Does God make marriage and having children an option for men and women or are we commanded by God to pursue marriage and having children? Some would answer this question with New Testament passages that extol the virtues of celibacy and they conclude based on these passages that both marriage and having children is a choice that God leaves to each us.
But is the pursuit of marriage and having children really a choice God has left to us? I would argue that those who point to passages extoling the virtues of celibacy do so in ignorance of God’s first command to men and woman:
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
The command to “be fruitful and multiply” was God commanding men and women to pursue marriage and pursue having children. Marriage and having children was not an option or left to men and women’s individual choices.
God created woman for man to bear and care for man’s children and his home and to be his helpmeet in marriage
“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
I Corinthians 11:9 (KJV)
God tells man that when he finds a wife – this is a good thing and he obtains the favor of God in doing so
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.”
Proverbs 18:22 (KJV)
God tells us that children – which he commanded as his first command to men and women are also his gift to them.
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”
Psalms 127:3 (KJV)
These Scriptures I have just presented prove that God commands the pursuit of marriage and having children.
However we find elsewhere in the Scriptures that not all men will find a wife or will be able to obtain a wife. Not all women will be able to find a husband and even if they find a husband some women may not be able to have children. But men and women are commanded by God to pursue marriage and pursue having children even if they may ultimately fail in both those pursuits or be hindered in some way from their pursuit.
Christ gives us three reasons that people are exempted from God’s marriage mandate
In the New Testament Christ explains to us why some people may be hindered in their pursuit of marriage:
“11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Matthew 19:11-12 (KJV)
Biblical Allowance for Celibacy #1
“For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb”
The first reason some people may be exempted from God’s marriage decree is because they were born celibate. I believe this refers to people who are born either with physical deformities that would hinder them from having sex or they may be mentally retarded and not able to marry because of this. These reasons for being celibate are because of defect caused by the corruption of sin in the world just as if a child were born retarded or later in life had homosexual or transgender issues.
“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Psalm 51:5 (KJV)
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:”
I Corinthians 15:42 (KJV)
Remember – Genesis teaches us that God’s original design for man and woman was to marry and be fruitful and multiply so a person born in a way that precludes that command has been corrupted by the sin of the world.
Biblical Allowance for Celibacy #2
“there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men”
The second reason some people are exempted from God’s marriage decree is because men made them that way. Now I believe this refers not only to men being physically castrated as true eunuchs were but it also refers to slaves who were forbidden to marry unless their master allowed it. So some people were forbidden because of their social status from marrying.
Biblical Allowance for Celibacy #3
“there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”
The third reason some people are exempted from God’s marriage decree is because God supernaturally grants them the gift of celibacy for his service and thus overrides his marriage mandate. These are people are not born celibate, but instead they pray and ask God for this gift and he grants it to them.
The two temptations that marriage presents
The Scriptures are clear that God commands marriage, blesses it, honors it and marriage is also seen as a way to avoid sexual temptation but at the same time marriage presents two new temptations that unmarried people do not face.
The first temptation presented by marriage is because we live in a sin cursed world a person may end up with a lousy spouse and then be tempted to sinfully divorce them or have sex outside of marriage because they are not getting what they need in marriage. This is the temptation in marriage that Christ was referring to in Matthew 19:9-11.
The second temptation presented by marriage in a sin cursed world is just the opposite of the temptation that Christ talked about and Paul addresses this second temptation in I Corinthians:
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:
33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (KJV)
The second temptation that marriage presents according to Paul is for us to be tempted to make an idol out of our spouse where we love them more than we love God. So instead of wanting to run from this type of marriage – a person may be tempted to make pleasing their spouse more important to them than pleasing God.
How many people have sacrificed parts or all of their faith to save their marriage or to please their spouse in some way? The sad truth is many have done this.
4 Reasons that are NOT exemptions to God’s marriage mandate
- You don’t want to be saddled with a spouse or kids – you want to live your life for you.
- You have no sexual desire but also do not want to live your life in full service to God. You don’t get to choose a middle ground. Either you use your celibacy in life dedicated to service to God (mission work of some kind or ministry of some kind) or you get married and have kids.
- You are afraid because of your upbringing that you may turn out to be a bad spouse or parent. Again fear is not exemption from God’s mandate of marriage.
- You don’t think you could play out the gender role God has given you (or you don’t want to) either in being a man that leads, provides and protects his wife and kids or as a woman that is called serve her husband, to bear children, care for those children, and care for her home.
God’s first command to men and women was and still is to marry and have children. God provides only three exemptions from his mandate of marriage. These are if a person is born with mental or physical disabilities that would preclude marriage, if a person is forbidden from marriage because of their social status (such as being a slave or a prisoner), or if the person is supernaturally given the gift of celibacy.
For those who either have selfish reasons for not marrying, no sexual desire, have fear of marriage or do not want to assume the gender roles God has given them in marriage these people need to ask God to change their hearts and change their desires and take away their fears if they have them. We must obey God’s marriage mandate unless he exempts us from doing so, we do not have the right to exempt ourselves from his command.