Is God punishing you with singleness? Is Christian singleness a curse or a blessing?
The Bible answers all questions like these indirectly and directly. What follows is a foundational understanding of what the Bible says about singleness.
The Bible says singleness is a gift, so God is not punishing you with singleness. However, marriage is a gift too. God can withhold marriage not as punishment but as a form of loving discipline to help correct your sinful behavior.
The Bible Says Singleness Can Be a Blessing
Everyone goes through a season of singleness. Some remain single for longer, but for all, even if it is just for a season, God wants us to know that singleness can be a blessing.
Paul explains throughout 1 Corinthians 7 that the great blessing to singleness is that it makes life easier in practical ways and so we are better equipped to focus on God and serve him in Christian ministry. He goes on, however, to qualify these statements by saying that those who are wired differently will be better equipped to serve God through marriage.
So the Bible says that singleness and marriage are both blessings from the Lord, “I wish that all were as I myself am [single]. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7). On the gift of singleness, Elizabeth Elliot said:
Having now spent more than forty-one years single, I have learned that it is indeed a gift. Not one I would choose. Not one many women would choose. But we do not choose our gifts, remember? We are given them by a divine Giver who knows the end from the beginning, and wants above all else to give us the gift of Himself.
Katelynn Luedke, a contributing writer at DesiringGod.org states, “If my being single allows me the gift of Himself, and if in Himself there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11), there can be no contesting the gift that singleness is.”1
The Bible Says Singleness Can Be a Consequence for Sin
Notice I’ve been using the language “singleness can be a blessing.” I’ve used the words “can be” because singleness isn’t always a blessing. Sometimes it can be a consequence for sin.
God doesn’t punish Christians because the penalty of sin was completely paid for in Christ. However, God does discipline those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). Punishment looks to the past and tries to make you pay for what you did. Discipline looks to the future and tries to help correct you so you can live differently. So God will never punish you with singleness, but he can be disciplining if your sin is blocking his blessing of marriage. (For more on the difference between consequences, discipline, and punishment, click here.)
When it comes to each individual, I have no clue which it is. I would never tell someone their singleness is a consequence of their sin because only God has that kind of sovereign knowledge of cause and effect. But theologically and hypothetically, singleness can be a consequence for sin sometimes.
I believe in most cases, singleness is just a natural part of God’s plan for someone which he intends to use as a blessing in their life. But to assume that humans have no active role to play in their relationship status is just unbiblical.
Certainly God is in control, but the way that plays out in real life is not like a puppet show. Our choices and sins do have consequences, and sometimes this means God wanted to bless you with marriage but your sinfulness blocked his blessing.
For example, Proverbs 19:14 states, “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” and Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” From these verses we can make the statement that a healthy Christian marriage is a gift from God.
We must also recognize that God often removes his favor when we rebel and don’t repent. God’s grace never runs out, but he will at times remove his favor to get our attention. Sometimes he won’t bless someone when they are living in sin because to do so would only encourage their sinful behavior. God knows that sometimes, people won’t repent unless they get hurt so bad they know their only chance is to run back to him (Luke 15:11-32).
God is not going to punish you with singleness. But he also is not going to bless you with a marriage if that union will become an idol for you. If something is going to draw you away from God, he is not going to give it to you because he loves you. So singleness can be a form of discipline. God can withhold the blessing of a Christian relationship, hoping to correct your sinful lifestyle so that he can bless you with a marriage (if you are called to marriage).
So if a good Christian spouse is a gift from God, and God often removes his favor from people who are walking in rebellion against him, it’s also safe to assume that those who walk in rebellion could miss out on the spouse God has for them or delay a healthy marriage from starting as soon as it could have.
God’s grace never runs out (Romans 5:20). God will always forgive us when we truly confess our sins to him (1 John 1:9). While there’s breath in your lungs there’s time to repent (Isaiah 55:6).
With all that said, the Bible clearly indicates that singleness can be a consequence for sin. People may want to blame God for their singleness, but if they spent their college years living in sin, spent their twenties living in more sin, and then get to be thirties and want to be married to a great Christian spouse, that might not happen the way they want, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD” (Proverbs 19:2-3). It’s never right to be mad at God, especially when our life is simply a reflection of our poor choices.
Is God Punishing Me With Singleness?
So is God punishing you with singleness? No, but it is possible your sin has blocked God’s blessing. He will not punish you with singleness, but he can discipline you by delaying your marriage.
Again, don’t assume because you are single God is disciplining you. And whether your singleness is a consequence of your sin or it’s just God’s plan for you not to be married yet, God wants you to serve and love him right now. In the big picture, it doesn’t really matter if your singleness is a consequence for your sin. As long as you repent of your sin, the path forward should be the same no matter why you are single – seek God in your singleness.
He can redeem any situation. He’s not punishing you with singleness because he’s not punishing you at all. No blessing is too hard for God to give. View your singleness as a gift from God, even if it started out as a consequence. God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). He wastes nothing. Love God, follow him, and you will experience God’s will for your life.