The Importance of Marriage
When God created people, He made Adam first from the dust, then Eve from his rib. Adam saw the purpose in God’s process, declaring:
Since Adam and Eve, marriage has been understood as a sacred gift from God. Consider the ways in which marriage stands out from all other relationships:
- Only marriage is established by covenant. Parents, children, and siblings are all related through natural processes. Only a husband and wife are related through a covenant promise.
- Only marriage was established in perfection. Adam and Eve were united in marriage before the world knew sin.
- Marriage shows us how Christ loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ, perfected in Him and bound in an unbreakable covenant to Him.
God does not take marriage lightly and as husbands, neither should we. As the heads of our families, God has imparted on us a duty to honor and care for our wives.
Warnings against Neglecting Your Wife
As husbands, it is our responsibility to provide for our families and see that their needs are met. When neglect this most basic duty to our wives and families, we dishonor God.
In 1 Samuel 25, we read a cautionary tale about a foolish man whose neglect of his wife invited trouble not only on his household but on all who served him.
Nabal was blessed with a wise and beautiful wife, Abigail, but he was harsh and mean (v 3). When David and his men entered Nabal’s territory, David sought out the goodwill of his host (v 8), but Nabal responded with hostility.
So Abigail, took it upon herself to make peace with David while her husband was neglecting his duty and getting drunk (vs 18-36).
When Abigail told her husband in the morning how she had averted the disaster that he had invited, he became ill and died (vs 37-38).
Nabal not only failed to care for his wife, but he failed to value her partnership in marriage and avail himself of her wisdom. Had he done so, he might have enjoyed a prosperous life.
Marriage is Made for Partnership
Nabal and Abigail remind us that husbands should view their wives as partners. God made Eve in the manner that he did so that Adam would have a suitable helper. And the uniqueness of the marriage partnership, the only relationship designed for sexual union, is that the two spouses belong to each other.
That is why the ‘two become one flesh.’ And this bond creates a continuous duty for husbands and wives to maintain their union.
It is beneficial for husbands and wives to affirm their commitment through sexual intimacy. Though Paul goes on to say that seasons of abstinence may be appropriate so that a couple may devote themselves to prayer (similar to fasting from food), such abstinence should only be temporary, and should not involve full separation.
Can a Husband and Wife Live Apart?
The duty to provide for a family’s basic needs and to maintain physical intimacy make living separately impractical. In our globally connected world, business obligations may necessitate travel, but even this is temporary. And military personnel may have to live away from their wives for longer periods of time.
This was part of the reality in Biblical times, too. Yet marriage was held in such esteem, and the duty of a husband was considered so important, that newlywed men were exempt from military service.
Even Old Testament law recognized a husband’s duty to please his wife. Of course, sexual intimacy remains a vital component, as does providing food, shelter, and security. But what other practical advice can a modern husband glean from scripture?
How Should a Man Treat His Wife?
Our treatment of our wives begins with our attitudes toward them. A husband should rejoice in his wife, and treat his marriage as something to be celebrated.
Paul joins duty and celebration together by reminding us that we husbands are the heads of our families in the same way that Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), adding:
- Christ gave himself up for the church (v 25). A man must be prepared to sacrifice his time, his preferences, and his desires for the sake of his wife.
- A man must love his wife as he loves his own body. We care for ourselves, and we do not inflict harm on ourselves. As each of us in one flesh with his wife, we owe her the same honor that we owe our own bodies.
For this reason, we must ensure that we are not only not neglecting our wives, but we must never allow ourselves to mistreat our wives.
What does the Bible Say about Treating Your Wife Badly?
Peter echoes Paul’s statement about the duties of husbands as heads of our families, and even adds that we ought to treat our wives with respect as the weaker partner.
Modern readers may balk at such a statement but overall, men are physically larger and stronger than women. So our actions should be marked by gentleness in all of our dealings—and especially when dealing with our wives.
Paul further warns husbands to not treat our wives harshly (Colossians 3:19). And there is one manner of harsh treatment that deserves special mention.
Divorce: The Ultimate Neglect
Seeing everything that we’ve read so far about marriage, it should come as no surprise that God hates divorce. Yet divorce is part of our reality, just as it was in the ancient world. And while divorce happens for a variety of reasons (or for no reason at all), it is the ultimate act of neglect because it is an act of total abandonment.
And Jesus reminds us that divorce tears apart what was joined by God in the deepest and most intimate way possible (Mark 10:9).
As Jesus points out, the calloused hearts of men stand as the root cause of divorce. In ancient times, divorce was especially harmful to women. An unmarried woman in the ancient world was vulnerable to poverty and abuse, as she had no man to provide for her care and security.
So the law was written not to provide for divorce, but to protect the victims of divorce from further abuse, by enabling them to return to their fathers’ households and ultimately remarry.
As husbands, we are called to do everything in our power to care for our wives and treat them well. We should celebrate our wives with affection and respect. As we do, the world sees God at work in our marriages. But more importantly, our wives will be strengthened in their faith journeys as we affirm their worth and partnership.