God said it was not good for man to be alone, so why did Paul say it is good to remain single?
Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV))
For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am. (1 Corinthians 7:7–8 (NKJV))
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18 (NKJV))
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22 (NKJV))
Occasionally, we will get questions about whether marriage is a bad thing because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1, 7–8. Yet Paul allows for marriage. Looking at the greater context in the intervening verses, we see a reason Paul accepted marriage:
Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. … Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. (1 Corinthians 7:2, 5–6)
So how can marriage be somehow not preferable or a concession in light of the verses we see in Genesis 2:18 and Proverbs 18:22?
There is more to consider here than just marriage itself. Why does Paul think his (single) lot is better? In 1 Corinthians 7:33–35, Paul explains that being unattached is better for a Christian so “
that you may serve the Lord without distraction.” Paul’s entire post-conversion life was absorbed by service to the Lord. It would have been difficult for Paul to have been an undistracted husband and father with his calling. And, while we’re told to “
be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 1:28, it is also a high calling, albeit not for everyone, to serve the Lord continually, as Anna was able to once she was widowed (Luke 2:36–37).
Matthew 19:11–12 discusses those who are not able to marry or have children for one reason or another. Sadly, many would consider this to be a disadvantage, but the Bible paints a different picture, noting that “
All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given” (emphasis added). Since “
all things work together for good to those who love God,” they are called to a high (His) purpose (Romans 8:28). And it has been given to those individuals the strength and privilege to be thus used by God (1 Corinthians 10:13). Not that it is always an easy path: Paul’s path was beset with illness, discomfort (to say the least), disaster, contention, imprisonment, and finally death. Yet the Lord always sustained him, and Paul, in fact, felt honored to be persecuted for the sake of Christ (Colossians 1:24). Now, that’s God-given strength!
So, with God there are two good paths. If you are gifted with singleness, you can serve Him wholeheartedly while not having to worry about neglecting a family. Or you can get married and raise children in the Lord if He provides children to you. If He does not give you children then you are freer than those with children to serve. If your spouse is a believer, you may have a unique opportunity to serve synergistically as a team. God both sets the path and then allows provision to the individual for that path. Who can say that His plan, whether or not it includes a spouse or children, is not perfect?
But why would God have said that it was not good for man to be alone, then, in Genesis 2? In the hours prior to this, the Lord had brought animals to Adam to name, partly to demonstrate that He had a special plan for Adam: a special “helper,” not merely brought forth from the earth as the insufficient animals were, but specially formed from part of him by the hand of God and in His image. God wanted Adam to be fruitful and to multiply, yes, but He also wanted him to see that He had a special plan for man unlike the mere procreation of animals: marriage. God would later use marriage to symbolize the joining of the church to His Son, Jesus Christ—a beautiful relationship where Jesus would demonstrate Divine love by laying down His life for His bride. This analogy was given in regards to the roles of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22–33.
So is marriage a good thing? Absolutely. It was instituted by God in a perfect world, but it is not for everyone. Also, if you are part of the bride of Christ, you can clearly say “Yes, and amen.” If you’re not, you can still greatly benefit from the beautiful God-given gift of marriage as it was originally intended (sadly God’s original plan for marriage has been abandoned throughout the ages, causing untold misery). Also realize that although mankind does not deserve the favor of God, there is the good news that you, too, can be welcomed into His family—to share eternity with the Creator of the universe. Praise the Lord for this undeserved love He so freely gives all who ask.