Does the Bible say anything about a gift of celibacy?

A person practicing celibacy is both single and abstaining from having sex. Celibacy can be voluntary or involuntary, and peoples' reasons for choosing this lifestyle can vary. Some people voluntarily choose to be celibate to pursue a career or completely devote their lives to serving God. Others are involuntarily enlisted to celibacy because of a physical defect, health concern, or role in society, such as some of the eunuchs of Jesus' day. Many Christians who believe in waiting to have sex until marriage remain celibate because they have not yet married or they are attracted to someone of the same sex and are choosing not to act on that temptation because they know it would be a sin.

Within the Christian community, single, abstinent adults are often considered to have the gift of celibacy or the gift of singleness. This is not a "gift" in the same sense as the gifts of the Holy Spirit or "spiritual gifts" (1 Corinthians 12). The idea comes from two passages in the New Testament. Matthew 19:9–12 records a conversation between Jesus and His disciples: "'And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.' The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.' 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.'"

In 1 Corinthians chapter 7 Paul explains that he is celibate and that it is a gift from God. He explains that for some it is good to marry because of their sexual desire so that they will not sin through sexual immorality, but instead fulfill those desires within marriage. However, he explains that singleness can also be good for some people: "I want you to be free from anxieties. 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" (1 Corinthians 7:32–34). Paul states this "as a concession, not a command" (1 Corinthians 7:6) and points out that both singleness and marriage are gifts from God (1 Corinthians 7:7).

Lifelong celibacy is a gift for some people, but not everyone. Most adults desire to be married and the family is an important part of God's plan for humanity. However, everyone is celibate for at least some time. For some that is only a short period of their adult lives whereas for others it may last decades and for others their whole lifetime. Jesus and Paul make it clear that the purpose of the so-called gift of celibacy is so that the person can focus on doing ministry for God's kingdom. While a person to whom God entrusts a period of celibacy will be equipped to live a single life, that person may still experience sexual temptation or desire for a family. It is important that they trust in God to give them self-control and to fulfill those needs in other ways. It is also important to seek God's guidance and wisdom. Perhaps He has granted celibacy for a time and will replace the gift of being single with the gift of being married. No matter our life situation, it is important to continually seek God and rely on Him.

The Catholic church and a few Protestant denominations require priests or church leaders to be celibate. On the other hand, some Protestant denominations require church leaders to be married. However, the Bible supports both single and married leaders. Single leaders have the benefit of not being divided between their responsibility to their family and their ministry in the church (Matthew 19:12). It is better for some leaders to be married, though, because they do not have the gift of celibacy. Marriage helps protect their sexual purity and also provides them with a partner in their ministry (1 Timothy 3:12).

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