Are my priorities for wanting to be married biblical?

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Are my priorities for wanting to be married biblical?

Nov 12, 2013 |Candice Watters
Question

I think that I have the wrong reasons for wanting to be married. Companionship, intimacy and better financial security seem higher on my list than serving in a ministry together or having children.

I would love it if I met someone who was passionate in a ministry that I could also support, but so far, most of these men I have met are already married. It is something that I am praying for, but if I am honest with myself, it's lower on the list and something I would probably settle without.

The other thing I've read is that one of God's purposes of marriage is to have children. I am open to having children if my husband desperately wants one or two, but I don't really desire to have children at this point in my life. I'm praying to be married in one or two years' time, but currently don't think I would want children for another 10 years. I am aware of the old biological clock issue, but there is always the option of adoption. Then again, I might decide I don't want any at all. Don't get me wrong; I love children. But having children is a massive responsibility, and having a demanding career, I fear that I would not be able to handle both at the same time, and one or both would have to be sacrificed in some way.

So I guess my questions are: 1) Do I need to change my priorities for wanting to be married? And 2) Is it right to go into marriage with no intention to have children?

Answer

Thank you so much for writing. This is a particularly helpful question.

To know if you have the wrong reasons for wanting to be married, you must first know what marriage is for. God tells us in the Bible, His revelation to us. God created marriage in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. He tells us in Genesis 1 and 2 why He made it. God's first words to the man and woman, having just created them "in his own image" (Genesis 1:27) are, "Be fruitful." In Genesis 1:28 we read, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

Marriage is for the fruitful partnership of husband and wife, developing the earth God has made, for their benefit. It is also for procreation — making babies. God tells us more of what marriage is for in Genesis 2. In verses 18 and 20-24, we read,

Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.… The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

What are the right reasons for wanting to be married? We see in Genesis that they are to adhere to God's design, including forming a new family, being a helper suited to your husband, remaining faithful for life, and embracing the sexual union with all its fruits.

Malachi tells us further why God made husband and wife "one flesh": "Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth" (Malachi 2:15, emphasis mine).

Again we see that marriage is designed as a lifelong covenant and for the bearing of children.

In the same way God revealed himself progressively in history — from the first man, to the God-Man Jesus Christ — He reveals himself progressively in His Word. This is one reason it's essential that we read the whole Bible. We know from Genesis that God made marriage and what it is for. We know further from Malachi just how offensive it is to God when we deface marriage through divorce. And we understand that offense even more when we read Jesus' words in Matthew 19:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, 'Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?' He answered, 'Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.' They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?' He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery' (vv. 3-9).

Jesus affirms the perfections of God's original design "from the beginning," exposing the reason we've marred that perfection — hardness of heart — and gives us the bad news that though Moses (representing the Law) allowed divorce, it was a violation of the Ten Commandments and cause for condemnation before the holy God.

Paul, writing in Ephesians 5, reveals why marriage matters so much: It's not just about a man and a woman expressing their love for each other, sharing their lives together or even having children together. Marriage is infinitely more: "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Marriage refers to Christ and the church. When we marry in the way God intended, our unions point people to Christ. Our marriages are themselves ministry. But when we reject God's design, marrying for lesser reasons and remaking marriage in our own image and according to our own desires, we lie about Christ and the church, and do great harm to ourselves in the process.

These verses are not all the Bible says about marriage; there are many, many more. This is but an example of how the Bible, from start to finish, presents a coherent picture of marriage and why it is necessary for us to do the work of reading what it says about marriage, thinking hard about what it means (2 Timothy 2:7), and praying for illumination to understand what God intends for us to do about it.

I believe you do need to change your priorities for marriage, as well as pray for an openness to the blessing of children. To embrace only some of the goods of marriage, while rejecting the others is like chewing your food for taste, but never swallowing it for nutrition. As J. Budziszewski wrote long ago on Boundless: "When we deliberately separate the intimate and the procreative sides of sex, we make ourselves like those ancient Romans who tried to separate the social from the nutritive side of dining. They served more food at feasts than anyone could digest, offering their guests peacock feathers for purging between courses."

What's at stake is profound. Dr. Albert Mohler, Focus on the Family board member and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said,

Our chief end is to glorify God—and marriage is a means of His greater glory. As sinners, we are all too concerned with our own pleasures, our own fulfillments, our own priorities, our own conception of marriage as a domestic arrangement. The ultimate purpose of marriage is the greater glory of God—and God is most greatly glorified when His gifts are rightly celebrated and received, and His covenants are rightly honored and pledged.

May God enlighten the eyes of your heart to receive His good gifts. To the praise of His glory.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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