Desire for Marriage is Idolatry?
Recently at a Christian site, I once again ran across the annoying assumption or implication that desiring marriage is idolatry.
I was reading through a Christian site the other day, bible.org, and decided to skim through their Q&A (Question and Answer) section pertaining to marriage.
Someone wrote in to the site to say that she had a never-married 33 year old female friend who was feeling rather hopeless about the situation. (Her question can be viewed here.)
This friend wanted to know what she could say to cheer this friend up.
I’m sure the Christian fellow who responded, Bob Deffinbaugh, meant well, but one idea he tossed out there was to say, essentially, that the 33 year old woman had better be certain that she desired God above all else.
Deffinbaugh seemed to imply that if the 33 year old was desiring marriage at all (or perhaps he meant to convey if she was desiring marriage more than she was desiring God), that God would never send her a spouse.
I have to disagree with this assessment for a few reasons.
I can’t speak for the 33 year old woman mentioned in the question since I don’t know her, but as for my own situation, I have always placed God first in my life, or I have certainly tried to.
I therefore find it deeply insulting when so many Christian pastors, lay persons, and advice columnists immediately assume that a woman who wants a spouse must be guilty of not placing God first in her life. To even issue this warning to a Christian single person is very patronizing.
I would suggest that if you are tempted to push this argument at a single woman such as myself to think twice. It’s a very, very arrogant assumption to make, aside from being incorrect.
This judgmental mindset reminds me of Christians who automatically assume that the reason sickness or tragedy befalls other Christians is sin.
The Scriptures indicate that when something bad happens to a believer, that the reason is not always due to that person’s sin (see the book of Job in the Old Testament, or John 9: 1-3).
In the same way, one should not assume the reason a woman wants a husband and/or that the reason she has not received a husband is that she is ‘not placing God first in her life.’
You simply do not know why God has not provided a spouse to someone, anymore than you can fully explain why a Christian might get terminal cancer or die in a car accident, so don’t you dare to presume.
And isn’t it interesting that when such Christians do make a leap to judgment, it’s always to assume the worst of the person they’re talking to or about?
Instead of assuming the 33 year old woman can’t get a husband because of some shortcoming of hers, maybe God’s view is that there isn’t a Christian man out there who is godly and awesome enough to be worthy of her at this time.
Further, this line of thinking presumes that “being content in one’s singleness” is the magic solution where upon God will instantly drop a spouse on one’s doorstep.
I can assure you this is not the case, at least not for all believers.
As far as personal experience, I have in fact been “content” with my singleness during periods of my life, and during those times, I still did not get a husband.
There have been times when I was content with next to no money in my bank account, but God did not instantly rain down millions of dollars on me as a result.
This author is the not first I’ve seen to argue that desire for marriage is a form of idolatry, as I have seen it brought up at other blogs or sites before.
Because God is the creator of marriage, and He approves of marriage, it is unbiblical for any Christian to insist a Christian desiring marriage is automatically guilty of idolatry.
God gave us all a desire for food.
Would people who use this “wanting marriage is idolatry” rationale honestly argue that every hunger pang or craving a person experiences for a sandwich is a sin, or that it’s a form of gluttony?
Should the person with the hunger pang refrain from eating forever, and “learn to be content with her hunger” for the rest of her life (to the point her body shuts down and she dies)?
I don’t see Christians making the “contentment” argument in most other areas of life; they almost always drag it out only to condescend to singles who’d like to get married, and because it’s mis-used in this manner, I think it’s rather unbiblical, as well as being a cheap-shot and a cliche’.
I’ve never seen such a Christian (i.e., one who believes that being “content in singleness” will instantly snare a woman a husband) tell a chubby Christian, “If you just learned to accept your big, fat, pot belly and be content with your girth, God would instantly grant you a wash-board stomach and a thin, sexy physique.”
At one point early in my life, I had a desire for college education. I therefore attended college and received a diploma.
Surely the “wanting marriage is tantamount to idolatry” advocates would not argue that wanting an education is idolatry?
I’m sure that those who adhere to the lame idea that a Christian “wanting marriage is tantamount to idolatry” themselves hold various dreams, hopes, and ambitions?
I’m sure some of them have a desire to have their own children, to own their own home, to one day own a nice car, or to get a promotion at work.
Would they appreciate me lecturing them to “be content with your cheap Yugo car,” or “be content with your terminal cancer, and I’m sure God will heal you,” or saying, “the reason you’ve not received a corner office at work is that you’ve not learned to be content with your dead end job,” or “just learn to accept that God has put you in a small, roach infested apartment forever, and then I’m sure He’ll bless you with a house in the suburbs.” (My guess is, no, they wouldn’t.)
Some might interpret the passage from Psalms (Psalm 37:4) about God giving us the desires of our hearts to mean that God is the one who makes a Christian want something or someone.
For example, if you want a promotion at work, perhaps it is God who put that dream in your heart. If God is the one who is planting that dream in your heart, then wanting that promotion is not “idolatry.”
Most people who are married now were, at one time, during their singleness, desiring to get married some day (quite obviously).
If it were true that God would not grant a mate to someone who wanted one, then almost nobody would be married. (Duh.)
I have a difficult time accepting that God would be so cruel as to expect a single woman to be “content in her singleness” before sending her a spouse, as she might not reach full contentment until she’s age 60, 70, 80, or 90, and by then, it’s too late for her to get pregnant and have kids of her own, and she wouldn’t have much time to enjoy being married. She would be without companionship and a helper for much of her life.
It’s quite normal and natural to be unhappy with singleness at times.
Who doesn’t get lonely and want a sweet heart? (I think God understands that, otherwise, God would not have said back in the book of Genesis, “it is not good for the man to live alone.”)
Yet your average ‘Joe Blow Christian’ or pastor will insensitively and condescendingly lecture lonely, frustrated singles to “be content in your singleness.” (Easy for a 50 year old pastor who’s been married for twenty or thirty years to say.)
Speaking personally here again, I turned my whole situation over to God a few years ago.
I did ask God that if it was not in His will for me to marry, to please remove that desire from me. But that desire has remained.
I’d also like for Christians who adhere to this ‘wanting marriage is a sin’ perspective to consider this:
Does ‘being content in my singleness’ mean I have to stop praying and asking the Lord to send me a spouse?
I would gather that your answer to this inquiry would have to be a “yes” in order for you to be consistent, because me praying and asking the Lord for marriage is an admission that I’m not completely “tickled pink” with my singleness.
If your answer is “yes,” be aware that you are conflicting with the teachings of the Scriptures, which state that if a believer wants something, she is directed to pray and ask God for it (see James 4:2. And before you ask, no, there’s nothing amiss with my motives for wanting marriage; again, don’t presume things or assume the worst about me, my spiritual condition, and my walk with the Lord).
Therefore, if I want a husband, God wants me to pray and ask Him to provide me with one. I refer you again to James 4:2.
Jesus did not say that one has to deny all one’s wants or desires in all situations at all times, if those wants or desires do not conflict with God’s will – and marriage, as it was created and sanctioned by God, is most certainly in God’s will for humanity.
If you wish to teach that someone should remain content regardless of his or her circumstances in order for them to be productive and have a quality life, fine; I don’t have much of a problem with that.
However, to present the Bible verses which discuss “contentment” (e.g. Phillipians 4:11-13, etc.) to mean that God uses contentment as a rule, or criteria, to determine if He will send someone a spouse is to add a teaching to the Scripture that is not there.
Referring to the “contentment” passages in such a fashion is a man-made doctrine or assumption.
I simply do not see a passage in the Bible where God says, “And until you learn to totally love being single, I refuse to send you a spouse.” (Nor do I even see that thought alluded to or hinted at in the Bible.)
I do not see a place in the Scriptures where God says that merely wanting a spouse is ipso facto idolatry, or that it’s selfish.
I will say it again: if you are a married person and at any time while you were single you desired a spouse (and obviously you did), you were not being “content in your singleness,” and according to your own reasoning, God should not have given you a spouse.
I hope I never again have to see another Christian imply that wanting marriage is akin to idolatry, because that view is insulting – and it’s not even supported by Scripture.
There are some articles at “Boundless” I do not agree with (especially in their articles that ooze with the “blame the singles for being single” attitude), but I agreed with many of the points raised on the page I quote from below.
I did not, however appreciate the author’s use of the phrase “self-centered singleness,” as if to suggest that all single adults are “selfish.”
Secondly, the author, Candace Watters, contradicts herself.
Early in the article, Watters makes it sound as though women are totally responsible for finding and getting a husband (where she states,
“It’s [teachings that wanting marriage is akin to idolatry has] caused a lot of women to be tepid in their approach to marriage and made them afraid that any amount of thinking or acting on their desire might be a sin. Both have the unfortunate consequence of making marriage even less likely to happen.”
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Yet, later in the article, she seems to argue that it is completely up to God to make marriages come about where she remarks,
“Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not in worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about.”
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Watters also states,
“And [as time goes on] the harder it is to marry well…”
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-which makes it sound as though it is impossible for a women past a certain age to nab a good husband.
If all things are possible with God, as Jesus states, and if Watters herself believes that “God has the ability to bring marriage about,” would it not follow that God could provide a godly, wonderful Christian husband to a woman who is past the age of 35?
Marriage An Idol?, by Candice Watters
Here are excerpts:
….It seems anytime someone writes or preaches about marriage to singles, they start with the caveat that wanting marriage is good “as long as you don’t make an idol out of it.”
Such caution is rarely urged with other desires. No one would discourage a woman from praying fervently, even daily, for an unsaved family member.
And we’d applaud intense and passionate faith for the healing of a friend who was dying of cancer.
Even desires that more easily border on idolatry — education, career pursuits, and hobbies — get a near-universal pass.
But giving a fraction of such attention to the desire for marriage solicits dire warnings of overdoing it. Fervency when petitioning God for a mate comes under singular scrutiny.
Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not in worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about.
That some would make women doubt the rightness of desiring marriage shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us it would happen. He wrote:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)
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