The Sin of Singleness?


Fingernails, meet chalkboard. That’s how I felt listening to Dr. Albert Mohler on the radio last night rant on single people who intend to get married one day but delay the process. If that’s you, Dr. Mohler says you are sinning. Obviously, he’s right … I mean, you can’t spell “singleness” without “sin”.

I respect Dr. Mohler, but this kind of inflamed rhetoric isn’t helpful, if not for anything other than the claim’s lack of merit. This is fundamentalism in the making: you take your idea, dress it up in Scripture, and sell it as a combo meal. He infers that marriage is “the ultimate priority God has called us to.”

But Jesus – a single man in His own right – broke down our priorities in this simple way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39)

Mohler supersizes his idea by asking a question he promptly answered in regards to delaying marriage for other pursuits:

“In heaven, is the crucible of our saint making going to have been done through our jobs? I don’t think so.  The Scripture makes clear that it’s largely going to be done through our marriages.”

But where does it say this in the Bible? There are plenty of verses on how husbands and wives should treat each other, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that our “saint making” is going to occur through marriage. It’s irresponsible to suggest that you’re not really in the game until you’re married, that your faith isn’t proven until you’ve spent a few years hitched (though it is the most serious of tests).

Part of the reason I found this message so irksome was the fact that I happen to know how discouraging it is to be single and feel the weight of everyone around you wanting to know when you’re going to get married. (Who hasn’t felt that?) It’s bad enough that single people are often treated like the loser’s club in churches, so now we have to tell them that they are sinning because they aren’t married yet?

I’ve also met plenty of Christians who get married too young because they didn’t want to “burn with passion” as the Apostle Paul puts it. And that verse trumped good common sense. (Which leads me to another moral dilemma question I have: Is it better to burn with passion than get divorced? But that’s for another post.)

In contrasting biblical culture with today’s world, drawing even comparisons is next to impossible in some areas like marriage. Back then, marriages were arranged. It was easier to get married at a young age. And back when I was on the dating wagon, there were plenty of days I grew so frustrated with the game of love that I would have welcomed my dad arranging a marriage for me. Our culture is different now.

Dr. Mohler did make some good points about today’s world being a “boy culture”, where men are not encouraged to grow up and take responsibility. We need fathers to step up and demonstrate to the up-and-coming generation of boys what that looks like, a challenge I look forward to meeting with my own son. (I highly – and shamelessly – recommend Ed Tandy McGlasson’s The Difference a Father Makes in more on this particular subject.)

Ultimately, pastors don’t need to waste time in the pulpit telling people that they might be possibly sinning if they are delaying getting married. That time should be spent encouraging and challenging men – and women alike – to develop their character so that when they do get married, their marriages not only last but thrive.

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