobbies with her friends? The neglected mate might soon feel lonely, unhappy, and unloved. This can be avoided if those marrying do all they can to strengthen their bond as husband and wife.—Eph. 5:31.
Jehovah Requires Moral Cleanness
19, 20. (a) Why are married people not free of temptation to be immoral? (b) What risk does a married couple take if they allow themselves to be separated for long periods of time?
19 Servants of Jehovah are resolved to remain morally chaste. Some decide to marry so as to avoid problems in this area. Marriage, though, does not furnish automatic protection against sexual uncleanness. In Bible times, a fortified city protected the people only if they remained inside its walls. If a person went outside the gate when bandits and marauders were roaming about, he could be robbed or killed. Likewise, married people find protection from immorality only if they stay within the sexual bounds that the Originator of marriage has established for them.
20 Paul described those bounds at 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. Sexual relations with her husband become the exclusive privilege of the wife; he likewise has the same privilege with her alone. Each is expected to provide the other with the marital “due,” or sexual relations that a married person has the right to receive. However, some husbands and wives spend long periods of time apart—taking separate vacations or being away from each other because of secular work, thus depriving each other of the “due.” Imagine the tragedy if because of the “lack of self-regulation,” a person yields to satanic pressure and commits adultery. Jehovah blesses family heads who provide for their families without risking their marriages.—Ps. 37:25.
Benefits of Obeying Bible Counsel
21. (a) Why are decisions on singleness and marriage difficult to make? (b) Why is the counsel in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 useful?
21 Decisions involving singleness and marriage are among the most difficult that a person will ever make. Imperfection, the source of most problems in human relations, is present in all people. So even those favored and blessed by Jehovah cannot fully escape disappointment, whether single or married. If you apply the wise counsel found in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, you can keep such problems to a minimum. In Jehovah’s eyes you will “do well,” whether you are single or married. (Read 1 Corinthians 7:37, 38.) Having God’s approval is the greatest goal that you can achieve. With his favor, you will continue progressing toward life in his new world. There, relationships between men and women will be free of the pressures so common today.
Can You Answer?
• Why should no one pressure another to get married?
• How can you make the best use of your time as a single servant of Jehovah?
• How can a courting couple prepare for the challenges of marriage?
• Why does marriage not offer automatic protection against sexual immorality?
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Joy comes to unmarried Christians who use their time to expand their ministry
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What adjustments may some have to make after marriage?