Among the many reasons why singles can feel discontent about their singleness is the preoccupation some have with finding their "other half." Without it, they feel "incomplete," and so the search continues on for the person who will fill this missing void. But is this biblical? Does the Bible teach that singles are "incomplete" apart from marriage? We return to the Garden of Eden to answer this and other questions about marriage and singleness.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:15-18)
How many times have we heard it said that "it is not good for man to be alone." But is this what the text says? More often than not, the word "the" is either not translated as such, or is unconsciously omitted by the reader. The Hebrew word for "man" is literally 'adam which can be used to refer to an individual or mankind in general. While one may argue whether this concept has a wider application, it seems clear from the context that God was referring to Adam specifically as "the man" in this passage. So what does this mean? It would seem that this question can be best answered in terms of what it does not mean, namely, that there is some biblical basis in this verse for the view that all should be married. There simply is not. Neither is there any support for the view that marriage is a "higher" calling than singleness.
Continuing on in Genesis we come to another passage that has created some controversy over the years:
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:19-20)
Historically, this word translated "helper" here and in verse 18 has been inferred in a derogatory sense. Many have felt that the Bible ordains a "lesser" position for that of woman. This is certainly not the case, however. The same Hebrew word translated "helper" here is used in other passages to describe God Himself (cf. Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:29) as a "helper" to His people. Elsewhere, the Hebrew word from which "helper" is derived is used in a military context to describe an "ally" (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:16). Clearly, there is no sense that the "helper" in this context is inferior in any way. This is an important point to understand for those who are considering marriage. The goal should be to find someone who will be a "helper" in the biblical--not the worldly--sense of the word.
One + One = One
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24)
Here in verse 24 we see another well-known phrase from this passage of Scripture. Some 1,400 years later Jesus would quote this verse, noting that "the two shall become one flesh" (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:8.) Nevertheless, it is from this familiar passage that many misconceptions have given rise. While it is a valid biblical teaching that a husband and wife are physically, spiritually, and emotionally "united," it is important to recognize what is not being said here. Nowhere does the text indicate that the husband or wife were incomplete or lacking prior to marriage. They were not "one-half" to begin with, having been placed together so as to add up to "one." On the contrary, they are each "one"--complete in their own right--but are melded together into a new, singular entity.
Understanding this subtle point can bring hope and encouragement to the frustrated Christian single. Nowhere does the Bible teach that a single person is inferior or incomplete in any way. On the contrary, it teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, made in the image of God (1 Corinthians 6:19, Genesis 1:27). Neither does the Bible hold up marriage as the ultimate end goal for all people. Marriage is a wonderful and essential institution of God. But so is singleness!
God Isn't Holding Back
Though she had everything a person could want, there was something she couldn't have. God had instructed Adam "not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17), and warned him of the consequences of doing so.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1-5)
It was the boldest of lies: "You will not surely die"--so bold, it was almost unbelievable. After all, there was no doubt or ambiguity as to what God said. And so, in order for the lie to appear plausible, another lie had to be devised--one even more insidious than the first. It would be this second lie that would cause the earth's first inhabitants to introduce sin to the world. A far more subtle falsehood was introduced by the serpent that day--the notion that God was holding back on them. The serpent deceived with the notion that God had something that they needed--something He was unwilling to give them. Their only recourse was to circumvent God and act on their own. Then, at last, they could satisfy themselves the need that God was unwilling to meet.
In hindsight, we see the tragedy of it all. God was not holding back--He had lovingly and graciously provided for His children's every need. But they failed to recognize this and chose instead to disobey. The inevitable consequences of sin and death would surely follow.
The lie of the serpent is no less prevalent today than it was in the Garden of Eden: the notion that God is holding back. Why am I still single? Why has God withheld from me what I need?
Living the single life isn't always easy. But we can take courage and find strength in the knowledge that God isn't holding back.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
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Copyright © 1998-1999 Tim A. Krell. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
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