I received the following question:

I have a question. This has to do with a notion that seems to be gaining popularity with unmarried Christians, in that they believe they are ‘called’ to be single. How one decides they are called as such I am not sure, other than the observation that many Christian young people seem to expect God to deliver a chosen spouse to their doorstep. No pre-packaged spouse at the ‘door’ thus leads them to believe they are called to be single. I find this whole pop idea unsettling in that it shifts responsibility for one’s marital status from the choices made by the individual Christian (which are supposed to be made through prayer and supplication) to a decision made solely by God.  This whole idea when taken to an extreme seems out of context with Grace.  Any ideas You might have on the matter would be appreciated.

First of all, one would have to ask what it means to be called? If being called means nothing, then anyone can claim to be called. If, however, being called really means something, then we had best be careful to know what it means before deciding to claim to be called. I personally do not believe that any believer today is called to anything that any other believer is not called to. For example, if one believer is called to salvation, then all believers are called to salvation. If one believer is called to live a holy life, then all believers are called to live a holy life. There are no special, individual callings today.

The idea of being “called to be single,” or “the gift of singleness,” as I’ve heard it described, seems to be a lot of hogwash to me. It seems to be crafted to pander to the feelings of the growing number of singles in our Christian circles. However, many of these are single through a fault of their own (either divorce or unmarried sex.) To suggest that singleness is a calling or a gift in these circumstances is ludicrous. If anything, it is a result of your own actions or your own sin.

Much of this, I think, is based on an improper interpretation of I Corinthians 7. There Paul urges the believers in Corinth who are single not to seek a wife, those who are married to not have sex, and those who are engaged to put off their marriage. The chapter is filled, however, with urges to control yourself and be patient, which makes no sense if this is taken as a command that they were to do this for the rest of their lives. This was a temporary injunction due to the “present crisis,” and had nothing to do with permanency and nothing to do with the believer of today.

Some, again citing I Corinthians 7, claim that it is good to be single because one can “serve the Lord” better that way because there are fewer distractions. This sounds good in theory, but in practice I doubt whether single believers serve the LORD any more than married believers. The fact is that many singles are self-absorbed, and find little time for God in their busy, single lives. Often marriage helps one focus on things outside oneself and can actually draw one closer to God instead of focusing inwardly all the time. In I Timothy 5, Paul declares that not getting married had allowed certain women to develop very bad character traits, and even to turn aside after Satan. This is a far cry from serving the Lord better.

The statement of the Bible, that a man should “leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife,” (Genesis 2:24) seems to have never been superceded. I believe that marriage is still God’s plan for believers today. Whether there are exceptions or not can be argued.

The only Biblical reason for avoiding marriage that I have found is those who wish to not get married due to the fact that they are divorced. The Lord Jesus spoke of making yourself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:12,) but this was in the context of not getting remarried after a divorce (Matthew 19:9.) Other than that, I cannot find any good Biblical reason for not getting married, and certainly no reason to think that singleness is either a gift or a calling. It has nothing to do with a calling.