My name is Keith Giles. I love to write so that people can know Jesus and experience His life in their own.
So, I started this blog to help people understand who Jesus is, and how He reveals what the Father is really like.
This is a safe place to talk about all those questions you've had about the Bible, and Christianity. It's also a place to learn how to put the words of Jesus into practice.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
BLESSED ARE THE EUNUCHS
When God established rules for who could – and who could not
– enter into or serve within the Tabernacle, and later the Temple of God, He
made a curious prohibition against those who were castrated, or who “had their
testicles crushed”. [See Lev. 21:20]
These people are more commonly referred to in the Scriptures
Later, through the prophet Isaiah, God made these eunuchs a
“Let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus
says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that
please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my
walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an
everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” [Isaiah 56:3-7]
This promise to give these people, who were formerly
outcast, a place of honor in God’s House was never fulfilled under the Old
So, was this promise left unfulfilled? Not at all.
When Jesus is responding to the Pharisees regarding divorce,
his disciples throw up their hands in exasperation after hearing Him say that a
man may not divorce his wife other than for the sin of adultery. They exclaim,
“Why even get married, then?” To which Jesus replies:
“Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to
whom it has been given. 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 19:11-12]
Curiously, Jesus seems to make a statement that he realizes
will be difficult for His disciples to wrap their minds around. “Tuck this one
in your back pocket for now,” he seems to say. “This won’t make any sense to
you now, but later on this concept will become more clear.”
What is a eunuch? Is it simply someone who has no interest
in the opposite sex? Or in marriage? Is it someone who has no functional
genitalia [as in Lev.21:20]? What is the difference between a eunuch who is
“born that way” and those who are “made eunuchs by men” and “those who made
themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom”?
Jesus bookends this statement with the warning: “Not all men
can accept this. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”
Whatever a eunuch might be, we see that the promise made by
Isaiah is still in effect. Jesus honors those who are eunuchs for the sake of
the Kingdom. In the context of his dialog with the Pharisees and the Disciples,
Jesus seems to place the emphasis on those eunuchs who choose not to marry –
not to participate in the normative practices of the culture – but who instead
devote themselves totally to the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.
Keep in mind that, in Jewish culture, a woman had no value
apart from child-birth. A man without male children was a disgrace and most
likely cursed by God. Even the “Chosen” status of the Children of Israel was
tied to giving birth to the Messiah. How could anyone choose to disengage from
that most natural and holy endeavors as being married and having children?
As we’ve already noted, that promise in Isaiah to eunuchs
being granted a “monument and a name better than sons and daughters” was never
fulfilled in the Old Covenant “House of God”, but it was certainly fulfilled in
the New Covenant “House of God”, which is the ekklesia, or Body of Christ.
Who was the first non-Jewish convert baptized into the new
Temple of God? A eunuch from Ethiopa. [See Acts 8:27]
When the evangelist Philip met this man he was reading from
Isaiah 53:7-8. Imagine this eunuch’s surprise after his baptism when he, no
doubt, continued on reading in the scroll and discovered the promise of God to
him - and to every other eunuch - a few chapters later in Isaiah 56:3-7.
Who else has made themselves a eunuch for the Kingdom of
Well, Jesus, for one. He abandoned his identity as a
potential husband or a father, in the natural sense, to embrace the title of
Bridegroom for a people who would become his Bride through faith in Him.
Paul was also a “eunuch for the Kingdom” who remained
celibate for the sake of the Gospel, and urged others to do the same:
“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for
them to remain single as I am. . . But I want you to be free from concern. One
who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please
the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is
unmarried…is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both
in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the
world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to
put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure
undistracted devotion to the Lord.” [1 Corinthians 7:8, 32-33]
What of those who embrace their natural identity and who become fathers
and mothers, or husbands and wives? Those labels will vanish and fade away in the
age to come:
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in
marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” – Jesus [Matt. 22:30]
But for those who do embrace this calling to become eunuchs
for the Kingdom, there is a promise that is eternal and that will never be
Jesus gives us three categories of eunuchs: Those who were
“born that way”, those who “were made that way by men” and those who “are
eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom”.
Eunuchs who are “made that way by men” are undoubtedly those
who were castrated. This tells us that the Ethiopian eunuch, and the eunuch who
lived and served in the Temple [see 2 Kings 23:11] were both “born that way from
their mother’s womb”. How do we know
this? Because if they had been “made that way by men” [i.e. “castrated”] then
they wouldn’t have been admitted into the Temple, according to the prohibition
commanded in Leviticus 21:20.
So, what does it mean to be someone who is a eunuch “from
their mother’s womb”? Many believe that this would be a reference to what we
would call someone with a same-sex attraction. Why? Because these people did
not exhibit what would have been seen as a “normative” sexual orientation. They
were men without passion for women, and women without interest in taking a
husband and bearing children as most women would be expected to do. At a
minimum, these enuchs are “non-heterosexuals” who do not have any interest in
fulfilling their culturally accepted gender roles.
The third category that Jesus mentions is someone for whom
the expected sexual norms and usual gender roles do not apply. Furthermore, it
is someone who has embraced a new identity in Christ to become a eunuch for the
This is what Jesus did. It’s what Paul the Apostle did and urged others to do.
greater calling can there be than to become, like Jesus our Lord and the
Apostle Paul, one of the eunuch’s for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
Granted, not everyone is “born this way” and few of us are
“made this way by men”, but there are several who do not value traditional
marriage as much as others do. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
Christians for whom the traditional role of husband or wife, or mother or
father, is not an option. Whether by sexual attraction or by lack of
opportunity, these men and women are on the outside of the cultural norms and
sexual identities that our society has imposed upon them.
Rather than endure the shame that is often tied to this
classification, these people are among an elite tribe of human beings who have
been given a promise, and a monument, and an everlasting name that will be, in
the House of God, one of honor and of high esteem. Our Lord Himself has
identified with them and stands beside them as one who is on the outside of
normative cultural expectations for gender and sexuality and identity.
I know that many who are Gay and Christian want nothing more
than to find another person to share their life with. This is a common, human
desire. My hope is to share another possibility that they might consider
embracing – a promise from God to step into a place of exceptional service for
their Lord and King.
As much as we might not want to believe it, celibacy is not
a death sentence. For many in the Kingdom of God, it is a high calling and a
position of great honor.
Is there anyone, today, who has abandoned their normative
cultural – and natural – identity as a husband or a wife? If so, they may now
embrace the example of Jesus and of Paul the Apostle who served as “eunuchs for
the Kingdom” and experienced the promise of God through the prophet Isaiah to
receive a “a monument and a name better than sons and daughters” and “an
everlasting name that will not be cut off.”