The Forgotten Spiritual Gift

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Each Christian possesses at least one spiritual gift from God. The New Testament discusses, in several places, how believers can be equipped to better serve the church and the world (1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, etc.). They include healing, preaching, teaching, wisdom, and many others. Each one has had countless sermons given and bible studies written expounding their particular virtues and usefulness within the church.

There is one spiritual gift, however, that is usually overlooked or if discovered is soon forgotten. The irony is that those who possess it can make not only a significant contribution to the wellbeing of their community; they can also help to expand the gospel message to the world.

One day some self-righteous religious leaders asked Jesus about divorce. His response was that God originally intended people to stay married. Those who divorce (for reasons other than sexual immorality) and remarry, according to Christ, are committing adultery (Matthew 19:1 - 9). After hearing his answer the disciples conclude that it is better not to marry at all. Jesus response to his disciples' statement reveals information about a special but usually forgotten spiritual gift God gives.

11. But He said to them, "Not everyone can receive this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb . . . and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to receive it (the statement that it is better not to marry), let him receive it" (Matthew 19:11 - 12)

The spiritual gift of serving God as an unmarried person requires at least two things. The first is the power to do so must be "given" (verse 11) by the Eternal. The second thing required is that the person must be willing to exercise the gift and feel capable they can carry out what it demands (verse 12).

There are several people in Scripture who were single all their life and served God, or who remained single after the loss of a mate in order to dedicate themselves to him. They include the prophet Daniel, Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:36 - 38), John the Baptist, the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8 - 9), Elijah, Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 16:1 - 2), the apostle Paul and, of course, Jesus Christ.

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A higher calling

The apostle Paul knew firsthand that those who choose to serve, unmarried, were seeking a higher spiritual calling than those who serve while married. Paul, sometime before his conversion at age 31, was almost certainly married given the social norms at the time and the fact he was a Pharisee (and likely member of the Sanhedrin). His mate died (Paul presents himself as understanding both a married and single state - 1Corinthians 7:8 - 10) sometime before he began to zealously persecute the church before his conversion (Acts 9). After conversion, he was free to spend three whole years in Arabia being taught directly by Christ (Galatians 1:11 - 12, 17 - 18) before taking on the dangerous life of a traveling evangelist.

7. For I wish that all men might be even as myself. But each one has his own gift from God; one is this way, and another is that way. 8. Now I say to the unmarried and to the widows that it is good for them if they can remain even as I am.

The man who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord - how he may please the Lord. 33. But he who is married has concerns about the things of this world - how he may please his wife . . . 35. Now I am telling you this for your own benefit; not to place a snare in your way, but to show you what is suitable, so that you may be devoted to the Lord WITHOUT DISTRACTION (1Corinthians 7:7 - 8, 32 - 33, 35, HBFV)

Why is someone who serves unmarried have a higher spiritual calling? The first and obvious reason is that those who are single have significantly more time to dedicate to God since they are not having to spend time pleasing a mate (1Corinthians 7:32 - 33) and maintaining a household. Those unmarried can set their minds full time to fulfilling God's will without the distractions of married life (verse 35).

More importantly, unlike any other spiritual gift (which are enhancements or additions to a person's abilities), the gift of singleness cannot be fully exercised without first a tremendous ongoing SACRIFICE by those who utilize it. Those who wish to serve unmarried must be willing to DENY themselves the blessing of a close relationship with another human in marriage. They must be willing to forego the benefits of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom, such as sex, the joy of having children, and having someone close to them to help them through life. They must be willing to suffer loss in order to serve the greater good.

Encouragement to serve

Those who are able to forgo the distractions and commitments of marriage in order to devote themselves to serving can make just as great, in fact many times greater, contribution to society and the church than those who are married. Those who might have the spiritual gift of "singleness" should not be dismissed or forgotten, but rather encouraged to seek out what might be their special calling from God.

Additional Study Materials
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