3. (a) During Jesus’ time, how was singleness viewed? (b) How did Jesus consider singleness “on account of the kingdom”?
3 Jesus Christ revealed that singleness “on account of the kingdom” was a gift from God. This was a totally new concept, for among the Jews of his day marriage was considered a “universal obligation” and singleness a reproach. “He who has no wife is not a proper man,” was one of the sayings of the Jewish rabbis. However, Jesus encouraged his disciples to “make room” for the gift of singleness and not feel obligated to marry.—Matthew 19:10-12.
4. What has been the course of many Christians, and how do these feel about their circumstances?
4 So marriage and singleness are both gifts from God. During the early days of Christianity, as well as in our day, many have pursued a life of singleness, “on account of the kingdom.”* Rather than bemoaning their circumstances, many of these feel as did one never-married 41-year-old Christian woman who recently said: “I would not take anything for the years that I have spent as a single person.” Why do many feel this way?
5. How can unmarried Christians take advantage of opportunities that their circumstances open up?
5 The examples of married Christians such as the apostles of Jesus, as well as Aquila and Priscilla, show that couples can make valuable contributions in God’s service. (Acts 18:26-28; 1 Corinthians 9:5) Yet the apostle Paul showed that a single person has an opportunity for an enlarged field of service. He wrote: “The unmarried man [or woman] is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he [or she] may gain the Lord’s approval. But the married man [or woman] is anxious for the things of the world, how he [or she] may gain the approval of his wife [or her husband], and he [or she] is divided.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34) A single person is not “divided” because of the responsibilities of marriage, which bring “tribulation in [the] flesh,” and therefore can be “anxious” or eager for spiritual matters. Note in the box the extent to which sacred works filled the lives of those listed. The ability to engage “without distraction” in God’s service, which includes foremost the preaching work, is a rich treasure. Single persons usually have more time for study and meditation. This can improve the “spirit,” or inner motivation, bringing that person closer to Jehovah as he or she concentrates on being ‘holy in body and spirit.’ Not having a marriage partner, many learn to rely heavily on God, looking for his direction and counsel. Unmarried Christians are often able to accept privileges of service that married couples could not. No wonder Jesus called this privilege of remaining as a single Christian a “gift”!—Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 7:28, 35.
6, 7. (a) Does having the gift of singleness mean that one is no longer attracted to the opposite sex and will never marry? (b) What is meant by ‘making a decision in one’s heart’? (c) What question may be in the mind of some single persons?
6 Those who ‘make room for the gift’ are not necessarily persons with some special “gift” in their emotional makeup whereby they no longer are attracted to the opposite sex. These have not made some vow of celibacy, as if they never intended to marry, but have made a “decision,” or judgment, in their hearts to make a success of their single state.* (1 Corinthians 7:37) These persons have weighed in their hearts the advantages of singleness. On the basis of this ‘evidence’ their hearts begin to ‘judge’ singleness as a “gift” and they “make room” for it.—1 Corinthians 7:38.
Professed Christian writer Athenagoras wrote around 175 C.E.: “You would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God.”—A Plea for the Christians, chapter 33.
The original Greek word translated “decision,” krino, means “to judge, to pronounce an opinion.” The word is used at John 7:51 where Nicodemus says that before a person is judged, it is necessary to listen to evidence. This would take time.