There’s a lot in the Bible that flies in the face of modern man. One concept that has to be at the top is exclusivity. The very idea that some people will go to heaven and some people will go to hell is offensive to most today. On top of that, it’s not going to be a politically correct 50-50 split. The Bible even tells us that few people will enter heaven: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14.
There are other exclusions in the Bible that are hardly ever mentioned. For example, when was the last time you heard the eunuchs of Matthew 19 discussed in church? Probably never. However, what seems to be an irrelevant biblical term takes on a whole new meaning when looked at from a different perspective. In Matthew 19, Jesus was having another heated discussion with the Pharisees and disciples about adultery and divorce. After Jesus explained what the standards were in marriage, one of the disciples came to the conclusion that “if this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Matthew 19:10. He erroneously came to the conclusion that everybody could skip marriage and have eternal fun forever and forever. But Jesus answered: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:11-12. I want to focus on the third type of eunuch, those who choose singleness for the kingdom of God. Can you see Jesus stepping on the breaks? Can you see the car come to a screeching stop with the words “only those to whom it has been given?” Besides the Lamb of God, the eunuch metaphor mentioned here in Matthew 19 in my opinion is the most profound – and least understood – in the entire Bible. First, we must understand that a metaphor is “a word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar.” Merriam-Webster. The definition of a eunuch today is: “A man who has been castrated, especially (in the past), one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.” What is he referring to?
The metaphor Jesus is using is the link between the permanence associated with castration and the permanence associated with those who choose to live without marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with a surgical procedure. And it is just as true for women as it is for men. I’m sure Jesus’ audience understood what he was referring to a lot better than we do today. “Okay, if we decide not to marry, we won’t be playing around and making babies. We’ll be eunuchs.” Eunuchs in Jesus’ time and all throughout the Old Testament were considered the lowest of the low on the social ladder, absolutely useless to society, just a clump of dry trees. Since they had no heirs, a few of them were used to guard royal jewelry and property. Deuteronomy 23:1 tells us: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” So not only were they excluded from society, they were excluded from religious ceremonies. They weren’t even allowed in church. Does that sound a little like the plight of singles today? Hebrew men thought that passing their name to offspring was the only way to guarantee the survival of their name and their country. The idea of an honorable single man was completely foreign. They were dead-enders. Families with children were the gold standard in Old Testament times. Sounds a whole lot like today, doesn’t it?
But the status of eunuchs was about to change. The Old Testament hints of the coming changes in Isaiah 56:4-5: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.” God is referring to young Hebrew men who forsook choosing a wife, sex, children, and propagating the nation of Israel. He is affirming those who chose a life of celibacy and concerns about his affairs.
Their status did change forever when Christ came to earth as a eunuch, standing in solidarity with them. He chose to come in the form of the lowest of the low. In Matthew 19, Christ is stating the same thing God did in Isaiah, that those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom of God (eunuchs) will have a special place in heaven and their names will endure forever. I’ve always wondered how the status of eunuchs in the Old Testament and during Jesus’ time compare to the status of eunuchs today. I have a feeling not much has changed for those whom it is given.
Let us be mindful that we need to delete the world’s dictionary when we read God’s word. Think about how eunuchs today serve as reminders of a coming heaven where there are no marriages or nuclear families and where there are things more important than sex. Only to those to whom it is given may not be politically correct lingo today. It doesn’t have that ring of inclusiveness. But statistics do not matter to God and they shouldn’t matter to us. There could be three eunuchs in the world today or three million. Is your daily life based on the unlimited possibilities of God or the limited expectations of man?