on marriage not being a reward…

On Namrock this year I really felt pressed to share this stuff and so did. I believe it was God. If it turns out to be vastly theologically incorrect then either I got it wrong or popular theology did. I’m willing to take the risk, because I really believe this to be true….

I think there are a lot of lies, misconceptions, and false teachings that have gone on about Marriage and Singleness and so am very excited about speaking truth and life into those areas. Here goes: (Bullet points are just two things I said before the main part.)

1. I know that what I am going to say is not for everyone and there are some of you who are going to be sitting there and getting frustrated that it’s “that” topic again. I would like to ask you as a part of your worship tonight that you keep quiet and put up with it because there are a lot of people here who are really struggling with this issue and hurting a lot over it.

2. As we were sitting worshipping after communion I looked around and got a huge sense of loneliness. As I looked around at that group at Namrock I saw a LOT of people who were very very lonely and hurting.

There have been two primary bad teachings about marriage and singleness which the church has been responsible for over the years. The Catholic church has tended to lift singleness up as more spiritual and something to be attained. Nuns and priests and monks have been honoured over the years, while marriage – still one of the sacraments – has often been portrayed as a weak capitulation to the “things of the flesh”. Teachers of this view use Paul’s writings on singleness a lot. On the other hand, the Protestant church has glorified and spiritualised marriage, lifiting it up as the pinnacle of relational living. Teachers here will draw, ironically, on Paul’s teaching about husband’s loving their wives as Christ loved the church. I think both of these extremes have done the church a huge disservice. I want to speak into the Protestant view. I strongly believe that truth needs to be spoken directly into this area to bring release from guilt, condemnation and bad teaching.

Firstly, marriage is not your reward. It is not the thing you get once you have reached an acceptable spiritual level, once your relationship with God is right, once you have dealt with all your junk. Well-meaning christians promote the marriage-as-reward view with comments like this, “Just keep praying…” “Focus on your relationship with God” “God is jealous and He wants you all to himself” “Only when God is your everything – your provider, comforter, and Husband – will he give you a spouse” “Maybe you need to be getting into the Word more/doing more quiet time/praying more/working on your relationship with Him before getting into other relationships”. This is crap. Those are things that are not reserved for singles – married people should be doing them just as much! Marriage is not the thing you get when you have attained spiritual well-being and right relationship with God. This view is dangerous because 1. it puts married folk on a pedestal as the “ones who have arrived” – which believe me we are not! and 2. it puts single folk under an incredible amount of condemnation, guilt and worthlessness for not being “good enough” for a relationship. It condemns their relationship with God because, if you’re not married, obviously you are doing something wrong and haven’t earned a relationship yet. Once again, this is Crap. I have to say it that strongly because I really do believe that this is a HUGE lie taking down people in the church.

Secondly, a lot of people – naively and sometimes intentionally – teach that God will purposefully keep you in a place of singleness so that He can work on your character, teach you things, etc. Nonsense. I do not believe that God puts you in or keeps you in a place of singleness so that He can mold you. I do believe that in whatever place you are, God will work in that place and use the strengths of that circumstance to work in and through you. Yes, there are some things that would seem to be easier worked out while we are still single. But I can say this because if it were true that God keeps you single to work on you, then believe me I would still be single! There was a lot of stuff in my life before going into marriage that would have been much better worked out while I was alone. In fact, bringing it into marriage caused B and I a lot of pain and confusion, and was incredibly difficult. Singleness, according to the “working on your character” arguement ,would have been a much better place for all that to happen. But God did not keep me in that place til I or He had sorted it out – but in His incredible grace when I moved into marriage He still worked on it. You do not have to be single for God to be able to work on certain things in your life. But if you are – if that is the space you find yourself in now – then He will make use of that and work on those things. But He can do that just as well in marriage. He does not put you in or keep you in a place of singleness; He will work and use whatever place you are in to grow you.

This said, I have to say that marriage is wonderful. I love it. I am not trying to diss or put marriage down at all. If you desire marriage then by all means bring that continually before Him. But remember that marriage is not your reward and it is not something withheld until you tick all the boxes. Also, if you are in a place of singleness and you desire a relationship and to be married, do not live in the place of desire. Live in the place you are in. Live it to the full. Don’t miss out on the incredible adventure and the wonderful things that being single allows you to do because you are longing to be somewhere else.

11 thoughts on “on marriage not being a reward…

  1. Very good post.

    I also think that more singles should get fit and healthy. Get into the gym and exercise, or take up a sport. This helps ones self esteem and makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. Our bodies are our temples (1 Cor 3:16), and we should treat our bodies well. Nobody would wish to visit a temple that is kept by a lazy person or someone that pollutes and poisons their body.

    One should also not feel that they should be married or single, they should just enjoy life and know that in good time we all eventually meet someone. There are also those who have not married, but have been together faithfully for many many years – perhaps they did not marry because of family or just did not get round to it. This must be similar to the old days when people were regarded as married i.e. common law husband/wife. Marriage is after all no different to being in a very long term relationship.

    We need to be honest about things, and that is why your post is great – it shows others that Christians are also human, and that we are all in it together trying to get it right in whatever way we can.

    Cool post!

    1. HI Johan, thanks for the response. Yeah I have mixed feelings about the “get fit and healthy and good looking” take on things because I think once again that kind of things runs the risk of saying to single people “you are single because you aren’t good enough”. Which is not true.

      I do agree that we shouldn’t feel that we have to be married or single but some people do desire to be married (while some desire to remain single) and I think that is fantastic. I am not too sure what you mean when you say marriage is no different to being in a long term relationship? Are you saying it is okay to not get married but to live together as long as you are committed? Not sure what your point is here but do write back and I’ll respond…

      take care and shot for the comments.

  2. you’ve hit the nail on the head!
    I’ve experienced the ‘God wont bless you with a husband until you put Him first’speech.At first I was thinking that there must be something wrong with me that I’m not grasping a deep enough relationship with Jesus,that because of my past that it was impossible.
    God is amazing!!!!Coz His grace is sufficient for all!!
    Time has revealed that these”friends” never had my relationship with Jesus in mind.(what a pity)
    Thank you for posting this very important message from God(it was confirmation for me)for the singles.

    1. ah shantill so so stoked that this has reiterated truth to you once again… pass it on! I think you really captured the heart of what I was trying to say when you refer to the “God won’t bless you until you put him first” speech and the feelings that evokes in people who are single. Very glad that you are walking in the freedom of his grace and love and amazingness…

  3. I do think there is a season for everything. For some, there is a season that they must be single. For some there is a season that they must be married, or parents, or whatever. But I don’t think that God’s work is leading up to that point, nor does it stop once you’re married. We are being made new continuously, regardless of our relationship status…and that renewal is for the Glory of God. To say it’s simply preparation that stops when you meet and marry your spouse does injustice to the over-arching purpose that His Children have as they continue to walk this earth.

    Your point that it is not a pinnacle to be achieved is a very good one…and something that singles desiring to be married need to remember. As someone who is single, I need to remember that. It’s so easy to idealize it…especially when you’re lonely and not wanting to feel that way any more. Thanks for the post…and the reminder, it can never be said enough.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. hey shot for the thoughts….i agree that there is a “season” for all things – easier to be in sometimes when it’s a five month than a five year season d; ) A friend of mine had this great comment on my note: “My one minor quibble would be that we should probably go on a case by case investigation to see why some get married and some don’t. While I don’t think its the general rule that God wants you single so that he can work on your character, I do think at times that God speaks to us about avoiding serious relationships/marriage because God is working on some issues. Again, this is a case by case situation and not a rule…” My point was that yes, God may speak to you about avoiding some relationships but it is still our choice to listen to and follow His leading. Whereas I think the perception many people have is that they are being kept single (which negates their free will), God is keeping their partner out of their life (which negates the other person’s free will), until they get things together (the “‘God wont bless you with a husband until you put Him first’” vibe). This is what I was talking into.

      I love your final point on first paragraph that these kind of ideas do injustice to His and our over-arching purposes! So so true.
      (and I get the lonely and not wanting to feel that way any more thing…….i think my husband you had to wait til he was 35 gets it even more!)

  4. I am saying that it is okay to live together as long as you live as though you are married i.e. staying faithful and doing all the things that married couples do. I know of many people who have been in long term relationships where they live together as married couples. Some of these relationships have even outlasted married couples in terms of duration. If a couple considers themselves already married and live together as such, it is no different to being married in terms of commitment, love and the roles one plays in being married.

    If you live as though you are married, are you not married?

    There are of course some differences such as the legality of being married and so on. But in most countries, living together for a certain period of time makes one common-law husband and wife.

    It is is probably better to be married officially, but for many couples, for whatever reason, that has not been the case. One should not really judge their circumstances or consider them “unmarried”.

    What is it to be “married” anyway? Is it because a priest/minister/pastor or holy man gives his blessing? Is it because of the vows you make to each other? Is it because of the commitment and loyalty in the marriage? By living together and being in a serious relationship, are you not making vows?

    Why do people get divorced? Why do some “non-married” relationships last longer?

    The only difference between “being married” and living together in a long term serious relationship is the first day really i.e. the ceremony. The days thereafter are the same.

    Regarding the “get fit, get healthy”, that is based on the verse I quoted. We should have our temples or bodies in order. If we sit around and let our bodies go to ruin, then we will be less attractive to the opposite sex. We should do what we can to sort ourselves out. On the surface, it does sound a bit shallow, but it is important and it is the way us humans are, especially when seeking a mate. If everything were completely equal, the better looking/fitter person would attract the mate. It is a practical comment that can help a person accept themselves more, especially younger people. Get fit and healthy – do what you can to improve your body. But of course, character and personality are always more important, but it cant to any harm to be fit/healthy.

    Young people are never single because “they are not good enough” to God. But to other young people, looks unfortunately does play a major role. There is no denying it. It is sad but true to a large extent. Young people should be encouraged to improve themselves and not neglect their temples/bodies. They should eat healthy, exercise and take care of their bodies. It does go a long way to getting a partner. It will not keep a partner (character and personality do), but it does allow for more opportunities to meet others. It does help, but we should encourage the young people to keep healthy/exercise through sport, gym etc.. we should not say,” hey fatso get off the couch, exercise or you wont get a gal”. We should rather steer them along that route. Something like that.

    We must remember 1 Cor 3:16. Would you visit a temple that was in ruins and overrun with old cigarette stompies and crack pipes? An extreme example, but very true. If the temple is looked after to the best of the person’s ability, then more people will be interested in that person.

    But as far as the original post, very cool reading! Whatever God decides for us, it will happen at the right time. We should keep listening to what God says to us and continue to seek Jesus with our hearts. If it feels right in our hearts, and after prayer, it still feels right, then it probably is. The singles must not stress about it, as being single also has its freedoms. If a single person really really wants to meet someone, they should put their house in order, get themselves fit and healthy, do some soul searching and clean out the house first, physically and mentally, as well as emotionally. Pray for a partner, and in time they will come. People stress way too much. Singles should join youth groups, the gym, go hiking, join the library get out there everything will fall into place.

  5. I got to agree with you that a lot of what is taught in church about singleness is just plain wrong or put more bluntly just plain crap. Here are two more,

    1) Singleness is a gift. Wrong! If singleness is a gift, where are all the singles that claim to have this gift? There should be millions and millions claiming to have this gift considering all the Christian singles here in the US. But there are none claiming to have this gift, except for a few wackos. There is no evidence to support that popular teaching. Something obviously got lost in the translation.

    2) There are sins and then there are sexual sins between normal consenting adult men and women. These sexual sins are taught to be much worse than any other type of sin. Ofcourse there is no mention about greed (pastors always asking for more money) or idoltry (a congregation that worships their pastor – think mega churches). Why don’t these sins get the same attention as sexual sins?

    1. (and sometimes God puts good things and good principles in place and says, “Choose – these are all good things, so choose which one you want.”)

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