“A threefold cord cannot quickly be torn apart.”—ECCLESIASTES 4:12.
1, 2. (a) Regarding new marriages, what may we at times wonder, and why? (b) What questions will we discuss in this chapter?
DO YOU enjoy going to weddings? Many do, for such occasions can be very pleasant. You see the couple looking their best. Better yet, there is such joy on their faces! On this day, they are all smiles, and their future seems full of hope and promise.
2 Still, it must be admitted that in many respects the institution of marriage is in a shambles today. While we hope for the best for newly married couples, we may at times wonder: ‘Will this marriage be happy? Will it last?’ The answers to those questions will depend on whether husband and wife trust and apply God’s counsel on marriage. (Read Proverbs 3:5, 6.) They need to do so in order to remain in God’s love. Let us now focus on the Bible’s answer to these four questions: Why get married? If you marry, whom should you choose for a mate? How can you prepare for marriage? And what can help a couple to remain happily married?
WHY GET MARRIED?
3. Why would it be unwise to marry for trivial reasons?
3 Some believe that marriage is essential to happiness—that you cannot find fulfillment or joy in life unless you find a mate. That is simply untrue! Jesus, a single man, spoke of singleness as a gift and urged those who could to make room for it. (Matthew 19:11, 12) The apostle Paul too discussed the advantages of singleness. (1 Corinthians 7:32-38) Neither Jesus nor Paul made a rule in this regard; in fact, forbidding marriage is listed among “teachings of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) Still, singleness has much to offer those who want to serve Jehovah without distraction. It would not be wise, then, to marry for trivial reasons, such as peer pressure.
4. A good marriage provides what foundation for child-rearing?
4 On the other hand, are there valid reasons to get married? Yes. Marriage too is a gift from our loving God. (Read Genesis 2:18.) So it has certain advantages and the potential for bringing blessings. For instance, a good marriage is the best foundation for family life. Children need a stable environment with parents to raise them, providing love, discipline, and guidance. (Psalm 127:3; Ephesians 6:1-4) However, child-rearing is not the only reason for marriage.
5, 6. (a) According to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, what are some of the practical benefits of a close friendship? (b) How can a marriage be like a threefold cord?
5 Consider the theme scripture for this chapter along with its context: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them falls, the other can help his partner up. But what will happen to the one who falls with no one to help him up? Moreover, if two lie down together, they will stay warm, but how can just one keep warm? And someone may overpower one alone, but two together can take a stand against him. And a threefold cord cannot quickly be torn apart.”—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
6 Primarily, this passage is about the value of friendship. Marriage, of course, involves the closest of friendships. As this scripture shows, such a union can provide assistance, comfort, and protection. A marriage is especially strong if it is more than a bond between just two people. A twofold cord, as this verse implies, might be torn apart. But three strands woven or braided together would be much harder to tear apart. When pleasing Jehovah is the prime concern of both husband and wife, their marriage is like that threefold cord. Jehovah is a real part of the marriage, so the union is very strong indeed.
7, 8. (a) What counsel did Paul pen for single Christians who struggle with sexual desires? (b) The Bible gives us what realistic view of marriage?
7 Marriage is also the only context in which sexual desires can be properly satisfied. In this setting, the sexual union is rightly viewed as a source of delight. (Proverbs 5:18) When a single person is past what the Bible calls “the bloom of youth”—that time when sexual urges first become strong—he or she may still struggle with sexual desires. Uncontrolled, such desires could lead to unclean or improper conduct. Paul was inspired to pen this counsel for single people: “If they do not have self-control, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be inflamed with passion.”—1 Corinthians 7:9, 36; James 1:15.
8 Whatever reasons motivate a person to marry, it is good to be realistic. As Paul put it, those who marry “will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Married people face challenges that single people will not face. If you choose to marry, though, how can you minimize the challenges and maximize the blessings? One way is to choose a mate wisely.
WHO WOULD MAKE A GOOD MARRIAGE MATE?
9, 10. (a) How did Paul illustrate the danger of forming close bonds with unbelievers? (b) What often results from ignoring God’s counsel not to marry an unbeliever?
9 Paul was inspired to write down a vital principle that should be applied when choosing a marriage mate: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) His illustration was based on a fact of agricultural life. If two animals that differ greatly in size or strength are yoked together, both will suffer. Similarly, yoked together by marriage, a believer and an unbeliever will undoubtedly face friction and strains. If one mate wants to remain in Jehovah’s love and the other cares little or nothing about that, their priorities in life will not match, and much discomfort is likely to result. Paul thus urged Christians to marry “only in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 7:39.
10 In some cases, single Christians have come to the conclusion that an uneven yoking would be better than the loneliness they currently feel. Some decide to ignore Bible counsel, and they marry a person who does not serve Jehovah. Again and again, the outcome is sad. Such ones find themselves married to a person with whom they cannot share the most important things in life. The loneliness that results may be far greater than any that they experienced before they married. Happily, there are many thousands of single Christians who trust in and loyally adhere to divine counsel in this regard. (Read Psalm 32:8.) Though hoping to marry someday, they remain single until they find a mate among those who worship Jehovah God.
11. What can help you to choose a marriage mate wisely? (See also the box “What Am I Looking for in a Mate?”)
11 Of course, not every servant of Jehovah is automatically a suitable marriage mate. If you are considering marriage, look for someone whose personality, spiritual goals, and love for God are compatible with your own. The faithful and discreet slave has provided much food for thought on this subject, and you would do well to consider such Scriptural counsel prayerfully, letting it guide you in making this important decision.*—Read Psalm 119:105.
12. What custom regarding marriage prevails in many lands, and what Bible example offers some guidance?
12 In many lands, it is customary for parents to choose a mate for their child. It is widely agreed in those cultures that parents have the greater wisdom and experience needed to make such an important choice. Arranged marriages often work out well, as they did in Bible times. The example of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac is instructive to parents who may be in a similar position today. Money and social standing were not Abraham’s concern. Rather, he went to great lengths to find a wife for Isaac among people who worshipped Jehovah.*—Genesis 24:3, 67.
HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE?
13-15. (a) How can the principle found at Proverbs 24:27 help a young man who is thinking about marriage? (b) What can a young woman do to prepare for marriage?
13 If you are thinking seriously about marriage, you would do well to ask yourself, ‘Am I really ready?’ The answer does not simply lie in your feelings about love, sex, companionship, or child rearing. Rather, there are specific goals that each prospective husband or wife should think about.
14 A young man who seeks a wife should think carefully about this principle: “Prepare your outside work, and get everything ready in the field; then build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27) What is the point? In those days, if a man wanted to establish a family by getting married, he needed to ask himself, ‘Am I ready to care for and support a wife and any children who might come along?’ He had to work first, caring for his fields, or crops. The same principle applies today. A man who wants to marry needs to prepare for the responsibility. As long as he is physically able, he will have to work. God’s Word indicates that a man who does not care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of his family is worse than one without faith!—Read 1 Timothy 5:8.
15 A woman who decides to marry is likewise agreeing to shoulder a number of weighty responsibilities. The Bible praises some of the skills and qualities that a wife may need as she helps her husband and cares for her household. (Proverbs 31:10-31) Men and women who rush into marriage without preparing to take on the responsibilities involved are really being selfish, failing to think of what they can offer a potential mate. Most of all, though, those contemplating marriage need to be prepared spiritually.
16, 17. Those preparing for marriage should meditate on what Scriptural principles?
16 Preparing for marriage involves meditating on the roles that God has assigned to husband and wife. A man needs to know what it means to be the head of a Christian household. This role is not a license to act as a tyrant. Rather, he must imitate the manner in which Jesus exercises headship. (Ephesians 5:23) Likewise, a Christian woman needs to understand the dignified role of the wife. Will she be willing to submit to “the law of her husband”? (Romans 7:2) She is already under the law of Jehovah and of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) Her husband’s authority in the household represents another law. Can she be supportive and submissive when it comes to the authority of an imperfect man? If that prospect is not appealing, she does well to refrain from marrying.
17 Further, each mate needs to be ready to care for the special needs of the other. (Read Philippians 2:4.) Paul wrote: “Each one of you must love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” Under divine inspiration, Paul saw that the man has a special need to sense his wife’s deep respect for him. And the woman has a special need to feel loved by her husband.—Ephesians 5:21-33.
During courtship, many couples wisely arrange for a chaperone
18. Why should couples exercise self-control during courtship?
18 Courtship, then, is not merely a time to have fun. It is a time for a man and a woman to learn how to deal properly with each other, to see whether marriage would be a wise choice. It is also a time to exercise self-control! The temptation to become physically intimate can be very strong—after all, the attraction is natural. However, those who truly love each other will avoid any acts that could harm a loved one spiritually. (1 Thessalonians 4:6) So if you are courting, exercise self-control; you can benefit from that quality throughout your life, whether you marry or not.
HOW CAN YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE LAST?
19, 20. How should a Christian’s view of marriage differ from that of many in today’s world? Illustrate.
19 If a couple is to make their marriage last, they need to have the right view of commitment. In novels and movies, a marriage often provides the happy ending that people crave. In real life, though, marriage is not an ending; it is a beginning—the start of something that Jehovah designed to last. (Genesis 2:24) Sadly, that is not the common view in today’s world. In some cultures, people speak of marrying as “tying the knot.” They may not realize how aptly that illustration describes the common view of marriage. How so? While a good knot should hold fast as long as it is needed, another key requirement is that it can be tied and untied with ease.
20 Many today see marriage as temporary. They enter into it readily enough because they think that it will suit their needs, but they expect to be able to get out of it as soon as it seems to be challenging. Remember, though, the illustration that the Bible uses for a bond such as marriage—the cord. Cords or ropes made for sailing ships are designed to last, never to fray or unravel, even in the harshest storm. Likewise, marriage is designed to endure. Remember, Jesus said: “What God has yoked together, let no man put apart.” (Matthew 19:6) If you marry, you need to have the same view of marriage. Does that kind of commitment turn marriage into a burden? No.
21. A husband and wife need to maintain what attitude toward each other, and what may help them to do so?
21 A husband and wife need to maintain the right view of each other. If each one strives to focus on the good qualities and efforts of the other, the marriage will be a source of joy and refreshment. Is it unrealistic to have such a positive view of an imperfect mate? Jehovah is never unrealistic, yet we count on him to maintain a positive view of us. The psalmist asked: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, then who, O Jehovah, could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) Husbands and wives need to have a similarly positive and forgiving view of each other.—Read Colossians 3:13.
22, 23. How did Abraham and Sarah set a good example for married people today?
22 Marriage can become a greater blessing as it endures over the years. The Bible shows us the marriage of Abraham and Sarah when they were an elderly couple. Their life was by no means free of hardships and challenges. Imagine what it was like for Sarah, a woman possibly in her 60’s, to leave her comfortable home in the prosperous city of Ur and take up dwelling in tents for the rest of her life. Yet, she submitted to her husband’s headship. A true complement and helper to Abraham, she respectfully helped to make his decisions work. And her subjection was not superficial. Even “to herself” she referred to her husband as her lord. (Genesis 18:12; 1 Peter 3:6) Her respect for Abraham came from the heart.
23 Of course, that does not mean that Abraham and Sarah always saw things the same way. She once made a suggestion that was “very displeasing” to Abraham. Still, at Jehovah’s direction, Abraham humbly listened to the voice of his wife, which turned out to be a blessing to the family. (Genesis 21:9-13) Husbands and wives today, even those married for decades, can learn much from this godly couple.
24. What kind of marriages reflect well on Jehovah God, and why?
24 In the Christian congregation, there are many thousands of happy marriages—marriages in which the wife deeply respects her husband, the husband loves and honors his wife, and both work together to put the doing of Jehovah’s will first in all things. If you decide to marry, may you choose your mate wisely, prepare well for marriage, and work at a peaceful, loving marriage that brings honor to Jehovah God. In that case, your marriage will certainly help you to remain in God’s love.
See chapter 2 of The Secret of Family Happiness, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Some faithful patriarchs had more than one wife. When Jehovah dealt with the patriarchs and with fleshly Israel, he tolerated the practice of polygamy. He did not institute it, but he did regulate it. However, Christians keep in mind that Jehovah no longer allows polygamy among his worshippers.—Matthew 19:9; 1 Timothy 3:2.