If you are single, have you ever looked at your singleness as an opportunity to accomplish more things of eternal significance? Think about it. It takes a lot of time and devotion to have a solid marriage. However, an unmarried person can spend that time doing things that advance God’s kingdom.
When my wife Michelle passed away 14 months ago, I was single for the first time in 23 years. Despite my desire to be married, I knew not to rush into things and find someone to marry. Though, I must admit there were many nights I laid awake battling feelings of loneliness, particularly during those first six months. Instinctively, I knew that singleness was my future for the time being, and probably for the foreseeable future. Could I find purpose in my singleness?
I began to look to my source of guidance, the Bible, and re-examine what it said about this subject. There were two statements I was always a bit confused by, but hadn’t done the research to reconcile this seeming contradiction. One statement is found in the Old Testament, the charge is to be fruitful and multiply. However, there were other statements made by Paul and Jesus where they seemed to encourage singleness.
I discovered the reason for the admonition to be fruitful and multiply was to fulfill the Old Testament mandate to build a nation, a mandate to be fulfilled by having natural offspring. To have a nation, one needs more than just land and a set of laws. A new nation also needs people. God’s purpose for Israel was for them to be a chosen people who made up a distinct, holy community that pointed people to God and the coming redeemer. Consequently, God commissioned his people to build the community by having physical offspring.
However, when Jesus came, God had shifted his plan from building a nation to building a kingdom. This shift is hinted about in Isaiah when it states that God would bring about spiritual offspring for the barren woman (Isaiah 54) and the eunuch (Isaiah 56). These were two individuals who were incapable of having physical offspring, but could produce spiritual offspring. According to Barry Danylak, “Both are begetters of spiritual offspring and can serve as models of devoted service to the Lord. It is in the life and ministry of the church that Isaiah’s vision takes hold.”
While marriage and having physical offspring is vital for the Old Testament mission, it is not so for New Testament believers. In the New Testament, the mission is to bring about conversions — or, to be more precise, spiritual offspring — so those who are converted can enjoy eternal life in God’s kingdom. Therefore, both Jesus and Paul encouraged singleness for the sake of the kingdom, making Christianity the only major religion that encourages singleness.
The single life then is ideal to dedicate one’s service to God in building his kingdom because one’s time would not be allocated between competing responsibilities of service and family. If you are single, let me encourage you to make the most of your opportunity by using the extra time for doing things that have eternal significance.
Tim Orr is an adjunct faculty member is religious studies at IUPUC, where he has served for nearly 10 years. He is the author or two books, and will release his third book, “Letters to My Daughter,” in November. In the book, he shares the story of how tragedy was turned into triumph after he lost his wife. You can visit his website at timorr.net.