Christianity and marriage

Hello RZIM Connect familily.
I recently came across this tweet, “Marriage was built in a way that benefits men far more than women”

How are Christians to respond to this in this post-truth age?

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@oryn_yong Great question :slight_smile: Two things stand out to me about this question.

First, I think we need to understand what exactly the questioner thinks is unfair about marriage. Do they think it is unfair that the woman has to have children and be pregnant? Do they think it is unfair that the man is more free to pursue a career? Do they think it is unfair that the man is generally physically stronger?

Second, what does it mean to benefit out of a relationship? What does it mean to have a meaningful, successful life? If we define success by power, career goals or freedom to do what we want, then Biblical marriage is a challenge for both men and women because it calls both people to sacrifice their own wants and needs for the other.

Jesus defined success as sacrificial love. Jesus said we find our meaning in Him and not in what we achieve, how famous we are or how free we are to do what we want. Paul became a slave to all men that he might by some means win some.

I think we have to have a serious discussion about what makes life meaningful in the long term. And it is not only Christians who recognize that living for ourselves does not ultimately lead to a meaningful life.

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Hello, @oryn_yong! This is a great question, and I agree with Sean. The first step would definitely be to try to better understand where the person is coming from with this statement, and what he/she believes about marriage in the first place. The best way to go about responding is to ask a question or two (which Sean already points out) and then to listen humbly to the response. We do that by prayerfully hearing the concerns that are in the response while sincerely seeking to understand what the person has come to believe about marriage and maybe even why. The statement already signals a deep concern about women and their happiness/well-being/success, etc for one reason or another. I would caution that while it is important to seek to communicate truth, it is even more important to tend to how we communicate that truth. I think dealing with such a statement needs to be very much about ministering to the heart of the person making it more than contending with the idea.

Just my two-cents’ worth…which isn’t much, but hopefully is helpful :).

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Hi @oryn_yong,

I would be most curious to hear that person’s story.

Surely, some (many) marriages have benefitted the husband more than the wife.

I think in listening to their story there would be the opportunity for a deeper connection and a more meaningful conversation.

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Anytime I come across objections to the “institution of marriage” I like to remind them that people make up a marriage. I find it interesting when people try to talk about marriage like it is an entity which forces its participants to act in certain ways or do certain things. Like life, marriage is what you make of it. I, too, would be interested to know whose marriage they are using as the basis of their criticism. I could look at some of the things corporations are doing and decry capitalism as an evil in the world (a la Marx). This statement neglects the fact that there are people in these business making decisions; a corporation is little more than a piece of paper. This argument would also neglect all of the people in corporations making good decisions which benefit the world. This to me seems like an inductive argument from too small a sample size. I hope my analogy wasn’t too confusing. Thanks for your question!

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I would argue that, even aside from the biblical perspective, marriage is an institution designed primarily to benefit women, and does if properly lived out. From a biological standpoint, women have the advantage of being able to bear children (a necessity for the survival of humanity and, for most of history, the best chance a woman had at being provided for in her old age). Men, by contrast, have the advantage of stability that women lose as a trade-off for reproductive capacity. Through marriage, a man is bound to care for a woman and the children she bears, giving him the ability to bear offspring and her the security of having a consistent provider when childbearing limits her ability to work. Without marriage, a man is free to exploit the woman for sex and then leave the entire burden of raising children in her hands (a far too common reality in the modern world); through healthy marriage, a man essentially gives up his own freedom to take on the burden of caring for others.

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Thanks Oryn for sharing, it is very interesting…
A few thoughts in addition to what the others have shared above…

The story and context is quite vital. So, I am wondering if the statement is arising from a setting that’s experiencing the fallout of certain movements eg feminism? In the last century, some scholarship especially in the West have construed marriage as a patriarchal institution that oppresses and exploits women eg they are wary of reproduction, claiming that child bearing is reproduction of labour for capitalist societies etc. That might be the framework behind the examples provided by Sean, and as he noted, the value and meanings attached to men and women’s physical attributes, their engagement within and out of the home may paint a rather skewed picture of marriage.

On the other hand, in other societies, cultural influences have resulted in scenarios where women tend experience things that could lead to a situation where benefits can be seen as being more for men even when it is hoped otherwise.
Permit me cite examples of the manifestations of this ( if a man has many wives, permitted to have mistresses and the implications for infections eg HIV for married women unlike single women who have more control over their sexuality, domestic violence maybe tolerated because of shame, children abandoned to women’s care financially, and if a woman can’t bear children or in worse case scenario has no son she could be relegated to background, power of inlaws in a woman marital home etc). It happens that I grew in a context where because of such experiences quite a number of women would say (unfortunately) that marriage ultimately benefits men. If not for Christ, I would have readily accepted such a statement. For, me It takes a personal relationship with God and exposure to other context to see the flaws of other influences on marriage and to appreciate the marriage institution as originally designed by God.

So, depending on the context, I think that it would be helpful to engage in a conversation that treads a balance of e.g exposing the fallacies that lead to such statements,
Bearing in mind and bringing on board the sobering acknowledgment that because of the ‘violation of purpose’ as Ravi puts it :pensive: our human relationships throuought history (and not just marriage) have followed suit…
-Shedding light on God’s design and standards for marriage which likens marriage to relationship with Christ and challenges men and women to love and serve in ways that gives a vision of what marriage should be - A vision that flies in the face of the theories, agendas and cultures that define the modus operandi of marriage in our age.

A drop in the ocean from my end but it’s definitely a serious conversation for the Christian community…

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Often times, when someone makes the claim that marriage benefits men more than women, they pull from Ephesians 5 as their support, a la “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord”, et al. They float the idea that Ephesians 5 sets up a hierarchy where the husband is “superior” to the wife when in fact that’s not the case at all. True, Paul does argue that husband is the “head” of the household, but the context he gives is more of a “first among equals”, as evidenced by the verse IMMEDIATELY PRIOR to “submit”…

Ephesians 5:21 – Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Note that Paul is encouraging ALL Christians in Ephesus – not just the women – to live in willing submission. Taking in the full chapter rather than prooftexting it, you find that the lifestyle Paul endorses is one where the believer puts others first, whether they be in Christ or not, male or not, spouse or not. As touching marriage specifically, this DOES translate into the wife submitting to the husband… but also the husband submitting to the wife.

As the saying goes, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” :wink:

For illustration sake, I’d submit Priscilla and Aquila. Note that every time Paul references them in the scriptures, he not only includes Priscilla as a fellow worker in Christ (practically scandalous, in and of itself, in a male-centric society), but he gives intentional honor to her by mentioning her BEFORE her husband.

Also consider Christ’s own words in quoting Genesis – that a man should LEAVE father and mother (i.e. going to the woman rather than making the woman come to him) to be joined to his wife, that the two should become one flesh. In such a relationship, there is NO DIVISION between husband and wife. To say that one benefits more than the other is to suggest that the “one flesh” remained twain.

My thoughts.

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Very true @SeanO.
The phrase “calls both people to sacrifice their own wants and needs for the other” is key.

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Thanks @Nancesah.
When one compares all worldviews, the biblical marriage stands out. We see a dynamic in the relationship that benefits both the man and the woman.
It’s also sad that professed Christians, who should be a model for the society, also abuse the institution of marriage.

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I agree with you @nashdude.
Ephesians 5 is a chapter to be read in its entirety (indeed the whole book should be read for greater contexts, considering it can be done in about 20 mins :grin: ).

In a Christian marriage, one is a Christian before he/she is a husband/wife. So I think the first love one shows their spouse is that of a brother or sister in Christ - sacrificial love. Of course, all kinds of love in Christianity are to be sacrificial.

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