In 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes of (potential) elders in the church: “4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” At first blush, we might think that this is only to do with child-rearing and, perhaps, marriage, but is that right? Is this instruction only applicable to the man, married with children? I think not. Here’s why.
First, remember who is writing. Paul, himself, seemed after all, to be an elder of the church in Antioch (Acts 13.1-3). Paul was single and yet exercised oversight for the Church. As did Christ himself. Further, no one assumes that as long as an elder is happily married and has children who behave, that they have fulfilled all that is expected in managing his own “household.” If his finances are a mess, he’s not managing well. If the physical structure of his home is collapsing and he does nothing about it. If the activity of the home in unhealthy, even if the people in it, somehow, remained healthy, he would not be managing well.
Finally, in case my previous points weren’t strong enough, to be someone who mishandles his household requires lacking other characteristics clearly required of an elder: self-controlled, sober-minded, respectable, hospitable. What do those characteristics mean when it comes to managing the affairs of your home, whether that’s a home full of kiddos with lots of rooms or it’s the one-bedroom apartment of a Christian bachelor? It means stewardship. So, what does such a stewardship look like for single men in the body of Christ?
If you are a single man, perhaps in testing for the role of an elder at your local church, you can’t simply look past these verses. Instead, press into them. How you manage your finances may be a place to start. Are you piling up debt or are you increasingly able to use your finances for the Kingdom? If you have college debt, are you paying it off quickly? Are you tithing? What will you do with the church’s finances when you’ve shown no ability to manage your own?
What about your time? Are you redeeming the time, using it for things that matter, for things that are eternal? Are you wasting it on things that don’t matter, managing your fantasy football team, role playing campaign, and social media accounts, but failing to manage your household? Both Jesus and Paul are united behind the idea that you, single brother, should be the most fruitful member of Christ’s body. Here’s Jesus in Matthew 19:
But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
The implications are that those who choose a celibate life (make themselves eunuchs), ultimately, do so for the Kingdom! For Christ’s cause. Paul is even more explicit in 1 Corinthians 7.
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am…To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Why better to remain single, we may ask? Paul answers later in the chapter. It’s for service, for focus on the work of Christ!
The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided…So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.
Single brothers, you have more time than if you had a wife and children. I remember in my first year of marriage, I began to grow anxious about getting everything done that was on my plate. I realized how much time I was giving to my wife and it was just dawning on me the impact that was having. I was feeling Paul’s words here. It was good to give time to my wife. As her husband, I must do this. For those unmarried, however, Paul says you don’t have that anxiety because you have the better situation. You can focus on Christ. Your time is undivided.
What about your home? Is it well cleaned and in good order? Are you able to host friends, family, strangers, Bible study because you are taking care of your “personal” space? Or, is it filthy? Brothers, does the cleanliness of your home resemble the bedroom of a 13-year old boy? Cleanliness is NOT next to godliness, and yet, how you manage your household says much about your faith and maturity.
Finally, what about your ministry? Are you discipling men? Are you investing in other singles? Are you investing in married men? The household of God is made up of both…how will you manage His household? As mentioned above, is your time given to eternal things? Is your focus undivided as it should be – focused on the Lord and His work? Are you cultivating skills that will serve the Church in new ways? Can you lead a Bible study, train in evangelism, preach the Word, organize an outreach or service? Why not? Your time, which is NOT your own, is undivided.
So, single brothers, if you aspire to the office of elder, are you managing your household well? Even if you don’t aspire to it (and I believe Paul would say, “you should”), these characteristics should still be true of ALL believers – married and single, male and female. The call to a household well managed is a universal call for Christians because our lives are not our own, our time is now our own, our home is not our own. No, they are given for stewardship, and as we steward well these lesser things, the Lord will then give us the greater. Don’t waste your singleness. Don’t waste your household. The Lord is near!