Wise Counsel About 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 CORINTHIANS 7:35.
1, 2. Why should we learn what the Bible says about singleness and marriage?
HAPPINESS, frustration, and worry are emotions, or feelings, that we often experience in our relationships with the opposite sex. Because we experience these different emotions, we need to ask for God’s guidance. There are many reasons we need him to guide us. For example, some Christians who are happy being single may think that their family or friends are trying to pressure them to marry. Others may want to be married but have not found the right person. And some need direction on how to prepare for the responsibilities of being a husband or wife. Also, both single and married Christians need to protect themselves from sexual immorality.
2 These situations can affect our happiness. But more important, they can affect our friendship with God. In 1 Corinthians chapter 7, the apostle Paul gave advice on singleness and marriage. He wanted his readers to do what is right and to continue serving God with their whole heart and not be distracted. (1 Corinthians 7:35) Paul’s advice about these important matters can help you. He wanted single and married people to use their situation as a way to serve Jehovah well.
A SERIOUS DECISION THAT EACH PERSON MAKES
3, 4. (a) What can happen if friends and family try to pressure someone to marry? (b) How can Paul’s words help us to have the right thinking about marriage?
3 Jewish people in the first century believed that it was very important to get married. Many people today think the same. If a person does not get married by a certain age, family and friends may worry and think that they need to give this person advice about getting married. Family and friends may say that he or she should do more to find someone to marry. Or family and friends may suggest someone whom they think he or she could marry. And some arrange for two people to meet each other because they think they should get married. When people do these things, they could cause embarrassment and damage friendships. They could hurt the feelings of those involved.
4 Paul did not tell others that they should marry or that they should stay single. (1 Corinthians 7:7) He was content to serve Jehovah without a wife, but he did not criticize people who wanted to get married. Christians today have the right to decide for themselves if they should marry or stay single. Others should not tell them which choice they should make.
SUCCESS AS A SINGLE PERSON
5, 6. Why did Paul encourage Christians to remain single?
5 Paul’s words to the Corinthians help us understand that single Christians can serve God well. (Read 1 Corinthians 7:8.) Some religious leaders of Christendom who do not marry think that they are better than others who do marry. But Paul did not think like that. Even though he was not married, he did not think that he was better than those who were married. Paul explained that single Christians may be able to serve God in ways that married Christians cannot. What does this mean?
6 A single Christian can often accept assignments in Jehovah’s service that a married person may not be able to accept. Paul was given a special honor to be sent as “an apostle to the nations.” (Romans 11:13) In Acts chapters 13 to 20, we can read about Paul’s experiences. Paul traveled with other missionaries to preach in new areas, and they started many new congregations. He endured difficult situations in his ministry that many of us today will not experience. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 32, 33) But Paul was willing to endure all these difficulties to make disciples, and this brought him much joy. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-7, 9; 2:19) If Paul had been married, he might not have been able to do everything that he did.
7. How did two single Witnesses use their situation to preach about the Kingdom?
7 Many single Christians use their situation to do more in the preaching work. Sara and Limbania are single pioneer sisters in Bolivia. They moved to a village where no one had preached for many years. There was no electricity in that village, and the sisters said that the main interest of the people was reading, since they were not busy watching television or listening to the radio. Some people were still reading old magazines and books of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were not even being printed anymore. At nearly every door, the sisters met people who wanted to learn about the Bible, so it took a long time to finish the territory. One older woman told the sisters: “The end must be near because Jehovah’s Witnesses have reached us at last.” Soon people in the village started attending congregation meetings.
8, 9. (a) Why did Paul say that it was good to serve God as a single person? (b) What are some benefits of serving Jehovah as a single person?
8 It is true that married Christians have good results when they preach in difficult territories. But some assignments that single pioneers could accept would be difficult for Christians who are married or who have children. When Paul wrote to the congregations, he knew that there was still a lot of work to do to preach the good news. And he wanted everyone to experience the joy of making disciples, just as he had experienced it. That is why Paul said that it was good to serve Jehovah as a single person.
9 A pioneer sister in the United States explained how she feels about being single. She said that some people think that it is impossible for single people to be happy. But she knows that having a friendship with Jehovah brings real happiness. Even though being single is a sacrifice, she believes that if a person uses his situation in a good way, it can be a wonderful gift. Being single does not stop a person from being happy. It is an opportunity for happiness. She said: “I know that Jehovah excludes no one, single or married, from his tender affections.” This sister is now serving Jehovah in a country where there is a great need for people to preach the good news. If you are single, can you do more to teach the truth to others? If you can, then being single will be like a precious gift from Jehovah.
SINGLE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO MARRY
10, 11. How does Jehovah help those who have not yet found the right person to marry?
10 After being single for some time, a Witness of Jehovah may decide to get married. Because he knows he needs guidance, he asks Jehovah for help to find someone whom he can marry and be happy with.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:36.
11 If you want to marry a person who serves Jehovah with his whole heart, continue to pray to Jehovah about your desire. (Philippians 4:6, 7) Even if it seems that you are waiting a long time, do not get discouraged. Jehovah knows what you need, and if you trust in him, he will help you to cope with your situation.—Hebrews 13:6.
12. If someone asks you to marry, what should you carefully think about before you answer?
12 What if someone who does not have a strong relationship with God or someone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses asks you to marry? Maybe you have a strong desire to get married. But if you make a bad choice, the emotional pain you feel will be worse than the loneliness you felt when you were single. Remember that you must stay married to the person you choose to marry. The choice you make now will affect the rest of your life. (1 Corinthians 7:27) Do not marry someone just because you feel that this is your only opportunity to get married. You may regret that decision later.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:39.
PREPARE FOR MARRIAGE
13-15. What possible difficulties should a couple talk about before they get married?
13 Paul said that it was good to serve Jehovah as a single person, but he did not think that he was better than those who decided to marry. Paul wanted to help married couples, and the counsel he wrote helps them to understand what to expect after they get married and how to stay married.
14 Some couples may need to change their ideas about what marriage will be like. When they are courting, the couple may think that their love is very special. They think that they are the only people ever to feel this way. They begin their married life with these feelings and believe that they will never be unhappy in their marriage. But real life is not like this. It is not possible to be happy all the time. It is true that romantic moments can bring joy. But they are not enough to solve the problems and difficulties that every couple experiences in marriage.—Read 1 Corinthians 7:28.* (See footnote.)
15 After they are married, some couples are surprised or even disappointed when they do not agree on important matters. For example, they may disagree on how they should use their money. Or they may disagree on what they should do for recreation, where they will live, and how often to visit their families. And each has imperfections that can irritate the other person. When two people are courting, they could think that they do not need to talk about these important things. But if they do not talk about them, these situations could cause difficulties later. So it is better for the couple to talk about them before they get married.
16. Why should a couple agree on how they will solve difficulties?
16 To have a happy marriage, a couple must agree on how they care for their responsibilities. They should agree on how to discipline their children. And as their parents get older, they need to agree on how they will care for them. Every family has difficult situations. But a couple should not let these difficulties divide them. The Bible’s advice will help them solve problems, endure the problems that they cannot easily solve, and stay happy together.—1 Corinthians 7:10, 11.
17. Why are married couples “anxious for the things of the world”?
17 Paul explains more about married life at 1 Corinthians 7:32-34. (Read.) Married people are “anxious for the things of the world.” These are things like food, clothing, housing, and other basic needs. Why are married people “anxious for the things of the world”? For example, when a brother was single, maybe he used a lot of time and energy in the ministry. But after he gets married, he must use some of that time and energy to care for his wife. And the wife does the same for him. Jehovah understands that both husband and wife want their mate to be happy. He knows that the couple may not have the same time and energy for his service as they did when they were single. Now they may need to use some of that time and energy to make their marriage strong.
18. What changes may a married couple need to make in how they use recreation time?
18 But what about the time that the couple used for recreation and other activities when they were single? If a couple must take some time and energy from Jehovah’s service to keep their marriage strong, they should do the same with the time and energy that they used for recreation when they were single. If a husband used the same amount of time on sports with his friends as he did before he was married, how would his wife feel? Or how would the husband feel if his wife used the same amount of time for activities with her friends as she did before she was married? Both of them might feel lonely, unhappy, and unloved. To avoid this, a couple must do everything they can to make their marriage strong.—Ephesians 5:31.
JEHOVAH REQUIRES US TO BE MORALLY CLEAN
19, 20. (a) Why do married people need to protect themselves from immorality? (b) What danger is there if a married couple are separated for a long time?
19 Servants of Jehovah do everything they can to stay morally clean. Some decide to marry to avoid immorality. But just being married is not enough to protect a person from sexual immorality. A married person still needs to be careful to stay morally clean. In Bible times, a city was protected by large, strong walls. If a person stayed inside the city, he would be safe. But outside the walls it could be dangerous because of robbers and criminals. The limits that Jehovah has made for married people are like that strong wall around a city. Married people can be protected from sexual immorality only if they obey the laws and limits that Jehovah has made for marriage.
20 Paul explained what those limits are at 1 Corinthians 7:2-5. Sexual relations with her husband are the right of the wife only. And sexual relations with his wife are the right of the husband only. God says that each one should give the marital “due,” or sexual relations that married people have the right to receive. If couples are away from each other for a long time, they cannot give this “due.” Some husbands and wives go on separate vacations. Others are away from their marriage mate for a long time because of their work. Satan could use these situations to ruin marriages. If a man and wife do not consider the sexual needs of each other, one of them could be tempted to commit adultery. Jehovah will bless family heads who care for their families and who do not put their marriage in danger.—Psalm 37:25.
OBEY THE BIBLE’S COUNSEL
21. (a) Why are decisions about singleness and marriage difficult to make? (b) How can the counsel in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 help us?
21 Decisions about singleness and marriage are very difficult to make. Whether you decide to remain single or decide to marry, there will be problems because everyone is imperfect. And even though Jehovah blesses his people, sometimes they will be disappointed about things that happen in their life. But the wise counsel that Paul gave in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 can help you avoid many of the problems we have talked about. Whether we are single or married, we can please Jehovah. (Read 1 Corinthians 7:37, 38.) The greatest blessing in our life is to have God’s approval. We can have his approval now and also in the future when we live in the new world that God has promised. Then, men and women will not have the pressures and problems that they have today.
For more information, see the book The Secret of Family Happiness, chapter 2, paragraphs 16-19.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Courting: The time that a couple use to get to know each other to decide if they should marry
▪ Sexual immorality: Breaking God’s laws about sexual relations
▪ Counsel: Advice or instruction from the Bible
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
▪ Why should we not pressure single people to get married?
▪ How can a single servant of Jehovah use his situation in the best way?
▪ How can a couple who are courting prepare for some of the difficulties in marriage?
▪ Why do married people need to protect themselves from immorality?
[Blurb on page 9]
Whether you are single or married, serve Jehovah with your whole heart
[Blurb on page 10]
Being single can be an opportunity for happiness
[Blurb on page 11]
The choice you make about marriage will affect the rest of your life
[Blurb on page 12]
Talk about possible problems before you get married
[Pictures on page 11]
Single Christians are happy when they do more to teach the truth to others
[Picture on page 13]
What changes may some have to make after marriage?