Whom Should I Marry?
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 17 February 2001
A couple of weeks ago we began a study on how to know who to marry and we drew up a five-part list of vitally important principles to follow. The first and most obvious in our list was Choose a Believer and we saw that this was not only what God expects of us but it was the only choice that was common sense. The second principle we discussed was Trust God to do the providing, remembering that only He has see prophetically into the future and that only He actually knows what is best for us. We saw that patiently waiting for your partner is well worth the wait - making a mistake in marriage can ruin you for life.
In many respects when we are looking for a husband or a wife we are walking blind. People are so complicated and there are few who do not have secrets that they wouldn't rather reveal later than now. Spending time getting to know a potential spouse as a friend is vital. These days people start with sex and try to form friendship afterwards - in God's system it must be the other way round. Because we can't see into the future when it comes to marriage, and since God can, it is very, very important that we are walking with Him. If you are a blind person who owns a specially trained dog, it's no use going for a walk until you have harnessed the dog. Similarly, there's no point being a believer and expecting God to lead you to your companion if you're harnessed to God in other matters. We need to know Yahweh so well that when He speaks to us we can discern Him. All too often people are waylaid by their own passions or the whisperings of demons. Needless to say if we haven't got our spiritual walk with the Lord right the chances are we're not going to hear Him and make some pretty serious mistakes.
So how do I know whether I'm trusting the Lord or not? I would suggest that there are three ways we can measure this: (1) Whether we are living in obedience to His commandments; (2) Whether we are growing in our relationship with Yah'shua (Jesus); and (3) Whether we have learned to be content with out situation as it is at any one moment. Listen to what Paul says:
"...I have learned to make ends meet in whatever situation I am. I know how to live simply and I know how to enjoy prosperity. I am acquainted with all circumstances: to be filled up and to be hungry, to have abundance and to suffer want. I have strength for every situation through [Christ] who empowers me" (Phil.4:11b-13, RBV).
Learning to be content whether we are single or married as we search or after the search is completed is very important.
3. Consider Character
The third principle I wish to move on to in the search for a husband or a wife is character. What do I mean by that? Well let me ask you some questions to give you some idea of what I mean. If you had a serious heart condition, what sort of surgeon would you want to perform an operation in you? How about a drug addict? Or a psychopathic killer? Or someone who cheated his medical examinations? Well, common sense is enough to tell you that you wouldn't want a doctor who was like any of these people. If you are going to entrust your life to a surgeon, you want it to be someone you can have confidence in because he has solid character.
In looking for the right husband or wife you need to be sure that he or she has the right qualifications. Now I'm not suggesting that you hand out a question-and-answer form to every potential husband or wife you meet and get them to fill it in! Most people - and especially young ones - have a distorted view of themselves which isn't necessarily accurate. No, what I mean is, that you should be looking for certain character traits in your potential partner. And finally remember this: what you expect of others should also be evident in your own life. Expecting a partner to be patient when you aren't would be a bit hypocritical, wouldn't it?
When Abraham's Eliezer prayed to know which woman he should approach for his master's son, he wasn't looking for arbitrary signs. He wasn't looking for visions or voices to tell him what to do. He wasn't looking for beauty or wealth. As we read the account in Genesis chapter 24 we discover that he was looking for three essential character traits:
(1) He was looking for a woman who was submissive;
(2) he was looking for a woman who was humble; and
(3) he was looking for a woman who had a servant attitude.
Now these three traits may surprise you. Certainly you won't find men and women advertising for these things in dating agencies these days. Mostly people are focussed on all the wrong things. But a godly man or woman who is looking for a believer and who is trusting in Yahweh will be looking for these three character traits. It was only when Rebekah fulfilled these character traits that Eliezer even bothered to ask the Lord is she was the right one. (Gen.24:21). Only once Eliezer was sure that she had these traits by carefully observing her did he even consider her as a possible wife for his Master's son Isaac. A person with these character traits is going to be sensitive to God's will and walk in the right direction in life. So important are these character traits that we must consider them carefully.
a. Submissiveness. The last thing a modern woman wants to be is submissive to a man and the last thing a modern man wants to be is submissive to God. But submissive is probably the key hallmark of a son or daughter of God. To be submissive means not insisting on your own way or your own "rights". It is absolutely the quality of an obedient Christian or either sex. Every single man or woman of God in Scripture had this disposition. To be submissive to God implies a deep respect of him. To be submissive to a husband means to have a deep godly respect for him also.
b. Humility. The second character of a godly person is humility. Arrogance, boasting and showing off are not of God but demonstrate a personality deeply rooted in self and in the carnal nature. To be humble is to be free from pride. It is to have a modest estimate of one's own worth. A humble person is conscious of his imperfections and sinfulness, and freely admits them. The opposite is a proud and haughty person who never admits he is wrong and who is always boasting of what he is or what he is going to be. Humility does not show off like that or try to get attention by parading itself. Yah'shua (Jesus) taught that "whoever humbles himself as a child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.18:4, NASB). And He gave this warning: " ... whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Lk.14:11, NASB).
c. A Servant Attitude. Flowing from these two Christian character traits is a Servant Attitude. That means that he is not waiting for people to do things for him but is eager to do things for others. Yah'shua (Jesus) taught the importance of this so many times. Once He said: "If I, then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you should also do as I did to you" (Jn.13:14, NASB). If you want to marry a person because of what he or she can give you, then your motives are completely the wrong way round! A Christian marries a person he loves because he wishes to serve her in the Lord.
Paul said: "... do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation ... Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself" (Rom.12:16; Phil.2:3, NASB). And if you are in any doubt, James said: "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas.4:6, NASB).
Some of you may be surprised that I am laying such a heavy emphasis on these three character traits because the world certainly doesn't. But the emphasis isn't mine - it's God's.
d. Sexual purity. Now Rebekah, as it happens, was beautiful, but this was not a primary consideration. She had a fourth virtue that weighed very heavily in her favour, namely, he was a virgin (Gen.24:16). She had kept herself sexually pure. So serious a crime was the hiding of sexual impurity at the time of marriage that by the Law of Moses someone doing so could be executed (Dt.5:18; 22:13-21). That is how important God considers sexual purity to be. A person who regards sex as cheap, as a mere entertainment commodity, isn't worthy of even a second glance, because such a person is likely to defile you and betray you. Remember that one of the surest ways of demonic contamination is through unclean sex.
Submissiveness, humility, service-mindedness, and sexual purity are revealed as four vital character traits in a potential husband or a wife. I true Christian will not even consider someone who does not have these four virtues. What other character traits does God expect the believer to seek in another?
e. Devotion to Christ. We have already established that a Christian should be looking for a fellow believer, but being a believer isn't enough. What we do reveals what sort of Christian we are. The fifth character trait must be devotion to Christ. You should settle for no less than a believer who is spiritually sensitive to the Lord and desires to live for Christ as opposed for himself (2 Cor.6:14-18; Eph.4:17-5:20; Phil.3:7-16; 1 Jn.2:15-17).
f. Right priorities. What if the potential man or woman has all these character traits? What should I be looking for next? The Scriptures make it perfectly clear that you should not commit your life to a person who is seeking for wealth, pleasure or popularity (Eccl.2:1-11; 5:8-17; 6:1-12; Mt.6:33; Rom.12:2; 1 Tim.6:10; Heb.13:5). In other words, you should be looking for a person who has right priorities. There is nothing wrong in having money, pleasure or being popular, but there is something wrong when you actively seek for these things, because they always lead a soul off the path of discipleship.
g. Right beliefs. The seventh character trait is one of faithfulness to the truth. Don't go and marry a heretic! You don't have to agree on every minor issue, but make sure that you are agreed on all the fundamental biblical doctrines and practices. Don't marry a Christian who is dabbling in the occult or who doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ, for example (1 Jn.4:1-6).
h. Commitment to church. As I have pointed out so many times, there is no such thing as a solo Christian. Find a person committed to active church life. It doesn't matter whether it's a big fellowship or a tiny one so long as they are active in a fellowship of other believers. Discipleship is not spiritual solitaire. Christ designed the church to meet our needs and for us to serve others. People who aren't involved in a church rarely serve other believers. You should agree on this issue with your future mate (Eph.4:1-16; Heb.10:24-25). Christians who stay at home by themselves are usually spiritually dead Christians.
i. Loving attitude. Trait number nine is a loving attitude. This is the most basic characteristic that every believer should possess (Jn.13:35; Gal.5:22; 1 Jn.3:11-20). You might think this is obvious but you'd be surprised how many people get attracted to unloving people because of infatuation or some other factor. False people often try to lure members of the opposite sex by hiding one or more bad character traits by focusing on good ones. Never marry a cold-hearted man or woman because it will crucify your marriage. A loveless marriage is one of the worst things imaginable. The Bible warns us not to marry someone who is irritable or contentious (Prov.19:13; 21:9,19). If you feel verbally or emotionally abused - if you're always bickering - then something is seriously flawed and you have a bad match.
j. Self-control. Trait number ten is self-control. Is your potential mate easily angered? Is he or she addicted to alcohol drugs, tobacco, food, sex, work, sports, or impulse buying? (Prov.23:20-21; 25:28; Gal.5:22,23; Eph.5:15-18). The chances are such a person will be difficult to live with and create unbearable stresses.
k. Honesty. Trait number eleven is honesty. Settle for nothing less. The writer of Proverbs said that "an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips" (Prov.24:26, NIV). If a person truly loves you, he or she will show that affection with honest words.
l. Beauty below the skin. Trait number twelve is beauty ... below the skin. If the Lord looks for attractive inner qualities in a person, should be look for less? (1 Sam.16:7; Prov.11:22; 31:13; 1 Pet.3:2-5). Always remember that beauty is only skin-deep, but character goes right to the core. Obviously you don't want to be physically repulsed by your mate but that sort of attraction is not nearly as important as inner attraction.
m. Responsibility. Trait number thirteen is responsibility. Don't marry a selfish, lazy, person who lacks the desire or the means to fulfill certain responsibilities. Rebekah and her father could tell from Eliezer's gifts and his description of Isaac that he would be able to take care of her needs (Gen.24:22,35,53). That's not so say you shouldn't marry a poor person, but it does mean you shouldn't marry someone who is irresponsible with money and who won't work. You don't want your children to suffer because of negligence. Paul said that a husband who doesn't provide for his wife, children and family, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim.5:8). Never marry a sluggard (Prov.24:30-34). But lest the women think they have the right to waited on hands and feet, the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs (31:10-31) also strictly admonishes them to be industrious and, when necessary, to help with the domestic income by generating money at home. The Christian couple shall always be industrious.
n. Good relationship with parents. Trait number fourteen is the way a person relates to his parents. Don't marry someone who is disrespectful to his parents for God prizes this trait highly (Eph.6:1-3).
That is the conclusion of my list to which you may wish to add other things. But all that I have mentioned are basic to Christian marriage. As always, you must find a balance. Don't look for perfection because you'll never find it. At the same time, beware of the temptation to minimise what God expects because your heart is biased - when you are in love, there is a dangerous tendency to see your potential partner through rose-tinted lenses. Be levelheaded. If you have a deep relationship with the Lord, and if He is your first love as He is supposed to be, that won't be such a problem. Don't compromise on the basic issues but allow room for growth of character. The important question is: is the person you want to marry devoted to Christ and is allowing God to work in his or her life to become more like Yah'shua (Jesus)? If you're unsure what the word "devoted" means, it means to be loyal and dedicated to. To be devoted to Christ means to be completely true to Him. If your partner is the same way, being devoted and true to one another will come so much more easily.
Now it's obviously fine making a list like the one I have made and seeing if your potential partner matches up. But before you do, make sure you're living up to the standards in yourself. Ask yourself such questions as: Would I be a good catch for such a person? Will he or she help me in my relationship with Christ?
Having considered character, we now move to an area which is harder than you think. In choosing a partner, use wisdom. Be sensible. Don't be stupid. If you are searching for a husband or wife who meets the standards in your list, make sure you look for him in the right place. Eliezer didn't go to a pagan Canaanite visit to find Isaac a wife, did he? So where do you seriously think you are going to find a Christian made of sound character and mind?
The second point I want to make about selecting a marriage partner is absolutely not to base your choice on one sign, even if you believe this sign is from the Lord. Now you will remember that when Eliezer asked Yahweh for a sign - a young woman who would offer water to him and his camels - he didn't jump to the conclusion that Rebekah was the right one when she offered water. Even after Rebekah had passed this test, Eliezer continued to quietly observe her, and wondered if she was the right one for Isaac (Gen.24:21).
The water sign was only the first sign, and though a useful pointer, was not enough in itself. Once that sign had been fulfilled, he learned that she was from the right family. Then as he talked with her father and her brother, he noted that they were quick to give their approval. The final indication was when Rebekah gave her own approval and decided she would go. The right choice was made on the basis of a combination of many different factors. And these days, in our mixed up world, finding the right spouse may require many different factors.
My next piece of advice is don't make your decision all on your own. Get advice. Talk to mature Christians and especially your parents if they are believers. Not only did Isaac trust his father Abraham and his servant Isaac, but Rebekah trusted her father and brother.
Never suppose that our thinking processes are as objective as we may like to think, especially when we are young and even more especially if we are in love. Emotions can seriously blind us to serious character flaws in others. All the older people in this room will I am sure tell you of disastrous marriage matches and how people were blinded by passion. The Bible tells us to double-check our judgment with the counsel of people we can trust (Prov.12:15; 20:18).
Finally, don't just study the person you are interested in, but study his family and friends too. They will tell you more about him than you might at first imagine. How he gets on with his brothers and sisters will tell you volumes about his character. Does he honour his parents? Hoe do his parents and siblings treat him? Be aware that our nearest family always leave a deep mark on us.
From all this it is plain that a sensible person will not rush into either an emotional relationship or into marriage itself. Both parties need to be sure that they are right for one another and ready for a lifetime commitment (Prov.19:2; 29:20). Once you make your covenants, you are committed FOR LIFE. There's no space for experimenting. There's no thing as 'love at first sight' - infatuation at first sight, lust at first sight, yes - but not true Christ-like love. Don't believe the lies you hear in popular songs. The only thing you can catch at first sight is a superficial attraction - or a cold. Love takes time to grow and develop.
So, to summarise, here are five more keys or practical considerations:
1. Look in the right place
2. Ask the Lord for help
3. Don't base your decision on one 'sign'
4. Seek advice
5. Study the family
6. Don't rush!
Next week I'll round off with some other observations which I hope you will find helpful. As you can see, finding a spouse is neither easy nor a small matter, nor can we leave it up to chemical forces. At its heart is our relationship to the Lord Yahweh. And remember this also - that time and time again God and Christ use true marriage as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Our Church life and our marriage life are really quite inseparable for Christians because each is an expression of the other. Paul said there was a great mystery in this, and he's right: marriage is one of the foundational principles of life both now and in the eternities. After finding God, finding your spouse is the next most important decision you'll ever make in your life. Amen.
|1. Choose a Believer|
|2. Trust Yahweh|
|a. Obedience |
b. Relationship to Yah'shua
c. Be content with what you have
|3. Consider Character|
|c. A Servant attitude|
|d. Sexual purity|
|e. Devotion to Christ|
|f. Right priorities|
|h. Committment to Church|
|i. Loving attitude|
|j. Self-control |
|l. Beauty below the skin|
|n. Good relationship with parents|
|5. Get advice|
Click here to read Part 3
This page was created on 21 February 2001
Last updated on 21 February 2001
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