Finding a Wife
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.
As a teen, this was my life’s verse. Having celebrated fourteen years of “obtaining favor of the Lord” this month, I can add my own personal testimony to the truth of the verse. Although I sometimes wonder if “a good thing” is meant as an understatement.
I’ll let Kent deal with the how’s and how-not’s of finding a wife. I’ll simply say that I believe that the way the world goes about finding a wife is in the lust of concupiscence. I believe that the average young person in the average church has been so heavily influenced by the world and the world’s cultural requirements (particularly through the slice of the world they observe on Television) that they really have no idea how to go about finding a wife without an element of the lust of concupiscence. We would do well to study our Bibles on this issue, and to move away from the current model of recreational dating.
And furthermore, the Bible teaches very plainly that young people are to work through their parents towards finding a spouse. Kent and I may disagree as to the level of involvement or the specific requirements of Scripture. We do not disagree about the principle. Parents have more than mere “veto power” (as some refer to it). Parents have authority in this. And their teens must listen to them.
That being said, it is not my purpose to parrot Pastor B. He’ll do fine making his case, and we can hammer out our differences in the comments section. I intend to address a different problem, one that, I hope, will expose another problematic result of our modern system of recreational dating.
Serious about Dating Is Not Serious about Marriage
The problem? Contrary to what some of our readers might think, we aren’t serious about getting married. We are serious about dating. We are serious about having a “boyfriend” or a “girlfriend.” But we aren’t serious about marriage.
How do I know? Consider the following anecdotal evidence (with apologies to Barna)… more and more young people are going into their late twenties and even thirties before they marry. Twice now, I have interviewed as many as a dozen college seniors in one day, none of which had any prospect of marriage. Young men, meanwhile, live at home with their mom and dad, often into their thirties, and with seemingly no interest in marriage.
Debbie Maken wrote a wonderful book on this issue, called Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. I would recommend it to every pastor. She does a good job exposing the problem, a great job contrasting modern attitudes towards protracted singleness with historical attitudes, and a pretty good job of offering solutions as well. I’m not much of a book review guy, but I will refer to some of her material throughout these next two posts. And any who have read the book will note my debts to her.
Maken gives some great statistics that expose the problem of protracted singleness. She says (on p. 15),
According to the United States Census Bureau, just one generation ago, in the 1970s, approximately 64 percent of women had married by age twenty-four, roughly 90 percent had married by age twenty-nine, and 94 percent by age thirty-four. Just thirty years later, approximately 27 percent of women have married by age twenty-four, approximately 60 percent by age twenty-nine, and 78 percent by age thirty-four. The singles population has tripled or quadrupled in just one generation!
I would point out that dating has not decreased during the same time frame. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that what Maken calls the “singles” population has increased in proportion with the amount of recreational dates.
Who’s To Blame?
Consider as well our attitudes towards single young men as opposed to single young ladies. When a young man is single into his late twenties or early thirties, we tend to think of him as “responsible” or “burdened” or “focused.” Do we have the same attitude towards single ladies? How do we think of them? Spinsters? Old Maids? How many view single young men in a good light, and how many view their female counterparts with suspicion? After all, if she’s still single at twenty-nine, there must be some reason no guy is interested.
The problem may not be hers at all. In fact, I would argue that the responsibility for this problem of protracted singleness rests squarely on the shoulders of the men of our society… both married and unmarried. Fathers are not raising their boys up to marry, and young men are growing up instead into immaturity. The focus in this day and age has shifted. Young men want to “have fun” and do not want to be serious, or to have serious obligations. Statements like “you are only young once” have become rules for social conduct. Young men do not want commitment, and therefore, they have been raised up to date and not to marry.
Loneliness Is Next To Godliness?
Finding a wife is the duty of every Christian man. This should be apparent from the beginning, when God commanded Man to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” This is man’s calling, and marriage the ordinance for fulfilling that requirement. But today, we argue as if singleness is best, and marriage optional.
This thinking is not completely without basis in Scripture. Paul told the Corinthians (7:6-8),
But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
And he continues in verses 32-35:
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.
And the conclusion of the chapter includes statements like “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.” And this one: “but she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment:”
No doubt, this is the source for saying that singleness is better than marriage.
But is this what Paul is saying? We need to re-evaluate our current attitude towards singleness in light of Scripture, and in light of our culture today. In a Scriptural sense, I would first point out that I Corinthians 7 must be examined in context… not only the entire context of the chapter, but also the context of the times in which they lived. One verse that is often overlooked in the chapter, and yet is key to understanding the setting, is verse 26, where Paul says, ” I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.”
What is this “present distress?” Well, the New Testament churches were facing a great deal of persecution at that time, and the question was raised to Paul whether it was better to remain single or to marry. This chapter was Paul’s answer that question. Thus, Paul speaks of “attending upon the Lord without distraction,” and ” if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you (v. 28),” and “Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife (v. 27).”
In other words, Paul was urging a temporary time of protracted singleness, until the “present distress” should pass. By no means was Paul arguing that singleness is better than marriage in every case, at all times, and for all people. To do so would be to contradict the clear statement of Genesis 2:18, where God said,
It is not good that the man should be alone… (emphasis mine)
God did not intend for man to live alone. God made “an help meet for him.”
What is not good about singleness…
Singleness is not good on several levels, and though our culture stays single longer and longer, it should be apparent that singleness is not helping us to be “more devoted to God.” In fact, the current popularity of singleness among young men has nothing to do with “more devotion to God.” Quite the opposite in fact. Young men remain single because they live in lust, and want no accountability. I wish that I could say that it is different for Christian young men. Certainly God-fearing young men avoid the fornication that characterizes the worldly scene. I wish that I could say that they avoid the lusts of their flesh in their singleness. But they don’t. And the fact that they don’t call it “dating” doesn’t help. Many a Christian young man enjoys the liberation of singleness, because they can indulge their flesh emotionally and romantically, without any commitment.
The truth is, a young man who is interested in young ladies, who is interested in “protecting” them, being close friends with them, having a relationship with them, is a young man who has no business continuing in a single state.
When Jesus taught on divorce, the disciples replied (Mark 19:10),
If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
In other words, in fear of divorce, the disciples concluded that singleness was better than marriage. Jesus disagreed.
All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
In other words, Christ laid out three cases in which it was lawful for a man to remain a eunuch. If he was born a eunuch, if he was made a eunuch by men, or if he was a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
Now, the first two reasons are pretty apparent. Either you are or you aren’t. The third leaves some wiggle room for a young man. He can easily claim to be single for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. What can we say then? It is the equivalent of the young man’s claim that it is “God’s will” — who can answer that argument.
The Eunuch Tests
And so, I would offer up two tests for whether or not a young man is in fact single for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, or not. First, does the calling of God on his life make it difficult if not impossible to maintain a wife? If not, and a young man claims that he is single so that he can better serve God, I say, “nuts.” And the second test is this: has God given him the gift of being a eunuch? The question is just as it sounds. Has God gifted him with a non-desire for the company and pleasures of marriage?
One of the surest proofs that a young man is not a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake is that he desires the company of young ladies, flirts with young ladies, or is otherwise interested in pursuing a relationship with a young lady. In other words, the only way that he can claim to be a eunuch in this sense is if he has no interest whatsoever in the opposite sex, or for that matter, in sex.
If he is not a eunuch, then he must marry. This is God’s requirement. It is not good that the man should be alone. He is commanded to be fruitful and multiply, to replenish the earth. He cannot obey this command apart from marriage.
A Calculator Doesn’t Make You an Accountant
Young men must then be pursuing marriage. Like most pursuits, the pursuit of marriage involves a lot more than “sittin’ on the corner watchin’ all the girls go by.” If a young man pursues a career in accounting, he does not show up at an accounting office with a pencil and a calculator. He first must take some classes in accounting, some math classes, some business courses. He must train for the job, prepare himself, do his homework, write a resume, and spend some time as an apprentance. Only then can he qualify to become an accountant.
If a young man is to become a husband, he must prepare himself, and prepare himself manfully. The tendency is for a young man to be filled with thoughts of “who will I marry.” This thinking consumes the mind of the immature. Growing into Biblical manhood will cause a young man to ask, “who will my wife marry?” And then, a young man must strive to become the kind of man that he wants his future wife to marry. That includes eliminating debt, preparing himself to provide for her, in short, acting like he will soon be responsible for someone else besides himself. As he prepares for the duties of marriage, he pursues the office. And in his pursuit, he will find a wife, obtaining God’s favor.