Each year, Forbes magazine comes out with its annual “Best Cities for Singles” edition. Forbes is a financial magazine, yet I’m always curious to know what they think singles want and where they think is the best place to find it.
The methodology Forbes used in 2007 to establish the best city was as follows:
To determine the best city for singles, we ranked 40 of the largest continental U.S. urban areas in seven different categories: nightlife, culture, job growth, number of singles, cost of living alone, coolness and online dating.
Our proprietary Cost of Living Alone index is determined by the average cost of a metro area's apartment rent, a Pizza Hut pizza, a movie ticket and a six-pack of Heineken.
To determine coolness, market research company Harris Interactive conducted a poll of adults from across the U.S., each of whom was asked, "Among the following U.S. cities, which one do you think is the coolest?"
I could be out of touch with the “real world” since I don’t base my cost of living on any of the above items or worry about living where people think is “cool.” Nightlife, number of singles and coolness may be important to some people, but should these factors be the most important and influential to Christian singles in determining where and how they live?
I conducted an unscientific survey asking a number of Christian singles, “What is important to you or what do you like about being single?”
The majority of responses had to do with the aspect of independence—the ability to have a flexible schedule/life, to spend money as desired, and to have time alone. While their “independence” played an important role on the positive side, the people surveyed were also quick to mention a small degree of sadness associated with being autonomous.
So, how can we, as singles, use what we enjoy most about our lives to honor God, to live radically for Christ, and to embrace life to the fullest?
Seize the day, seize whatever you can
‘Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
Seize the day, pray for grace from God’s hand
Then nothing will stand in your way
Seize the day
— Carolyn Arends
In Our Schedule
I love being able to determine my own schedule. I can do (or not do) whatever I want, when I want. This may sound selfish—especially to those who have many more obligations to family, job, and church—but with this independence also comes spiritual responsibility.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 7, “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord” (vs. 32). “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit” (vs. 34).
As a single, it’s easy to think solely about myself, but if I do I would not be abiding by God’s Word and not seeking ways to please the Lord. I could try to argue with God (as I have at times) that I desire a relationship and have waited a long time, I deserve to have things that I’ve worked for, and I need “my” time. However, these arguments are not convincing when talking to the Son of God.
While I was working in the corporate world, I chose to use my only two weeks of vacation time to lead church youth trips (which dumbfounded many of my non-Christian co-workers until I started including their kids on the trips). Those trips brought me more personal joy and memories than if I had used that time only for myself.
A longtime single female friend, in her forties, has devoted the last 15 years of her life ministering to the youth in Eastern Europe. She has the same desires as many women—to be a wife and mother—but until then she is devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit, and this pleases the Lord.
There are many ways to please the Lord with your time; it takes an open schedule, an open mind and an open heart.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
In Our Finances
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Our world has programmed us to think if we don’t have it, we need it, and if we do have it, then we need the newer, faster, and cooler model. Not surprisingly, the responses I received from singles regarding finances were bent toward spending money, rather than earning or saving it.
I appreciate the opportunities I have as a single regarding the ability to spend. It is easy to want what others have, spend on things that are the “latest,” and to justify my spending since, at this point in my life, I don’t have immediate financial responsibilities to a spouse and family.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … (Matthew 6:19-20).
Jesus wants us to have financial independence, freedom from having money control our lives. He sent his disciples out to minister and told them, “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” To many of us, this is contrary to how we are living. Our focus has become obtaining earthly pleasures instead of ways to serve and please the Lord through our finances.
Jesus tells a rich man who wanted to know what he must do in order to inherit eternal life, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21).
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Recently I spent time with a former corporate businessman who left his job to work for minimum wage with a ministry that provides water treatment systems for underprivileged and disaster areas of the world. This isn’t exactly the traditional method of climbing the corporate ladder and seeking the world’s riches, but when I saw the joy that clean water brings to people to help them survive another day, there isn’t any corporate achievement or financial gain that can outweigh it. That is someone who is pleasing the Lord.
King Solomon, one of the wealthiest people to have ever walked the earth says:
I say it is better to be content with what little you have. Otherwise, you will always be struggling for more, and that is like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
In Our Time Alone
Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
Like many singles, I am blessed with time that is not in demand from others—I have the opportunity for “alone” time. I can accomplish tasks around the house, work on the Internet, watch television, read, get together with friends, run errands, and a multitude of other good and necessary activities. However, what is the best use of my time alone?
When Jesus was alone, he prayed (Matthew 14:23, Luke 22:40). When his disciples were alone with Jesus, they learned about the things of God (Mark 4:10).
Throughout my years of traveling, I am embarrassed at how I have spent the idle time in airports, on planes, and on tour buses sleeping, watching movies, reading a newspaper or doing nothing. I have wondered what difference it would it make in my life if I used these hours more productively? I have since committed myself to spending time in prayer, reading the Word, sharing my experiences through writing, and studying.
My appreciation of alone time has grown after hosting many of my married friends and spending time around families. I have learned that my responsibility is not to waste the opportunity I have, but rather to use that time to grow in wisdom.
I have concluded that the best cities for single Christians are ones that provide an opportunity for a person to grow spiritually, to have meaningful relationships, and provide opportunities to serve. Don’t let others tell you what you should do or where you should live because it’s cool; let God lead you in how to live.
Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
'Cause you won't regret it
Lookin' back from where you have been
'Cause it's not who you knew
And it's not what you did
It's how you live
— Point of Grace (Lyrics by Cindy Morgan)
Being single allows us to live our lives with a great deal of independence and the ability to take a few chances, but this does not mean for us to live it selfishly. When all is said and done, our identity will not be found in whom we knew (or didn’t know) or what we did (or didn’t do) in life, but how we lived it.
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, He Said-She Said, in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.