Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he had an expectation that the world was passing away (v. 26). He contended they should stay in their current state, whatever it was. There was persecution at that time and they expected the Lord to come back very quickly. Even if this situation wasn’t the case, how should we live in light of Jesus’ resurrection and return?

In 1 Corinthians 7:7, Paul refers to a gift. We assume there is a “gift of singleness.” Some people wear it well, others struggle against it. We are all born single and many of us spend more years of our lives single than married. Is there such a thing, then, as the gift of singleness, or is it just the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

If I am single, does that mean I never struggle with loneliness? Was Paul not lonely at times, shut up in prison, and separated from his friends? Does it mean I never struggle with sexual temptations or what to do with my passions? I think Paul would have said it did not. What single and married people alike have to face is finding a place of contentment where they are. If we look not at the difficulties, but the benefits of singleness, we begin to find an answer.

Paul points out that married people are somewhat conflicted (v. 32-34). If my thought is, “I want to serve the Lord, but I also have to look after my family,” I can’t stay focused on the Lord. It isn’t that serving a spouse isn’t in line with God’s will but it may slow us down. Is my spouse as devoted to the Lord as I am? If not, we can’t run ahead. Do I look to my spouse for spiritual guidance and support? Then I may not depend as much as I should on the Lord.

Being single may push us to the Lord like nothing else. Who understands our struggles and desires better than He? Who knows the future and His plans for our lives better than He? Who can love us more than He does? Whatever longings we want marriage to satisfy, a spouse may not satisfy them, but Jesus does. In addition, what we have is the freedom to serve, the impulse to pray, and the satisfaction of being close to someone who is completely trustworthy. When He calls us, we can go. When He sends us, we proceed with His authority and power. We can sacrifice ourselves in service without being concerned with leaving dependents behind.

Paul was saying, under persecution and with the Lord’s imminent return, it is better we remain single. Whether we are single or married, however, contentment in the Lord is what we seek.

Esther Morrow
Cartographer, SIL International
EFCC Member

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