1. Is it a marker of biological adulthood?
I certainly hope so, or some people are going to have certain difficulties on their honeymoon. Indeed, some jurisdictions would not look too kindly on marriages where one or more partners had not reached the stage of biological adulthood.
2. Is it marker of maturity (emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.)?
If it is, then I want to know how whackos who beat their spouses, spendthrifts who plunge families into debt, and people who have no regard for God manage to get married. As it has been pointed out under the "Code Green" entry of the Catalog of Anti-Male Shaming Tactics, "It should be remembered that one’s sexual history, marital status, parental status, etc. are not reliable indicators of maturity and accountability. If they were, then we would not hear of white collar crime, divorce, teen sex, unplanned pregnancies, extramarital affairs, etc."
3. Is it a marker of single people's immaturity?
This assertion makes absolutely no sense at all. Logic 101, dear readers:
Invalid proposition: If (A then B) then (if ~A then ~B)We are better off talking about singleness being a marker of immaturity, but then do we want to accuse the Apostle Paul of being immature? Singleness, per se, like marriage, says nothing about the character of a person.
Where A=marriage and B=maturity
4. Is it a marker of some notable achievement that benefits society?
Maybe we are getting close to the core of what people mean when they say, "Marriage is a marker of adulthood." However, there are two problems with this assertion. It is on this point that I will spend the bulk of my discussion.
First, just because you ate some wedding cake, gestated, and then pushed a baby out of your uterus does not make you a matron saint. Likewise, if you contributed sperm to the making of said baby, you are not the great Cincinnatus (and indeed, society constantly reminds men of this fact). Let's tie in a Bible verse on this matter:
Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son; But he that is a companion of gluttons shameth his father. (Prov. 28:7, ASV)If the legacy you leave behind are spoiled, amoral, hedonists, then what credit is that to you? Day after day, men and women create children and yet are unprepared to raise them. We don't need anymore thugs, hoodlums, and the such like raised by single mothers and lousy parents. Some people just need to forget about the marriage and family thing and keep their pants on. Just because these people were pretty enough and tough enough to get into the bed with someone doesn't mean society is somehow in debt to the unfortunate fallout of their unions.
Why do you deserve a trophy because you got married and had children? You're taking care of you own? Good. Even the unbelievers do that (Matt. 5:47; 1 Tim. 5:8). Nobody forced you to get married. Society doesn't owe you a debt of gratitude because you raised emotionally stable children who are productive. You've only done your duty (Luke 17:10), and it is your children who owe the debt of gratitude to you (Eph. 6:2). Society will owe your children something when they actually do something valuable. Otherwise, your children are, at best, a charity case. And we don't need people producing more charity cases (Prov. 30:15a; 2 Thess. 3:10).
Anyway, the second problem with seeing marriage as a marker of some notable achievement benefiting society is that it ignores a basic question: If you are a Christian and you are called to be a pleaser of God and not necessarily a pleaser of men (Gal. 1:10), then why should you necessarily care what society wants from you? Society says that I am not a man because I am not impregnating a woman? Very well, then. Society can go talk a long walk on a Mobius strip, for all I care in that regard.
Ladies and gentlemen, is society an end to itself? Are we collectivists, now? Replace the word "society" with "state," and you'll see my concern about this matter. I fear some of us are aspiring totalitarians and authoritarians. This is one of the reasons why I get bristled when socons say, "Family is the basic unity of society." It implies that married people and children are just cogs in a machine. But society is for the benefit of the family and individual, not the other way around. I may have an obligation to God and my fellow man (Luke 10:27), but I don't necessarily have an obligation to a social structure.
There is an a fortiori principle here. If society doesn't value me, then how can it say it values my marriage and my children? Society may say that I am expendable as a man. Women mock the usefulness of men, the workplace threatens to outsource men's jobs or eliminate them through technology, and on it goes. If you declare men to be expendable, however, then you are declaring that you don't need them. If you declare that you don't need men, you release men from their obligation. That's where our logic leads us. In short, if society questions my worth as a man, then my full participation in it becomes optional.
If society wants men to feel like they have a stake in its welfare, then it needs to treat them fairly and with respect. If society wants men to go above and beyond the call of duty, then carrots will do better than a stick, otherwise it's just duty society will get. But no one is really doing any of these things I say need to be done for men, so I can only guess that marriage and family really isn't that important to society, after all. I mean, you can't have your cake and eat it, too. There is no free lunch and if you want men to do something, then you better pony up with the goods (see here and here). Someone may try the religious angle to force men and women to get married, but I've been hitting that one out of the park, too (see here and here).
Now, let me summarize everything I've said on marriage being a marker of contributing to society. Society needs to drop it's male-bashing act like um, yesterday, if it wants men to be good citizens by copulating, procreating, and siring the next generation of taxypayers and cubicle workers. Society need to support men in other ways, too. Married men, in turn, can't demand some special recognition for raising great children, much less just getting wedded. Raising your children to be godly is your default obligation, not some form of sacrificial service that gives you glory. This especially the case if society is supporting you as a father and husband; in that case, you are discharging your debt to society.
Look, people, here's an analogy: Let's suppose some employer says to me, "Man, we could really use you for a position on the executive team, so why don't you go back to school and get a degree for us?" The problem is that I can't afford the tuition for an advanced degree. So what would you advise my employer to do? Sweeten the pot for me?
But on whom does the obligation fall once I take the bait? Suppose some individuals in my faith tradition pay for my tuition so I can get a degree in theology. Do I get to march into some dean's office and demand a gold-plated plaque for the late nights I spent doing homework? As it is, the individuals that paid for my tuition would probably expect me to take a position for several years in some capacity that benefits the church community. That plaque would have to wait.
Or think about this scenario: I'm an independent contractor and a guy named Al calls me over to his nice home. Al says to me, "I'll pay you $50 to remove a pile of gravel from my back yard." I say, "Sorry, but my regular price is at least $150." About that time, a guy named Steve drives up in his pick-up truck. He strolls up gingerly to the both of us and hears a bit of the conversation. Steve says, "Hey, Al. Don't worry, man. I'll do it for free." Al says, "Wow! You don't see generosity like this anymore. Steve, you are a real man!" Steve looks at me, cracks a smile, and quips, "Well, Anakin, you heard what Al said!" I reply, "Yeah, I heard what Al said. But Steve, what you really are is a tool if you have that kind of attitude. Al could have just as easily moved this pile himself or paid me to do it. In fact, he's paid me in the past for these kind of jobs. And here's the thing, Steve. I know you are not doing this purely out of the goodness of your heart. Why? Because last week, you were telling me how you needed some gravel for your driveway. So you're shoveling this pile of gravel for free. What do you want? A biscuit, dude?"
Do you see where I am going with my analogies? Marriage is not a marker of anything except that you got lucky with a member of the opposite sex. And for some married men, they would probably question the part about "getting lucky." Marriage and family have perks and privileges, and they come with obligations. If you're married, you're not entitled to a train load of biscuits. Married people have picked their pile of gravel. Nobody forced them to take the pile. If you want me to shovel the pile, then be prepared to pay me. If a chivalrous dude wants to volunteer to shovel it for free so he can use it for his driveway, then he can't gripe afterwards if no one offers him a dollar or a round of applause. And he can't call me a lesser man than him because I didn't shovel a pile that I had no duty to shovel. After all, maybe I don't want a gravel driveway. The married man gets his driveway, and the single man gets to walk away from a sweaty job. Sounds fair to me.