Ahh yes, the single years. Those carefree years between high-school and marriage when a young person can do all those crazy, bucket-list things they want to do. Backpack across Europe. Trek the through the Amazon. Go skydiving. Live in a big city. Live in a commune. Go Paleo. Go vegan. All while recording every moment on a GoPro camera and drinking Corona beer.
Our culture tells us that the single years are supposed to be an adventure. A time of fun and craziness and exploration before we settle down for the boring life of marriage, kids, and all that jazz. To sow our wild oats (if you happen to be Amish). To quote the prophet Ricky Martin, the single years are for, “Livin’ la viva [vida?] loca.”
Well… sort of… not really. After working with a lot of single men and women over the years, there are certain principles and practices (hopefully derived from Scripture!) that I would encourage single folks to develop which will serve them for many years into the future. These practices aren’t particularly exciting or thrilling, but I believe they’re extremely valuable.
So what would I tell single guys and gals? Three things.
USE YOUR TIME STRATEGICALLY
When you’re single, you have more free time than when you’re married with kids. Don’t waste that free time. Don’t assume that your free time is all for you and all about you. God didn’t give you free time in order that you might check off every item on your bucket list.
Your free time is a gift from God, to be used for the glory of God, in order that God might be made famous. When you’re single, use your free time strategically, investing it in kingdom ventures. Your free time is like a Wall Street asset which is only valuable for a limited amount of time. Invest your time with the same thought and strategy a stock trader invests money. Strive for maximum eternal returns!
In 1 Corinthians 7:32–34 Paul says:
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.
When you’re single, you’re free from family anxieties. You don’t have to worry about health insurance for your kids, or getting your kids to school on time, or making time for weekly date nights. Your interests are not divided.
Because your interests are not divided, you can invest your free time in single-minded, strategic ways, which will increase the fame of Jesus. You can spend more time studying theology. You can serve a married couple by babysitting their kids (hint, hint). You can lead two, or even three Bible studies. You can start a prison ministry. You can dive deep into thick theological books.
It’s not wrong to backpack across Europe or spend a summer at Yellowstone National Park. But remember, your single years are an asset you’ll never have again.
USE YOUR MONEY STRATEGICALLY
Singles, please listen to me: the financial choices you make when you’re single can reverberate for years throughout your marriage. Financial institutions and credit card companies make it so easy to accumulate a mountain of debt during the single years. Need a college loan? No problem? Need some spare cash so that you can go out to eat with your buddies? No problem! Want to take a trip to France between semesters? You got it! Just sign on the dotted line.
And guess what? You don’t even have to pay back the money until you’re out of college! It’s like Christmas during your freshman year!
Unfortunately, most single people don’t understand how significant debt really is. I’ve known guys who had to delay their entrance into pastoral ministry due to the staggering debt they were carrying. I’ve had friends who had to delay having kids because they couldn’t afford to have kids and pay down their debt at the same time. I’ve had friends who couldn’t purchase a house because of the amount of debt they carried.
Let me make it loud and clear: the financial choices you make when you are single have a direct effect on your ability to serve the Lord when you are married.
Your ability to minister, be fruitful, be hospitable, go on church plants, fund missionaries, and serve the poor is directly connected to the wise or unwise choices you make when you’re single.
So please, be wise. If you don’t understand how money works, get a financial mentor. Spend your money wisely. Knock your debts out as quickly as possible. Avoid debt when possible. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Do you want to be fruitful when you are married? Be frugal when you are single.
USE YOUR GIFTS STRATEGICALLY
The single years are a fantastic time to hone your spiritual gifts in a concentrated way. Do you have the gift of leadership? Ask your pastor to give you as many leadership opportunities as he is willing. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Open up your house every week. Do you have the gift of generosity? Live frugally and give generously. Do you have the gift of mercy? Pour yourself into a local soup kitchen or prison ministry.
Marriage and children are absolutely wonderful, but they place distinct limitations on the amount of time you can devote to honing your spiritual gifts. I need to provide food and clothes and beds for my children, which limits the amount of money I can give to my local church. I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to hone my leadership and worship leading skills while I was single.
SO NOW WHAT?
The single years are certainly a time for fun and exploration, but the reality is, the single years only last for so long. Don’t waste your single years. Don’t fritter them away. Don’t cripple yourself with brutal debt. Use them strategically in order to position yourself for future fruitfulness.
Stephen Altrogge is a writer, pastor, and knows a lot about Star Wars. Find out more at The Blazing Center.