Stump a Pastor: Desire for Marriage

[I’ve kept many of the questions from our college conference’s “Stump the Pastors” session, hoping they would find a good home here.]

“As a guy, is it okay to not want to be married?”

My lovely daughter claims to not like apple pie. So I often answer her simply by saying, “You’re wrong. You do like apple pie. Everyone likes apple pie.” She huffs and gives me her pie.

So it is with some in the church who don’t have a strong desire to be married. “Everyone else is married. Even those who aren’t talk about it all the time. What’s wrong with me? Is it okay to not desire marriage?”

As with many questions, there’s a short answer and a better answer. The short answer is “Yes.” Who can hear God’s Word from 1 Corinthians 7 and think that someone lacking a desire for marriage is somehow outside of God’s will? Paul himself said, “…it is good for them to remain single as I am.” If singleness is a good thing, then it must be okay to not desire that good thing.

The better, and slightly longer, begins with “Maybe.” Like all pastoral questions, this involves not only Biblical principles but attitudes of the heart. So here’s the longer answer: If you desire singleness for the reasons Scripture magnifies singleness, then your desire is likely a good desire.

On the contrary, however: If you desire singleness for other reasons, then your desire is likely a sinful desire.

Scripture magnifies singleness for its potential to create space, time and energy to give to the ministry of the church. In other words, God designed singleness as a way to “spread the love,” to enable an individual to give himself or herself to far more people in far more significant ways than most married people can. Scripture also magnifies singleness by reminding us of how Paul and Jesus himself lived powerful lives without a spouse.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, those are rarely the reasons behind the statement, “I don’t want to get married.” More often than not, a lack of desire for marriage may reveal drinking too much of our societies’ kool-aid than drinking deep the water of the Word. So prayerfully ask yourself, “Why? Why don’t I desire marriage?”

Do you want to keep the relative freedom of single life? Or do you have a specific vision for how to powerfully and efficiently use your freedom for others?

Do you long to be able to travel a the drop of a hat or just do what you want whenever you want? Or are you filling your life with commitments to ministry and service?

Do you hate the idea of constant accountability and responsibility for others? Or are you investing deeply in friendships and mentoring relationships?

Is your life being used in the pursuit of many hobbies and much entertainment right now? Or is it being used for Christ’s church?

Are you buying into the idea that life is all about you and marriage might take away from that? Or are you willing to hear Jesus’ reminder that “whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”?

So please: honestly and prayerfully evaluate your own heart before the Lord. Spend time speaking on this matter with godly counselors who know you well. Many will find that their lack of desire for marriage comes from selfishness rather than being kingdom-minded. But others will find God has given them other desires instead. And not only is that a good thing, it is a powerful thing.


Please assume that everything I write here applies equally to women. Also note that this post is not addressing the important questions of those who desire marriage but don’t have it.

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