By David Murray
The main question most people ask in marriage relationships today is, “What can I get out of it?” Especially, “What sex can I get out of it?”
And when the investment of time, money, emotion, and sexual energy does not pay off as expected?
And the search for a better return from someone else. Someone else who’ll fit into my life better. Someone else who won’t take so much of my time and money. Someone else who will fill me rather than drain me.
But if everyone’s trying to get more than they give, no one’s going to be happy and marriages are doomed to premature and painful endings.
In contrast, the Bible says that the most important question in marriage is not, “What can I get?” but “What can I give?”
And, strangely, when each party is focused more on giving than getting, the result is more getting for both parties. In marriage also it really is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul presents Jesus as the ultimate model of this self-giving love. Because He loved us, He sacrificially gave Himself for us. Because He loved us, He sacrificially submitted to His Father’s will. And what a union such self-giving created! And what a pattern for our marriages!
Paul’s basic argument in this passage is that the more we give of ourselves in the service of our husband or wife, the more union, intimacy, satisfaction, and fulfillment we will discover and enjoy in our marriages. Let the “What can I give?” question drown out and drive out the “What can I get?” question in every situation of life:
- When you argue: What can I give up to resolve this?
- When you’ve hurt one another: What apology can I give to heal this?
- When on vacation: What can I give to make his vacation better?
- When in bed: What can I give to enhance his/her enjoyment of physical intimacy?
- When budgeting: What can I give up this month to give her more spending money?
- When talking: How can I give her more of a listening ear?
- When leading: How can I serve her better in my leadership?
- When submitting: How can I give him more respect when I disagree with his decisions?
- When filling free time: How can I give him most pleasure today?
- When offended: How can I give him the benefit of the doubt?
- When betrayed: How can I give him grace?
- When you have no feelings of love: How can I do loving actions?
- When she is not as attractive: How can I love her as the Lord loved the church?
- When you see his ugly side: How can I help him become more beautiful?
- When he’s depressed: How can I give him encouragement?
- When she’s lost sleep: How can I give her rest?
Give, Give, Give
Give your mind, your heart, your eyes, your hands, your body, your money. Give financially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually. Give yourself, your whole self, away. And if we believe the Bible rather than our instincts and our culture, we will be more blessed in that giving than in all the getting we can imagine (Acts 20:35).
The great aim of all this marital giving is that eventually we each give so much of self away, that each has all of the other, and the two become one; we lose so much independence, and become so inter-dependent that we become “one flesh” in every way.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, blogs at Head Heart Hand, and is author of the books Christians Get Depressed Too and How Sermons Work.