Even before the first man and woman sinned, God established marriage. It is not a prison established by culture but a beautiful institution created by God for the best in family and society. So often we seek answers to our marriage problems from the world--psychologists, secular family counselors, friends, or even the Oprah Show--instead of from the only One who knows. Where have you sought help for your marriage? Have you been guilty of thinking that people know more than God? Join us on a ten-week adventure of discovering what God says about His plan for marriage.
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; by knowledge its rooms are filled with all kinds of precious and pleasing treasures.
Are you building your home or tearing it down? God tells us that there are three things we need if we are going to build: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Proverbs says that God’s Word gives us these things. He is the author of marriage, and His principles do work.
Please take the time to pray and ask God for the grace to be the kind of woman who can truly build a home according to God’s design. Pray for faithfulness, humility, and the desire to obey God day after day, despite the circumstances or the responses of those around you.
Your willingness to commit to this study speaks well of your heart for God. Remember that the greatest commandment is to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments” (John 14:15 NET). The more you love Him, the more you will become like Him and live for Him rather than yourself. Thus, you will become the kind of wife whom God has designed you to be.
This study was written for women, not for couples. As I looked for a study on marriage, I found that almost all of them were written for men and women. In your homework you will read some verses for husbands, but we will not study them. God expects us, as women, to obey His Word for us, regardless of whether our husbands obey. In this course we will focus on our responsibilities, not theirs. I do believe that if you apply the principles of the Bible in your home, the atmosphere will change and God will honor your obedience.
Without God’s help, we have no hope of truly being the kind of wives who build their homes on God’s wisdom and knowledge. If you have not placed your trust in Christ alone as the only way to the Father, you can do so today. Believe that He is God and that He came to earth as a man and died for you and rose again, trusting Him alone for eternal salvation. Ask Him to give you the grace to follow Him and begin a new life. He promises to give you His Spirit to live within you to enable you to have the power to live the kind of life we are talking about in this study.
Some of you are single. How great that you want to prepare for a future marriage! I wish I had known these principles before I got married! I have designated some questions for you and some for the married women. Go ahead and think through all the questions, always considering how you would deal with the issue if you were married.
As you go through this study, your personal homework each week is the most important part. Those things you consider when you are alone with God will be those which you remember and apply. However, it is also important to commit now to complete the study with the group. As you gather weekly, the other women will assist you in solidifying and enlarging the truths that you study on your own. They will help you be accountable for what you learn. It is so easy to read something and then dismiss it. In fact, God speaks of that very thing in the book of James: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:23-25). Go for the blessings in your life!!
There are several sections in each lesson: Understanding God’s Design, Building Your Marriage on God’s Design, Parenting with God’s Design, Wisdom from a Mentor’s Marriage, and Summing It Up. You may want to work on one section each day to help you spend daily time with God.
In preparing this study, I have leaned upon the experiences of many women and am grateful for their personal stories, so freely given to you. In particular I wish to thank the Mentoring Moms from the Moms classes at Prestonwood Baptist Church who were so transparent in sharing their own struggles in marriage in an effort to disciple you.
May the Lord richly bless you as you walk in obedience to His design for your home!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 (NASB)
Even before the first man and woman sinned, God established marriage. It is not a prison established by culture but a beautiful institution created by God for the best in family and society. The first home was perfect, without argument or selfishness or hostility. In order to understand the basic principles of marriage, we must go back to the beginning, before sin marred God’s perfect plan.
God is the author of marriage. So often we seek answers to our marriage problems from the world—psychologists, secular family counselors, friends, or even the Oprah Show—instead of from the only One who knows. Where have you sought help for your marriage? Have you been guilty of thinking that people know more than God?
Why have we as a culture discarded God’s principles? I think it is because we think we know better than God, Whose book is outdated. As a result, our society has not improved, but our homes, even in the church, are falling apart.
This week we begin our adventure of discovering what God says about His plan for marriage. As you read the Scriptures, take the time to write down your responses to the questions. At the end of the lesson, you will consider how the week’s principle can affect your life.
This is the beautiful account of God’s creation of marriage. God could have chosen to make the man and the woman at the same time, but He put the man in a position to value the woman after having a good look at the animals. The man could see that there was no one to whom he could relate from among the creatures. Imagine his excitement to see the match made in heaven just for him! Although there are fundamental physical differences in men and women, God designed those differences to enhance our relationships and bring us together rather than apart.
In this context, God sets out the first principle we need to consider, oneness.
1. Copy Genesis 2:24 below and work on memorizing it as our Wisdom from the Word this week. You might want to write it on a 3x5 card so you can either carry it with you to review during the day or to place in a strategic spot where you will see it frequently during the week. Memorizing it will help you when you need to remember the principle as it applies to your life in different ways.
2. List from this verse three (3) things that should characterize your marriage. (Hint: the first two are verbs.)
Notice that all three of these relate to the oneness that God desires us to have in our marriages. In a few weeks we will consider “one flesh” as it applies to the marriage union sexually. Right now let’s look more closely at the second of the three building blocks mentioned in this verse by considering the meaning of the Hebrew. It is often helpful to our understanding to go back to the meaning in the original language so we better understand what God is saying.
The word “cleave” (KJV) or “unites with” (NET) involves a bonding together, much like gluing two things. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives synonyms for the Hebrew word: “cling to, stick to, stick with, join to”.1
When something breaks at our house, my husband often uses super glue to bond the pieces together. In fact, the bond is so strong that he has to be careful not to get the glue on his hand or he will become permanently attached to it as well!
3. What insights does this give you about oneness with your husband?
4. Cleave “carries the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty.”2 Name some ways in which a wife shows loyalty to her husband.
We need to consider what it means to “cleave” so that we can better understand what it means to “leave.” Leave involves more than distance. It is an attitude of the heart. God’s plan for marriage involves oneness. In order for two to become one, they cannot still be attached to anyone else, parents or siblings or friends. They cannot cleave unless they leave their family of origin. There are women who have left their homes in distance but not emotionally or financially. There are women who live next door to their parents and yet have “left” them.
5. Why is it impossible for a woman to cleave to, or become one with a husband without leaving her family?
Please understand that this does not mean that you cannot love your family and talk to them, etc.; however, there is a point at which you are can be attached to them so strongly that you fail to leave as you should. Sometimes it is the parents who cannot let the child leave. However, notice that the verse clearly calls the child to leave, not the parents to force them out. The responsibility is upon you to make the break from your home. You may need to help them let go.
God’s Word gives few examples of homes where the family is following His design. However, we do have a picture of leaving and cleaving that helps us understand the meaning. It comes from the story of Ruth. Although Ruth speaks these words to her mother-in-law rather than her husband, the principle is clear. That is why these verses are so often quoted in wedding ceremonies.
6. Why is Ruth willing to leave her home? Think of the difficulty of travel and communication at this time. Put yourself in her place. How committed is she to Naomi?
7. Ruth clearly embodies the sense of clinging to someone in affection and loyalty that we saw in the definition of cleave. List the ways she says she will cling to Naomi.
Oneness involves the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life. If you are to be one with your husband, it involves all these areas. The truth is that building this type of intimacy is a lifelong task. It takes time and attention to have oneness in the marriage relationship. We will take this up again in a later lesson on intimacy. Just realize that there can be no true unity unless both parties are believers. A later lesson will deal with the unbelieving or disobedient husband.
8. What reasons are given here not to marry unbelievers or be bound with them in any union?
In my marriage we had many differences in background and in perspectives on issues. However, over the years I have seen us grow in oneness in all areas—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I think the key for us was truly leaving and cleaving. That forced us to depend upon one another and learn to communicate and discuss our differences of opinion. Oneness is a process that can never occur without following the principle of leaving and cleaving.
Let’s take the principle of oneness and apply it to your life today, exactly where you live. Failure to implement oneness in marriage can lead to major problems. Please meditate carefully upon your response to these questions:
9. Review the words of Ruth in Ruth 1:16-17. Married women: How well have you left your home and joined to your husband according to Ruth’s example? Go phrase by phrase through these verses and write down in the first person your response. I have given you the first phrase as an example. Single women: Go phrase by phrase and express your willingness to respond to your future husband in this way.
“Where you go, I will go”—I am/am not willing to follow my husband wherever he goes, to whatever city or place, no matter how far from my family home (with a good attitude).
When I got married, my parents said that I was now part of a new home permanently, no longer part of their home. I was to stay with Gary because he and I were now a family. At one point when I was disgruntled and discontent in my marriage, I wanted to just quit and yet, I knew that I could not go back to my parents’ home because that door was closed. My parents were wise enough to force me to “leave” and to help me understand what that meant intellectually and practically. There was no going back. Truly their attitude saved my marriage, forcing me to cut the ties that bound me to them.
10. Married women: With these things in mind, answer honestly: Do you see yourself as part of a whole in your marriage or do you consider yourself an independent agent? Write down some examples of situations where you “do your own thing” without considering how it affects your unity with your husband. Then answer the question. Single women: Are you willing to put your husband and your marriage before yourself? In what ways do you expect that to be a challenge?
11. Name some specific ways in which a wife would have to leave her family in order to cleave to her husband and truly be one with him.
12. Married women: Have you left your family, both physically and emotionally? In order to answer this question, think about how you react when your husband disagrees with your parents or when they criticize him. Is your loyalty to him or do you join their criticism? I have known women who take gifts and money from their parents knowing that their husbands would not approve. Have you been guilty of going behind your husband’s back to your parents for anything? Do you depend upon them emotionally rather than your husband? Are you depending upon them for anything? If so, what do you need to do about it?
13. Married women: Truly consider whether you put your family before your husband. What if they wanted to visit at a time that would be difficult for you as a family and your husband objected? Is there any situation where you have put their wants and/or needs before his?
14. Consider Prov. 31:11-12. How do you see the principle of oneness lived out in the model of the excellent wife? Married women: Are these verses true of you? Why or why not?
The principle of oneness impacts your parenting as well as your relationship with your husband.
15. Married women: Have you been guilty of disagreeing with your husband’s discipline in front of your children, in his presence or behind his back? Give an example. What does this teach your children?
16. Applying the principle of oneness means that your husband comes before your children. Married women: Do you put your children first or your husband? Be specific. Single women: Will you be willing to put a new husband before your children? How might it be difficult?
One way in which I put my husband first was in my children’s bedtime. We set an early time so that he and I could have some time together. Perhaps you let your children interrupt your conversations with your husband. Perhaps their schedules take priority over your husband’s needs. There are many practical applications of oneness in building your home.
17. Married women: What do you need to change in your attitude and/or actions in order to be one with your husband as you relate to your children?
I grew up in a middle class home where my Dad worked very hard and my mom stayed at home. While my family did not have extravagant tastes and big spending habits, my parents did provide me with most everything I wanted, including a four-year college education. Upon graduation, they gave me a brand new car and a bedroom of new furniture for my new apartment.
As I worked as a schoolteacher, my parents continued to give me "extras" every so often, although I paid for all my expenses. In a few years, I met Milton and fell in love.
Milton grew up in a family of six children. He worked summers as a teenager for spending money, and then paid his own way through college. The day he graduated from high school, he was basically on his own financially.
We married in our mid-twenties, both having had a few years of career under our belts. The conflicts began when my parents continued to give us those "extras". I saw nothing wrong with their generosity! Milton saw it as them spoiling me, crossing over into his territory as my provider, and as an insult to his manhood!
This reached a crisis when Milton and I were planning a snow skiing trip our first year of marriage. He had some very tacky ski pants he had gotten from Goodwill. He had a terribly ugly ski jacket, and he had a vinyl cap with earflaps for a hat! I was not about to be seen with him looking like a joke! So, I hinted to my parents that we would like some new ski clothes for Christmas and of course they were happy to provide. Well, when Milton found out about this, he hit the roof. He was insistent that he was now my provider as well as purchaser of his own clothes, and as his wife I was to respect his wishes in this area. I wanted to stay married to him, and although I loved my parents and their generous hearts, I chose to tell them to hold off on so many gifts and that Milton would provide for us.
Of course my parents in no way felt like Milton was a poor provider. They just loved to give. But Milton, being my husband, was whom I had to choose and to respect.
That ski trip was difficult for my pride...he refused to buy anything new to wear for himself, although he let me buy some new ski gear. He looked horrid on the slopes, and I have some pictures to prove it, but I believe it was one step I took towards saying I had left my parents and was cleaving to him—one step to expressing my love for him, even if it cost me a few "extras".
18. Explain in your own words the principle of oneness, of leaving and cleaving, as you might teach it to a friend who is having problems in her marriage.
19. Write a prayer dealing with two things: 1. Confess any sin uncovered by this lesson. It is sin not to follow God’s design. 2. Married women: Express your commitment to God to take one specific action today or this week to build oneness in your relationship with your husband. Single women: Ask God for the grace to be one with your husband when you marry. Write down specific areas that you expect to be difficult.
1 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1; eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 177.
2 Ibid., 178.
The heart of her husband has confidence in her,
And he has no lack of gain.
She brings him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:11-12 (NET)
Last week we looked at God’s perfect design for marriage and His plan to make the woman and man one in Genesis 2. Genesis 1 recounts the creation of everything and the days in which God did His work. Then, Genesis 2 gives the detail for what occurred on the 6th day of creation.
1. Who was made in the image of God?
2. What two jobs did He give them as joint responsibilities (v.26)?
3. What were they commanded to do (v.28)?
There have been various interpretations given for “the image of God.” One idea is that it involves the functions and/or abilities given to people that make them similar to God in ways that the animals are not. For example, speech and logical intellectual abilities set us apart from the animals. Another thought is that it involves our rulership over the earth, or dominion, as God’s representatives. Another aspect of the image of God involves community. Just as He relates as three in one, we relate as male and female. Mankind alone is made in the image of God; therefore, all human life has value.
The word “man” in these verses refers to mankind, both male and female. God has given women great value and you are equal partners with men, created in God’s image and given dominion over all the earth. Even though God’s image has been defaced because of sin, it has not totally been erased. In the worst of mankind, there is still an element of the image of God. This is, in part, why we are to treat every person with regard and respect. What a wonderful and high calling to represent God in this world and to be given dominion over all we see!
4. Write a prayer of praise to God for His loving creation of you and the value that He places upon your life and the lives of all human beings.
5. Why did God make the woman? (Consider Gen. 2:18 as well as Gen. 1:26-28.)
The New Bible Commentary explains the companionship of marriage:3
The husband and wife complement each other. Suitable helper would be better-translated ‘helper matching him’, i.e. supplying what he lacks. She is his missing rib. Matthew Henry commented on God’s choice of a rib to create Eve: ‘Not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.’ Perhaps this reads a little too much into the rib, but it expresses well the biblical ideal of marriage.
In Genesis 1 woman is part of God’s plan to create mankind in His image, along with the man. In Genesis 2 she is the companion and “helper” (NASB) or “companion” (NET) to her husband. Man was never intended to be complete apart from the woman; she is his perfect partner. Both are made in God’s image and likeness. Both are to rule and exercise dominion over all of creation. Genesis 1 relates God’s purposes for all of mankind, our overall responsibility on earth. Chapter 2 describes the relationship of husband and wife.
6. Consider the unity of your body. How do you see different parts helping the others and yet being “one”? What would happen if the parts refused to help one another? How might this picture apply to the home?
God had work for both the man and the woman as partners. The Hebrew word for “helper” does not imply inferiority or passivity in any way. It is azar, meaning help or support. It is most often used in the Scriptures to refer to the assistant, the one who helps or supports someone else.4 The two share the workload. Drs. Alice Mathews and Gay Hubbard comment:5
As helper, the woman is not merely standing by her man, handing him a wrench when he needs it. The use of this particular Hebrew word means that he is inadequate without her. To help here means “to share the same tasks.”
The same word for helper is used in Psalm 121:1-2.
7. To whom does the word helper refer in Psalm 121? Describe how this helper assists us according to this psalm.
8. Considering #7, would you agree that the word helper does not infer inferiority? Why or why not?
9. List the ways that you see the wife supporting the husband in Prov. 31:10-31. Memorize the Wisdom from the Word for this week, which comes from this passage.
God’s design of total oneness is pictured in Eph. 5:23: “For the husband is head of the wife.” Paul gives us visual representation of marriage. We are one body with the man as the head and the wife as the rest of the body. Sarah Sumner comments on the teaching of the picture:6
The picture of “one flesh” communicates volumes of theology. It indicates immediately the organic unity that bonds husband and wife. How might the divorce rate plummet among Christians if we would recognize that God joins a man and a woman into “one flesh” through the mystery of marriage? It is not so disturbing to imagine a leader breaking up with his assistant. But it is utterly disconcerting to imagine a body being amputated physically from its head . . . A body belongs to its head and a head belongs to its body. That’s why God hates divorce.
Steve Smith, with whom I worked at Prestonwood Baptist Church, suggests that women help their husbands to death in the wrong way, constantly trying to “help” them improve. That is not the right kind of helper. As wives, we need to accept our husbands as they are but assist them where they need us and want our help. We are in this together. Often my husband asks me to call various people or pick something up to help him get things done. Sometimes I feel very put out because I have so much to do myself. God has to convict me of my attitude. My role is to help my husband with a loving heart.
10. Married women: Think about your husband’s strengths and weaknesses. In what areas does he need your help? (Be careful here. Make sure that you aren’t trying to improve him!)
The job of being a “helper” differs with each marriage. My husband asks me to pay many of the bills and keep track of the money because he doesn’t like to do that. (A later lesson will deal specifically with finances but you need to remember that the principle of the helper applies to it and other areas.) The fact that I help with the bill paying does not mean that I take over the decisions concerning money, tell him how much to spend, or supervise his spending habits. I merely am responsible to manage a specific amount of money each month and pay certain bills from that amount. I am his “helper”.
11. Married women: Think about being one with your husband. Go back and review the list you made from Prov. 31 in question #9. Write down 1-3 ways that you can better support him to make your marriage stronger.
12. Write a prayer to the Lord, and if you are married, ask for His help in fulfilling your commitment to the things you wrote down in #11. If you are single, write your commitment to being that kind of helper.
At one point in our marriage, my husband’s business was not going well and he and his partners had to take a pay cut. In order to help him, I needed a part-time job. I was not excited about it, but this is where I could support him. It took some of the pressure off of him at that point. We together decided that substitute teaching would allow me to continue with some ministry that the Lord had given me. I began to substitute at the senior high school, which ended up being a great place for me. God taught me a number of lessons through my years in this job, and I look back on them as almost fun!
Being helpers involves making adjustments for our husbands. Just as we help in different ways depending upon the needs of our own husbands, we also must adjust to them. Perhaps you need to change your schedule to allow more couple time. Maybe your husband needs order around him and you have to begin to place more order into your home management. He may be a person who needs a lot of structure and wants you to plan in advance when you are a spur-of-the moment type. It is the wife’s responsibility to adjust herself as her husband’s helper. I still have to work at talking to Gary early in the morning. He wakes up and wants to have a conversation while I want to grunt in response!
13. Married women: Write down a specific way that your husband needs you to adjust to him or that you have already learned to adjust to him.
Child-raising is the joint responsibility of both parents as part of God’s original mandate to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Although ideally both of you agree and act in unity in decisions concerning your children, what happens when you cannot agree? You leave your husband and your children in the hands of God and back off. This requires great trust in God, knowing that He is at work and can show your husband his mistakes. You do not have to trust the decision your husband makes. Perhaps he will have to make some mistakes for God to teach him that you are right!! As women, we often make it harder for our husbands to come around to our way of thinking because they know we will remind them how wrong they have been. If your husband knows that you will not be an “I told you so” kind of wife, he will more easily listen to your advice. When you do disagree with his handling of the children, remember that you are one with him and need to discuss it outside of the presence of your kids.
14. As you fulfill your role as your husband’s helper, what are you teaching and modeling for your children?
Learning to be a helper to my husband, Robert, by loving and praying for him grew for me at a time when he lost his job. It was a difficult period for the whole family, but I realized how it was more difficult on him. I had to resist in trying to tell him what I thought he should do in how he was going about looking for a new job. He was getting advice from everyone on what to do. He was doing the very best that he knew how.
My prayer life grew as a result. I prayed every morning and evening that God would help me to be patient, show me ways to love and encourage Robert through this difficult process of looking for a job. It could be as simple as a hug or kiss, or words of encouragement when he didn't hear back from anyone and to remind each other that God was in control and knew what was best for us.
His timing was perfect. He gave Robert a job that helped him learn many facets of the industry he was making a career of. Praying together and on my own about our situation brought us closer. Difficult times can bring you closer and make that bond of oneness stronger. It also taught me to pray for him all the time!
15. Write in your own words what it means to be your husband’s helper.
16. Married women: Write a prayer asking God to show you ways that you can be a better support and help to your husband. Have you been guilty of resenting the things that your husband asks you to do to help him? Before you can ask God to forgive you, you need to ask your husband to forgive you (Matt. 5:23-24). Go to him and humble yourself and confess your wrong attitude and failure to be his helper, as God has designed you to be. Tell him that you intend to be his support and help from now on. (By the way, practice apologizing for your specific actions that were wrong. Do not just say, “I’m sorry.” Mention your specific sins.)
3 The New Bible Commentary, ed. Donald Guthrie (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1970).
4 Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 2; ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 660-661.
5 Alice P. Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard, Marriage Made in Eden: A Pre-Modern Perspective for a Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 179.
6 Sarah Sumner, Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 143.
“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the sovereign LORD. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
Malachi 2:16 (NET)
Perhaps you have heard that marriage is a covenant relationship. What does that mean practically? How does that affect us day to day? A covenant is the most binding commitment you can make to another person. It is a serious vow and should never be taken lightly, either before or after the ceremony. Our promises in covenant are taken before God Himself. Many of the traditions of our wedding ceremonies come from age-old covenant symbolism.
A covenant is the kind of commitment that God makes to us.
The context of this passage contrasts the Old Covenant, or the Law, with the New Covenant we have with Christ. Under the Old Covenant the Jews made sacrifices day after day because their sins needed to be constantly covered. The animals’ blood did not in reality pay for those sins but merely covered them until the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, could come and shed His own perfect blood to wash away all the sins of those who believe in Him.
1. Why is our covenant with God now so much better than the Old Covenant made with the nation of Israel according to v.17-18?
We need to read the original passage where God promised that He would eventually replace the Old Covenant with a better Covenant.
2. List from this passage, using the words here in the Scripture, the promises that God makes those who enter His covenant.
Notice that God makes these promises unconditionally. He will fulfill the covenant with us because He is faithful to His promises. Have you entered the New Covenant through Jesus Christ? Has God forgotten your sins because you have recognized your sins and turned to Jesus to forgive you and to give you a relationship with Him? If not, these promises do not apply to you; however, they can become yours today. Recognize your sins, primarily the sin of doing your own thing and running your own life instead of obeying God, and trust Jesus as God who died to wash your sins away and to give you the power to change. He will come and live within you through His Spirit, begin a lifelong relationship with you, and walk with you every day.
3. Copy 2 Tim. 2:13 below. How can this verse be a comfort to you when you betray God with your attitudes and actions?
You are responsible before God to fulfill your part of the marriage covenant. It is not conditioned upon your husband’s loving you as he should. You have promised certain things to him before God and you are only responsible for you.
You are to be faithful to your vows, just as Christ is faithful to you.
God made a covenant with mankind just after the flood that destroyed all the earth except Noah and his family.
4. What did God promise?
5. What was the sign of the covenant?
6. What was the purpose of the sign?
Many times covenants include signs to remind the parties to the covenants of their promises. Often in marriage we use rings, which have symbolized the permanence of a covenant for thousands of years. In the Scriptures we see other signs employed: trees were planted (Gen. 21:32-33) or a pile of stones was set up (Gen. 31:44-55) to remind the parties that they had a covenant between them and were to fulfill the promises that they made in that agreement.
Many covenants in the Bible were made for protection and may be understood as seriously binding treaties. The parties to the covenant recognized them as so solemn that they called upon God to bring judgment upon either of them who broke the covenant. In Gen. 31:49-53 Jacob and Laban called upon God to exact judgment if either of them broke the pact. This type of covenant indicated that the two became one in their protection of one another. They promised not to attack each other or ally themselves with anyone against the other. Do you side with anyone against your husband? Your loyalty in covenant is to him.
I remember as a child seeing an old movie on television. It was the story of a man who befriended an American Indian. The two of them made a covenant that bound them as blood brothers. At the ceremony they made cuts in their wrists and bound their two arms together with a piece of cloth, symbolizing the intermixture of their blood. They were now permanently one as brothers. Their responsibilities included protecting the other man even at personal cost. They would give up their lives to protect the other. The scars were the permanent symbols, reminders of the promises they had made.
Marriage is this kind of covenant. We saw in our first lesson that God intends for a couple to be one. We leave and cleave. We are superglued together permanently. Thus, marriage is a permanently binding agreement. Remember the picture of the body in both Gen. 2 and Eph. 5:23? Just as we do not tear one body into two parts and expect it to live, we cannot expect to join a man and a woman and then rip them apart. God’s plan for covenant is permanent.
You can see from the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching on divorce that it is clear that rarely can someone divorce in God’s eyes. In fact, the only exception Jesus gave is adultery. Under the Old Testament law, an adulterer was stoned to death because he had broken the covenant and the oneness with his wife. To allow the wronged party to divorce an adulterous mate merely finalizes the reality that the bond has already been torn and they are no longer one.
7. Why does God hate divorce according to this verse? (You may want to read the context.)
8. What are the promises that you made when you married (or will make when you marry)?
9. What relationship in the heavenly realm does marriage picture in the earthly realm?
10. What does divorce do to this heavenly picture?
11. Consider 2 Tim. 2:13, which you read above, and what you read about the signs of the covenant. If you are to picture Christ through your marriage relationship, how seriously should you take your marriage promises? Why?
There is another custom used in covenants in the Bible and in many other lands. To indicate the seriousness of the promises they were making, the parties to the covenant cut animals in two; they laid each half opposite the other with an aisle, so to speak, between the two parts. Then they walked through the pieces asking God to judge them by slaying them just like those animals if they were unfaithful to their covenant. The marriage aisle is the modern-day symbolism of that “walk unto death.” In marriage, just as in our covenant with Christ, we die to ourselves and commit to someone else to become part of us, no longer to live for ourselves. This is the antithesis of sin. The root of sin is selfishness and self-centeredness. To put others before ourselves reflects the heart of God.
12. How did Jesus express His attitude of putting others before Himself?
The sad fact is that this may be the biggest hindrance to marital happiness. We are unwilling to give up our rights, our pleasures, our personal time, our priorities, and our pride to become one with another person. We hold onto what we want rather than doing what our mates want. Sin pervades the household and unhappiness is the fruit.
13. Married women: As you have followed your own lusts, in the form of placing your desires over your husband’s, how has the death of some part of your marriage been born? Be specific. (You will not have to read this to your group unless you volunteer.)
As believers we die as we enter our covenant with Christ. This is His call upon each of us. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 NET). The cross was the symbol of death and His listeners would have understood this to be their own death. To follow Christ is to die to yourself and to live for Him. Have you made this commitment to Him?
Gal. 2:20 (NET) says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life which I now live in the body I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
14. Have you forsaken your own rights and the life you want to live for the life Christ has for you as He lives through you? This is His call to you. Married women: Does the fact that you have died and Christ now lives in you affect your married life? Are you living for Jesus and putting your husband first rather than your personal desires? Single women: What other relationships do you have in which you need to die to yourself?
I personally believe that death to self is the key to your marriage. Are you ready to die so that there will be life and health in your home? Steve Smith says, “Marriage is your last best chance to grow up!” Isn’t growing up about putting others and their needs before your own?
As Christian mothers, we desire to have our children love and obey Jesus Christ for that will bring them joy and purpose in life.
15. How will the lessons you teach your children about faithfulness to promises and about selflessness and giving for others be enhanced or undermined by your personal actions in your marriage? Give specific examples of actions that would help or hurt your teaching.
Ray and I had a remarkable number of similarities in our lives: both of us being the second born, from a family of four, our dads were "only" children, our moms were one of two children; and, last but not least, both from homes broken by divorce. We knew firsthand the pain and heartache that comes from divorce, and neither one of us had any intention of getting one ourselves. Besides, the Bible tells us in Malachi "God hates divorce."
We decided that if we were to make a marriage covenant before God that only He would separate us in death. It's a vow that we keep by His grace and faithfulness; and we can joyfully, confidently tell our children that our marriage won't be broken by divorce. That's especially comforting to them when daily they see the heartache and sadness in the lives of many of their friends whose parents have divorced.
16. Married women: What one thing did you learn about covenant that helps you in your marriage where you are today? Single women: What one truth about covenant will help you as you enter marriage?
17. Write a prayer to the Lord asking forgiveness for any sinful action or attitude brought out by this lesson. If you have previously been divorced apart from God’s design, confess and ask God to forgive you. You may need to ask forgiveness of your previous husband as well. God is a God of grace, but His covenant is not to be taken lightly. When we make promises before God, we need to be as faithful to them as He is to His covenant with us. If you find yourself in a second or third marriage, know that God forgives. Commit now to be faithful to this covenant. Write a prayer recommitting to both your marriage covenant (married women) and to your covenant with Christ (all of you), promising to let Him live through you this day in your marriage and in the future.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22 (NET)
Here we are at the dreaded lesson on submission, or the “S Word”! It is the lesson that fills every woman with dismay. I agree that it is not an easy principle, but it really may be the most freeing principle that you learn to implement in your marriage. Before you begin looking at God’s Word on this subject, voice a prayer asking for God’s heart and His mind on this issue. Let Him know that you are open to build your home upon His design, rather than thinking you know better than He does (or your husband does). Ask for the grace to obey what you learn.
Two weeks ago we studied the “helper” role that God has given us as wives. Remember that the helper is the assistant; therefore, from the beginning God designed the husband to lead in a relationship of equals. His leadership was to be sacrificial rather than authoritative (Eph. 5: 25, 28-30). In God’s perfect creation that relationship worked in complete harmony. Sin changed everything, and now we no longer operate as one in marriage. Two heads do not work on a body, in a home, or in a business.
God’s original order established the man and woman as united partners over the rest of creation (1:26-28). Yet, within that structure the husband led and the wife was his strong assistant.
1. The fractured relationship between husband and wife is first seen in Gen. 3:12. How do you see this change in Adam’s attitude toward his wife?
After sin came into Adam and Eve’s lives, God gave what has been called “the curse”; however, notice that only two things were cursed, the serpent (v14) and the ground (v.17). God dealt with the husband/wife relationship in Gen. 3:16. He told the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband” (NASB).
What does it mean the wife’s desire is for her husband? Some have suggested that it is sexual desire. (I don’t often see this driving women!) Some say that women desire an intimacy with their husbands, which is true, but that does not mean that these verses teach that. It is extremely important to note that the word “desire” is used in the very next chapter of Genesis. Its meaning there should be considered as we attempt to understand this verse. The best way to interpret a word is to look in the near context of the verse. That is what we do when we look at Gen. 4.
Sin is trying to overtake and master Cain. Using that same understanding of the word “desire”, God is saying in Gen. 3:16 that because of sin, women will attempt to usurp leadership from the husband. Basically, we wives want to take over. If you are like me, you see this every day, in your own life and in the lives of others. God’s original design was for the husband and the wife to work in complete unity as the husband led and the wife assisted in all they did. Sin marred that, and we women no longer accept our God-given role. In fact, the NET Bible translates 3:16d this way: “You will want to control your husband.”
2. Do you sense that desire in yourself? It is a consequence of sin. Write a prayer asking God to help you recognize this and give you the grace and power to overcome it.
In Gen. 3:16 God also tells Adam that he will “rule over” (NASB) his wife. There has been disagreement about the interpretation of the “rule” of the husband in Gen. 3:16. Some believe this suggests that because of sin he will be a despot in the home and lord it over his wife. The NET Bible translates it “dominate”. It is obvious that the self-centeredness of sin does lead to this type of sinful behavior, but the verse does not necessarily imply that rule must be this way. The word for rule here is also used of God (Ps. 22:28) and of the sun and moon (Gen. 1:16, 18). This leads to the possibility that God is simply reaffirming the creation order of the home in which the husband leads in a relationship of equals. It is a reminder to Eve that she is to follow her husband’s leadership. Here is my loose paraphrase of what God is saying to Adam and Eve, “You got out of My design for order in your home, and you made a mess. Even though you, Eve, want to run things, remember that your husband is the leader and you are to work with him rather than apart from him.”
The New Testament reaffirms the same order we just saw in Genesis as God’s original design. The word “submit” or “be subject” is hupotasso in the Greek. It means “to subject oneself, place oneself in submission.”7 As Dr. Zodhiates explains, “In society all humans, all men and women in various positions of leadership or following and dependence, are equal, yet their functions vary and their responsibilities are diverse.”8
God has ordained unity, but the wife is to willingly follow the lead of her husband. Memorize v.22 as your Word of Wisdom for this week.
We wives are commanded to do two things in these verses in Ephesians.
3. Write down the first command from v. 22, 24 and the second from v. 33.
4. How are we to submit according to v.22? How can that help you submit?
5. In what areas are we to submit according to v. 24?
6. Married women: How can you better fulfill the second command that you found in v.33 than you are at present? Single women: Think of a specific way in which a wife obeys this.
7. We saw last week that the husband/wife relationship pictures the relationship of Christ and His church for the world (Eph. 5:25, 29, 32). So what are you as a believing woman doing when you submit to your husband?
These verses reveal God’s purpose for marriage as missional. As we lovingly relate in unity as husband and wife, we not only grow more like Christ personally but we also become missionaries to a world starving to see relationships work.
Submission does not imply inferiority or subordination.
8. How does Phil. 2:3-8 prove this statement? What attitudes are necessary in order to overcome selfishness according to this passage?
Men and women are equal in the sight of God (Gal. 3:26-29). In a section of the letter to the Ephesians dealing with the congregation at large (Eph. 5:15-21), we are instructed to submit to one another within the church (Eph. 5:21). Then from Eph. 5:22-6:10 Paul gives specific instructions as to how these general commands work out in each situation. Mutual submission is lived out through sacrificial, unconditional love on the part of the husband and through the submission of the wife. The picture of marriage is that of unity, just as the body is one unit and each part works in harmony with the rest.
Interestingly, we women want to eliminate the directive to be submissive to our husbands by suggesting equal submission. Yet, we don’t think that the command to submit to one another cancels out the child’s responsibility to obey her parents (Eph. 6:1-3) or to the slave to obey his master (Eph. 6:5-9). Susan Foh says:9
The submission of the wife to her husband is not that of an inferior to a superior. The woman is joint heir (with the man) of God’s promises; she, like the man, bears the image of God and as a Christian will be conformed to Christ’s image. The different roles husband and wife have are by God’s appointment and design. That the woman and man are equal in being is re-enforced by the command to wives. Wives are to submit themselves (reflexive); their submission is voluntary, self-imposed. It is part of their obedience to the Lord; the Lord is the one who commands it, not the husband.
Remember that everyone is to submit to God. As your husband leads your home, it is God to whom he is ultimately responsible. He will have to give an account some day, just as you will have to account for your submission. It is quite liberating to know that God will hold your husband accountable for his decisions, not you. If you are arguing with him over decisions for your family, your root problem is failure to trust God. I would recommend that you do a study of the power and character of God in order to increase your faith in Him.
9. According to Eph. 5:22, our Word of Wisdom this week, how does God say we are to submit? What is our attitude to be? Who is the ultimate authority behind our submission? How can this key make a difference in your submission to your husband?
When I needed a new car several years ago, my husband and I could not agree about it. Yet, it was to be MY car, not his. I didn’t and still don’t understand why I can’t have the car I want unless it costs too much! However, I submitted to my husband. I remember talking to my daughter, who was then in college, about the car situation. She told me to go buy what I wanted since it was my car. I asked her if she understood submission. She said that she thought submission was fine, and she would be happy to submit to her future husband when he was right. Well, there is the rub, isn’t it? It is easy to submit when he is right. The question is whether we submit even when we think his decision is a bad one. I am not talking here about an immoral decision but just a different decision that we would make—therefore, wrong!
10. Be honest before God. In what areas are you unwilling to submit to your husband? Are there areas where you feel that it is only your business? Finances? Employment? Discipline of the children? Your shopping? What you do with your own time? What you do with money you have earned? Married women: Think of areas where you feel your husband’s judgment is wrong or unfair. Single women: Consider how you will feel about the above areas.
Where do we draw the line in submitting to authority?
11. Copy Peter’s response to the governmental authorities.
We submit until we cross the line when our submission violates a clear command in God’s Word. Because we do have a clear command to submit, it is the overriding principle in our home-building relationship with our husband. We are to obey this clear command unless it violates another clear command. We will discuss submitting to a husband who disobeys God in a later lesson.
Does submission mean that you cannot share wisdom with your husband before he makes a mistake? Does it mean that you cannot ask him to change his decision? No. In that lesson, we will also look more closely at how to appeal a bad decision. Right now, just think of yourself as a member of a board of directors. It is your job to point out alternatives and reasoning. The best decisions are unanimous ones. Your input is essential to a well thought-out and healthy decision-making process, even if the final decision is not the one you like.
There is one more reminder that we need to consider before we move on. Submission does not involve manipulation. We women are quite good at knowing how to manipulate our husbands to get them to do whatever we desire. That is not submission. If you are guilty of this, you need to confess it to God and to your husband and put this sin behind you, never to go there again!
Chuck Swindoll gives us a good word about this:10
Webster says that manipulation means “to control or play upon by unfair or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage or to serve one’s own purpose.” In other words, secret manipulation is an unfair, insidious technique that results in getting what one wants. When handled cleverly, a wife can substitute secret manipulation for a quiet, submissive spirit.
Along those same lines I see many situations where the husband is reluctant to forbid his wife from doing something and yet, he does not really support it. The woman justifies her participation in whatever it is by saying that her husband did not forbid her to do it; however, in her heart she knows her spouse is not supportive.
Trust God. If He truly desires you to do something, whether a job or a ministry or a volunteer activity, He will turn your husband’s heart to support you. Perhaps God has called you to that place, but it is not His timing. Trust that He will use your husband to lead you at the right time. One way that a wife can know the will of God in her life is to trust that God will bring a unity of mind between her and her husband if it is His will for her.
Different homes of origin and different parenting styles will likely lead to differences of opinion in how to deal with your children. My husband’s parents’ rules were far more lax than those in my home. It often took a great deal of faith to accept decisions that permitted our kids to participate in things that my parents would never have allowed. My dad was scared to death that my sister and I would be hurt; thus, many of his rules involved protection from physical harm. We never got to buy fireworks or shoot off firecrackers. I was horrified when my husband let our son do so!! I still think it is a bad idea, and I told him so. However, I did accept his judgment without a bad attitude!
12. Married women: Is there an area of child training where you insist on your way rather than following your husband’s lead if you cannot agree? Do not justify yourself by saying that he won’t take the lead. If you back off, you force him to deal with it. If you find that you are guilty of this, write a prayer asking God for the grace to follow and trust in Him by obeying His design for the home. Single moms: When you marry, will you be willing to come to decisions about your children with your husband?
I was a schoolteacher, married three years. Milton and I had "planned" for me to teach three years, try to get pregnant, resign from teaching to have babies and raise them. We got pregnant after the first try. Milton was stunned! In a bad way! He wasn't prepared for the feeling of responsibility of a child, etc.
I was delighted and excited that I no longer had to work and could stay at home and be a mommy. But he took the position that I needed to work up until a few weeks before delivery, take a few weeks off after birth, and then go back to work! I was the one stunned this time!
Prior to our wedding, we had been through marriage counseling with our pastor and both agreed that I would stay at home with baby. So I cried, pleaded and then showed him the Titus 2:5 weapon: “Younger mothers to love their husbands...and be workers in the home." I thought that would do the trick; he couldn't argue with God's Word. He then countered with another scripture: "Wives, submit to your husbands." I prayed, "God, who is right?" (meaning Milton or me.) God revealed to me that He is right. After several days or maybe weeks of anger, God showed me that my responsibility was to submit to my husband because he was the leader in our home. He was to make the decision about whether I worked or not. God also let me know He would hold Milton accountable for the results of his decisions, so I didn't have to worry about doing the wrong thing. The right thing for ME to do was to submit to my husband.
So...since I had already resigned from my teaching job, I found a part-time job working in a doctor's office. They were flexible with my pregnancy, agreeing to a few weeks’ leave of absence for the birth, etc. As time went on, I began having severe back pain and eventually had to leave this job. The office hired a temp to fill my spot and then decided to hire her full time so they didn't need me after baby was born.
I was thrilled, but Milton said I needed to line up another job to have after baby was born. (And I still needed to be submissive.) I interviewed for a teaching position with a private Christian school. During the interview I told the principal that I didn't want to work, that I wanted to stay at home with my baby, but that I was there at the interview just to please my husband. The principal hired me!!! Rats!! My baby was due in April and I would be able to be at home with her until school started in late August. It was all set. I had submitted to my husband and to God's Word.
We had the baby. She was beautiful and life was grand! Then my husband was transferred to California with a promotion! Of course it was with great regret that I called the principal and told him the sad news that I would not be able to teach after all!
We settled in Los Angeles and for some "unknown" reason, my husband didn't broach the subject of me working professionally until sixteen years later when he began his own business and needed me to help him get started. Of course by then, our three children were teenagers!
13. Write down an explanation of why you plan to become a submissive wife.
7 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992), 1428.
8 Ibid., 1428.
9 Susan T. Foh, Women and the Word of God: A Response to Biblical Feminism (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979), 186.
10 Charles R. Swindoll, Strike the Original Match (Portland, Ore: Multnomah Press, 1980), 57.
Note from the Author:
I have written an addendum to lesson 5 of the marriage study in response to a lot of comments and questions via emails from this site. Click to read the Addendum.
Marriage must be honored among all and the bed kept undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral people and adulterers .
Hebrews 13:4 (NET)
We have seen in previous lessons that marriage is God’s design and institution. Let’s reread the verses that reveal God’s original plan for the husband and wife.
1. By way of review, what principles for marriage did we pull out of Gen. 2:24? There were three (2 verbs and a phrase) and we already discussed the first two in Lesson 1.
The third principle is that of “one flesh”. This is one aspect of oneness. We are one in God’s sight when we marry, never to be separated. (Remember Matt. 19:3-12?) However, we are also to build oneness into our marriages. The “one flesh” relationship is obviously physical, involving the sexual relationship, but it is more than that. It includes intimacy between husband and wife in every way—physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
We, as women, long for intimacy with our husbands. Some men are not good about spiritual or emotional intimacy but seem to desire only physical intimacy. Perhaps, you need to work on communicating your need for other kinds of intimacy to your spouse. Just remember that we do live in a fallen world and you may never have the kind of intimacy with your husband that you desire. Instead of letting that create dissatisfaction with your mate, let it draw you to Christ, who wants to give you the type of intimacy you desire.
2. Copy Hebrews 13:4 below. This is our Word of Wisdom for the week.
3. Knowing that God invented it and knowing what He has said about it in Heb. 13:4, what kind of attitude should you have toward sex?
Memorize the Word of Wisdom for this week and believe it!
4. What is one purpose for marriage according to vv.2, 9?
5. What commands are given to the husband and the wife (v.3, 5)?
6. There is only one exception given to the command. What is it (v.5)?
Notice that when we marry we are no longer to retain our rights over our own bodies but are to give that authority to our spouses (v.4). Remember that two are one now; your husband is part of you, not separate. When he needs you physically, you are to meet his needs. You have died and are to live for Christ who expects you to take care of one another’s needs. There are many marriages that could have been saved if the wife had understood that her body belonged to her husband, not for abuse but for fulfilling his sexual needs.
Don Meredith explains that God’s design for sex builds unselfishness:11
God steps boldly to the point, finishing any faint-hearted commitment to the sexual relationship once and for all. My body is not mine, but my mate’s. I am here to please. Hereafter, to demand rights over my body is to disagree with God’s instruction. God makes sex a sacrificial act that is redemptive, in that it gets my eyes off my needs and onto the needs of my mate.
This means that there is mutual submission in bed. What is mutually satisfying is acceptable to God as long as it involves a husband and wife alone.
Because the sexual act is a picture and a part of the oneness in marriage, it is highly serious to break that bond. A component of the marriage vows made before God is a pledge to remain faithful to this one person until you die. Let’s consider some verses about adultery.
7. How do these two commands relate to one another?
8. What was the punishment for adultery under the Old Testament Law? Why would God require such a serious punishment in the light of the principles we have considered about covenant and oneness?
We saw in Ephesians 5:25-33 that marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His church. Oneness in covenant comes with commitment. Oneness with Christ comes with our entry into covenant with Him, and oneness sexually should only come with commitment in a marriage. When sex takes place before marriage, it breaks the picture of the covenant and commitment we have with Christ. Adultery does the same thing. I have often heard it said that sins are all the same before God. While it is true that every sin, big or small, creates a barrier with God and the penalty of death, it is not true in the practical realm. Under the Law sins had different punishments, depending upon their seriousness. Often in the New Testament there are lists of serious sins and adultery is prominent on these lists (See 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). The consequences of adultery and fornication are enormous and should never be taken lightly, as our culture suggests. You probably have relatives and/or friends who have broken their marriage covenant and borne a terrible cost.
Many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were convinced that they were holy and not sinners. Jesus dealt with them harshly. God is merciful and gracious to us as sinners but He expects us to recognize our sins and take them seriously. The arrogant, self-righteous person does not receive that mercy.
9. How does Jesus expand the definition of adultery?
Our thought lives are where we so often sin. Perhaps you have never had a sexual relationship outside of marriage in the physical sense, but you may have enjoyed the thoughts. In God’s eyes you are guilty. Sin begins in our thoughts and in our hearts. We must watch our thought lives so that we do not act upon what we think. As sinful thoughts build up, we may act on them; however, the thoughts themselves are enough to make us guilty.
10. What kinds of things were the Pharisees defining as unclean?
11. What defiles the person, or makes her unclean, according to Christ?
This concept is so important, especially in our day because we look around at others and think we are okay when we compare our outward behavior to theirs. The question is how are we on the inside? Do you spend time thinking of other men, even dreaming of a perfect man, not necessarily a real person? Do you read romance novels that turn your thoughts to imagining a perfect relationship with someone other than your husband? Do you fantasize about what it would be like to have another husband? Perhaps you dream of someone you know at work or at church or someone you watch on television or the movies.
12. According to the principles Jesus laid down in Matt.5 and 15 and the commandments you saw, what is the problem with these thoughts?
13. Here are some Biblical principles to help deal with temptation in this area. Write down the principles you see and exactly what you are to do according to these verses:
a. 2 Tim. 2:22
b. 1 Thess. 4:1-8
c. Phil. 4:8
d. Prov. 4:23
14. What things are you putting in your own mind that should be eliminated? Name at least one way to apply the principles of Phil. 4:8 in your own life today.
Men desire intimacy just as we women do, so if they cannot receive it from their wives, they will often search for it elsewhere. H. Norman Wright gives us some insight concerning this.12
For women, sex is only one means of intimacy out of many and not always the best one. For many men, sex is the only expression of intimacy.
Men tend to compress the meaning of intimacy into the sex act and when they don’t have that outlet, they can become frustrated and upset. Why? Because they’re cut off from the only source of closeness they know. Men are interested in closeness and intimacy but they have different ways of defining and expressing it.
H. Norman Wright
15. Married women: Have you misread your husband’s need for sexual intimacy as simply a need for physical fulfillment? I certainly have made that mistake. Think of a time when you may have hurt your spouse by refusing him when he needed that intimacy with you or when he was trying to support you by showing you intimacy. Write down your thoughts to God.
We women need to better understand that men don’t think like we do; they don’t act like we do. Instead of wanting them to be like us, we need to accept the differences. In “My Fair Lady” the men sing a song asking why women can’t be more like men. Wouldn’t that be boring? God made men and women distinctive so that we can blend our strengths and help one another’s weaknesses. We need each other. What one lacks in sensitivity, the other overcomes. What one lacks in logical thinking, the other helps reveal. Whatever your situation, your husband is designed to balance you out. Be careful, however, about making the mistake of putting people in gender boxes. Although men in general may be less sensitive than women, this is not true of all men. That quality should not be considered feminine. Get to know your husband with all of his individual strengths and weaknesses. You will probably find that you balance him out in many areas. In the past a marriage partner often spoke of a spouse as his/her better half. Try to think of your husband as your other half. Treat him as part of yourself. What he needs is important to you because he is part of you.
Often it is the very differences in our personalities, etc. that we treasure until we marry. Suddenly those are the things that drive us crazy and lead to argument and discontent. See your husband as God’s perfect partner who will balance you out. If he needs sex for intimacy, accept that and respond accordingly.
Realizing that I am not an expert in the area of sex, I have found some excellent advice that I want to pass on to you. If you desire to build intimacy in your marriage, you need to consider your husband’s feelings and needs in the area of sex, as well as every other area. As you read these quotes, consider how you might apply these insights.
Jill Renich discusses some distinctions between men and women that might enable you to better understand your husband.13 Again, these are generalities that are not always true.
One of the differences between husbands and wives is illustrated by their attitudes toward sex when they are physically tired. Sex is usually the last thing a wife wants when she’s tired, but it provides her husband with the relaxation he needs for restoring sleep. Some women prefer sex at night while some men prefer to begin the day with this gratifying experience. Another difference is that after a quarrel a woman looks for words of reconciliation, but a man often looks for sex to heal the breach and restore the oneness with his wife. Someone stated the difference this way: “A man gives love for sex; a woman gives sex for love.”
This validates the idea that men seek intimacy through sex. That is why they want to have sex when there has been an argument. This may be why your husband attempts to console you by suggesting sex when you are hurting for some reason. Renich gives us more insight into the necessity and importance of this aspect of marriage to a man.14
A wife may demonstrate her love in innumerable other ways but it is often negated by her rejection, or lack of enjoyment of sex. To a man, sex is the most meaningful demonstration of love and self-worth. A husband’s gift of sexual pleasure is full of meaning. It’s a part of his own deepest person. How his wife receives him has a much more profound effect on him than most women realize. To receive him with joy and to share sexual pleasure builds into him a sense of being worthy, desirable and acceptable. To reject him, to tolerate him and to put him off as unimportant tears at the very center of his self-esteem.
16. Are you willing to give yourself to your husband sexually without considering your own desires or needs? Are you prepared to give him the authority over your body? If you are not, you are in sin, disobeying God’s direct command and His principle of oneness, and you are putting your marriage at risk. Write down your thoughts about this principle.
If you have been disobedient in this area, take the time to confess this to God and to your husband and ask forgiveness. This is not to be taken lightly because this is God’s design for your marriage. He is the Designer and He knows what will work. Ask God for the grace to die to self in this area and to put the needs of your husband before your own. I believe that marriage and children are ways that God deals with our sinful selfishness, making us more like Jesus, whose unselfishness resulted in our salvation. If we follow God’s marriage principles, we become more Christlike.
How can you pass on the importance of sexual fidelity to your children, especially in the present culture where everything screams sex? I know that I do not have all the answers to this, but it is a critical issue.
17. Consider the verses in #13. How do these apply to your training of your children?
Remember that you are responsible for what you allow your children to see and hear. This means that you will have to swim upstream, sometimes even against what other Christian parents allow. You and your husband must before God set the standards for your children. God will hold you responsible.
For several years we received a monthly newsletter that gave a parental, Christian perspective on movies. We found that we could not trust the PG-13 or even PG ratings to help screen the movies our children could see. We wanted to know what values would be taught through the lessons of the story as well as what language, etc. was included. The kids complained when they were not allowed to see something that their friends could watch, but it was our parental responsibility to control what thoughts and images were planted in the minds of our children. There were some movies that we allowed them to see because they gave us opportunities to teach discernment, to think carefully about the messages conveyed. To do this, you must see what they see!
18. Can you think of anything now that you need to control in your child’s life that will pave the way for sexual purity?
Please note that while your children need to see your affection for one another, it should never be sexual in nature. That is for the privacy of your bedroom. Inappropriate sexual expressions can confuse children and send the wrong messages.
Early into our marriage I became aware of my husband’s and my differing sexual needs. (It didn’t take too long to realize this!) I love our sexual relationship and was very happy, but soon realized that it was much more important to him than anything else – including sleep!
This occasionally was a source of unhappiness, especially when our children were very young and I was always exhausted. Around that time I started attending a Bible study taught by a very wise woman, and the subject was marriage. Through this study I realized several things…
One, men and women are wired very differently. When women are tired, they want to sleep or “veg out”. When men are tired, exhausted, whatever, they want sex. Sex is their way of unwinding, no matter how tired they are, physically or mentally!
Second, that rejection is taken very personally. Men’s sexuality is part of their identity and extremely important to their masculinity. To be rejected sexually is taken personally!
Third, I was taught that my body was not my own, nor was his body his own – we belong to each other (I Cor).
This Bible study teacher encouraged all of us as young wives to adopt a very important principle: do not refuse sex with your husband unless you really have to, for physical reasons, or other good reasons. If at all possible, say yes! This will result in a much happier man. Personally I will say that I have found if I follow this principle, my husband generally is much more fun and a lot less grouchy!!
19. Write a prayer confessing, if necessary, and committing before God your body and your mind to marriage partner alone. Ask God for the grace to put away anything that does not serve faithfulness to your husband in your thought life. (You may need to make yourself accountable to a friend as well.)
Because of some great feedback which I have received from a number of bible.org readers, I wanted to add a few comments to this lesson on sexual intimacy.
First, this entire study was written for women, not men. That means that I did not cover a husband’s responsibilities under God. Too often we as wives focus only on what our husbands are failing to do rather than our own need for change. For that reason we aren’t discussing what God expects of husbands. He expects us to be good wives to them whether or not they fulfill their responsibilities. Our actions and attitudes as wives do not depend on our husbands’ obedience. This is true of the sexual aspect of marriage as well.
I know that many of you wives desire more sexual intimacy than your husbands do. You are not strange or unusual in that need. A large percentage of women have a stronger sexual drive than their husbands. Much of what is written and quoted in this lesson assumes that the husband desires sexual intimacy more frequently than his wife because that is the majority of cases. By using those quotes, I do not in any way mean to suggest that those of you whose husbands do not have a strong sex drive have done anything wrong or are responsible for it in any way. It may be that your husband is simply made that way; don’t imagine that he doesn’t love you!
There are cases when the man is involved in pornography, and it has diluted his drive for actual physical intimacy. Never assume that your husband is free of such involvement. The temptation is everywhere in our American culture. But having said that, remember that God has made some men without a strong sex drive, and it is not a reflection on you as his wife or a sign that something is wrong. If you fall into this category, asking him for more sexual intimacy is perfectly legitimate. 1 Cor. 7:3 applies both ways.
If you are struggling sexually, please ask for help. If you and your husband are not freely discussing it, go to him and bring it up. If you are unable to talk honestly, get help from a pastor or counselor. Seek wise counsel as to how to best approach him and what to say.
As far as pornography goes, if you are involved in it, you must realize that it is adultery according to Jesus’ words in Mt. 5:27-28. You must recognize that this is a sin. Confess it and repent of it. You may need outside help in this area from groups like Celebrate Recovery or from a Christian counselor. Call a pastor to find help in your area.
It may be that you are not looking at pornography per se, but you are involved with other men in online chat rooms to meet your emotional need for love; perhaps, you dream of other men through romance novels or even have fantasies of specific men you know. This is emotional unfaithfulness in the same way that viewing pornography is physical unfaithfulness.
It is wise that we women carefully watch our husbands’ habits as well, just in case pornography is involved. Make sure he is not hidden away with his computer. Don’t leave him up at night playing or working on it after you are in bed. Ask for counsel if you discover any involvement with pornography. This is often an addiction which will not go away without outside support.
God has made us with a need for the local church. I hope that you are involved in one where you can ask for counsel and help. May God give you wisdom and guidance as you deal with any sexual issues in your marriage.
11 Don Meredith, Becoming One: Planning a Lasting, Joyful Marriage (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979), 173.
12 H. Norman Wright, Understanding the Man in your Life (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 196.
13 Jill Renich, To Have and to Hold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), 48.
14 Ibid., 55.
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:8a (NET)
Love seems to be the overriding consideration in marriage these days. We search for men we are “in love with” to be our husbands. Yet, there is little understanding of what true love looks like. The only source for recognizing love is the Scriptural teaching and its revelation of God’s example of love.
1. List the qualities of love from these verses. I have started for you.
2. Married women: Pray through the list in #1, asking God to show you the qualities that are lacking in your love for your husband.
3. Our culture defines love as a feeling. Is that supported by these verses? Why or why not?
Jani Ortlund may help you think more biblically about love and marriage.15
As Christian women we must rise above the belief that warm, loving feelings are what make a good marriage and keep it strong. Marriage is more than a mere alliance between two people who love each other. It is a binding commitment made before God and witnesses that goes beyond feelings. It is a commitment not only to a husband, but to the marriage itself. . . . It is a promise that says I will act in a loving way toward my husband even when the feelings aren’t there, because my marriage is more important than my feelings. Feelings are so undependable. They cave in at the least disappointment, like a house of cards jarred by the slightest tremor.
4. If you have been married very long or even had a long-term relationship with someone, have your feelings been consistent throughout? How did you handle it when the “love” was not there?
I believe that most of us go through cycles in our relationships. We begin with “that loving feeling”, but we do lose that eventually. We may then go into a wilderness when we discover things about our spouses that bring disillusionment. Once the newness wears off, you may be shocked to discover that you are now committed to this other person, whom you may not even like at this point. As a result you may have very little patience with him, affecting even the way you speak to him.
I have seen these cycles in my own life. If I commit to the marital relationship and work to follow God’s principles, I return to a feeling of “love”. The problem is with my attitude, not with a lack of “love”! Love, as we have just seen, is action and attitude rather than feeling. If I find myself in the wilderness with Gary, I must evaluate the ways I am departing from God’s Word and God’s definition of love for my husband. The emotions of love depend upon the actions of love. Commit yourself to love your husband as God loves you. He loves you despite the way you are. (He doesn’t love you just the way you are but despite it!)
5. Copy John 15:12-13 below.
6. How do these verses in John apply every day in marriage?
Arthur H. DeKruyter helps us understand how biblical love works.16
The Scriptures describe a giving love—a love that says, “Whatever I have, I want to share with you, and I want you to be what God meant you to be.” It is a love that takes first things first as far as the other person is concerned. We can see immediately that this kind of love is not emotional. One does not fall into and then out of this kind of love. It is a love of the will. It is something addressed to our volition. We do it because we make ourselves do it. We order ourselves. Because of Christ, we are motivated to love. We do not wait for attraction or like interests.
Arthur H. DeKruyter
7. What was our relationship with God when Christ died for us? Why is God’s love so amazing in the light of that relationship?
8. What example does that set for the love we need to show our husbands, even when they are unloving or unkind?
As wives, we are told to love our husbands (Titus 2:4), but the command is not for the kind of love we have just considered, the word agape in the Greek (as in 1 Cor. 13). Titus 2:4 uses the Greek word fileo, meaning a friendship kind of love. Obviously, we are to love them with agape love also because every command applies to marital relationships, and we are commanded to love one another. However, God is apparently concerned that we love our husbands with a warm feeling of friendship as well.
Over the years my friendship with my husband has grown. In the beginning I was more reluctant to share my feelings with him, knowing that he might not understand or respond as I hoped. However, I not only need his friendship when we see things alike but also when he has a different perspective. He balances my thoughts so often and gives me a new way to consider the things that come into my life. With my friends, I can share anything knowing that they are trustworthy and honest. The same is true of my husband.
Share your life and your thoughts with your spouse. Just know that he is wired differently from you and may not always understand the importance of what you tell him. Patiently continue sharing and helping him comprehend your feelings. Do not let his disinterest or lack of understanding deter you from pursuing him as a friend.
How can we build a sacrificial, selfless love (agape) for someone else?
9. Where can we get this kind of love for our husbands according to this verse?
10. In a practical sense, what do you need to do in order to love your husband in the light of this verse? Where do you focus and how?
11. If you obey Mark 12:30, how do you expect it to affect your relationship with your husband?
Jesus taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Are you praying for your husband, who is not your enemy but part of yourself? Are you praying for him and getting annoyed that he is not changing, or are you thanking God for him each and every day and praying that God will work in his heart? Sometimes we undermine our marriages by focusing in prayer on the problems and shortcomings of our spouses rather than on God who wants the best for them. Be thankful for your spouse. Concentrate on what he has to offer rather than what he lacks. Pray generally that he will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Know that when he seeks God first, God will change his life. Don’t give God a list of changes! Do not grow impatient with God when nothing seems to be happening. Maybe God needs to do a work in you first, before He can change your husband!
During one of those wilderness times in my early marriage, I was trying hard to change Gary so he would be more like I wanted him to be! In His timely way God put in my hands a book called Lord, Change Me by Evelyn Christensen.17 The author emphasizes focusing on God’s work in us rather than God’s work in the lives of others. That was a life-changing principle for me. I began to see that I was not the wife I needed to be, and I quit concentrating on Gary’s shortcomings. Even today as I pray for him, I do not list for God what He needs to change about Gary. I pray for him to love God with all his heart and for him to seek God’s kingdom. I pray that God will complete the work that He has begun in Gary. God has changed him a great deal since I altered my prayers and my focus, but truthfully I have changed even more. I encourage you to pray for your husband but to pray much more about yourself!
12. Write a prayer asking God to change something specific about you that is not in accordance with the love that you are to show your husband (when you marry).
We may need to consider for just a minute what love is not. Love is not overlooking any and everything that someone does. Love desires the best for someone else. Because God loves us, He is honest with us and grows us up to become more like Christ. In the same way because we love our husbands, we desire them to grow in the practice of faith. Sometimes that does mean confronting them. We will discuss this more when we get to the next lesson on disobedient/unbelieving husbands, but you need to be sure that you haven’t fallen for a false definition of love.
13. What do you see in the definition of love in 1 Cor. 13 that would not be consistent with the idea that love means always overlooking sin?
14. To balance this is 1 Peter 4:8. Copy it below.
15. In love you give grace and sometimes that means that you overlook a transgression against you. Write down your thoughts about the balance here.
The same truths about love apply to our children. Love does not mean that we just put up with anything they do and overlook it.
16. Copy the verse that explains the relationship between love and discipline.
17. Explain the concept of these verses in the light of what you have learned about love in this lesson.
Several years after Andy and I were married, he learned that he was a diabetic and had many other health problems associated with this disease. He was insulin dependent almost immediately. The result of this was the loss of many jobs as he would become sick and be let go due to absences. I would pray and pray that God would help him to get a good job and keep it. I began to greatly resent the fact that he wasn't working and I was the breadwinner in the family. Of course, as my resentment and bitterness grew, I began to doubt my love for him.
One day as I was praying, (I still remember being on my knees in our guest room that a.m.), God showed me that my attitude was sinful. I confessed the sin of resentment and bitterness to the Lord and began praying that God would help me to love Andy more. God answered my prayer in a way I would have never imagined. He began to lay on my heart a desire for Andy to quit his job searches and just become a “house husband”. The more I was obedient to pray for a deeper love for my husband, the more God dealt with me about what the rejection (on job hunting) was doing to his health.
One day, I approached Andy about what God was showing me and he agreed after a period of time, to stay home. It was hard for him as his ego was hurt at first. However, God so blessed our decision in this, that it soon became apparent this was His will for our lives. What followed was 8 years of "invincible love" in our marriage. All the arguing and spatting ceased, and we fell more deeply in love than I could have imagined in the early days of our marriage.
When Andy went to be with the Lord, I was able to look back at how God had blessed me by showing me how wrong my attitude had been. I am convinced that if we had continued the way we were going before God got hold of me, Andy would have probably died long before he did. When we obeyed God, he solved our financial woes by giving me many salary increases and bonuses. Not only that, He was growing my pension fund so that I would be taken care of during this season of my life. How I praise Him even now for His goodness in this.
18. Is there anything you need to implement in your marriage or your home because you have studied what true love is? Name one loving action you will take this week at home.
15 Jani Ortlund, Fearlessly Feminine (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000), 77.
16 Arthur H. DeKruyter, in Family Concern, J. Allan Petersen ed., vol. 10, no. 3 (1986).
17 Evelyn Christensen, Lord, Change Me (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977).
Let your beauty not be external—the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes—but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (NET)
I have heard women excuse their lack of submission by saying that their husbands aren’t men of prayer and are not seeking God’s will. Some have said that their husbands are not believers so they don’t have to submit to them. Are these valid excuses?
1. Copy 3:1-2 below.
2. To what kind of husbands are we to submit according to 3:1? Try to look this up in more than one translation of the Bible and write down the exact words used.
This refers primarily to an unbelieving husband, but it can be applied also to the one who is not walking according to the Word of God. In either case, just as we discussed in the submission lesson, the key is your trust in God. You obey Him by submitting and letting Him deal with your husband.
3. This entire passage deals with submission and gives several reasons for submitting to those in authority over us—in our nations, our jobs and our homes. What reasons do you see in 2:12, 15, 19?
4. Peter turns to wives in 3:1. He begins his instruction with the phrase “in the same way”. This refers us back to the ways he has mentioned in the previous verses. List the ways that submission has been described in 2:16-18. Write down the actual phrases used.
5. What reason is given for submitting to unbelieving husbands in 3:1?
6. What do you learn about submitting to unbelieving husbands from Christ’s example in 2:21-25?
Jesus put up with the abuse of the crowds and the soldiers and the officials. He brought salvation to us through this sacrifice; when you follow His example, you work with Him in bringing salvation to your spouse. (I am not suggesting that you submit to physical abuse; separate from him until your husband comes to repentance; for the same purpose God removes His fellowship from us when we sin. Once true repentance has occurred, forgiveness and restoration follow.)
I am not suggesting that these are easy lessons. Remember our previous lesson when we studied the consequences of sin in the world? God told the woman that she would desire the man, or want to control him. When we submit, it goes against our sinful desires. In our selfishness we want to make the decisions, and in our pride we think we know better than our husbands.
F.B. Meyer discusses this 1 Peter passage and its obligation to the woman who has an unbelieving husband.18
It was, primarily, addressed to those who since their marriage had become Christians. There was considerable hesitancy in the early Church, as to their duty under such circumstances. “Should they leave their husbands?” . . . “No,” said the Apostles, “stay where you are, however painful your position, and uncongenial your surroundings, and trying your husband’s conduct. Be chaste, gentle, loving, submissive, winsome, so that hearts may be softened, which have never heard a word of Gospel preaching, and may be won by the beauty of your holy and unselfish lives.”
God truly calls wives to an unselfish and giving love that accepts even a difficult marriage and unfair treatment in an effort to bring their husbands to know their Lord. I have been blessed with a kind and understanding husband so I can only guess at the difficulty of day after day having to overlook the verbal abuse of such a man. I do know that God gives us the grace that we need for the situation. He never gives us more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
God tells us exactly what kind of wife will win her husband. It involves more than submitting to them. It involves the right attitude and actions.
7. How will they be won according to 3:1-2?
Peter is not saying that we should not pay attention to our looks, but that is not to be secondary. Our society is so focused on beauty today. Wives should seek to look attractive for their husbands, so long as it is not an obsession or an attempt to seek the attention of others. Remember that your body is for your husband, not for others to gawk at. (In 1Tim. 2:9 God commands us to dress modestly). God says that it is not attention to the outward appearance that will win your husband but the attention to your soul.
8. What adjectives are used to describe the inward beauty that we are to seek (3:4)?
The word for meek, or gentle deals with an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word humility . . . . It is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect. . . . It identifies a condition of the mind and heart. . . It is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit, neither elated nor cast down because not occupied with self at all.19
The bottom line here is that we accept everything as coming from God, trusting Him rather than resisting, fighting, and arguing. That is possible because we know that He uses everything to increase our inner beauty (Rom. 8:28-29).
9. Do you have a gentle or meek spirit according to this definition? Where must you put your focus in order to adorn yourself this way?
The quiet or tranquil spirit is “quiet, tranquil and indicates tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.”20 So often we think that this means that soft-voiced women are more spiritual. Instead, the quiet spirit is the peace in the heart that comes from trusting God in the midst of a difficult situation. In fact, we can speak with soft voices and yet not have quiet spirits at all because we are internally upset, failing to accept our situations as from God. The quiet spirit flows out of the meek spirit. Once we accept everything that comes into our lives as coming from God, we can be at peace within because we trust that God is at work.
I am so thankful that this passage is not suggesting that I must learn to whisper and be quiet around others. According to this definition I can become a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit without changing the loudness of my voice or the amount of talking I do. If I am to adorn myself with the “meek and quiet” kind of attitude, it will take time and work, just as physical adornment does. I must spend time and effort focusing on my God and seeing everything, even my husband’s bad judgment, as coming from His hand for a purpose and a reason.
Memorize these verses that are your Word of Wisdom this week. Whether your husband is a believer or an unbeliever, you should adorn yourself this way because this kind of spirit is “very precious in the sight of God”. I want to be a woman that God values so highly because of my inward beauty. Don’t you?
10. What does God promise in these verses that will help you trust Him even when you feel that your husband’s decision is not God’s will?
11. In 1 Peter 3, God uses the example of Sarah as a wife who adorned herself inwardly and submitted to her husband with the right attitude. Interestingly, although he was a believer, Abraham didn’t always choose the best path and acted out of fear rather than faith. Yet, Sarah was not frightened by that, according to 1 Peter 3:6.
Sarah submitted to Abraham’s hair-brained schemes to save his own neck. In both cases she went into another man’s harem as a result. In the first situation, she apparently did sleep with the king. The second time God protected her because He wanted there to be no question that her child was Abraham’s (to be born within the year), as He had promised them both. God did not praise her sin but her attitude. She submitted by trusting God in the midst of the circumstances rather than being afraid.
I realize that when I get most upset about a decision with which I don’t agree, it is because I fear the consequences. Gary has made financial decisions that I would not have made, and they have scared me. Over the years, I have learned to trust God with the results of Gary’s choices. The time may come when we have to deal with some bad consequences; however, if we do, God will be true to His promise in Rom. 8:28-29 to use it to make us more like Christ.
I have a friend who has prayed for her husband’s salvation for many years. I began to notice, however, that every time they faced a crisis of some kind, she also prayed for God’s deliverance. Perhaps, those crises were the very situations that God wanted to use to remind her husband that he needs Him. Although it was hard, in a sense the crises may have been part of the answer to her prayer. She needed to begin praying for her husband with “Whatever it takes,” and to accept everything that came into their lives without fear as coming from God.
Are you willing to let God deal with you and your husband in any way necessary to bring both of you to maturity? If so, trust him with your husband’s decisions. The consequences of a bad decision may be the best thing that ever happened to you and to him.
12. What consequences of your husband’s choices scare you? In what situations do you have a difficult time trusting God?
13. What are some ways you can work to adorn yourself with a gentle and quiet spirit as described above? Name one practical way you will work on this during the next week.
Last week when we studied love, we saw that love sometimes involves confronting sin. There may be a time when we must deal with sin in our husbands. I would say that this is rare. Usually we are upset about the gray areas rather than outright sin. If you feel that your believing husband is involved in a sin, pray hard about when and where to confront him and be sure that your heart attitude is right before you talk to him at all.
14. When you must confront your husband, or anyone else, what must your motive be?
If your motive is anything else, anger or selfishness or concern about yourself, you should not confront him. Pray about your attitude because it must be right before you can deal with your husband.
15. How do Jesus’ words in Matt. 7:5 apply to this situation?
Submission is an attitude more than anything else, and is harmonious with confrontation, as Carole Mayhall explains:21
All of Scripture is for wives. All of the Bible is for every Christian. Scriptures such as ‘speak the truth in love’ , , , are totally compatible with being a wife who is in submission to her husband. Submission is an attitude of heart . . . and an attitude of yieldedness and of love.
When there is a decision that needs to be made for you or your family, submission does not mean that you cannot speak up with your perspective or suggestions. Just be sure that you do it with the right attitude and that your husband understands that you respect him and his decision. If he is a believer and in sin, you should confront him about it. If he will not accept your words, involve the church authorities, as Jesus outlines in Matt. 18:15-20.
Susan Foh helps us understand the balance.22
The Christian wife has the responsibility to grow in Christ, to know doctrine, to be able to speak the truth in love. That is, she is not to be ignorant, nor to rely on her husband’s knowledge and/or participation as a substitute for her own. In addition, she is not to be silent when her husband sins (Matt. 18:15) . . . .Her submission manifests itself in lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance in love, and eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3) but also in reverence for her husband as her head. The Christian wife is neither passive nor mindless. She does not have to pretend her husband is always right or hide her own talents or intelligence. She is to use her gifts for the up building of the body of Christ, which includes her husband.
Susan T. Foh
16. Using the principles of 1 Peter 3, how often do you think you need to be the one to speak to your husband about his walk with God? Why?
I know some Christian women who love the Lord and His Word. The problem is that they have so intimidated their husbands spiritually that these poor men do not believe they can ever live up to their wives’ expectations; thus, they don’t even try. There is no indication that their wives respect them or their decisions. The women treat their mates as spiritual inferiors.
If your husband is a believer who is not walking with the Lord, as he should, leave him to God. Think of the grace that God has shown to you. Give that same grace to your husband. Do as Peter suggests, walk the walk and let God do the talking. Accept your husband where he is in his journey with God. Let God have room to work without your interference.
If your husband is not a believer, you can still give him your suggestions and perspective in a loving and respectful way. Showing him your faith without words does not mean that you cannot talk with him concerning decisions. Remember that you are his helper in his decision-making process. What you don’t do is preach to him! There may be times when you need to speak to him in love and remind him that his actions may have serious consequences. Your approach will be different from that of the wife of a believer because your husband does not accept God’s Word and His guidelines for life. You use other reasoning that he will accept and understand. Your primary command is to live it, not talk about it. If his actions require you to sin with him, you must not submit in that case.
I read somewhere about a church that became concerned for its members whose husbands were not believers. Rather than praying for the salvation of the husbands involved, they began to pray that the wives would become 1 Peter 3 kind of women. They prayed for the witness of the women through their lives rather than their words instead of focusing their prayers on the men. God began to do a work as he honored His Word by saving many men whose wives started obeying the Scripture.
17. Write a prayer either for yourself or for another women whose husband is not a believer or who is not walking closely with the Lord. Pray for her spirit to become that of the 1 Peter 3 wife.
I applied this principle to someone close to me whose husband is not a believer. I began to pray for her more than I prayed for him. Although he has not become a Christian, I have seen her attitude change, and their marriage has improved immensely. If your husband falls into this category, begin to concentrate your prayers on yourself and the work that God needs to do in you. Pray that God will make you a submissive wife with a quiet and gentle spirit who walks her faith before her husband rather than talking about it to him.
What does God say about divorce and the unbelieving husband? He tells us to let him leave if he chooses, but the marriage is a mission, which opens the possibility of his salvation and affects the children positively for God (1 Cor. 7:12-16). The decision to remain with an unbeliever is the kind of sacrificial love that Christ showed to you when He came to earth to die for you.
What if your husband makes a decision that you feel is wrong, perhaps even sinful. How do you appeal that kind of decision? Daniel’s life provides a great example of how to handle this situation.
18. Write down the principles you learn from Daniel about how to appeal a decision by someone in authority over you, even a husband. Notice what Daniel does and how he does it.
I participated in a mission trip to Kazakhstan recently. The native Kazakh people are Muslim, at least culturally. I met Christian women whose Muslim husbands refused to let them attend church. Physical or at least verbal abuse often follows if they go anyway. The women asked me what to do. I silently prayed for wisdom. I suggested that they respectfully request a trial period of a month or two where they would be allowed to go to church. At the end of that time, their husbands would give permission to go if they had been better wives as a result. In any case the women must obey God’s command to meet with other believers.
You are in authority over your children. The word for “obey” (Eph. 6:1) is a different Greek word than the word submit. A wife chooses to place herself under her husbands’ leadership while a child has no choice. Although there is an attitude difference here, your submission to your husband helps your children learn obedience. There may be times when your decisions as a parent are hasty and even wrong. Be sure that you allow them to approach you with an appeal, just as you would desire that right with your husband.
19. What are your children learning by following your example of submission? Do you see any reflection of your attitude toward your husband or anyone else to whom you must submit?
The 1 Peter 3 passage always bothered me because I never saw myself as that personality type, "quiet and gentle". One Bible session years ago, I asked a pastor how I could fit into that with my personality. He gave me the Greek understanding of those words: absence of fear. Now that fits with any personality type. Once again the old question comes up: "Do you trust Me?" Sarah is my example and she trusted God enough to go without fear into a harem, twice. I would have been kicking and screaming and calling Abraham all kinds of names, not nice ones. She trusted, believed God and HE came through supernaturally. If I want to see God work supernaturally, then I have to operate in faith not fear, even things concerning our children and decisions that my husband might make.
20. Write a commitment to God, listing at least three things you will do by applying the specifics of 1 Peter 3 to your life right now. For example—I will be submissive and respectful even if my husband does not pray about our decision to move. I will quit suggesting that my husband come to church, but I will let my actions show its impact upon me. I will spend as much time with God adorning myself inwardly as I spend putting on my make-up, doing my hair and nails, and working out.
18 F.B. Meyer, Tried by Fire (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1983), 100.
19 W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 401.
20 Ibid., 503.
21 Carole Mayhall, “Choosing to Submit,” in Marriage Takes More than Love (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1978), 191.
22 Foh, 186.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised.
Proverbs 31:30 (NET)
Assignment—For the next week, keep a chart of how you spend your time. Just take the chart at the end of this lesson and put it out in your home somewhere, perhaps on the refrigerator or beside a chair where you often sit down. (Assuming you can ever sit down!)
God’s priorities for you as a wife and mother are these: 1. Your relationship with God; 2. Your role as a helper to your husband; 3. Your children; 4. Your ministry. However, ranking these does not adequately explain how this really works. We cannot just choose God and neglect the other aspects of our lives. As believers, we are to be involved in all of these areas of life. Balance is an important concept, especially when partnered with the idea of priority. We are all to be involved in ministry in our churches; there is no option. However, the way that balances with our family relationships depends upon the needs of the people in our lives.
Our first priority is to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30). That is the first and greatest commandment. Whenever your priorities are out of order, you will be placing something else above God and that is idolatry. When you have God at the forefront of your life, it is much easier to put everything else in place for He gives us the love and devotion we need for our families and the abilities for our ministries.
We have already seen throughout this course that our marriage relationships are the most important relationships we have on earth. Time with our husbands builds the “one flesh” relationship of God’s design. The strength of that relationship impacts our children. The greatest security you can give them is a loving marriage. We must put time with our husbands before our time with our children. Someday your children will leave, and it will come much sooner than you expect. Your relationship with your husband must still be intact because it will be just the two of you once again.
Originally, I listed “home’ as the priority after children. Actually, what you do in your home is an extension of your ministry to your husband and children. What kind of order do they need as they seek a place of peace for work and study? What this means varies from family to family. The goal is not a Southern Living home but a home where people are more important than perfection. Remember the principle of being the helper; we are to adjust to our particular families. Remember, God has given the married couple jointly the instructions to rule the earth and create family—work and family. We work together to create a true home for our children. It is not the wife’s responsibility alone.
I like what Jani Ortlund says about the atmosphere of our homes.23
I believe that a godly home is a foretaste of heaven. Our homes, imperfect as they are, must be a haven from the chaos outside. They should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, wary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion.
Your own family is your primary ministry; yet, we are all called to minister within our local church (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10, 11). Again, how does this balance out? Ministry will always involve some sacrifice to both yourself and your family. However, it must be sacrifice that does not cost them more than they should bear. It must never become more important than they are.
My outside ministry was minimal when my children were small and grew as they gained more independence. Eventually when they were teenagers, I traveled around the country several times a year, teaching others how to study the Bible and lead classes. That meant that I would be away from my family for four days at a time, not there to deal with problems, etc. that came up. There were times when I missed my kids’ swim meets. I wasn’t there to cook or clean (but I did leave everything in order). However, Gary and the kids were my biggest encouragers in this ministry. I had their unqualified support. Sometimes I did return home to find Gary annoyed that he had to deal alone with some problem. If so, I would remind him that I was happy to stay home and not do the workshops anymore. That was not his desire; he merely wanted to vent his frustrations to me. Once he had, we went forward. My ministry was always secondary to my family. When I knew the kids’ schedules in advance, I would not plan to interfere with an event in their lives. When Gary had a chance to play golf for the weekend or he wanted us to do something together, I stayed home. I never accepted more workshops than I felt I could do with my family as my priority. The best thing about traveling was the appreciation that they felt for me in my absence. There is something to be said for leaving every now and then!
What does God say about managing our homes?
Proverbs 31 describes the kind of wife that the king should seek. It is not a job description for marriage but a character description of a strong woman. (The word translated excellent means strong or valiant!)
The Proverbs 31 woman was never a favorite of mine! I knew that I could never be as wonderful as she. She does it all: her own business, home, children, husband; she even works out! It was so freeing to me to see that she wasn’t doing all these things every day. I learned that it is her character rather than her activities that transfer from the culture of that day to our own. In that culture a strong woman would live out godliness in the ways listed. However you and your husband choose to fulfill your God-given mandate to work and to raise family (Gen. 1:26-28), your character must parallel hers.
1. List what the Proverbs 31 wife does for her home and family and then the character qualities indicated by that work. How do you show that character quality in the 21st century? Use the first person: I must . . .
Example: She works with her hands, making cloth (v. 13, 19) and clothing her family for the cold (v.21). I must be industrious and faithful to care for the needs of my family.
2. How are you doing with these character qualities? Write down one area of needed improvement and one way you will work on it beginning today.
I love the fact that God gives freedom in marriage for each couple to work together and work out their own job descriptions. Many of you have chosen to be the primary household manager so that your children are raised well.
3. If your primary responsibilities are in your home, what reason is given in Titus 2:3-5 for fulfilling all the responsibilities listed?
What is a “homemaker”? The literal word means “a keeper at home, one who looks after domestic affairs with prudence and care.”24
4. How does the Proverbs 31 wife exemplify this kind of character?
Notice that the Proverbs 31 wife has a business and brings in income for her family. She is an astute money manager. I believe this passage is consistent with a woman having a paying job outside the home, if you and your husband agree. Each couple must decide how to fulfill God’s two primary instructions: to work and build family. But remember that family needs always trump work—for both of you!
Memorize the Word of Wisdom for the week and commit to fear the Lord.
How are you doing as a homemaker? I hate the term “housewife”. I am not the wife in the house, but the woman making my house a home in every way. This applies to all women, whether they work outside the home or not.
5. How are you doing in your task of making your house a home? What do you need to do to look after the domestic affairs with prudence and care? Is there any area where you are being careless?
As your husband’s helper, you need to consider his personal needs rather than your strengths. Perhaps you hate to cook but that is important to his well-being or perhaps to your family finances. You need to come up with a plan to improve in this area. If he needs order, you need to begin to put things in order for his sake. As the helper you must be the one to do the adjusting.
I remember visiting my sister when our children were young. In the late afternoon we would pick up all the toys and activities strewn all over the house because it was important to her husband that everything be orderly when he came home. She would have preferred spending time doing something more fun, but she adjusted to his desires.
6. Married women: What is important to your husband in the home? What does he need provided in order to feel a sense of peace in the midst of chaos?
There was a point when I was constantly annoyed when I had to pick up after Gary. (This was not even daily, but I still got annoyed!) Then, I read Col. 3:23-24. Although it is in the context of slaves submitting to their masters, it applies to work in whatever form it takes: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” I began to apply those verses to my marriage situation; whenever I started resenting some of the repetitive or dirty work required to make my house a home of peace, I remembered that I was doing this for Christ. He delights when I work with my whole heart, however tedious or distasteful the task.
7. Name one homemaking task that you resent. Write a prayer giving that chore to God. Ask Him to remind you whenever you begin to complain, even in your heart, that you are doing it for Him.
8. What one tip for better home management do you have to share?
I received a book from a friend when my daughter was born. The authors suggested that mothers can feel a sense of accomplishment every day by simply making the bed. I lived by that principle and still do today. Despite the disasters and mess that the rest of the day may bring, I can see that one thing had been finished. Many times that has been the only thing I actually see accomplished in an entire day!
Go back and review the list of priorities on the first page of this lesson. Consider how balanced your life is and how the list of priorities affects it.
Try to read this story as if you had never read it before.
9. Why was Martha upset at Mary according to her complaint to Jesus (v.40)?
10. What was Martha’s serving doing to her (v.40, 41)?
11. For what reason did Jesus commend Mary (v.42)?
It is usually clear when I have begun to substitute service for devotion to God. I have little patience with others. I start feeling stressed rather than resting in God. I am definitely not at peace within or with others. As things go wrong, I grow upset and out-of-sorts.
12. Consider your own service, even what you give to the Lord. Is it in the right priority in your life? How can you tell? If your priorities are out of whack, write down your plan to correct it.
By this point in this lesson, you should be getting close to the end of the six days of charting your activities. If not, wait until then to continue and answer the rest of the questions in this lesson.
Take the time to consider your priorities as revealed by your schedule. Also consider where you might be wasting time or spending too much time. Think about these questions. Remember our lesson on adorning ourselves with a gentle and quiet spirit rather than adorning ourselves outwardly? How did you do when you compare the time you spent on your grooming and exercise with your time with God? Did you focus this week on people or things? What priority does God have in your time? How much time did your husband get?
13. What one area of your life, according to your record of time, needs the most work? Write down in the first person what you will do this week to improve that area.
Years ago I read Anne Ortlund’s book The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.25 She does a wonderful job making suggestions about simplifying wardrobe and make-up. She describes her planner that has sections for a journal and an organizer for her schedule. The book gives ideas for placing priorities in order. If you need help in any of these areas, I recommend you read her book.
You are responsible to teach your children to care for their own areas of your home and to manage their time with the priorities set out in this lesson. They must learn that their work is done for the Lord, not man.
14. What will your children learn about priorities by watching you? Think about ways you spent your time this last week according to the record you have kept.
15. How are you teaching your children to care for the things that God has given them? How are you teaching them to manage their time?
My mother usually picked up our things for us. Rarely did she make us look after our room or our belongings. Once every few months, we had a huge organizing time for our closet and room, and we did help. I think it was just easier for her to do it herself than it was to make us do it, but it was not the best thing for us. We needed to be totally responsible for our room and our possessions. As moms, we love to do for our kids but we may inadvertently handicap them. If you have anyone who comes to your home and cleans, consider how to teach your children to care for their things and to keep their rooms. Perhaps your cleaning service needs to skip their rooms and baths and only help you with your needs. Are you teaching them to care for their clothes?
An older friend once told me that she was concerned that if God called her daughter to missions, she would be unable to go because she was so spoiled. It really gave me something to think about. I know that my children are spoiled compared to the world, but I did try to force them to learn to do for themselves and to wait for possessions rather than expecting me to provide for their every desire.
With a BBA in Management/Marketing, I couldn’t wait until I got married, had kids and began to manage my household. I would always laugh on the outside when moms called themselves, “Household Engineers,” but on the inside I was saying, “That’s me! That’s me!” Anyway, I started to think that I was possibly running too tight a ship when the following scenario took place.
My husband and daughters were very involved in the Indian Princess program at the YMCA. They looked forward to the monthly meetings, the turkey shoot, Christmas parade and yes…THE CAMPOUT. It was an Indian Princess ritual for the dads to pick the daughters up early from school on Friday afternoon and caravan to the campgrounds. My precious little one could hardly sit through 1st grade that day knowing that her name would be called over the intercom saying, “Come to the office, your daddy is waiting for you.”
Well, it was such a day when my husband arrived early to school and approached the office with that gleam in his eye. He managed to leave work on time, pack the car, change clothes and get to school before the other dads. He was a proud man. He smugly went to the office and announced that he was here to pick up his daughter. The lady in the office, not the usual receptionist, asked him, “Who is your daughter’s teacher?” My husband looked at her with a smile and said, “Well, uh, it’s uh, you know, it’s only October and I haven’t gotten to know her yet, so, uh, could you just check?” The aide, slightly embarrassed for him, said, “Sure, what grade is she in?” My husband must have looked like a deer in headlights when he realized he didn’t know the answer to that question either. “This is terrible,” he said, “I should know these things!” “Would you like to use the phone and call your wife?” asked the aide. “No!” he said immediately. “That won’t be necessary!”
Since I was the president of the PTA, he would pull his eyeballs out, shove nails up his cuticles and walk on hot coals before he would allow that phone call to go through. Suddenly another dad showed up and he was able to redeem himself by happily letting the other dad go ahead of him. “1st grade…that’s it!” “She’s in 1st grade!” Well, the excited 1st grader was “finally” called down and the campout was a huge success.
After hearing this story, from many people, I decided that I would communicate and manage my household a little more openly with my husband. Even the obvious is not too obvious sometimes.
16. Explain the importance of “making a home” as you would to your children.
17. How has God spoken to you this week?
23 Ortlund, 147.
24 Zodhiates, 1033.
25 Anne Ortlund, Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1977).
The LORD owns the earth and all it contains,
The world and all who live in it.
Psalm 24:1 (NET)
We would have to study an entire course on finances to cover all that God says about it in the Scriptures. Since we cannot spend that much time on it, we will take a few principles and think about their application in our lives.
1. What is the danger in storing up treasures on earth according to vv.21 and 24?
2. What should be your priority in life according to v. 33? What is the promise for those whose priorities are in line?
3. How will having those priorities affect your generosity to others and your giving to the church?
The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom about life. As you read proverbs, remember that they are sayings which are generally true. They are not promises but truths that usually happen.
4. Write down the financial principles that you learn from these proverbs:
a. Prov. 3:9-10
b. Prov. 6:6-8
c. Prov. 11:25
d. Prov. 11:28
e. Prov. 13:11
f. Prov. 21:5
g. Prov. 23:4-5
h. Prov. 24:30-34
I have made my prayer concerning finances that of Proverbs 30:8b-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” God knows how much Gary and I need and can handle for the tasks which He has given us to do. I don’t want wealth to distract me from my faith in God; neither do I want poverty to cause me to doubt His goodness.
5. What may happen to those who seek wealth?
6. With what necessities should we be content?
7. Instead of pursuing wealth, what is the believer to pursue? How does this fit with the priorities we looked at last week and Matt. 6 with which we dealt in questions #1-3 in this lesson?
One of the major problems concerning finances in marriage is debt. What are believers to do about debt? I wish we had time to go through the entire Bible and study what God has to say. If you and your husband want to study God’s principles for money, I would recommend either a Crown Ministry class or some of Larry Burkett’s material. He has workbooks to help you plan your finances as well. He tells us what God’s Word says about debt.26
God does not prohibit using credit; He simply lays down very clear guidelines for how credit should be used. There are three basic principles: (1) credit should never be normal for God’s people; (2) credit should never be long-term; (3) never sign surety—take on an obligation to pay without an absolutely certain way to pay.
Our culture minimizes the impact of debt. We live in a debt-driven society. The world tells us that we need material things and should not have to wait for them. Consequently, we charge and borrow in order to have more stuff. Somehow we are convinced that these are necessities. God’s Word tells us to be careful because the borrower has a sure obligation before God to pay back what he borrows. You have made a promise, given your word to another, when you borrow. As we reflect the character of God, we must be faithful to our promises. Christians do not lightly give promises about anything.
8. Are you guilty of using debt to buy things that are not really necessities? Have you used credit when your husband has failed to give you what you want? Do you maintain a credit balance instead of paying off the debt before buying other things?
My husband and I do have credit cards but make it a practice to pay them off. My husband is generally not as concerned about our finances as I am so he spends money more freely. That could drive me crazy, but it is not my responsibility. God has been faithful to us through all the years and provided for our every need. I know that He will continue to do so.
As married women, we must base our financial decisions not only on specific verses that teach about money but also on the Biblical teaching concerning marriage from our previous lessons.
We have already studied God’s principle of covenant, where two become one in an unbreakable vow before God. The oneness we share with our spouses applies in all areas of our lives, including finances.
Kay Arthur teaches this as it relates to our covenant with Christ but it also applies to our marriages.27
Covenant is such a total oneness and commitment that, as Jesus says, you have to be willing to give up all your possessions . . . when two become one, everything you have also belongs to your covenant partner.
What is mine belongs also to my husband and what is his belongs to me. Marriage today has gotten far away from this in many ways. Individuals desire to hold onto “my stuff”. Too often I hear women refer to “my money” because it is the money they earned. All that a couple has is “ours”. There is nothing that belongs specifically to either one. If we follow God’s design rather than the world’s, we hold nothing back from our spouses. We give freely and without strings. Together you may determine who manages certain income. When my mother gives me money for my birthday, my husband wants me to use it for myself, not because it is “my money.” He knows that I will use it for our family if we have a need. Once a friend of mine told me that her husband wanted to borrow some of “her money.” Legally, it may have been “her money” but in God’s eyes, it belonged just as much to her husband. Her attitude toward her money and her marriage were out of whack with God’s design.
9. Married women:Do you have any possession or money that you consider yours and not your husband’s? What do you need to do about your attitude? Single women: Are you willing to be one with your future husband in this area? Why or why not? Does your attitude come from trust in God or not?
Although Gary and I consider all of the money we receive to belong to “us”, we do have separate checking accounts. Early on we realized that it is too difficult to keep up with the balance when two different people are using the same account. When I did not have a paying job, he gave me a certain amount each month; out of that, I paid certain bills and some other expenses. He trusted me to use that money wisely. One checking account may work for you and your husband. If you do have separate accounts, the key is to recognize that all the money in both accounts belongs to both of you. You do not have the authority to spend the money in your account in a way in which your husband would not agreed.
This brings up the other marriage principle that affects finances, submission. When you cannot agree, your husband is responsible before God for the way the money is spent. (Remember that includes all the money, whether you earned it or he did.) There have been so many times that I thanked God that it is not my responsibility but Gary’s. I am not anxious to answer to God for any more than necessary!
It is great when both spouses agree after praying about a monetary decision. I talk to so many women who say that they basically tell their husbands what to do financially. At the risk of being redundant, let me again emphasize that when you allow your husband to make the decisions, you are trusting God, not your husband. Let God, rather than you, deal with him! Don’t let your husband allow you to lead the home spiritually by being the only one who prays about the decisions made. Let him know that you respect him and expect him to pray and to make a wise decision.
If you desire to get out of debt (a wonderful goal), how do you do it? You stop spending and begin a plan to pay off the remaining debt. If you have to tear up your credit cards, do so. You may find that your husband is not as committed to getting out of debt as you are. Pledge that you personally will not be guilty of borrowing so that you have done all that you can to get out of debt.
10. Married women: Will you trust God with your money so that you quit trying to control the monetary decisions, giving your input but never insisting or suggesting that your husband is incapable of making the right decision? Write a prayer committing yourself to God and voicing your trust in Him. Single women: Write a prayer committing to God’s priorities for your money.
11. What does Prov. 27:15-16 say about nagging your husband over his spending habits (or any other things)? Married women: Have you been guilty?
12. What are some practical steps that a wife can take to let her husband know that she respects his decisions in this area?
Sometimes it can be quite difficult to shut your mouth and let your husband make what you consider bad decisions in the area of finances because they affect your entire family so much. Review the principles from 1 Peter about dealing with a husband who is not acting wisely, according to your understanding of God’s Word. Unless he is actually sinning, you need to respectfully share your perspective, pray, and let God deal with him. You are not the Holy Spirit. You must exhibit the gentle and quiet spirit that trusts God to deal with your husband and is at peace because of that faith.
13. How does our Word of Wisdom this week, Psalm 24:1, help you when you struggle to trust God with your money or your husband? Memorize it.
14. Copy 1 Sam.2:7 below. Read Ps. 127:2. How do these verses help you trust God instead of thinking that you must be a workaholic or work to the extent that it impacts your family?
Darlene Leach shared with me a book written by her parents, telling of their lives and the ways that God had blessed them with “all these things” out of Matt. 6:33. Although they lived in a very different era, you can see from their example how important it is to teach financial principles to your children. In their marriage, they lived out the things they had been taught by their parents.28
Both of us had always been taught to save a little of whatever we made! We had also been taught that the first ten cents of every dollar belonged to God, so it was only natural for us to take the first ten cents from our salary to church and the next ten cents to the Post Office! The Postal Service was paying 2% interest on investments! Discipline had always been a part of our lives, so it was fun and fulfilling to see our nest egg grow. It wasn’t very long before we could buy a car—not by paying so much down and so much a month, but by paying cash for a beautiful car! We didn’t realize it then, but God was gradually adding ‘all these things’ to our lives, just as fast as we proved ourselves to be dependable and trustworthy.
Daulton & Pauline Blevins
15. What practical ways are you teaching your children to trust God with their finances? How are you teaching them to give to God?
For as far back as I can remember I have felt that I had to be independent. You’ve probably heard these philosophies: “If it is to be, it’s up to me” and “Life is what you make it”. I didn’t adopt those philosophies because I was a feminist or because my temperament directed me in that path, but because circumstances of my childhood more or less molded me that way. I learned about God at age 10, but there was no discipleship of my new faith until I was in my early twenties. By that time, I had become pretty proficient at taking care of myself financially, and I thought my role with God was to simply worship Him and live my life in a manner that would not shame Him. I had a really hard time shaking the idea that my problems were “my” problems and somehow I had to make decisions and work them out the best way I could, just as I had done all my life. It took a lot of Bible study and church attendance before it began to sink in that God didn’t want me to just worship Him as God, but to let Him be God in my life. It was hard for me to capture the thought that this Supreme Being not only wanted to participate in my decisions and needs, but He commanded it of me. What a relief that brought to my life and I used it “big-time” when I married my husband, a very sweet and sensitive person, but very choleric, take-charge kind of man!
By the time we met, we both were focused on following God’s will for our lives, so I didn’t have that struggle. I also knew that God’s design for marriage was for God to guide the man and the woman to follow that lead, and I was so ready for someone else to “take the lead” that this wasn’t an issue. (This far oversimplifies the submission issue for the wife, but that’s another topic in itself.) I so welcomed that! The struggle I did have was when God decided to test me in that area—how far would I trust Him to take care of the issues of our lives, and would I be willing to allow Robert to be the head of our household and not recapture that need to be independent?
Shortly after we were married, I sold my business and became an “assistant” to him in his. Calamity happened and we were wiped out financially. We lost everything except our cars that were paid for. It just seemed that things weren’t “working” for my husband from a business sense. Those were fearful times for me. I began thinking that I should get a job, any job, or maybe God wanted me to start back with my own business, but Robert was against it. I thought it was probably just his pride, and I was frustrated that I should be doing something to make our financial situation better. When you have a problem, you take action, RIGHT???? That is what I'd always done in the past. Finally, I did do something, I prayed, but God didn't seem to be listening. Frequently to my mind I would recall scripture that said that the man was the head of the house. I began to get a confidence that God was using this dark time in our lives to grow us for His purpose.
For the next few years, I stayed right at my husband’s side, supporting him in every way possible. I prayed for God to give me the strength to be an encouragement to my husband and to give me the contentment in our situation. Lord, help me not to whine and not to be envious of others who seem to not be having these awful financial struggles. We were frequent prayers. Things began to turn around and our financial issues decreased. When the dust had cleared, I looked back and realized that because I had truly relinquished my independence to God and my husband, God was able to work within my husband without my interference. I learned so many lessons through that hard time.
As a result, our marriage is strong and vital. We have a bond that creates a trust and oneness that I could have never imagined having with any one person! I realize that my husband isn’t perfect and that he is going to make mistakes, and from a secular view, I may suffer as a result; however, I know that if I simply follow the plan that God has laid out for the wife, then all that comes my way will ultimately be for my good. I don’t have to be the one to take care of everything in my life anymore. God does it perfectly. I can trust Him to work through my husband for my good and His glory.
16. What one principle of finances has most impacted you this week? Write down one action you will take this week to implement this principle in your life. Make it personal. Use the first person: I will . . . .
26 Larry Burkett, The Word on Finances (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 147.
27 Kay Arthur, Our Covenant God (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 1999), 64-65.
28 Daulton and Pauline Blevins, “All These Things”, (unpublished booklet, n.d.), 9.
You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 (NET)
Throughout our study, we have studied many marriage principles. They do work better when the husband and wife communicate with one another, and communicate well. There is so much misunderstanding between spouses because of poor communication. I could write a book if I listed all the ways and times that Gary and I had misunderstandings because of poor communication with one another. If you are in a marriage where you do not understand one another very well, you may be able to improve things even if you are the only one to change. All you as the wife can do is adjust yourself and hope that your efforts will impact your husband as well.
You can read books and go to seminars that give practical methods for communicating in a better way. Many of the Biblical references deal more with problems that we have because our tongues get us into trouble.
1. How powerful is the tongue according to James? Write down at least one phrase he uses to describe its power.
2. What illustrations from nature does James use to prove that it is not right to praise God with the same tongue that we use to destroy others?
I can remember far too many times when I have gone to church arguing with my husband or mad from an earlier argument; yet, I have sung praises to God and prayed with that same tongue. (I also smile and look so innocent!)
3. Have you been guilty of blessing God and saying hurtful, ugly things to your husband with the same tongue? Repent before God and write down your thoughts to Him.
Again, the book of Proverbs has much to say about this subject. As you read, remember that in Jewish poetry, which includes the book of Proverbs, the lines are in pairs. The second line either reinforces the truth of the first line or gives a contrast, an opposite. Knowing this may help you understand the verses better.
4. Read the following proverbs and write down the principles that you learn about the tongue:
a. Prov. 10:19-21
b. Prov. 11:13
c. Prov. 12:18
d. Prov. 12:25
e. Prov. 16:24
f. Prov. 17:9
g. Prov. 25:11-12
h. Prov. 27:6
i. Prov. 27:15-16
When we disagree with our spouses and become angry, or when they get angry, it is imperative that we handle it correctly. The Bible gives us some great suggestions for dealing with that situation.
5. What do you learn from the following verses? Write down what it says and then how it applies to an angry situation.
a. Prov. 15:1
b. Prov. 15:28
c. Prov. 21:23
d. Eph. 4:1-3
e. Eph. 4:29-32
f. Prov. 18:21
6. How does Matt. 5:21-24 relate to this last verse?
From my personal experience I can tell you what does not work when there is disagreement! An angry response merely increases the problem rather than fixing it. Don’t let me fool you. I get angry at least as much as my husband does at me. A lot depends upon my mood!!! I think we have to be extra cautious when we, as women, know that we are not in the best mood so that we can prevent arguments and not be too touchy about things. We need to know ourselves and our tendencies. Recognize your weaknesses and pray about God’s strength and grace during those times.
It has become quite popular to suggest that verbal abuse is a reason for divorce in the church. The Bible does not give that as an option. Remember that the only situation where Jesus allowed divorce was adultery. We see in 1 Cor. 7:12-16 that an unbelieving husband is allowed to leave if he chooses. The passage in 1 Peter 2:21-25 deals with others’ verbal abuse of Christ as an example to us. We looked at this passage in a previous lesson but need now to consider it as we deal with the tongue.
(Notice which passage follows these verses.)
7. How did Jesus handle verbal abuse according to these verses? (Write down what the Bible says, not what you think.)
We learn from Jesus that letting others have the final say is not weakness but strength when we are sacrificing ourselves to love. Responding in kind may be quite American, but it is not the example of Christ. We need to wait and deal with their treatment of us when things are not so tense.
8. According to Matt. 5:44, how did Jesus teach us to respond to our enemies who curse us? How did He exemplify this in His own life?
Instead of answering someone, not only in an abusive situation but also in other situations, often we should just listen. Too many times we only hear in part because we are so busy thinking of our retort.
9. What do you learn from the following verses about listening?
a. Ecc.3:1, 7b (The “b” indicates the second part of the verse.)
b. James 1:19
10. How are you doing with your tongue, not just in marriage but in all areas of your life? Rate yourself from 1-10 from the biblical perspective we have studied. Give an explanation of why you placed yourself at that level.
11. Married women: With what one area of communication do you and your husband most struggle? Do any of these verses apply to that problem? Which ones and how can they help?
Steve Smith says that these are the most important words in marriage:
The 6 most important words—I am sorry. I was wrong.
The 5 most important words—You are my best friend.
The 4 most important words—What is your opinion?
The 3 most important words—If you please. (It’s not “I love you.” You show that you love him.)
The 2 most important words—Thank you.
The single most important word—We
12. Married women: Which of these words do you need to build more into your marriage? How can you incorporate these words more into your relationship with your husband?
Just as we have previously discussed, marriage is all about sacrifice and loving someone else more than yourself. It is death to self. That is the principle behind Jesus’ response to those who abused Him. How much do you love your husband and how much do you desire your marriage to be godly? Do you want to be the light of Christ to him? What if he is unsaved or not walking as he should with God? Your loving and gracious response to him in the midst of an ugly or angry situation may be the very sacrifice that will show him who Jesus is. Let go of your personal rights and the desire to be right. Just love him.
13. Write Eph. 4:29, the Wisdom from the Word this week, below and memorize it. If you are single, what situations do you face that need the application of this verse?
I found that one of the most difficult tasks in parenting is teaching children to deal with one another, or even friends, when they are angry. Hitting is often the response of choice for young children. (Recently, it seems that many professional athletes have failed to respond any differently than young children who cannot control their emotions!) All of the principles from the verses you read in this lesson apply to children as well. As you know from your own life, answering in silence or with kindness to anger is not natural to us in the flesh. Only by the grace and strength of God can we learn to die to self and respond as Christ would. Our examples before our children will teach them much. Perhaps you need to have them memorize some of the verses that speak to the tongue. Perhaps you need to memorize them with your children!
I have noticed through the years that children who listen to gossip in their homes become gossips themselves. As they learn criticism of others from their parents, they become critical. Our words are heard, even when we are talking on the phone to someone else. Be careful!
14. Share a way that you are incorporating God’s principles for the tongue into your child training.
We came from very different backgrounds. We communicated very well in our family. My parents discussed everything together. My husband came from a family where there was a patriarch. No one discussed anything. His father made all the decisions, and everyone kept their feelings to themselves. When we married, my husband would not communicate. He would say, "We're not going to talk about it now.” There I was, wanting to talk about our problems. It got so bad that we went to a Christian counselor. He said communication was very important in a marriage. He gave us homework and said if we would do the homework, we could save our marriage. He said, “I am prescribing this for you and if you do not do this, it is like not taking medicine when one is ill.”
Our prescription was to sit down for 15 minutes, three times a week with a timer. The first time I would talk for 15 minutes about anything I wanted to say (without him interrupting), and the next time we met he could rebuttal what I said or talk about whatever he wanted to talk about without my interrupting him. We did this for two months and I found out more about my husband than I ever thought and the same for him. We have been communicating ever since.
I would recommend that every couple do this because it prevents arguing and causes you to really think about what the other person is saying. It helped me to really understand why he is the way he is. I thank God for leading me to this wise counselor. He saved our marriage.
15. Consider all of the verses you read about communication. What verses did you find most convicting personally? Why?
16. What can you do to implement God’s principles in that one area this week? Give specifics and write it in the first person. I will . . . .
17. What is the one lesson you have learned in this course that has most impacted you? Why?
18. Write a personal prayer committing yourself to God’s principles in your marriage and thanking Him for what He has taught you through His Word.
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