2010 - Vol. 36
Barry Danylak, continued
for the sake of the kingdom
Jesus proceeds to describe three classes of eunuchs, those who are
so from birth, those who have been made eunuchs by men, and those who have
made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:12).
The Jewish audience of Jesus’ day would have been familiar with the
first two categories of eunuchs, but the third category would have
been a surprising climax. Rather than refuting the proposition that
it is better to remain single than to marry, Jesus suggests that there
should be some who renounce marriage and procreation for sake of devoted
service to the kingdom of God. But Jesus gives two qualifications
to the teaching. First, verse 11 clarifies that this teaching is
not for everyone, but only to those to whom it is given.
Jesus still affirms marriage for some, but to whom? While Paul
in 1 Cor 7:9 makes marriage the explicit preference for those who burn
with passion, Jesus does not specify either those for whom the teaching
is given, nor those for whom it is not. The implication is that recipients
are to be self-determining. In this case the teaching is not given
to those who have strong longings for marriage whether this longing is
because of sexual passion, the desire for intimacy, the longing for companionship,
or the desire for children. Rather, the teaching is given to those
for whom such desires are not paramount. But for these, the
second qualification at the end of verse 12 then serves as an imperative.
“Let the one who is able to receive this (teaching) receive it (Matt. 19:12).”
This qualification is radical in the context of traditional Jewish values.
For not only does Jesus affirm the legitimacy of one remaining single for
the sake of kingdom service, he commands whoever is able, to do it.
Thus the church is faced with the prospect of keeping both qualifications
in view. It should not ever mandate singleness upon anyone that has
a strong innate desire for marriage, but nor should it discourage it from
any who are able to faithfully undertake it.
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[This article is excerpted
from A Biblical Theology of Singleness, copyright © Barry
Danylak 2007, published by Grove
Books Limited, Cambridge, UK. Used with permission.]