Is singleness a spiritual gift? Is there such a thing as the spiritual gift of celibacy? What does the Bible actually say about the spiritual gift of singleness?
In short, there are two common views about “the gift of singleness” among Christians. One view is that singleness is actually a spiritual gift that some people have and some people don’t have. Others, like myself, believe that singleness is a gift while you are single just as marriage is a gift while you are married.
In this article I will argue for my reasoning that singleness is not a spiritual gift.
What Is the Spiritual Gift of Singleness or the Spiritual Gift of Celibacy?
Before explaining what I believe the Christian gift of singleness actually is, let me explain what others believe it is according to the Bible. Many believe that singleness is a spiritual gift like other spiritual gifts such as teaching, prophecy, administration, and others. They arrive at this conclusion because the Bible does say that singleness is a gift. For example, when you read 1 Corinthians 7:7 in context it is clear that Paul says marriage and singleness are gifts from God.
I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”
I can see why many would look at this Bible passage and thing “the gift of singleness” is the same type of “spiritual gifts” that God gives. For example, in Romans 12:6-8 the same Greek word for “gift” is used in 1 Corinthians 7:7 when referring to the “gift of singleness.” In the context of Romans 12:6-8 these gifts are clearly spiritual gifts from God:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)
While it would be easy to assume that the gift of singleness is just like a spiritual gift from God, a deeper and more thoughtful look at these verses, in my opinion, will reveal to us that the gift of singleness is very different than a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit.
3 Reasons I Don’t Believe Singleness Is a Spiritual Gift
The first reason I am not quick to assume the gift of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:7 is actually a spiritual gift is because the Bible nowhere states that. It just says it is a gift. It doesn’t say singleness is a spiritual gift like Romans 12:6-8 or 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 refer to, “Now concerning spiritual gifts . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:1). When a list of spiritual gifts is mentioned, singleness or marriage are not mentioned.
The second reason I do not believe singleness is a spiritual gift is because in the Bible marriage is an option the individual person must choose or reject. This idea of choosing and rejecting what spiritual gift you want is not consistent with Scripture.
For example, throughout 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is saying that you can choose singleness or marriage, “But if you do marry, you have not sinned. . .” (1 Corinthians 7:28). In other contexts when a spiritual gift is mentioned, you can’t choose what spiritual gift God gives you. You may really want the gift of teaching, but that doesn’t mean you will get that gift. So it seems inconsistent to view singleness as a spiritual gift that you can choose and all the other spiritual gifts as things God has chosen for you.
The third reason I do believe singleness and marriage are not spiritual gifts is because you could not always use this type of gifting and the Bible tells Christians to always use their spiritual gift, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6).
God would not give you a gift that you cannot use. If there really was a spiritual gift of marriage and you possessed this spiritual gift, what would happen to you if you remained single forever? Or perhaps you did not realize you had the spiritual gift of singleness and you got married. How could you use this spiritual gift then? The spiritual gift of singleness or marriage do not seem to fit in the context of spiritual gifts in general because we are commanded to use these gifts God has given us. How can you use the gift of marriage if you are single?
Singleness Is Not a Spiritual Gift. It Is a Gift that Is Meant to Bless You Spiritually
So if singleness or celibacy are not spiritual gifts, why does the Bible say singleness is a gift? While I do not believe Christians have the spiritual gifting of singleness or marriage, I do believe that singleness and marriage are both gifts from God. I also believe that some Christians are more suited for one gift rather than the other. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 Paul states:
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Clearly some are better suited for a life of marriage and some are suited better for a life of singleness. However, marriage and singleness are gifts that are meant to meet the needs of the Christian to empower that person to serve God. If you can better serve God in singleness, Paul says you should stay single. If you could serve God better in marriage, Paul says you should pursue marriage.
So rather than see singleness and marriage as spiritual gifts one possesses, I believe a more biblical view is to see singleness and marriage as gifts that are meant to bless us spiritually.
I also believe that singleness and marriage are both gifts because they benefit people in unique ways. Singleness is a gift from God, for example, because it benefits you through giving you a practical advantages to focusing more on direct ministry (for a list of benefits to the gift of singleness, you can read/watch The Gift of Singleness: 5 Biblical Benefits to Singleness).
So if you are single right now, you have the gift of singleness right now. If you get married one day, you will then have the gift of marriage. Singleness and marriage should not be viewed like spiritual gifts that you will always have. Rather, singleness and marriage are circumstantial gifts that God wants you to use for his glory.
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