For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it. (Matthew 19:12)

This chapter of Matthew is often brought into discussions about marriage because in Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus defines marriage as being the life-long union between one man and one woman and roots his definition in the creation accounts. It is important to note, however, that in the same passage in which he addresses marriage, Jesus also addresses celibacy. Jesus mentions those born without functioning sexual organs (eunuchs from birth) and those castrated against their will (usually to oversee a harem), and then says that some people make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom. He is not referring to people who castrate themselves, but people who choose to forgo marriage and sexual relationships. Jesus himself was such a eunuch, having lived 30-something years on earth as a single, celibate man.

It is likely that Jesus was referring to people who forgo marriage in order to devote themselves fully to ministry without the distraction of a spouse and children (cf. 1 Cor. 7:25-38). It is possible, however, that he also had in mind those who remain celibate out of obedience to his commands—those who chose to remain without a relationship rather than enter into a sinful one. Jesus goes on to indicate that people who make such sacrifices will be greatly rewarded (Mt. 19:29-30).

Pray today that our church would be a place that supports and encourages those who are single, bearing their burden with them (Gal. 6:2). Pray that even as we value marriages and families and minister to them, that we would not devalue those who are single or make them feel as though they are second-class citizens or outside of God’s blessing. Pray that we would value them and their singleness as much as we value those who are married and their marriages. Pray that they would find healthy and meaningful friendships in our church. Pray that we would honor those who are single out of a sense of mission or obedience, just as they will one day be honored in the kingdom.

If many Roman Catholics have overly exalted celibacy as an ideal, most Protestants have drastically undervalued it. Christian singles need much more support from their married friends and their churches, who must value them as equally significant members of the body of Christ. … the church desperately needs to encourage all who sense God leading them to remain single, for however long or short a period of time, to remain faithful to his guidance. (Craig L. Blomberg)