This study can be used as an individual personal enrichment, or in the context of a small group or Bible study setting. There are questions throughout that lend this material to a curriculum or discussion opportunity.
Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefits from their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
A partnership may be either a very good thing or a very bad thing. If partners are well matched and work together for a common goal, they each share in the good results of their efforts. If partners do not work well together and have conflicting interests, either one or both will be stuck with his or her portion of an unhappy outcome.
Marriage is a partnership that God intends to last for a lifetime. It is, therefore, extremely important to choose a life partner with whom one is well matched. But how can a Christian woman be sure that the man she marries will be a “good” choice?
Because people may change over the course of time—either for the better or for the worse—there is no fool-proof way to assure a good marriage. But there are some observations a woman can make during courtship or dating and some questions she should ask which may help to reduce her risk of entering into an unhappy partnership for life. In this study, we will look at qualities and behaviors in a man that make him a good risk for Christian marriage as well as qualities and behaviors that serve as warning flags of poor husband material.
This study is intended to be interactive, with answers to find in Scripture verses and observations about your current boyfriend to record. You may write your answers on a separate sheet of paper or download and print the Microsoft Word document and record your responses directly on those pages.
Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
The apostle Paul gives a very strong warning in this passage regarding partnerships between believers and unbelievers. Though this principle of not being “unequally yoked” may also apply to other binding associations (a business partnership, for example) it is clear that Paul intends it as a rule for marriage partnerships.
Sadly, there are some men who claim to be Christians, yet they do not truly live as “temple[s] of the living God.” To be a temple of God, a man must have the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Let’s take a look at a way to discern whether or not the Holy Spirit really resides in a man.
Read Galatians 5:22-23.
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a man, there are nine character qualities which should become a prominent part of who he is and how he interacts with other people.
All of us should be in the process of producing greater and greater evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Certainly no man will perfectly display all of these qualities all the time, but if you do not see at least some evidence of their existence and growth, you may conclude that this man is not truly walking with God and is, therefore, not a good candidate for a husband.
The Bible provides some clues that will help in discerning the presence or absence of the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life. The writers of the Proverbs—mostly King Solomon, but also several others—make many insightful observations that lend clarity to the way these qualities should be evidenced in a godly lifestyle. We will examine each of these spiritual fruit individually, then explore several other aspects of good character that the Proverbs and other portions of Scripture address.
The questions that follow are designed to examine the behaviors and habits of men who are on the threshold of adulthood (early-twenties) or well into adulthood. The purpose is to help the women who are attracted to them discern the work of God in their boyfriends’ lives and to ask the questions before marriage that will be very important to their happiness after marriage. Hopefully, these questions will also bring to light any areas in which a man may be shutting God out of his life and refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to work in him.
Keep in mind as you work through this study that each man is a work in progress. It is unfair to expect perfection and maturity in every area, particularly if your boyfriend is still in school or is a fairly new Christian. Growth occurs over time and with experience. Knowledge is gained in increments, and childish behavior gives way gradually to adult reasoning. Some men have more negative behavior and thinking to overcome than others, due to their family backgrounds or hurtful experiences. God works to bring wholeness and change a little at a time, but He does work continuously. Therefore, if a man is truly desiring to walk with God, it will show. And if he is not open to the shaping work of the Holy Spirit within him, that too will show.
Spend some time in prayer, asking God to reveal to you through this study of His word the things He wants you to see in your current boyfriend and to give you wisdom to know how to respond appropriately to what you discover. Ask Him, also, to work in you the same qualities of holiness that you desire in your partner. A godly man will want a godly wife.
“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
We will begin our examination of the fruits of the spirit by considering the character quality of love.
Read Mark 12:28-31.
It is very important for a wife to know that her husband loves her, as well.
A woman needs to hear a man’s love expressed to her in words and see it evidenced in his actions. Watch for words and actions that specifically communicate love to you when you are being courted by a man. If he expects them from you but does not give them to you in return, he is using you to build his ego rather than valuing you as a person.
Read Proverbs 31:28-29.
· Does he praise you when you do something well?
· Is he proud of you?
How does he show it?
The tone your husband sets in the home with his words to you will influence your children greatly. If he praises you, your children will follow his example. If he demeans you, so will the rest of the family. The words of a truly loving man will build you up, both privately and before other people.
This is not just referring to a man who does not trust you around other men, though that can certainly be one aspect of jealousy. What a woman more easily misses, however, is the danger of marrying a man who is jealous of her abilities or accomplishments, or of the attention she gets because of them. If he is prone to subtle put-downs (often disguised as “humor”) about your areas of strength or giftedness instead of praising you for them, or if he shows a total lack of interest in the things you do well, he may be revealing feelings of jealousy. This type of jealousy, or an extreme lack of trust in you around other men, are issues that you should talk through—either can seriously cripple a relationship.
Read Ephesians 5:25-28.
In this passage, the apostle Paul gives men an example of love that he calls them to imitate.
The godly bask in the light;
the morally upright experience joy. (Psalm 97:11)
Joy is an emotion that God himself experiences, and that He desires for us to experience, as well. Read Zephaniah 3:17.
Not every man is prone to shouting when he feels joyful (though some will), but a man who is in proper relationship with God will experience the emotion of joy as a sense of well-being in his spirit and a delight in his God.
Read John 15:10-11.
· Does he find joy in you?
How does he show that?
· Does he find joy in the things he anticipates or hopes for?
What are they?
· Does he live a righteous life that God will bless?
· Does he find joy in promoting peace?
When have you seen this?
· Does he find joy in speaking appropriately?
What evidence do you see of this?
· Does he find joy in justice or fairness?
Is he fair in his actions and judgments?
· Does he find joy in things that please the physical senses?
What does he appreciate?
· Does he find joy in pleasant friends?
· Does he tend to withdraw from happy people and favor the company of complainers (or whiners)?
· Does he have a cheerful face?
Do his eyes “smile” when his mouth smiles?
· Does he complain much of the time, or is he more likely to find things to be happy about?
Does he often lead conversations to his complaints?
· Does he make other people happy?
How often does he laugh?
Does he make you happy?
· Is being with him good for your emotional health?
Why or why not?
· Knowing that emotions significantly affect physical health, what ultimate effect would living with him be likely to have on your physical health?
According to Scripture, joy is not an option for a Christian—it is a requirement.
Joy is common at holiday festivities, in an assembly with other believers, and with acquaintances who have something to celebrate. But did the last two surprise you? We may not always feel a surface happiness when circumstances in our lives are painful or disappointing, but even in our sufferings we can experience a deep, stabilizing joy in our relationship with God.
Read Job 6:10.
Read Philippians 3:1.
Be sure you see at least some evidence of joy in a man before you consider marrying him. This is a quality that will usually grow over time as a man gets to know God better and learns to trust Him more, but you should be able to detect at least the beginnings of it now. A man who rarely experiences joy will drain away your own joy over the course of time.
Fairness will produce peace and result in lasting security. (Isaiah 32:17)
One of the first things you should find out about a man when you become acquainted or begin to date is whether or not he has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior. If he does, he will not mind telling you about it. Ask him! If he isn’t sure, offer to give him the name and phone number of your pastor, or introduce him to a man who can explain God’s plan of salvation to him and disciple him. If he doesn’t want to talk about it or isn’t interested in learning more, get out of the relationship before it goes any further.
Read Luke 2:13-14.
Read John 14:27.
A man who is at peace with God should also be a peacemaker. This may involve both maintaining peace in his own relationships and helping to establish or sustain peace among other people.
Read Proverbs 17:1.
Read Proverbs 6:16-19.
· Is he the source of the problem?
· Does he look for things to criticize in his family? _____ If so, what?
· Does he look for things to criticize in your family? _____ If so, what?
patience (slowness to anger)
life, energy, good health
· Does he make a conscious effort to get along with other people?
If not, whom does he not try to get along with?
· Do you see evidence that he desires to be holy (even though he sometimes falls short of holiness)?
What shows you this?
· Does he love Scripture (God’s laws)?
What shows you this?
Read Proverbs 26:21. There is a difference between being caught in the arguments of other trouble-making people and stirring up disagreements yourself. Carefully evaluate the dissensions your boyfriend has with other people.
· What does contentious mean (check a dictionary)?
· In what situations is your boyfriend contentious or argumentative?
· Are his conflicts with others usually just the result of having a bad day (which everyone does now and then), or do they occur frequently enough to be considered a lifestyle pattern?
· Does he make quarrels worse? _____ If so, how?
· Does he make quarrels better? _____ If so, how?
· Does he desire peace, or does he really seem to want to argue or complain?
What evidence do you see of this?
Sometimes even our best efforts will not enable us to maintain peace with a person who chooses to be un-peaceful. We cannot control another person’s actions or responses. But God holds a man responsible to at least do everything he can to live and work peacefully with those around him. Watch for a willingness to work at that. No man will walk it out perfectly, but if the man you are dating consistently stirs up more trouble than peace or habitually complains about things he dislikes in other people, he may need some help to heal from past hurts or to break free from a bad habit that he has learned from family members or friends. If he cannot, or will not, do that, do not expect him to be a peaceful marriage partner.
I . . . urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you
have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)
James 1:19-20 provides an excellent definition of patience.
· quick to __________________
· slow to ___________________
· and slow to ________________.
· is not:
Read Proverbs 19:11.
· A man who is slow to anger _________________________.
· A quick-tempered man _____________________________.
When determining whether or not a man possesses godly patience, look for evidence of it in two key areas of his behavior: temper control and speech control.
· Is your boyfriend rude to people when he is annoyed?
· Is he defensive or quickly provoked to anger?
· Have you observed patient behavior in him?
Physical strength is highly esteemed in our current culture. Many men spend a considerable amount of time and energy developing strong muscles, and there is nothing wrong with that. Be certain, however, that the man you marry gives equal attention to developing the strength of character to control his temper. It is not an easy task and will not be mastered all at once. Watch for growth in this area over the course of time as you are getting to know each other.
· Is he a good listener?
· Does he use patient, gentle words or demanding, manipulative words to persuade people to do things he wants?
· Does he exhibit “complete patience and instruction” when he is teaching someone else about the Bible, or is his teaching harsh and accusing?
Read Proverbs 15:18 and 26:21.
· How has your boyfriend’s speech control—or lack of speech control—affected your relationship?
· Does this give you hope for a peaceful home and family in the future?
· James 1:12 and 5:7-8
Be wary of a man who is patient with you but not with other people. When the newness of the relationship has worn off, he is likely to treat you and your children with the same degree of patience he shows others outside the family. Choose a husband whose patience will benefit your family and who will inherit what God promises to faithful men.
And the Lord’s slave must . . . be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient. (2 Timothy 2:24)
Abrasive people lurk in nearly every area of our lives. They enroll in our classes, they attend the same activities that we choose, they obtain jobs where we work, sometimes they even reside in our homes. Rude people, selfish people, hurtful people mix with kind and pleasant people unavoidably. We cannot associate only with those whom we enjoy. Those whom we do not enjoy are thrust upon us. And even those people with whom we like to interact sometimes make relationship mistakes, sometimes have grouchy days, sometimes disappoint us or wound us unintentionally.
Read Colossians 3:12-13.
· a friend who has offended him (Ephesians 4:32)
· a neighbor or relative who is poor (Proverbs 14:31 and 22:9)
· someone who is unkind to him (Romans 12:14)
· an associate who has wronged or cheated him (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
· a classmate who is worried (Proverbs 12:25)
· his animals (Proverbs 12:10)
Be especially wary of any signs of cruelty that you observe. Do not make the mistake of assuming that a man who is cruel to other people or cruel to animals will never treat you that way.
Read Philippians 2:4.
If he expects you to kindly and sacrificially look out for his interests, but he does not do the same for you, think carefully about your willingness to live with that before you commit to a permanent relationship. Most people have rather strong tendencies to be self-focused and to want to receive more kindness than they give, but watch for evidence of growth in this area in the man you are considering.
The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and
the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. (Matthew 12:35)
The quality of goodness is an all-round tendency toward behavior choices that conform to God’s moral laws.
Be one who is _________________ what is good.
Teach and be __________________ what is good.
Purified people will be __________________ what is good.
Be __________________________ what is good.
This principle is illustrated in the life of Hezekiah, one of the kings of Judah. Read 2 Chronicles 29:1-2 and 31:20-21.
Goodness does not come naturally to fallen humanity. In Psalm 14:2-3, David laments that God is not able to find even one man who does what is right—everyone is corrupt. It is, therefore, a behavior that must be learned by the people of God.
A man who is serious about walking with God will read the Bible and learn from it. In doing so, he will become well acquainted with God’s moral laws and behavioral expectations.
Read Ecclesiastes 12:14.
In order for a man to demonstrate goodness in his life, he must learn to distinguish good from evil and to choose the good.
· Does he often make decisions that he has not thought through carefully in light of what the Bible says?
Give an example:
· Does he ever take time to pray or search the Scriptures before acting?
Give an example:
· Does he ignore what God says if it is not what he wants to hear?
What evidence have you seen of this?
· Do his actions and opinions usually line up with the word of God?
· Is there any kind of evil that he does not avoid?
If so, what is it?
Is this something you are willing to live with if he never changes?
It takes time, and study, and practice to develop a habit of choosing goodness. It will not be accomplished without a desire to turn away from evil. To know if a man is growing in the character quality of goodness, watch his actions and listen to his words.
· Does he do good things for others when he has an opportunity, or does he ignore anything that might inconvenience him?
When have you seen this?
· Has he been accustomed to doing evil in the past?
If so, what evidence do you see of repentance and change?
· Does he rationalize wrong choices?
Give an example:
· Does he ridicule those who make right choices?
Is he angry if you will not agree with or participate in a wrong choice with him?
· What do his words reveal about what is stored in his heart (be specific)?
A faithful person will have an abundance of blessings . . . . (Proverbs 28:20)
Faithfulness is remaining true to a commitment or promise one has made. Biblical faithfulness is two-fold; a godly man will choose to remain consistently faithful both to God and to his wife. He will exhibit behavior that is based on the fact that he made a commitment, not on how he feels at any particular moment.
Claims of unfailing love may not be a true predictor of behavior. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many people profess their loyalty, but a faithful person—who can find?” If you want to assess the likelihood of a man remaining faithful to his marriage vows, don’t ask him, observe him. Here are some things to look for.
Read Romans 1:31-32.
These are serious warning signs that may indicate a lack of commitment to purity. A man who is not committed to purity is not very likely to be committed to a vow to keep himself only for you for the rest of his life.
Watching your boyfriend’s eyes will also tell you a lot about his commitment to you and to purity.
· Do his eyes focus on you and stay on you when you are talking to him, or does he frequently turn to look at other women?
· How often do his eyes turn to seductive pictures or women when you are shopping with him?
· How often do his eyes linger on other women when you are eating in a restaurant with him?
· What kinds of magazines and books does he read? Do their pictures and content nurture lust?
· Consider the television programs, movies, and computer games he spends time on. Do their pictures and content inspire or feed lust?
A man who obsessively watches other women or feeds his mind with impurity will not be prone to faithfulness. Those habits will significantly influence his behavior choices both before and after marriage.
· How much of your boyfriend’s humor is laced with sexual overtones?
· Do his words reflect a pure heart?
· Do you want your children to talk like he does?
Read Proverbs 6:32 and 26:11 and 6:23-24.
A man who has a history of illegitimate sexual involvement (outside of marriage) shows a lack of good judgment and self-control. Unless he genuinely repents and takes steps to develop self-discipline and to avoid temptation, he is very likely to continue to repeat his error even if he marries.
· Was your boyfriend sexually involved with previous girlfriends?
If so, what evidence do you see of genuine repentance and change?
· What steps is he taking to maintain a pure relationship with you prior to marriage?
Read Proverbs 9:13-17.
The man who is amused by the thrill of getting away with something that is unethical, against the rules, or against the law has a predisposition toward foolishness and a disregard for authority that is likely to lead him into secret sexual relationships outside of his marriage. Avoid aligning yourself with such a man. He is a prime candidate for the lie, “Sex isn’t as much fun if you’re married; a secret relationship is more exciting.”
· What does this mean?
· Is your boyfriend a good help and support in hard times?
· Based on his current behavior, what can you expect from him in the future when life is difficult or painful?
· Does he keep his promises to God?
· How does he plan what is good?
· What evidence do you see that he fears the Lord?
Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near! (Philippians 4:5)
Gentleness is controlled strength which may best be understood in contrast with what it is not.
Consider Proverbs 13:2. Then think about the things your boyfriend reads and watches in movies and on television.
The things that go into a man’s mind will eventually be reflected in his speech and actions.
Men, as a rule, tend to be naturally more aggressive than women. This is not a bad thing—it propels them to be good providers and protectors for their families and helps them to be competitive in the work force. But when their aggression becomes a craving for excessive violence or brutality, that is a warning signal that it has gotten out of balance and could at some point put you or your children in danger.
Do not be deceived into thinking that a man who is harsh or violent in his treatment of other people will not eventually treat you in the same way. Being “in love” is only a temporary cushion from established negative behavior patterns. Do not marry a man who treats other people in a way that would be offensive or hurtful if it were you—in time, it will be you.
· How does the man in whom you are interested respond to someone who is angry?
· Does he use gentle words to persuade others (particularly those in authority over him) to think or act in agreement with his desires or opinions, or is he bossy and demanding?
· Is his Christian testimony gentle and respectful?
Jude 14-16 describes judgment that will come to men who speak harshly instead of gently.
Read Ephesians 4:2.
If you see evidence of humility and patience in a man, it is very likely that gentleness will continue to grow in his life, as well. If these qualities are markedly absent in his nature, do not expect him to develop gentleness.
Jesus is a perfect example of the blending of humility and gentleness. Read His words in Matthew 11:29.
For the grace of God . . . trains us to reject godless ways
and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright
and godly lives in the present age . . . . (Titus 2:11-12)
Read 1 Peter 1:13-16. In this passage, the apostle Peter lists self-control (not complying with evil urges) as one of three things that enable us to walk in holiness.
This is similar to the apostle Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:11-12 to “reject godless ways and worldly desires.” Let’s take a look at some of the godless ways and worldly desires that can tug at a man.
· Does he agree with the Bible’s teachings about restraint from sexual immorality?
· When have you observed him restraining his anger?
When have you observed him giving full vent to his anger?
· Can he let a quarrel die, or must he always have the last word?
Can he ever let someone be “wrong” for the sake of peace, or must he argue every issue?
· Does he hear you out fully when you are trying to tell him something?
· Is he obsessed with getting rich?
How do you know?
· Must he always give his opinion?
· Does he talk too much, monopolizing most conversations?
· Does he say things that are inappropriate?
· Does he sometimes embarrass you by being too loud or brash?
· Does he frequently drink enough alcohol to have a hangover the next day?
Does he consistently overeat?
· Does he have the good judgment to not “wear out his welcome” with people he knows?
· Does he turn from evil, or does he play at its fringes?
Does he endanger himself or you by doing reckless things?
· How often does he demean or ridicule other people?
We all have need for improvement in one or more of these areas. Self-control is neither easily developed nor effortlessly maintained, but it is a character quality that a Christian should be willing to strive for and become better at. Think about whether or not you see evidence in your boyfriend of growth—or at least an awareness of his need to improve—in each of the above areas, as well as in other areas that you have observed.
I am determined I will say nothing sinful. (Psalm 17:3b)
We have already considered a number of issues related to a man’s speech while examining the fruits of the Spirit. But the Bible has so much to say about words, that we will look in this chapter at a few more important instructions relating to the way a man talks. Keep in mind as you read these verses that they apply to women as well, and examine your own speech in addition to evaluating your boyfriend’s.
Read Matthew 12:36-37.
· How truthful is your boyfriend?
· Does he stir up trouble between family members (his family, your family, or the “family” of Christ)?
Read Proverbs 12:22.
Read Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; and 20:19.
· are not:
Read Proverbs 10:32.
· fitting (pleasing):
The last verse in the above list (Ephesians 4:29) contrasts words that benefit those who listen with words that are unwholesome. The following verses describe three categories of unwholesome words that do not benefit those who listen.
A charming man is one who has a compelling attraction about him. His personality and his “fervent” words please and soothe people. If his charm is coupled with a sincere and honest heart, such a man will have many friends and can be delightful to live with. Because charm tends to inspire confidence and trust from other people, it can be a great asset to a man who uses it to influence people for good.
Unfortunately, charm can also be used to disguise evil intent and to deceive and manipulate people in ways that are not for their good. If you have heard your boyfriend use charming words to deceive someone else, be suspicious of the charming words he speaks to you. There’s a good chance they are not sincere.
Take note if your boyfriend is prone to cursing or using other “bad language.” If he cleans up his language just to please you, it will last only until you are married, if that long. The only enduring change that will come in this area is change that he makes in response to genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit. Do not date a man who uses words that you would be embarrassed to have your children use in public. They will, and you will share his shame.
Mockery is the practice of mimicking the actions or words of another person in scorn or ridicule, often in a sing-song manner. It is frequently disguised as “humor,” but it is not funny when it is directed at you—it is disrespectful, demeaning, and hurtful. Beware of the man who mocks or scorns people, either to their faces or behind their backs. He will eventually do that to you.
The overseer then must be above reproach . . . . And he must be well thought of . . . . (1 Timothy 3:2, 7)
When you marry a man, you share his name and the reputation that goes with it. Make sure it is a name that you will be proud to share.
A man who wants to impress a woman may hide some aspects of an unpleasant character from her, or temporarily subdue them without any intent of lasting change. Though he may fool you, it is unlikely that he will fool everyone with whom he has contact. Therefore, it is wise to pay attention to what other people say about a man whom you are getting to know, particularly people who have known him prior to your acquaintance with him. A man’s reputation may either confirm good character that you have observed or reveal problem areas that you have missed.
Read Proverbs 20:11.
God is in the business of transforming people, so it is not always fair to assume that a man who did not walk in integrity as a child or youth will not have changed. Still, it is a good idea to consider what people who have known him for a long time think of him and to watch for signs of bad behavior patterns that may still linger.
· Does he have truth and mercy written on the tablet of his heart?
What does that mean?
· What do other people say about his mind?
· Is he known as a righteous, upright man?
· Has his lifestyle earned him the approval (respect) of other godly men?
· Does he make time in his schedule to serve God?
If yes, how?
· Does he accurately interpret and apply the Scriptures?
· How does his lifestyle reflect on God—does he bring God honor or shame?
For their sake—and yours—do not marry a man who has not earned the favor of other Christians whose opinion you value and respect. Give your children a last name they can be proud to carry.
If you have not heard other people talking about the man you are considering, ask people what they think of him—when he is not around, so they will be frank. Be sure that you ask people who have had extensive contact with him so you are not just collecting first impressions, which can be misleading.
The righteous person is cautious in his friendship,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)
Friends can be a wonderful blessing in a man’s life if he chooses them well. When you are getting to know a man, get to know his friends, also. Listen carefully to what he tells you about them; observe his interactions with them.
· What evidence do you see that God is present when he is with his friends?
· Do he and his friends help each other when one of them needs assistance with something?
· Do his friends give him good advice?
Does he give his friends good advice?
· Are any of his closest companions fools?
Friends can be a very bad influence in a man’s life if he chooses them poorly.
The Bible does not instruct us to be so exclusive in our friendships that we never associate with “bad company” at all. Jesus, himself, spent time with sinners, but it was always with the intent of calling them to repentance and change. Often we have to befriend someone in order to lead him or her to Christ.
Jesus’ closest companions—His disciples—were not perfect men, but they were men who desired to know truth and to grow in wisdom.
The very best friend that a man can have is God. There are far too many men who learn a lot about God without ever becoming God’s friend. Read Jesus’ words in John 15:14 and James’ account of Abraham in James 2:21-23.
In order to have friends, one must also be a friend. Proverbs 18:2 and 20:5 contrast a man who invites confidences with a man who does not.
A friendly man is much easier to live with than an unfriendly man. Consider this aspect of your boyfriend’s personality carefully.
May my . . . thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
In recent years, the term “attitude” has been used to represent a negative, often arrogant, manner. The broader definition of the term, however, is a state of mind that can be either positive or negative. In this chapter, we will consider both good and bad attitudes in light of what the Bible has to say about them.
Read Proverbs 3:13-18.
Acquiring wisdom is not dependant on natural intelligence. A man does not have to be at the top of his class academically to exercise good judgment or discernment. But he must want it. The Bible uses words like “find,” “gain,” “desire,” “preserve,” and “choose” to indicate that these qualities must be actively sought—they do not come naturally. But they are accessible.
Read James 1:5.
Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.
A tranquil spirit can also be termed contentment. It is not the same as lack of initiative or choosing to settle for less than what we want or need because we don’t want to work for it. That is laziness.
Contentment is, rather, a willingness to be satisfied when we have done our best, without comparing our circumstances to others’.
Read Ecclesiastes 3:11-13.
Envy is an attitude of resentment over what we perceive as someone else’s advantage over us. It is a refusal to be satisfied with our situation as long as someone else has something better.
Read James 3:14-16.
A man who gives his mind more to envy than to contentment can become a chronic complainer, lacking compassion, refusing to be glad when good things come to other people, and frequently whining about how much worse his situation is than anyone else’s.
· Does your boyfriend demand a lot of sympathy from you?
· Does he consistently refuse to share material possessions or help other people because he claims his current life situation is worse than theirs?
· Does he resent things that his parents do for his siblings?
Does he resent things that your parents do for your siblings?
· When a friend, relative, classmate, or colleague gets something good, is he genuinely happy for him/her, or does he feel sorry for himself?
An envious attitude in a man can be a subtle trap for a woman because most females like to comfort and to sympathize. It is a part of nurturing that makes her feel needed—and there are times when it is appropriate and helpful for those whom she loves. But if comparing and refusing to be content are lifestyle attitudes for your boyfriend rather than occasional emotions which he is able to rise above, living with him will not make you happy. He will drain your joy and poison your own contentment.
When the people complained, it displeased the LORD.
When the LORD heard it, his anger burned . . . . (Numbers 11:1)
Closely related to an attitude of envy is a bent toward grumbling (sometimes called “murmuring”). Life is full of annoyances, and most of us grumble from time to time. But that is not okay if it becomes an unchecked, chronic habit. The Bible contains many admonitions against grumbling, and nearly all of them warn of judgment if it doesn’t stop. Grumbling is repeatedly muttering words that express dissatisfaction and discontentment. It is fueled by a critical spirit which can spread rapidly to other people. It negates thankfulness and stirs up unrest, which God finds wearying.
A steady diet of negative words will wear you out, too. Although you may feel protective of him at first and think that you can help him change his circumstances so he will be happy, if your boyfriend has gotten too much in the habit of complaining, you will be unsuccessful. It will take a change of heart rather than a change of circumstances to break that habit.
· Is it an occasional bad mood which he gets over, or a chronic habit?
· Is he thankful more than he is critical?
· When things go well, does he still find something to complain about?
· Does he get angry if you do not join him in his complaints or agree with them?
Bear in mind that if you marry a chronic grumbler, his children (your children) will learn that habit from him. And if he wears out God’s patience with his murmuring, his family will very likely share his punishment.
For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life . . . . (Proverbs 6:23)
Rebuke (correction) is not easy for anyone to take; advice is something we would all rather give than receive.
· Job 27:6
Read Proverbs 29:1.
Like a loving parent, God gives us many chances to respond to discipline and to correct unacceptable behavior. But repeated refusal to respond to correction can lead to very serious consequences.
· Does he insult or hate someone who has corrected his behavior?
· Does he abhor/resent having to do what is right or having to give up something that is not right?
· Does he make a mockery of his punishment if he does something wrong?
· Is he willing to make amends if he has offended or wronged someone?
· Does he blame God when he experiences the consequences of poor choices, instead of owning his own mistakes?
· Does he learn from his mistakes, or does he repeat them?
· Can he admit his guilt if caught in an error, or does he make up excuses or pretend he didn’t mean it?
· Has he hardened his heart by repeatedly refusing correction on some issue?
Read Proverbs 10:17 and 13:18.
To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions,
he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward
and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:19)
A few men begin their adult lives with wealth and possessions, many men obtain them gradually over the course of a lifetime, and some men never achieve wealth. There are no magic formulas for obtaining a good income, but the Bible does have much to say about attitudes regarding money, and how we handle it when we do have it.
Read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24-34.
· Have you seen him “refresh” someone by the generous use of his money?
If so, when?
· Does he share food (or other necessities) with people who have needs that he knows about?
If so, in what way?
· Is he building a savings account?
· Does he have a financial plan for the future and a budget to help him manage his money?
If not, is he willing to be instructed in sound financial management?
· Is he so intent on amassing great possessions that he is not willing to be content with basic needs or to share what he has with others?
· Is he thankful for what he has and able to enjoy it?
Is he rich in good deeds?
· Does he give a tithe (usually 10%) of his earnings to his church or a Christian ministry organization?
The Bible does not indicate that there is any particular advantage to living with little or to living with much. Neither lifestyle is more holy than the other. God clearly indicates that bad attitudes and evil practices concerning money define an unholy lifestyle more than the amount of money a man earns.
If you have observed any of these attitudes or behaviors in your boyfriend, you would be wise to reconsider the relationship. Your husband will set the financial tone in your home—be sure it is one that you will agree with and be willing to cooperate with.
In Ecclesiastes 7:12, Solomon points out that wisdom and money each may provide some measure of protection in difficult circumstances. But wisdom has an advantage that money does not, he says.
A good husband will understand this and will arrange his priorities accordingly.
Oh, how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it. Your words are sweeter in my mouth than honey! (Psalm 119:97, 103)
The genuineness of a man’s belief in and commitment to God is not always easy to discern. He may read the Bible and pray every day and have many verses memorized, yet be unchanged by it and not really know God in a personal way. There are a few things, however, that are pretty good indicators of how serious a claim God has on a man’s heart.
Read Psalm 119:10-16, 47-48.
Pay careful attention to how your boyfriend talks about and responds to the Bible. If he frequently complains about things he doesn’t like in it or picks apart the way it is written (e.g., the apostle Paul’s long run-on sentences) instead of looking for its meaning and how it should apply to him, there could be a serious problem in his relationship with the Lord.
· Does he really seem to love God’s word?
How do you know?
· Does he go to scripture for guidance and instruction?
· What has he criticized recently in the Bible?
· What has he shared with you recently that he has learned from the Bible or that he has applied to some situation in his life?
In other places, Jesus instructed his followers about the proper ways to treat everyone in general and to treat their enemies, but here he was giving specific instructions about how believers should behave toward other believers.
The Bible makes it very clear that we are not to be loners in our faith. We are to be a community of people who encourage each other, learn from one another, and work together to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. If your boyfriend is reluctant to attend church, then he is likely giving only verbal assent to Christianity without any real heart commitment. If he doesn’t want to attend church now, he will have even less desire after you are married and may even resent your attendance without him.
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable
to the LORD than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)
As children mature, they become gradually more independent. Obedience becomes less of an issue as parents release control of them in adulthood. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:2-3, however, of the fifth one of the Ten Commandments which God gave to the Israelites. These commandments were issued to adults, not children.
If a man has abusive parents, he will need to learn how to set boundaries with them to prevent further abuse and he may need some help to work through forgiveness issues. But as a general principle, adult children are to interact with their parents with respect and caring.
The Bible uses the word “honor” to convey this. Parents are not perfect people, and some have made some fairly serious mistakes in raising their children, yet they have also made many sacrifices and given much of their time and resources to parenting. Even if there are many issues on which a man disagrees with his parents, he is still obligated by the word of God to treat his parents with honor (or “respect”)—not necessarily agreement, but honor, nonetheless.
· Proverbs 15:5 ______________________________
An adult child is not expected to toe the line on everything his parents tell him to do or not to do. As long as he lives under their roof, he should abide by their rules and requests unless they are in disagreement with the word of God. But as he leaves his teens, he gradually becomes more independent in his decision-making and responsible for his own choices. A “prudent” man, however, will recognize that the experience and wisdom his parents have gained over the years is still worthy of consideration. Sometimes they have learned things from their own mistakes that can help their children to avoid making those same mistakes.
· Proverbs 15:20 ______________________________
· Proverbs 20:20 ______________________________
It is possible to have sharp disagreements with parents yet refrain from cursing them. Cursing is an extreme expression of anger which the Bible does not permit.
· Proverbs 28:24 _______________________________
To say that is it all right to take things that belong to one’s parents without their permission is to assume ownership which is not rightfully yours. Most parents are very generous and willing to share their belongings and their money, but to take without asking is stealing, whether they are your parents or not.
· 1 Timothy 5:4, 8 ______________________________
Helping to provide for family members who have severe material or physical needs may not be an issue for you at this point in your lives. But it could become a reality in your future. Talk over this possibility with your boyfriend.
Before you marry a man, be sure you are discuss the issues of how you treat parents. His family becomes yours and your family becomes his when you marry. Relationships with parents will play a big role in your future—especially after you have children.
The righteous person behaves in integrity; blessed are his children after him. (Proverbs 20:7)
There are numerous things one may observe in a man’s relationships with other people that reveal interesting things about his character. For the most part, these involve people in general, beyond the circle of his close friends, but you may on occasion find them surfacing even in his relationship with you. Consider the questions that the following verses raise.
Read Proverbs 17:13.
Neighbors may or may not become good friends. Whatever the closeness of the relationship, a righteous man will exhibit something toward his neighbor that an evil man will not.
Read Proverbs 24:17 and 24:29. These verses point out two wrong ways to respond to someone with whom we do not get along well.
In Obadiah 1:8-15, God declares punishment for the people of Edom because of their attitude and hostile actions when another nation destroyed Judah.
There is a difference between setting boundaries on mistreatment so that it stops and “getting even” for that mistreatment. A desire for revenge is often a normal initial reaction when one has been hurt. An emotionally healthy adult will control that desire, however, and will choose not to dwell on it or to act on it. Taking steps to stop abuse is healthy; brooding on a desire to retaliate is emotional poison.
Read Proverbs 25:20.
Every life has moments of stress and sadness. Sometimes a cheerful word, a little humor, or a lighthearted song will lift a person out of a gloomy mood and help him or her to feel better. But in many situations of severe loss, worry, or disappointment—when someone has what the writer of Proverbs calls “a heavy heart” and needs comfort and caring—levity can actually serve to make that person feel worse instead of better. By the time a boy reaches adulthood, he should be able to discern the difference in what people need.
Children sometimes irritate people because they don’t use good judgment in what they say, how they say it, or when they say it. They cannot always anticipate how their behavior will affect another person and why. We understand that in children, but it is reasonable to expect better judgment to be exhibited by an adult. Proverbs 27:14 gives an illustration of insensitivity that causes offense.
It is generally unwise to interfere in a quarrel between other people that does not involve you unless you are the parent of one of the parties or a mediator who has been invited to give your opinion. Interference by someone who does not fully know both sides of the matter usually creates resentment in one or both of the parties involved, and they are likely to lash out at the one who thinks he is trying to help. Proverbs 26:17 creates an interesting word picture to illustrate this.
A man who is convinced he has the answer to every disagreement and must fix other people without being asked is arrogant and can be very unpleasant to live with.
Read Proverbs 28:9 and Romans 13:1-7. These verses frame a general guideline of expected behavior for God’s people. There would obviously be an exception if a person in authority commanded a Christian to do something that was in contradiction to the higher law of Scripture, but as a general rule, we are to be people who respect and obey the laws of our land.
If your boyfriend is unwilling to obey laws or rules that inconvenience him or cost him money, he is revealing a disrespect for authority that may make his prayers detestable to God and that could result in serious consequences at some point for himself and his family. Beware of aligning yourself with such a man.
“I will give them a single-minded purpose to live in a way that always shows respect for me. They will want to do that for their own good and the good of the children who descend from them.” (Jeremiah 32:39)
Two people will never be in total agreement about everything, but in a good marriage, the couple need to agree about the most important issues and be willing to let their partners differ on lesser issues. The following verses do not comprise an exhaustive list of all the possibilities, but offer some suggestions about topics that could cause serious friction and need to be discussed prior to marriage.
Alcohol use is an issue on which Christians from differing church backgrounds may disagree. Some feel that it is okay to drink in moderation; others feel that it is wiser to refrain from all alcohol consumption. The Bible is very clear on the point that drunkenness is not acceptable. If your boyfriend is habitually drinks in excess, get out of the relationship. If he does not drink in excess, be sure that you discuss and come to agreement about how much (if any) alcohol use you are each comfortable with. Do not assume that one or the other of you will change your mind on this issue with time—that is unlikely to happen. If you are not in agreement on this point, do not marry. It can be extremely divisive and will get worse as time goes on.
Notice that it does not say that children are a requirement, only that they are a blessing. Most adults welcome children joyfully into their households and take great delight in raising them. But there are a few people who firmly desire not to have children. It is not disobedient or sinful to choose not to have children, but it is essential that both husband and wife are in agreement about the choice before they marry. For many people, the desire to have a family is so strong that it is emotionally devastating to them if they are denied children. On the other hand, those who are firmly convinced that they do not want children are almost sure to become increasingly resentful if they are pressured into having them. If you and your boyfriend cannot come to full agreement on this issue, you may not be a good match for a permanent relationship.
There are numerous things that can enslave a man that are not necessarily “sinful.” Read 1 Corinthians 6:12. The Apostle Paul offers two cautions about things—even good things—that may exercise a lot of control over a person’s life.
· “All things are lawful for me”—but
· “All things are lawful for me”—but
Examine the things that take a lot of your boyfriend’s time or focus, particularly things that he is unwilling to forego for the sake of other important things. Following is a list of some possible addictions or obsessions a man may have.
____a sport (or a particular team)
____work (more than required or reasonable hours)
____gambling (including lottery tickets)
____a TV or movie series
____a hobby or leisure activity: _________________________________
With time and maturity, it is possible that some of these things may lose the intensity of their hold on the man you are dating. But it is equally possible that the addiction(s) may increase.
Read Romans 12:18.
A multitude of behavioral differences may exist between two people that are neither “right” nor “wrong” spiritually, but about which you or your boyfriend may have very strong preferences or personal convictions. These could include such things as personal tastes in food, music, or clothing; personal convictions about TV viewing, dancing, or holiday celebrations; preferences in church denominations, decorating styles, or vacations; or personal expectations regarding manners, spending money, or household chores. This is not an exhaustive list—you will find others as you spend time together and discuss the future.
In order to know if you can, indeed, “live peaceably” with this man, it is essential that you talk about these things and any other issues about which either of you have strong preferences or personal convictions. Share with each other the things that each of you considers non-negotiable and be very sure that you can come to an understanding about them that you are both comfortable with. There will be many issues for compromise and unselfishness in any marriage, and you will each need to bend a little and make some adjustments to please your partner. But on the issues where you do not feel that you can bend and still live peaceably, be sure that your partner is willing to accept that.
Take some time to think through the things that matter most to you when you consider daily living and family life.
Read Matthew 19:3-6.
Fear of abandonment will keep you from fully trusting a marriage partner if you are not both committed to staying the course permanently. A marriage that is founded on a mutual commitment for life and agreement on the most fundamental issues can be a wonderful adventure. When you find such a companion, you will have found a man worth sharing the rest of your life with.