Ask anybody in church today what the opposite of marriage is and you’ll probably here one answer. “It’s not getting married and staying single.” Not pursuing marriage implies no commitment and staying single implies a life of selfish greed, ambition, faster cars, younger women, and older whiskey. I’ve asked a lot of church people over the years what singleness means to them and this is basically the answer I always here: There’s no commitment, no trust, no maturity, no responsibility. The only problem is that none of it is biblical. Unfortunately, the church has adopted the world’s values to replace their own. And they place too much importance on keeping everybody comfortable and entertained than preaching the truth. Take a look at what Paul said about the married and unmarried in 1 Cor 7:
“32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
Pay particular attention to verse 32. Paul used “He,” in an attempt to bring this down to a personal level. He was answering a specific letter from the Corinthians about marriage and virginity. In actuality, “He that is unmarried” is referring to all men and women who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven that Christ mentioned in Matthew 19:12. However, the word “unmarried” here is not the equivalent of our contemporary “single.” Paul is not basing what he says here on who has and who doesn’t have a marriage license. And more importantly, biblical celibacy has nothing to do with meetup groups, dating and mating, or compatability. Unmarried here as Paul uses it has more to do with total consecration to God and a life of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. It is a lifetime commitment to God that a married person cannot make. In my personal opinion, it is a more profound commitment and one that the world today doesn’t know much about. Hence, my blog.
The careth in “careth for the things that belong to the world” refers to the responsibilities inherent in marriage and family life, like raising children. They are cares of an earthly kind. That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with them. But we need to remember that neither the love between mother and child nor the love between husband and wife represents the ultimate love on this earth. Christ’s relationship with the church does. Careth in “careth for the things that belong to the Lord” refers to the responsibilities inherent with a life 100% devoted to Christ. However, I don’t like to use the word ministry to describe the charism of celibacy because I think we all have equal responsibility in that.
I think the “But” at the beginning of verse 33 is one of the most significant words Paul wrote. It marks a complete turn in the opposite direction. The unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, BUT the married man is concerned for the things of the world. He is describing two completely different men (and women). What two value sets could be more different?
One of the most interesting things to see in these verses is that this is not a “teaching.” So many people today are asking what the Bible teaches on celibacy. It doesn’t teach anything. Like marriage, the celibate gift is NOT something a person can learn. Paul is not telling us how we ought to live in these verses. He is stating FACTS. He is describing reality. “Is concerned” is on the opposite side of the world than “ought to be concerned.” It would be like me walking up to an older married couple and asking “shouldn’t ya’ll be married?” They would look at me and say “we are married!” They’d probably think I’m crazy. I think the same thing when someone asks me when I’m going to get married. I think this is one of the main reasons why commitment is not associated with singleness today and it’s one of the reasons I don’t identify as being single. And I think it’s why celibacy is not regarded as an institution on the same level with marriage. Pope Francis has called for 2015 to be the Year Of Concencrated Life and I fully support it. Even though the Protestant church doesn’t even know what it means yet, I pray that this will be an educational opportunity for them to see that the Bible is as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Lord’s concerns ought to break all barriers that exist between chuches, denominations, and even languages.