“Blessed are the married,” are four words Jesus never said. But do we preach that idea? Do we perpetuate the idea that in order to be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, you need to be married? I believe we do and I believe we need to stop. This idea is not only false, it is dangerous and it has many unintended consequences.
1. We Are Failing to Celebrate Christian Singleness
In the church today, we seem to think being single is something from which people need saving. Many married Christians are more zealous to fix up their single friends than they are to teach the gospel to their lost friends. What does this say about us? What does this say about our view of marriage and singleness?
Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus was single. We forget that the apostle Paul was single. In fact, Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8).
Did you catch that? The Bible says being single can be a “gift from God.” That’s a message that needs to be taught more often in the church. We need to applaud those who are gifted in this way and celebrate their singleness, rather than treating them as people who need to be pitied and saved from a miserable condition.
Paul explains, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34a). A single person can do what a married person cannot do, he or she can be more fully focused on the work of the Lord.
2. We Are Setting People Up for Disappointment
Not only do we often fail to celebrate singleness, we also set people up for inevitable disappointment when–and if–they do get married.
Young people grow up thinking that marriage is how people find happiness. But soon after getting married, they realize they are not as happy as they dreamed they would be. In fact, somedays they are downright miserable. Their misery isn’t necessarily the fault of their spouse and it certainly isn’t the fault of marriage, but they see their unhappiness as a sign that something has gone terribly wrong.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” they tell themselves, “I was supposed to live happily ever after.” So instead of working hard to honor God by being the best spouse they can be, they begin to look for a new relationship to make them happy.
Jesus never said, “Blessed are the married.” But He did say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). We need to teach our young people that marriage does not bring you happiness; faithfulness to God brings you happiness. We need to teach our young people to desire to do the will of God, whether married or single, and they will be satisfied.
3. We Are Turning Marriage Into an Idol
There is a very real sense in which many of us have turned the institution of marriage into an idol or a false god.
The reason people become idolatrous is that they take a good thing that God created and turn it into an ultimate thing, saying, “I cannot live without this. This is what life is all about.” The ancients had goddesses of beauty, fertility and love. They had gods of war, harvest, and rain. They believed these were ultimate things; things worthy of their devotion and worship.
Have we not done this with marriage? Have we not treated marriage as an ultimate thing? Yes, marriage is wonderful. It is a God-created thing. It is a good thing. But you can certainly be happy and be single.
When we give people the impression that being a Christian is not enough to bring complete satisfaction, we are saying the Lord is not enough. When we say, “You need God and a good spouse to be happy,” we have elevated marriage to the level of God and made it an idol.
We need to be able to say, “The Lord is all I need. He is my portion, says my soul.” But we cannot say that when we have idols in our life.
Those of us who are married know what a great blessing marriage can be. I am personally very thankful for the fact that I have a wonderful wife. I wouldn’t trade that relationship for anything in the world.
We need to celebrate and honor marriage, but we also need to celebrate and honor Christian singleness. We need to teach people how wonderful a God-honoring marriage can be, but we also need to be careful we don’t oversell it as a ticket to guaranteed happiness. We need to keep this issue, like every other issue, in biblical perspective.
I love you and God loves you,