Writing about sex and singleness isn’t always comfortable, but with the climate in today’s church and culture, it’s absolutely necessary. Recently organizations like Church Leaders and Gospel Coalition have put out some amazing resources to address these issues from a biblical perspective, but there’s a root question I’ve yet to see addressed: why do Christians – men and women alike – idolize marriage?
I’m not going to address men in this post because my blog isn’t geared to a male audience (though if you’re a guy, you’re welcome to stick around). So why do Christian girls idolize marriage, and what are the consequences of doing so? As someone who has been there and back again, here are a few truths to consider.
No Other Gods Before Me
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:2)
The first of the Ten Commandments sets an order of allegiance between men and God. We read it and perhaps picture the Israelites bowing down to Baal and Asherah, patting ourselves on the back for checking one commandment off the list. When was the last time any of us set up a wooden idol in our dining room? There are no high places to be cleansed; no Asherah poles to break down and burn.
But this commandment has less to do with idols than it does with the nature of human hearts.
Our spirits, minds, and bodies exist within a framework of faith. We either have faith in God or faith in something else. All of our souls are bowed to something – but we decide what that something is. God knows our wayward capabilities, and the first commandment set the direction for every command that followed. If we obey the first command – to love God first and only – no motivation remains to break any of the remaining nine directives.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Enemy offers us idols at every turn. What we put on the throne of our hearts establishes the direction of our lives, and Satan knows this well. But our spiritual Enemy also knows that God’s children aren’t stupid. The idols he offers aren’t always evil; at times, they are gifts from God Himself.
God tempts no one (Jas. 1:13), but His good gifts can be used for evil if our hearts are not on guard. Marriage – a holy relationship reflecting Christ and the church – is one of Satan’s primary targets. If he can make Christian women idolize marriage before they have it, he can destroy that marriage once they do.
Marriage (and a godly spouse) is from God (Prov. 18:22, 19:14). But marriage is not meant to be God. In an effort to uphold the sanctity of marriage and encourage purity, the church has – at times – given marriage more power than it actually deserves. Marriage is good, but only when God directs it. When marriage looms larger than Jesus, our Christian girls end up with idols in their hearts.
The desire for marriage isn’t wrong in itself; our desires are created by God. The problem arises when Christian girls desire marriage for the wrong reasons. Anticipating marriage as an opportunity for further sanctification, growth, and intimacy is a healthy and God-honoring dream. But seeking marriage as a solution to inner emptiness is the path to idolatry and disappointment.
One such emptiness is the need for security. Girls scarred by childhoods of financial, emotional, or familial uncertainty long for a stable relationship. Christian marriage, with its promise of love, honor, and mutual respect, offers a balm for their wounds. But the oft-overlooked reality is that marriage – however Christian it may be – is made up of two sinners, and two sinners will inevitably fail. Security is not guaranteed by marriage; marriage can actually increase the potential for insecurity as new financial, emotional, and sexual challenges arise.
The marriage idol offers the hope for security, but the idol lies. The only lasting security we can know on this earth must come from the only unchangeable Being: Jesus Christ, “who has also sealed us and give us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Cor. 1:22)
Another form of emptiness is the desire for companionship. As people made in the image of God, we echo His relational nature. God knows it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), but the spiritual nature of man requires more than an earthly companion for maximum fulfillment. While marriage is the depiction of a perfect relationship, but it can never be a perfect relationship. It is fulfilling, but is not designed to fill our spiritual void.
This is why marriage does not cure loneliness. The idol of marriage, however, convinces us that it will. By keeping marriage in the forefront of our minds, we miss out on the opportunities for connection that are all around us. Where there are idols, there is also envy and discontent. And where discontent is allowed free range, Christian women begin to doubt the goodness of God’s plan – believing the same lie Satan fed to Eve at the very Beginning.
Eve had a companion. Eve had a marriage. Eve had everything she could ever want – but it wasn’t enough. Idolatry does not discriminate, and it always ends with doubting God.
The final – and perhaps most obvious – draw to marriage-idolatry is the desire for intimacy. For most women, this is a threefold connection of emotional, relational, and sexual intimacy. Buoyed by our culture’s exploitation of all things romantic, Christian girls receive an idealized image of what real marriage looks like. This photoshopped version presents marriage as a place void of insecurity, disappointment, and disagreement. Sex isn’t messy, bad habits are cute, and the novelty never wears off. But it is the difficult realities of marriage that make it so worthwhile, and only by understanding God’s purpose for marriage can we know the kind of intimacy it is meant to facilitate.
True intimacy cannot be attained apart from its original design. When taken out of context, intimacy becomes forced and shallow. Sex becomes a biological act. The woman who trains her heart to worship marriage instead of God will be hard pressed to facilitate any kind of intimacy when she does get married. Marriage alone cannot provide intimacy. Without the Creator of marriage, it is a soul-less institution regulated by only by emotion – a dangerously unstable guarantee.
The hope we have in all of this is God Himself. Christ’s first concern is the relationship we have with Him. In Him we have eternal security. In Him we have consistent companionship. And in Him, we can know true spiritual intimacy.
The woman who fills her empty places with Christ before marriage is training herself to do the same after her vows. She will not expect her husband to be her all-in-all – a role he couldn’t fill anyway. Her identity and her hope are sourced in the stability of an eternal, unchanging God.
Desires for security, companionship, and intimacy are not sinful. They are evidence of a soul-deep need. But no matter how great the marriage or how godly the spouse, human relationships cannot solve spiritual emptiness. Empty hearts can be filled by only one god, and we choose what we worship. Fulfillment isn’t achieved by finding the perfect person. It’s achieved when imperfect people find their fulfillment in Christ.