Finding Joy in the Gift of Marriage
“What God has yoked together let no man put apart.”—MATTHEW 19:6.
1. What familiar words of Jesus are well known in Christendom, but what questions are there in connection therewith?
ARE those words familiar to you? They are no doubt familiar to millions of people in Christendom, who make up a large portion of the world’s population, for they are the words of the Lord Jesus as he spoke to the religious Pharisees of his day. While the words may be familiar, what about the meaning of the statement of Jesus? Is the import of such advice followed by mankind in general? Let us see.
2-4. (a) What is the situation today in many lands as far as heeding Jesus’ words at Matthew 19:6 is concerned? (b) What attitude is revealed by those who ignore the Bible’s advice on the permanency of marriage?
2 In many lands today, there is very little regard on the part of the people for the marriage arrangement and for continuing that which God has yoked together. Divorce has reached what could be described as epidemic proportions in country after country. In lands where divorce is not legally permitted by the government, the picture is no brighter, for in such lands people often leave marriage mates and take up living with someone else. So the worthy advice of Jesus at Matthew 19:6 is not being heeded by millions of people in Christendom and elsewhere. Is this because the advice Jesus gave is bad, or is it because people do not listen when Jesus speaks, and they care little about the advice of Jesus in this regard?
3 The evidence is that a large percentage of people do not view marriage as a lifetime contract if it interferes with their own life-styles and desires. To such ones, a marriage need be only a temporary arrangement if it interferes with one’s pursuits, likes, or dislikes. So it would almost seem that as easily as one sheds a coat or a hat, others shed a marriage mate, never thinking for a moment about the advice Jesus gave to those who enter into the marriage relationship.
4 With this everybody’s-doing-it attitude so prevalent, those wishing to follow the secure advice of the Bible can be influenced in a manner that leads them away from the good teaching of God’s Word. Fine counsel is given by the printed page and orally, but failure to heed the Bible’s advice can lead to marriage problems. (Compare Psalm 19:7-11.) If we adopt the attitude that anything in marriage interfering with our life-style, our pleasures, our desires, can be changed by our not abiding by God’s directions on marriage, then we are in danger. To have such an attitude brings us face to face with one of mankind’s greatest problems, that of selfishness. For generally it is selfishness that lies at the root of marriage problems. Why do we say that?
The Role of Sin
5. How does the apostle Paul at Romans 7:15-20 outline the problem we have as a result of being born in sin?
5 Men and women, offspring of Adam and Eve, are born in sin and imperfection. This means that because of the inheritance of sin, man misses the mark and is lawless to one degree or another. (1 John 3:4) The apostle Paul spoke of the tremendous burden sin places upon mankind, for he found himself doing what he did not want to do and not doing what he should do. (Romans 7:15-20) Anyone deliberately breaking God’s law is selfish. With some individuals it may be selfishness on a small scale, but with others it becomes the total way of life, and their selfishness becomes gross.
6, 7. What are two problems selfishness causes in marriage, leading us to what logical question?
6 In the arrangement of marriage instituted by God, it is selfishness that is often at the root of a problem between marriage mates. The woman who wants to be waited on hand and foot, as the expression goes, as she may have been spoiled by her mother or father, is basically selfish. The man who wants to continue a life-style of singleness, that of always being with the “boys” after his marriage, is basically selfish. Think about all the ways in which husband and wife have differences, and you will see that selfishness is at the root of so many of the problems.
7 In striving to cope with the problems occurring in marriage, how does one overcome this inborn tendency toward selfishness? There are a number of things that can be done and which, when applied, can help a marriage that is foundering. But each partner in the marriage arrangement has to be willing to do his or her share. It is not a one-way street. Let us examine some of the factors involved.
Unselfishness in Marriage
8. How is marriage a sharing?
8 Marriage is a sharing, meaning that neither marriage partner can take the other for granted and feel that only as long as one of the partners gives and the other takes will all be well. That will not work to the blessing of either. For example, the relatives on both sides have to be taken into consideration. This should not be allowed to become a sore point in the marriage arrangement, so that one’s own parents or other relatives are taken into consideration and not those of one’s mate. Where a family will spend vacations or other periods of relaxation should not always be one-sided decisions. Thoughtful concern shown in such matters will help make a marriage successful. Never take each other for granted but display unselfishness.—Philippians 2:4.
The Age Factor
9. To what unfortunate results does a light view of marriage lead?
9 Because of the prevailing view among many of this generation that if a marriage does not work out it can be terminated in divorce, many young people start out with that light view of the marriage arrangement. This can and does lead to breakups of many teenage marriages. It also leads to bringing many unwanted children into the world. These young ones often grow up never knowing what it is to have a mother and a father who deeply love and care for them.
10. In what ways can Galatians 5:22, 23 be of help to those considering marriage?
10 How old should a person be before considering marriage? It would not be the course of wisdom to make rules on this score. Yet the Scriptures give good advice on what constitutes mental and spiritual maturity—the kind of maturity needed by those entering married life. Please read Galatians 5:22, 23, wherein you will find listed the fruitage of the spirit. Examine carefully each one of the fruits there mentioned. Those are the qualities that one needs to cultivate in life. It is not after marriage that a person should begin showing such qualities but long before in his daily life as a Christian.
11. What self-examination may be made by those contemplating marriage?
11 For example, are you a person who is joyful in life, happy to be alive, serving the interests of the Kingdom of Christ? Are you at peace with others, promoting peaceful relations with them? Or are you contentious, given to fits of anger and abusive speech? Are you long-suffering, able to put up with the weaknesses of your brother or sister, mother or father? Or are you short-tempered and prone to anger if others do not immediately line up with what you want? Do you find that you show kindness to others in your dealings with them, being mild and doing good to them? Or are you selfish, egotistical, lacking in self-control, apt to fly off at others with the least provocation? Have you genuine love for others, wanting to help them, going out of your way, giving of yourself and your resources to bring happiness to others? Or do you want others to show love toward you, always giving to you from their resources?
12. The man or the woman whose life has been molded prior to marriage holds what advantage?
12 It is correct to say that none of us have these qualities in a perfect way. However, the man or the woman who has been molded by some years of life, and who has had an opportunity to cultivate such spiritual qualities, is in a fine position to make a success of marriage—a much better position than that of the person who does not start trying to master these fruits of the spirit until after the marriage vows.—Compare 2 Peter 1:5-8.
13, 14. (a) What opportunity does the passage of time provide with regard to cultivating spiritual values? (b) What can parents do to assist their children?
13 Why not honestly examine yourself, your likes and dislikes? Do you not see that your appreciation for life has been enhanced by the passage of time? Did you have the same values at 13 that you had at 5, or the same values at 20 that you had at 13? Has your understanding and appreciation for life grown or lessened as you have gained greater experience over the years? Do you now, as an adult, look for the same qualities in people that you did as a child? Is it not often true that the “only” boy in a girl’s life when she is 16 or 17 years old is long forgotten as she grows to womanhood and attaches greater importance to a man’s godly traits and personality? Her view at 22 or 23 years of age will likely be centered more on the spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects of a man than on the physical characteristics. The same can be said for the young boy growing to manhood. His hopes and aspirations as far as a wife is concerned ripen as he matures. In his later years, as values change, what he will look for in a marriage mate is someone who is understanding and kind, who has ability to be a homemaker and a mother, and who has in her heart a deep-seated desire to please first her Creator, Jehovah, and to do his will.—Proverbs 31:10, 26, 27.
14 The point of the matter is that time changes a person’s outlook on values. Therefore, rushing into matrimony at a young age is fraught with many dangers. It may not be possible to persuade two very young persons to wait for some time to pass before entering into a marriage. But parents, especially in the early years of their children’s lives, can encourage them to think seriously about life, about being spiritually, emotionally, and mentally prepared for marriage before entering into a lifetime contract with another individual for better or for worse.
15. Since late marriage is not always the answer to all problems, what counsel is provided about keeping the right outlook?
15 This is not to say that marrying when one is older is the total answer either. There can be problems then as well, especially if the attitude of selfishness is allowed to creep in and drive a wedge between two people. The mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of each one in the marriage bond must be taken into consideration. Some Christians have allowed themselves to become deeply involved in secular work, to the exclusion of congregational activity, including attending meetings and sharing in the preaching and disciple-making work. Then they try to make up for what they feel is a lack in their lives by indulging in a lot of recreation. They seem to think that as long as they are occupied, their problems will somehow be solved for now, and then in the New Order of things they will get around to each other’s needs emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But life does not work that way. Paul’s advice was that a man should care for his wife as he does for his own body. (Ephesians 5:28) That means giving attention now to the needs of his mate, even as he daily gives attention to his own needs. The same can be said for the woman.
A Balanced Approach to Married Life
16-18. (a) Why is a balanced approach to life and marriage necessary, and how are we cautioned with regard to our wants and others’ needs? (b) Why is it good to ponder on such matters before marriage?
16 A balanced approach to life will assist in a balanced approach to marriage. The balanced person will realize that due to inherited selfish tendencies he must at all times work to overcome such blemishes. It is so easy never to think of the needs of others as coming before one’s personal wants. The small child wants all the toys and generally, if not properly trained by the parents, will not share these with others. His selfishness will, in later years, stretch into other fields. Thus we often find the teenagers and young adults wanting things exclusively their own way, and in their quest for satisfying their wants, they are unconcerned that others may be hurt or suffer. In later adult years, such persons are always craving what they like, not caring in the least about the needs of others.
17 The balanced person will not deprive himself entirely, but he will manage his individual life so that others, too, are taken into consideration. He will ask what he can do to assist others, to give of himself and of what he has to benefit others. He will not insist on having his own way first, last, and always. The book of Proverbs says: “The generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.”—Proverbs 11:25.
18 Following such a course in single life will be most beneficial to a person later in married life. His or her mate will always be taken into consideration in any decisions made. Rather than thinking of marriage as an experiment or a temporary arrangement, such a person will look at marriage as the permanent arrangement Jehovah God had in mind when he joined the first human pair together in Eden. (Genesis 2:22-24) At every turn, efforts will be made to keep the marriage together, to help the mate, as both grow in appreciation for God and for each other.
19-21. (a) How can we make sure we will not view marriage as just an experimental arrangement? (b) What should be borne in mind by all persons, young or old, who seek genuine happiness in marriage?
19 “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” Yes, those words of counsel by Jesus are filled with meaning for the true Christian. Marriage is no experimental arrangement that can be dropped if one finds the going difficult. We must constantly battle the imperfect flesh to keep the human tendency to selfishness in check and so gain God’s approval. (Compare Romans 7:21-25.) To make a success of the marriage contract, both partners must learn to give and take, to provide and be provided for, and never to take the other for granted.—Ephesians 5:21-23, 28, 33.
20 And while no set age can be insisted upon as a rule of law for a person wanting to get married, beyond that which is set as the legal age by government, each one can certainly bear in mind the need to grow spiritually in harmony with Galatians 5:22, 23, in order to be a well-qualified marriage mate. Time does indeed change the outlook of a person. Hence, no one should rush into marriage. First, let each one cultivate the Christian personality so as to be properly prepared for the marriage yoke. And never forget that no one should put apart that which God has joined together.—Matthew 19:4-6.
21 By taking the balanced approach to life and then to marriage, one can find genuine joy and happiness in the arrangement ordained by Jehovah God himself for man and woman, as shown by the first marriage in Eden. (Proverbs 5:18) But just what can each one further do in life to prove himself or herself prepared to take on the role of husband or wife? Read, please, what follows on this matter as regards the personality of Christian men and women.
In review, how would you answer the following?
□ What attitudes toward marriage are to be avoided?
□ How may mates cope with inborn tendencies toward sin?
□ Why should youthful Christians not rush into marriage?
□ What balanced approach to married life is recommended?
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Honest self-examination can reveal faults for us to remedy