One charismatic gift that is not often talked about and still less sought after today, is the gift of singleness. Yet it is a precious gift from God which is given to some, for whom singleness and celibacy is a life calling. When we talk about the charismatic gifts, most of us think of tongues or miracles, but singleness is a gift of the Spirit too – it’s not a curse!
Clearly there are certain individuals that God calls to a life of singleness in order to fulfil a specific purpose which He has for them. Such individuals can readily respond to that call and God blesses them with the gift of singleness and celibacy. For most people, marriage will be the norm, but all of us, at one time or another will live single lives. It may be for a short period only, or it may be for a long time, but during that season we too will need the supernatural gift of singleness from God to go forward.
This means that all of us while we are single, can learn to draw on the power of God’s gift, even if we are not called to be single for lifelong service. We need to redeem our single years and not despise them as a period of unfruitfulness whilst we are “waiting to get married”.
Very often in our culture, singleness is looked down upon. Because of pressures generated by society and even the church, a single person can find themselves spending all their time wishing they weren’t single; thinking that singleness is “bad”; that there is no value in it; and that it is something that has to be tolerated until they find a partner. That it the wrong way to view your singleness, whether it turns out to be temporary or permanent – not least because there are special blessings that God gives to the single that aren’t available when you are married.
Jesus made an interesting observation about singleness in a conversation with His disciples. The disciples were responding to Jesus after He had spoken about the binding nature of marriage. Jesus said that divorce was not a part of God’s plan for His people; it must not happen. Since He taught that marriage was so sacred and binding, the disciples responded,
“If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)
But Jesus corrected His disciples and in doing so spoke of the fact that there is a special call to a life of celibacy. He said to them,
“All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” (Matthew 19:11-12)
Jesus explained that there were three types of “eunuchs” – i.e. those who would never marry. The first category of person included those who were born physically incapable of having relations with a woman, and who therefore would not marry in Jesus’ culture. The second category of person included those who were “made eunuchs by men” as Jesus put it. In many of the palaces of the ancient world the servants would be eunuchs – especially those who served in the wives’ quarters, because they could be trusted. This is where the name originated, “eunuch” being formed from the Greek words eune meaning “bed” and ekhein meaning “to keep” – literally “bed-keeper”.
But Jesus says that there is a third type of “eunuch” – those who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Of course, this doesn’t mean that these people have had themselves castrated in order to make themselves physical eunuchs. Rather, Jesus is saying there are those who, for the greater service of thekingdom ofGod, have sought and received the gift of celibacy in order to be more effective in, and dedicated to, the task God has given them.
It is important to note here that Jesus does not say that celibacy is the norm. The Bible teaches that marriage is God’s will generally for everyone. We see that from the very beginning of mankind’s existence God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and to fill the earth. However, Jesus says that singleness and celibacy is a special gift for those “… to whom it has been given” (Matthew19:11). Not everyone can accept this, Jesus says, but those who have this call on their lives can accept it and should accept it.
One thing that I want to make clear is this: people who are called to lifelong celibacy will know about it. If that is you, God will have called you to it, and you will have responded. If you are a person who really wants to be married, then don’t think that God is going to call you to live out your worst nightmare – a life of singleness. The Bible says that, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs18:22). If your heart’s desire is to be married, then God won’t call you to a life of singleness. But people who are specifically called to receive the gift of singleness will find total fulfilment in thekingdom ofGod and their relationship with Jesus.
One of the fallacies heard so often today, which I touched upon in a previous chapter, is that single people will not be emotionally fulfilled or satisfied until they are married. That simply is not the case. There are benefits to marriage that you don’t get in singleness, but equally there are benefits to singleness that you don’t get in marriage. Getting married does not equal emotional fulfilment and completion – it does not work like that. If you are not fulfilled in your singleness, then you never will be in your married life. It is only Jesus who can give you complete emotional fulfilment.