“I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” - 1 Corinthians 7:7
It is clear from Scripture that each married Christian should look at his or her spouse as a gift from God, to be received and cherished as a precious blessing from a loving heavenly Father. Jesus said plainly that marriages are made at the initiative of our heavenly Father when He said, “What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). What is not so clear to us is that singleness in the will of God is also a gift from God, with certain advantages and blessings of its own. Now, to be sure, I am not speaking of the singleness that results from unfaithfulness to a marriage covenant, as the verse just cited should make abundantly clear. But rather to those who have never married, or to those who are single because God has taken that spouse out of the world. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul advocates the blessings of that “gift of singleness.”
Paul’s main idea in 1 Corinthians 7 is that singleness frees people from worldly concerns so that they can give more time in open service to the Lord: “Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this” (vs. 28). “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife, and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband” (vs. 32-34). Married life takes a great deal of time to do properly, to nurture the relationship, perhaps to train the children, to care for the loved one in body and spirit. For many Christians, this is part of God’s gift in this world. But for the godly singles, there is, according to Paul, a tremendous opportunity and freedom to serve the Lord, to “live in a right way, in undivided devotion to the Lord” (vs. 35).
Up until recently, I was praying faithfully for my children’s future spouses, that there would be godly, Spirit-filled daughters and sons matched up with each of my children. However, meditating on 1 Corinthians 7 has led me to add a prayer for God’s gift, whatever it is. Perhaps He intends that one or more of my children be single, in full-time devotion to the Lord. If so, according to Paul it would be better in terms of fruitfulness for the Lord and protection from worldly concerns and sorrows. Thus, my prayer is now: “Lord, bring to each of my children whatever gift you have in mind for them.”
"But for the godly singles, there is, according to Paul, a tremendous opportunity and freedom to serve the Lord, to 'live in a right way, in undivided devotion to the Lord' (vs. 35)."
A final word to widows and widowers. Many scholars believe Paul was, in fact, a widower. If so, Paul’s word of encouragement to those bereaved of their spouses came from personal experience: “It is good for them to stay unmarried as I am” (vs. 8). “In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (vs. 40). Paul urges you to use your time and resources in ever-increasing service and devotion to the Lord. In this way you will experience a joy in ministry and in fellowship with Christ that will be deep and rich… and fruitful for Christ’s Kingdom!