Does the Bible teach that you must be married in order to be fulfilled and happy? At first glance, it might seem that God’s Word supports such an idea. How so?
According to the Genesis account, God saw that it was “not good” for the first man Adam to remain alone. So God made Eve as a “complement” for Adam. (Genesis 2:18) The word “complement” means that which makes something complete. From that account, we might conclude that a person is not complete unless he or she is married. Additionally, a number of Bible accounts portray matrimony as a source of blessings and joy. The story of Ruth is one example.
However, are such accounts really meant to teach us that Christians today cannot be happy, fulfilled, or complete unless they marry and have children? That cannot be the case. The most complete and fulfilled human who ever lived was Jesus Christ. Yet, he remained single to his death. Jesus, the wisest man who ever lived, was also the perfect reflection of “the happy God,” Jehovah. (1 Timothy 1:11; John 14:9) Jesus revealed what it takes to be happy, or blessed, in this world. (Matthew 5:1-12) He did not include marriage in the list.
So, then, does the Bible contradict itself on this subject? Not at all. We need to consider marriage in the context of Jehovah’s purpose. While he designed marriage to be a source of joy, intimacy, and comfort, the institution has at times also played a key role in fulfilling certain aspects of his will. For example, God’s purpose for Adam and Eve was for them to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) Neither Adam nor Eve could fulfill God’s stated purpose alone. Rather, each needed the other, and each completed the other in a special sense.
Similarly, Jehovah had special purposes involving marriage and family life while he was dealing with the earthly nation of Israel. He wanted his nation to be populous so that it would not be overwhelmed by its enemies. He also purposed that the tribe of Judah produce the Messiah, who would rescue faithful mankind from the effects of sin and death. (Genesis 49:10) Faithful women of Israel thus viewed it as a special privilege to marry and bear children and as a source of shame and grief if they did not.
What, though, about today? Does God’s ancient command to “fill the earth” obligate Christians now living on this teeming planet to marry and reproduce? No. (Matthew 19:10-12) Nor does God any longer need to protect and ensure the lineage of the Messiah or to shield the nation in which that Savior would be born. How, then, are Christians to view marriage and singleness?
Really, both states can be described as gifts from God. As you know, a gift that is well-suited to one person might be ill-suited to another. Marriage is a sacred arrangement that can provide love, companionship, and a stable basis for a family. At the same time, the Bible realistically notes that those who marry in this imperfect world will also face problems, or “tribulation in their flesh.” As to singleness, Jehovah does not view it as a cause for shame or grief. Rather, his Word states that singleness has certain distinct advantages over marriage.
The Bible thus presents a balanced view of marriage and singleness. Jehovah, the Originator of marriage and the family, wants all of his servants to be happy and fulfilled, whether they are single or married.