Respect Marriage as a Gift From God
“That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.”—GEN. 2:24.
1. Why does Jehovah deserve our respect?
JEHOVAH GOD, the Originator of marriage, surely deserves our respect. As our Creator, Sovereign, and heavenly Father, he is rightly described as the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (Jas. 1:17; Rev. 4:11) This is a manifestation of his great love. (1 John 4:8) Everything he has taught us, everything he has asked of us, everything he has given to us has been only for our welfare and benefit.—Isa. 48:17.
2. What instructions did Jehovah give to the first married couple?
2 The Bible presents marriage as one of these “good” gifts from God. (Ruth 1:9; 2:12) When he performed the first wedding, Jehovah gave the couple, Adam and Eve, specific instructions on how to succeed. (Read Matthew 19:4-6.) If they had followed God’s direction, they would have enjoyed permanent happiness. However, they foolishly disregarded God’s command and suffered terrible consequences.—Gen. 3:6-13, 16-19, 23.
3, 4. (a) How are many today disrespecting both marriage and Jehovah God? (b) What examples will we consider in this article?
3 Like that first couple, many people today make marital decisions with little or no regard for Jehovah’s direction. Some reject marriage outright, while others try to redefine it to suit their own desires. (Rom. 1:24-32; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) They ignore the fact that marriage is a gift from God, and by disrespecting that gift, they also disrespect the Giver, Jehovah God.
4 At times, even some of God’s people lose clear sight of Jehovah’s view of marriage. Some Christian couples decide to separate, or they divorce without having Scriptural grounds to do so. How can this be avoided? How can God’s direction at Genesis 2:24 help married Christians to strengthen their marriage? And how can those who are contemplating marriage prepare for it? Let us look at three successful marriages in Bible times that illustrate how respect for Jehovah is a vital key to a lasting marriage.
5, 6. What situation may have tested Zechariah and Elizabeth, and how was their loyalty rewarded?
5 Zechariah and Elizabeth did all the right things. Each married a spiritually-minded partner. Zechariah faithfully carried out his priestly duties, and both of them kept God’s Law to the best of their ability. They certainly had much to be thankful for. Yet, if you had visited their home in Judah, you would have soon realized that something was missing. They had no children. Elizabeth was barren, and both of them were well up in years.—Luke 1:5-7.
6 In ancient Israel, childbearing was highly esteemed, and families were often quite large. (1 Sam. 1:2, 6, 10; Ps. 128:3, 4) An Israelite man back then might treacherously divorce his wife if she bore him no children. Zechariah, though, loyally stayed with Elizabeth. He did not look for an easy way out of their marriage, nor did his wife. Although having no children saddened them, they continued to serve Jehovah together faithfully. Miraculously, in time Jehovah richly rewarded them with the birth of a son in their old age.—Luke 1:8-14.
7. In what other way did Elizabeth prove loyal to her husband?
7 Elizabeth showed commendable loyalty in yet another way. When her son, John, was born, Zechariah could not speak because he had been struck with speechlessness for questioning God’s angel. Yet, Zechariah must have communicated to his wife in some way that Jehovah’s angel had told him to name the boy “John.” The neighbors and relatives wanted to name the boy after his father. But Elizabeth loyally upheld her husband’s direction to her. She said: “No, indeed! but he shall be called John.”—Luke 1:59-63.
8, 9. (a) How does loyalty strengthen a marriage? (b) What are some specific ways in which a husband and wife can show loyalty?
8 Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, married couples today face disappointments and other challenges. A marriage without loyalty will not flourish. Flirtation, pornography, adultery, and other threats to a wholesome marriage can irreparably destroy marital trust. And when trust within a marriage breaks down, love begins to wither. In some ways, loyalty is like a protective fence around the family home that keeps out unwelcome visitors and threats, providing a measure of security for those inside the home. Thus, when a husband and wife are loyal to each other, they can reside together safely and open their heart to each other, letting their love grow. Yes, loyalty is vital.
9 Jehovah told Adam: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife.” (Gen. 2:24) What does that mean? Former ties to friends and relatives have to be adjusted. Each mate must first give the other his or her time and attention. Friends and relatives can no longer take priority at the expense of the new family; nor should the couple allow parents to interfere in family decisions or disagreements. The couple must now stick to each other. That is God’s direction.
10. What will help marriage mates to cultivate loyalty?
10 Even in religiously divided households, loyalty brings rewards. A sister with an unbelieving mate says: “I am so thankful to Jehovah for teaching me how to be in subjection to my husband and have deep respect for him. Staying loyal has resulted in 47 years of sustained love and respect.” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11; 1 Pet. 3:1, 2) So work hard to make your marriage mate feel secure. By your words and actions, look for ways to reassure your mate that to you, he or she is the most important person on earth. To the extent that it depends on you, do not let anyone or anything come between you and your mate. (Read Proverbs 5:15-20.) Ron and Jeannette, who have been happily married for over 35 years, say, “Because we loyally do what God requires of us, we have a happy, successful marriage.”
Unity Strengthens Marriage
11, 12. How did Aquila and Priscilla cooperate (a) at home, (b) in their secular work, and (c) in the Christian ministry?
11 When the apostle Paul spoke about his close friends Aquila and Priscilla, he did not mention one without the other. This united couple is a good example of what God meant when he said that a husband and a wife should become “one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) They constantly worked together in their home, in their secular work, and in the Christian ministry. For example, when Paul first arrived in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla kindly invited him to stay in their home, which he apparently used for a time thereafter as a base for his activities. Later, in Ephesus, they used their home for holding congregation meetings and worked together to help new ones, such as Apollos, to grow spiritually. (Acts 18:2, 18-26) This zealous couple then went to Rome, where they again opened their home for congregation meetings. Later, they returned to Ephesus, strengthening the brothers.—Rom. 16:3-5.
12 For a time, Aquila and Priscilla also worked with Paul in their common trade, tentmaking. Again, we find the couple together, cooperating without competition or strife. (Acts 18:3) Surely, though, it was the time they spent together in Christian activities that kept their marriage on a high spiritual plane. Whether in Corinth, Ephesus, or Rome, they became widely known as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 16:3) They worked side by side to further the Kingdom-preaching work wherever they served.
13, 14. (a) What situations can work against unity in a marriage? (b) What are some things marriage mates can do to strengthen their bond as “one flesh”?
13 Indeed, unity in goals and activities strengthens a marriage. (Eccl. 4:9, 10) Unfortunately, many couples today spend little time together. They work long hours at their separate jobs. Others travel extensively for their secular work or move abroad alone to work to send money back home. Even at home, some marriage partners find themselves isolated from each other because of the time they spend on television, hobbies, sports, video games, or the Internet. Is that true in your household? If so, can you adjust your circumstances to spend more time together? What about sharing in such common tasks as preparing meals, washing the dishes, or working in the yard? Could you work together as you care for the children or assist your aging parents?
14 Most important, regularly spend time together in activities related to worship of Jehovah. Discussing the daily text together and sharing in family worship provide excellent opportunities to keep your family’s thinking and goals aligned. Also share together in the ministry. If possible, try pioneering together, even if your circumstances allow you to do it only for one month or one year. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:58.) A sister who pioneered with her husband says: “The ministry was one of the ways we could spend time together and really talk. Because we both had the common goal of helping others spiritually, I felt that we were a real team. I felt closer to him not just as a husband but also as a good friend.” As you work together in worthwhile pursuits, your interests, priorities, and habits will gradually harmonize with those of your spouse until, like Aquila and Priscilla, you will increasingly think, feel, and act as “one flesh.”
Let Spirituality Guide You
15. What is the key to a successful marriage? Explain.
15 Jesus knew the importance of putting God first in marriage. He saw Jehovah perform the first wedding. He observed how happy Adam and Eve were as long as they followed God’s direction, and he saw firsthand the trouble that resulted when they ignored it. So when Jesus taught others, he echoed his Father’s instruction found at Genesis 2:24. He also added this thought: “What God has yoked together let no man put apart.” (Matt. 19:6) Deep respect for Jehovah, therefore, is still the key to a happy, successful marriage. In this regard, Jesus’ earthly parents, Joseph and Mary, set an outstanding example.
16. How did Joseph and Mary manifest spirituality in their family life?
16 Joseph was kind and respectful toward Mary. When he first learned that she was pregnant, he wanted to deal mercifully with her, even before God’s angel explained to him what had happened to Mary. (Matt. 1:18-20) As a couple, they obeyed Caesar’s decree and also closely adhered to the Mosaic Law. (Luke 2:1-5, 21, 22) And although only men were required to attend the major religious festivals in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary, together with members of their family, attended each year. (Deut. 16:16; Luke 2:41) In these and other ways, this godly couple endeavored to please Jehovah and showed deep respect for spiritual things. It is no wonder that Jehovah had chosen them to care for his Son during the first part of Jesus’ earthly life.
17, 18. (a) In what ways can a couple put spirituality first in their family? (b) How will this benefit them?
17 Does spirituality similarly guide your family life? For example, when you make important decisions, do you first research Bible principles, pray about the matter, and then seek advice from a mature Christian? Or do you tend to resolve problems by following your own feelings or those of family and friends? Do you strive to put into practice the many practical suggestions published by the faithful slave on marriage and family life? Or do you find yourself simply following local customs or popular secular advice? Do you regularly pray and study together, set spiritual goals, and talk about your family’s priorities?
18 Regarding their 50 years of happy married life, Ray says, “We have never had a problem we could not overcome, because we kept Jehovah as part of our ‘threefold cord.’” (Read Ecclesiastes 4:12.) Danny and Trina agree. “As we have served God together,” they say, “our marriage has become stronger.” They have been happily married for more than 34 years. If you always put Jehovah first in your marriage, he will help you to succeed and will richly bless you.—Ps. 127:1.
Continue to Respect God’s Gift
19. Why did God provide the gift of marriage?
19 For many today, the only thing that matters is their personal happiness. But a servant of Jehovah sees things differently. He knows that God provided marriage as a gift to further His purpose. (Gen. 1:26-28) If Adam and Eve had respected that gift, the whole earth would have become a paradise filled with happy, righteous servants of God.
20, 21. (a) Why should we treat marriage as sacred? (b) What gift will we study about next week?
20 Above all, God’s servants see marriage as an opportunity to bring glory to Jehovah. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:31.) As we have seen, loyalty, unity, and spirituality are godly qualities that fortify a marriage. So whether we are preparing for, strengthening, or trying to save our marriage, we must first see marriage for what it is: a divine and sacred institution. Keeping that truth in mind will move us to do our best to make marital decisions based on God’s Word. In this way we show respect not just for the gift of marriage but also for the Giver of that gift, Jehovah God.
21 Marriage, of course, is not the only gift Jehovah has given us; nor is it the only road to happiness in life. In our next article, we will look at yet another precious gift from God—the gift of singleness.
How Would You Answer?
• How should loyalty influence married Christians?
• Why will working together in unity strengthen a marriage?
• What are some ways married people can let spirituality guide them?
• How can we show respect for Jehovah, the Originator of marriage?
[Pictures on page 15]
Working together helps couples to stay united