Several years ago, my oldest grandson got married, and Kendall McDonald, a family friend and pastor, officiated the ceremony.  Kendall shared that most couples who counsel with him explain their plan for their marriage to be a 50/50 partnership. He says he allows them to finish stating their plans for their life and then simply replies, “That’s impossible.”  Kendall explains the reason the 50/50 partnership does not work is because it makes the marriage covenant conditional and a marriage covenant is unconditional. Further, because it is an unconditional covenant, each person must look to Christ to provide the strength, patience, forgiveness, humility, etc. necessary in order to glorify Christ in our marriage. We simply cannot, without trusting Christ as our source, display the fruit of the Spirit in an unconditional marriage covenant. Continuing, Kendall calls on them to consider: if a marriage is 100 percent effort every day, let’s ponder some real-life potentials. What if the husband does not get the job he applied for? What if he is passed over for the promotion he was expecting? What if the raise he got was far less than anticipated? Financially speaking, on those days he may only bring 20 percent to the table, meaning the wife must bring the other 80 percent.  The same is true in the reverse for the wife, due to any number of circumstances. Contrary to the 50/50 approach, the Bible paints a successful marriage as a more realistic give-and-take partnership each day.  See Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, which begs for a different perspective: “If one falls down, the other can help him up.” There are just going to be days when 50/50 simply won’t work.

            Proverbs 31 further illustrates this truth about marriage.  If you are not familiar with this passage, it begins in v. 10 as the words of a mother describing to her son a virtuous woman (wife) whose worth is far above rubies.  The couple in the example share the same goals and work together to accomplish their dreams.  It starts by telling us in verses 11-12 how much the husband trusts in his wife and depends on her.  In verse 16, it states that she considers a field and buys it, and we learn later that she plans on having a vineyard and producing wine.  To consider a field would mean that she viewed the property to determine what type of soil was present, whether the property slope would allow proper drainage, and approximately how many rows of grapes it would accommodate.  We also learn that she has another business where she makes and sells fine linen and sashes to the merchants.  What an entrepreneur.  What’s the husband doing all this time?  Scripture tells us he is at the city gate sitting among the elders of the land.   Before we conclude this guy is just lounging all day, let’s learn what happens at the city gates.  Biblical Questions and Answers describe the city gates as being part of a city’s protection against invaders and as places of central activity in biblical times.  It was at the city gates that important business transactions were made, where the court was convened, where public announcements were heralded, where marriages were arranged and many other important decisions finalized.   An important example is found in Ruth 4:1-11 where Boaz officially claimed the position of kinsman-redeemer by meeting with the city elders at the gate of Bethlehem.  On this occasion, the legal matters related to his marriage to Ruth were settled.  He was granted permission to be the family member who would marry his relative’s widow and make her his wife.

            Our Proverbs passage thus demonstrates how the wife and husband work together–she is finding the property and making the preliminary arrangements, and the husband is sealing the deal with the owner in the presence of witnesses at the city gates.  This is a great example of a marriage partnership making things work within the system of the times. 

            The most important verse in the passage, however, is verse 28, which states: “Her children arise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her.”  If your children call you blessed, then, whatever you are doing, don’t stop.  I know of no other compliment or goal in life that would exceed this statement from your children and your spouse.

            What a lofty goal Proverbs 31 presents.  This year we will be married fifty-five years and I can tell you: our marriage remains a work in progress—confirming Kendal’s “marriage is 100 percent effort every day” in our life together.  When my wife read this, she asked “Where are my servants?” I responded with, “Let’s have a glass of wine.”

Matthew 6:33

Ken J.

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