Recently, I have been looked down upon by family members and friends because I have said I have zero interest in ever getting married. I come from a mixed group of friends, some Christian and some not. The consensus is if you don't get married, you are missing out on life, but further than that, my father gave me his disapproving look for some reason.
Why should I be forced to get married if I have zero interest?
I am a 20-year-old guy, finishing up my last year at college and have never dated. I have lustful thoughts sometimes, but I have always given them to God. I want to become a software developer, specifically in the computer security field, so I plan on traveling a lot and remaining single.
I'd appreciate any feedback as I have been bombarded with the importance of marriage my whole life, but I don't see the point for myself. Thanks!
Thanks for your willingness to write and ask this honest and fundamental question. It's an important one, and there are a lot of collateral questions and issues that go with it (how to make the most of being single, what priority career and career choice should take in our lives, and many others). I don't have space here to deal with all of the collateral issues suggested by your question, but I can at least offer some basic thoughts on the specific question you raise.
Your question doesn't mention what conversations you've had with your family and friends over the years, or how the "importance of marriage" has been articulated, so let's start at the beginning.
As people who profess faith in Christ and belief in the inerrancy, sufficiency and authority of Scripture, our first question in evaluating any life decision should be "what does the Bible have to say about this?" As I've written before in this space, the basic biblical answer to the question "why get married?" is this: Scripture seems not just to encourage, but to assume that part of the growth into biblical manhood is to seek marriage.
The argument for marriage really begins with the creation order in Genesis. God creates Adam to rule over the earth and to care for the creation and glorify God in his work. Then God said that in the tasks God had given the man to do for God's glory, "[i]t is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18). God gives Adam a wife to be a "helpmate" to him in all the things God has called Adam to do (and to glorify God herself), and then He gives the husband and wife the general command to be fruitful and multiply. In other words, marriage is part of God's original created order with a God-glorifying purpose and as the most basic family unit, and the command to be fruitful and multiply is a general command.
Elsewhere in Scripture, we see numerous examples of Jesus himself and several other biblical authors simply assuming marriage as a part of the normal progression into biblical manhood and adult life. Jesus described the usual life people were engaged in before the flood (and will be in the times just before Christ's return) as "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" (Matthew 24:38). Also, in Luke 20:34-35, Jesus draws a distinction between normal life before His return ("The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage" and after our resurrection from the dead, in which we "neither marry nor are given in marriage"). We also see both Paul and Peter positively describe marriage as a wonderful picture of the Gospel and a relationship that sanctifies and protects and enriches the lives of God's people.
It is true that in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul extols singleness, but he does so with two major limitations. First, the reason he gives for remaining single is so that those who remain single are free from the distractions and concerns of marriage and can pursue the things of God, service to His church, and ministry to His people and the lost with more time, resources and single-mindedness than a married person typically can. Though often misused, this passage is in no way meant to serve as a justification for continued singleness to pursue money or an all-consuming career or the freedoms of perpetual adolescence that so many single guys in their 20s (and beyond) currently pursue — what some have called the "Peter Pan Syndrome." Second, Paul states in no uncertain terms that if one is called to permanent singleness and celibacy, that calling will manifest itself in, among other things, greater self-control, less struggle with, and more victory over sexual temptation than is the norm. Those of us for whom that is not the case "should marry, [f]or it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:9-10).
The Bible has at least one more really important thing to say about marriage: Faithful, Christ-centered marriage is fantastic. If you doubt that's what the Bible teaches about marriage, read Song of Solomon. Marriage is utterly unique among earthly relationships in the experience of intimacy, union, love, companionship, faithfulness, forgiveness, sacrifice, vulnerability, trust and passion that it offers. It teaches most husbands and wives more about God, themselves and life than they ever thought possible. It is terribly difficult and spectacularly fulfilling at the same time. It is a wonderful gift from God.
Bottom line: The biblical norm is decisively toward marriage, and those who would deliberately refuse marriage indefinitely or permanently should only do so subject to clearly biblical motivations and standards.
Two caveats to mention. First, it is obviously reasonable to postpone pursuit of marriage until one has reached an appropriate level of responsibility and maturity. That place is younger than many people think (for example, you need not be "financially established" before you are ready to marry), but it is usually reasonable to decide, for instance, to finish undergrad before pursuing a spouse.
Second, it's simply true that marital status is not always within our control. Because new dating relationships often (rightly) depend on initiation by the guy, many single women find themselves in the position of desiring marriage but waiting on the Lord's timing. And some guys faithfully initiate with women who do not respond positively. Those situations are obviously different from a woman who rejects suitors because she refuses to consider marriage or a guy who is of marriageable age but simply refuses to pursue it. It is good and right for those folks who desire marriage and are trusting in the Lord's providence to pursue godly, useful singleness in the meantime.
So how might all this apply to your situation? Well, for the moment, you're only 20 and still in school. Fair enough. Once you graduate, however, I think it would be wise to ask yourself and seek counsel from believers you trust about why you have "zero interest" in marriage and whether your perspective lines up with Scripture.
Your question mentioned your desire to be a software developer but nothing about pursuing the things of God or even serving your church better. You vaguely said that you "give" your lustful thoughts "to God," but I don't really know what that means. Do your friendships with women involve sinful "benefits" of physical or emotional intimacy? Are you totally or mostly free from struggle with or desire for pornography and masturbation? No one is perfect, but if any of these desires or struggles are at all significant in your life, I would strongly question whether you are called to permanent singleness and celibacy.
You get the idea. Talk to some mature believers you trust and think it through. The fact that you are not interested in marriage does not mean you shouldn't be interested. Part of godly maturity for all of us is to pray that the Lord would shape our desires and actions to line up with Scripture, and then work toward that. If you decide to pass on something as wonderful as marriage for some version of being able to hang with the guys or otherwise have the freedom to do your own thing, you will be pursuing a version of manhood that does not line up with Scripture. And, yes, you will also be missing out.
I will pray for the Lord to give you wisdom as you think through these things.
For His glory,
Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.