Hi, this is Pastor Ken and I want to welcome you once again to the Monday Marriage Message. This will be the sixth installment in my series on Marital Conflicts between Worldly Wisdom vs. Wordly Wisdom.

When it comes to marriage, we do a lot of things differently than we did before we got married. We consider things we never did before. We choose differently than we did as a single person. When we interact with our spouse, most of us react to them differently than we might toward anyone else…at least on the outside. Why is this? On the surface that may seem to be a silly question, but in reality it is one of the more serious questions we can ask. People who enjoy highly successful marriages ask that question and recognize it requires an answer.

Worldly wisdom has many answers to the questions, “Why do we act differently after marrying than we did previously?” and, “Why do we react differently toward our spouse than with many other people”. More than a few men are likely to respond “Happy wife…Happy life.” Though they are attempting to be humorous, worldly wisdom, common sense has taught them there is a modicum of truth to that answer. If you ask many women why they respond differently toward their husbands, they might say, “To keep the peace” or “I’m just trying not to rock the boat”. These answers and most others to these questions reveal a deeper truth. When it comes to marriage worldly wisdom indicates that the motivation for acting differently as a married person ultimately is to keep your spouse happy.

So what’s the problem with that? Sounds like a pretty selfless thing to do. Shouldn’t we want to keep our spouse happy? Isn’t it right to try to give them what they want? Shouldn’t we interact with our spouse differently than we might with others? At first glance those responses might seem right and to make good sense, but probe a little deeper and a less than righteous motive begins to surface. Why do we want to keep our spouse happy? The answer to that question is as plain as day in the various answers people give to my original question. “Happy wife…Happy life”…is the goal more to have a happy wife…or the resulting happy life that can be enjoyed if she is happy? “Trying to avoid rocking the boat, or keeping the peace”…Who exactly is it you are hoping will enjoy some peace? The fact of the matter is, if we act differently after marrying, and we are following the common sense narrative that our goal ought to be to keep our spouse happy, we are deluding ourselves. Those thoughts are self-righteous cop-outs for our real motives. We want a happy life…we want a little peace and quiet, we want…we want…we want. All of the sudden it doesn’t seem to be such a selfless approach. Sounds like not much has changed actually. Before we get married, we do things to enjoy peace and happiness, after we marry, it seems we try to keep someone else placated, so we can we can continue to enjoy peace and happiness. Sorry to wake you from living the dream.

So, what is the difference between that attitude and Wordly Wisdom? Motive. When we look at what God has to say about how we should act toward our spouse after we marry, the key difference is motive. Today I want to share just a few of God’s instructions to married people. I am intentionally selecting specific ones that are difficult for people to accept. Why choose these? The fact of the matter is that if we can wrap our minds and hearts around the correct motivation for the most difficult of instructions, the remainder of them become much easier.

Eph 5:33 says, Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. This scripture gives two distinctly different marital directives, one to the husband the other to the wife. They are distinct because they are specific as to who must do what. The commands are different for the husband and the wife, and they are difficult on numerous levels. When we break it down there is a lot in this short verse.

Nevertheless, as in always…under any circumstances…never allowing for less than this…let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself. This means that every husband must meet their wife’s specific needs as an act of love. This scriptural instruction is given as an imperative. In other words, it is without caveat. There is no situation where this command is waived. Husbands must always love their wife by meeting her specific needs regardless of how loveable…or unlovable she might seem at any given time. To the wife, the command is shorter but no simpler. Let the wife see that…again, there is no alternative offered, the command is implied to be at all times, that…she respect her husband. Again, this means that every wife must respect her husband in every situation whether he is acting in respectable ways or not. The insistence that the husband love, and the wife respect, regardless…is what makes these two commands so difficult for people to accept.

I don’t know your situation, but I know that in my own marriage these commands can be problematic. I am not always respectable, but my wife is instructed clearly, that she must respect me, without fail. Though I would argue with her, she would say she is not always lovable, and yet I am commanded that regardless, I am to love her by meeting each and every one of her specific needs. So what makes it possible to obey these two very difficult commands? Motive. If I try to love Lynn all the time by meeting her individual needs, and I attempt to do that for her, I will fail. Why? Because my motives are all wrong. Sooner than later, likely much sooner, I will revert to the worldly motive of making her happy so I can be happy. If she tries to respect me at all times, for my sake, she will also eventually fail, and her motive will wrongly become to keep the peace…ultimately her own peace. The two of us must keep in mind that the command to love does not come from her, and the command to respect does not come from me. Both of those commands come from God himself through His word. With that understanding, our motives are corrected. When I am being loving toward Lynn…I am loving her for God, the One who asked me to. When Lynn is being respectful toward me…she is not doing that for me, she is doing it for her Lord who asked her to. We each get the benefit of the other’s obedience, but their obedience is an act of worship before the Lord. God’s word says this is how it should be. 1 Samuel 15:22 says …“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams”.

Another scriptural instruction for married people that gives them great difficulty in our present day and age is 1 Cor. 7:4. That bit of Wordly Wisdom says this, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Talk about a scripture that flies in the face of our present culture’s belief system! Worldly wisdom dictates the mottos we hear shouted with conviction regularly these days like, “My body, my choice”, God’s word says…not so fast. As the founder of the “One Flesh” marital relationship, God recognizes that we cannot become one with another and yet retain personal autonomy. In a sense when Lynn and I chose to ask God to make us one, I gave my authority over my own body to Lynn and she gave authority over her body to me. We did not simply exchange authority over our bodies, that would simply reverse roles, leaving the question of autonomy intact and leaving us exposed to the other’s selfishness. In effect, I gave authority over my body to the oneness of our marriage of which Lynn is an equal voice, and she gave the authority over her body to that same marital entity of which I am an equal member. As a result, autonomy isn’t even a consideration. When this scripture is viewed correctly all of the arguments used against it fall away. If adhered to as intended, our personal autonomy doesn’t enter the equation, and as a result sinful action like abuse, manipulation, and any other misuse of this scripture to cause harm, become impossible.

Again, correct motivation is what makes this work. As in the example a few moments ago, the command for authority over the other’s body does not come from one another…it comes from God. If we give authority over our own bodies to the marriage, and we do it in response to God, our motivation is to please Him. With correct motivation, selfishness toward our spouse is abated and selflessness toward God takes its place. As before, our spouse enjoys the benefit, but it is not done for our spouse…it is done for our God.

The Apostle Paul summed up the question of correct motivation for us in Col 3:18-19,23-24. In the New Living Translation these verses read as follows: Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly… Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for [one another]. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Questions to answer:

  • Do you recognize the selfish motivations behind ideas like “Happy wife, happy life” and “Just trying to keep the peace”?
  • When you think about it, do you find that your motivation for doing the right thing is sometimes wrong?
  • What differences do you think it would make if you and your spouse were to become intentional about doing the things the Bible says you should in regards to your marriage, and making a point to do them for your Lord?

Actions to take:

  • When you recognize that you are disappointed because your spouse did not respond to you the way you hoped, correct your motivation by reminding yourself that you did not do whatever it was you did for your spouse…you did it because God asked you to.
  • Ask God to help you maintain a correct selfless motivation of obedience to Him as you interact with your spouse even when they do not respond in kind.

So now, being obedient to God’s commands to you as a husband or as a wife…especially the difficult ones…Go be awesome!