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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 10, 2012
Proverbs on the Family, Part 5
Solutions to Foolishness in Marriage, Pt. 3
Proverbs 14:1 states, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” The same general principle is equally true of men. Wise men will build up their home while foolish men will tear it apart. This is the fifth sermon on the family from Proverbs and the third on solutions to foolishness in marriage. If you have missed any of those, I encourage you to pick up either copies of the audio or text of them. (See: Proverbs on the Family, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
These subjects are very important for us to examine and give careful consideration to applying because there is so much foolishness in our culture which does affect us and our relationships. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, marriage has taken work to make it what God wants it to be, but it takes even more work in a society that now attacks it in so many different ways. Not all that long ago there was considerable societal pressure and support to help shore up and keep marriages together even when they were strained. That has been replaced by attitudes and laws that discourage and diminish marriage, and then assist them to break up when troubles come.
I believe that everyone here would like their homes to be marked by Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.” To achieve this we must be observant and humble to recognize and acknowledge our failures and then diligent to correct the problems. Our goal as Christians is to be conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our study of Proverbs’ practical precepts has been helpful in this endeavor. They reveal to us the foolishness of this world that pressures us to be conformed to its image while showing us the wisdom of God that transforms us as it renews our minds (Roman 12:2). (See: Proverbs on the Family, Part 1 – The Foundation)
In the last two messages we looked at several characteristics that are destructive and the solutions to them. These included being naive, receiving poor counsel, pride, foolishness, wickedness, stubbornness, self-righteousness and selfishness. A person who is naive is characterized by both a lack of knowledge and a lack of discernment in knowing whom to trust. This results in a gullibility that makes them susceptible to worldly influences and exploitation by the wicked (Proverbs 22:3). The solution to being naive is to hear and heed the voice of wisdom calling you to keep away from what is contrary to godliness. You need to learn God’s word because it is what will remove the ignorance and transform your mind. As 2 Timothy 3:17 states, the Bible is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that you may be adequately equipped for every good work.
You must be very careful about whom you allow to influence you for as Proverbs 12:5 points out, the “counsels of the wicked are deceitful.” Be mindful of not only of family and friends, but also what you read, hear or watch including entertainment choices. If the advice is not godly, then it is foolish regardless of the claims of the supposed “experts.” “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm,” (Proverbs 13:20) so the solution to poor counsel is to develop and keep close and intimate friendships only with those who are godly and wise. Learn God’s word so you will become discerning about both whom you should have as friends and the counsel that is given. (See: Proverbs on Friendship, Part 2)
Pride blinds people to the truth and makes them stubborn in their sin. Proverbs 3:7 gives the solution to pride, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Humility is the key to walking with God and building a strong home for the Lord opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The humble properly fear the Lord and seek to know His will and walk in purity so that they turn away from evil.
The fear of the Lord is also the solution to foolishness for it is the beginning of knowledge, understanding and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). The fear of the Lord causes you to hate evil so that you will keep away from wickedness. These will remove foolishness and put you on the path to life.
Wickedness is the opposite of righteousness and is another general characteristic that destroys the home. Many specific sinful attitudes and actions fit under this general characteristic. Proverbs 3:33 states, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.” Wickedness moves a person away from God’s design resulting in increasing trouble – Proverbs 15:6 – “Much wealth is [in] the house of the righteous, But trouble is in the income of the wicked.” The solution to wickedness begins with repentance. Proverbs 28:13 explains, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes [them] will find compassion.” Repentance from sin that leads to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings both the forgiveness needed and being made righteousness before God though Him.
Another wrecking ball to the home is stubbornness which describes an increasing obstinacy toward God that is part of foolishness. The stubborn refuse to consider the point of view of others and often will not acknowledge it even when they do recognize it. Those who continue to be stubborn will also continue to repeat their folly (Proverbs 26:11-12). They do not learn from their mistakes.
Let me also quickly remind you what you need to do if you are married to a stubborn fool. First, make sure you are not also being stubborn or provoking or aggravating your spouse. Second, confess your own foolishness to God for marrying such a fool. You either missed or ignored the signs and married them anyway. Third, keep your vows and glorify God by fulfilling the role He has given to you as explained in Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3. Men, love your wife as Christ loves the Church and cherish her as you do your own body. Ladies, submit to your husband’s headship and be chaste are respectful to him even if he is disobedient to the word. The goal for each of you is to glorify the Lord regardless of what your spouse does.
The solution to stubbornness is righteousness and its related trait of hum
ility. With the humble is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2), and humility precedes honor. Being humble with other people begins with humbling yourself before the Lord.
Self-righteousness is another home wrecker for it sets a false standard and blinds a person to their own faults though great acuity in seeing everyone else’s flaws always seems to remain. Self-righteousness is a danger to us all for Proverbs 21:2 warns, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.” The humility found in following the Lord Jesus Christ and godly counsel is also the solution to every type of self-righteousness. Proverbs 12:15 tells us that “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Godly counselors will both expose our self-righteous standards and attitudes and help us learn to replace them with God’s standards and a teachable attitude.
Being selfish was the last relationship wrecking ball I spoke about in the last sermon. It is an inherent evil giving rise to all sorts of specific problems. To be selfish is to be primarily concerned with your own personal profit and pleasure with little or no consideration of others. Selfishness breaks up the unity of the family by setting each member in competition which is the opposite of God’s design. Selfish people are parasitic. They are a tick looking for a dog. The solution to selfishness is to develop the humble and sacrificial attitude of Christ described in Philippians 2:3-8. Consider others and be a giver instead of a taker. Learn to be like a dog, not a tick.
The next several specific character traits and actions arise from the general traits we have already discussed. For example, since selfish people value getting what they want over the relationship with the other person, they can quickly degenerate into someone who demands, nags, is critical, manipulative and unfair in actions. If they are also self-righteous, they are that much worse. Add some wickedness and the attitude degenerates into being temperamental, contentious, harsh, angry and even hateful. If they still cannot get what they want, they can become neglectful and indifferent. We will look at all of these in some detail because this is where life is lived and in solving them work is also done in solving the larger issues.
Demanding, Contention & Nagging
These go together for nagging is simply the continued repeating of the demand. In a mature and proper marriage, demanding and nagging would not be a problem and there would not be contention. You would be able to express your desires or even respectfully argue your point without demanding. In fact, in such a world your spouse would be asking about what you would like before you even said anything because the nature of a mature marriage is to please one another rather than self. Arguing would be the exchange of reason and evidence to come to a wise and mutual decision instead of winning a debate victory. There would not be contention even when there are strong differences of opinion. Demanding, contention and nagging are contrary to such maturity. They are not even mature ways of communication. They are rooted in selfishness.
Now in saying this, I am trying to make a distinction between expressing your desires, presenting the reasons for your opinion and reminding someone about something and demanding, being contentious and nagging. Your motivation makes the difference. If you are looking out for the best interest of your spouse, you will be humble, gentle and kind in what you say and how you say it. You will speak the truth in love. If you are selfish, you will go down the path of sin and that will come out in how you express yourself. The problem for most of us is that our motivations are often mixed. You may well want what is best for your spouse, but you also want what you want too. It can take conscious effort to set aside your selfishness and do what is best for your spouse and family. How much you demand and nag are indicators of how well you are doing at being the husband or wife that God wants you to be.
Let me give you an example to illustrate some of this. One of your children is in a school performance and you have both agreed that both of you should be there for it. You notice that it is about time to get ready to go, but your spouse is obviously distracted working on something. A loving spouse will give a gentle reminder of some sort. “Honey, just in case you were not aware of the time, we will we need to leave in an hour.” Or you may add something like, “would you like to get your shower first or should I?” Or perhaps add an offer to help. “Is there something I can do to help so that you can get ready.” Such communication is motived by an unselfish desire to be helpful. Contrast that to the demands made by someone who is selfish. “Honey, we have to leave in an hour, so stop that and go get ready.” This is followed up by a reminder every 5 to 10 minutes of the approaching deadline. If they are more honest, they will add the phrase, “I don’t want to be late” to their demand. The tone of the demand and the nagging provokes contention. It could also be a mixture. The first communication is kind, but as time passes the reminders become more demanding and contentious.
Proverbs has quite a few verses about contentious nagging. These tend to describe the more extreme cases, but that does not mean that moderate or occasional episodes of it do not also cause serious damage to a relationship. For example, Proverbs 19:13 states, “A foolish son is destruction to his father, And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” The more foolish the son, the more destruction to the father, but destruction of any type can be serious. In the same way a contentious wife is compared to a constant dripping. The more contentious, the more irritating, and Proverbs 27:15 tells us this is not an easy problem to fix. “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain And a contentious woman are alike; 16 He who would restrain her restrains the wind, And grasps oil.”
Why is this so damaging to a marriage? What do you do if you have a dripping faucet? You try to find some way to get it to stop, and that will progresses from temporary fixes to permanent fixes or replacement.
Yielding to the nagging is always only a temporary fix. If the underlying problem is not corrected and it continues, a more permanent fix is sought which Proverbs 21:9 describes, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” This Proverb does not advocate isolation within the family, but it is what often happens in marriages in which there is continued contention. The Proverb singles out the woman not because women are necessarily more contentious, for as Proverbs 26:21 explains, men can also be contentious; “[Like] charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.” However, women tend to be more centered on the relationship and so they will continue to work at it while men will tend to abandon it just to get some peace. Hence the idea of it being better to have the peace that comes in living in a corner of the roof in isolation than share the normal living quarters with someone who is contentious.
The problem can get worse as described in Proverbs 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land, Than with a contentious and vexing woman.” When I lived in California, I was counseling a couple in which the wife was quite contentious and the man had only recently become a Christian. He came in one day to talk with me after finding this Proverb in his Bible reading. He was very serious and wanted to know if this meant he could move out alone to the Mojave Desert. I told him that though I sympathized with him, the Proverb did not give him freedom to do that. He understood its point and would
have gladly traded green grass for sand, shade trees for sage brush, and a cool breeze for hot, dry desert air in order to get away from his contentious and vexing wife. As one person quipped, bachelors have no idea what married bliss is, but that is also true of a lot of husbands. Don’t let that be true in your home. “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”
What is the solution? Since the root of these things is selfishness, the solution is to become unselfish which in turn takes you right back to the necessity of humility which is the foundation for all unselfish behavior. As Philippians 2:3-8 commands us Christians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
If you tend toward being demanding, contentious and nagging, then humble yourself and consider the other person as more important than yourself. Look for how you can serve instead of being served; for how you can give instead of receive; for how you can be a blessing to others instead of a curse.
If you live with such a person, then continue to be humble and patient yourself. Do not respond in like manner but show the way by your example. Ladies, continue to be chaste and respectful. Men, continue to love sacrificially following Jesus’ example. Set your goal to glorify God regardless of what foolishness you may have to endure at the hands of your spouse.
This same solution must also be applied to the next category.
Critical & Quarreling
As pride is added to the mix, the demands, the contention and the nagging get worse because they consider their way as the better or only proper way. If you add self-righteousness, it gets even worse because they justify themselves according to their religious standard. They also have another level on which to attack because your failure to meet their standard reveals your sinful inferiority. Such a person becomes critical and quick to quarrel. All it actual shows is their foolishness. As Proverbs 20:3 points out, “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.” Such quarreling drives wedges in the family so that even times of celebration are instead marked with strife. If that happens too many times people prefer to stay away as Proverbs 17:1 warns, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it Than a house full of feasting with strife.” A crust of dry bread and water with peace are preferable to having a banquet with a battle.
I think most people can understand this to some degree. Over time you learn to avoid certain people because the contention that rises in talking with them is not worth it. We are told in Romans 12:18 that “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” But there are some people with whom there cannot be peace because they insist on being critical and trying to pick a fight. To avoid such people you might even skip the whole event. Imagine if that was what your family life was like? Some of you have tragically had to endure growing up in such homes.
Pride alone is sufficient to stoke the fires of criticism and quarreling, and self-righteousness adds a blower to it. Such people view others and their ideas as inferior. They also tend toward perfectionism. Some people now call that OCD: obsessive-compulsive disorder, but someone with OCD does not have to complain about what doesn’t meet their standard. They will often just take on the responsibility and do it themselves. That could be irritating if you do something and they come behind you and do it again, but unless they are complaining about it, what difference does it really make to you?
For example, let’s say you clean up the kitchen and your spouse comes in later and cleans it again. If he does not complain about it, why would that irritate you? If he wants it cleaner and is willing to clean it without complaint, then rejoice. You get a cleaner kitchen and can concentrate on something more important to you. Could it be the irritation is caused by your own pride that your housekeeping does not meet the standard he wants? If you cared about him you would at a minimum thank him for it instead of complaining about it. If you really cared about him, you would ask him what he wants and work together to fulfill his desires.
On the other end of the spectrum are critical people that demand that others meet their standards and are more than willing to complain about it. They may even demand that not only the results, but also the process, be done their way. Such people are miserable to work for, and even more miserable to live with for nothing will ever really satisfy. When you finally get one thing right, they will find something else wrong to complain about. In such cases, marriage is the world’s most expensive way of discovering your faults. To paraphrase Proverbs 14:1 again, “The wise build their home, But the foolish tear it down with their own hands.”
If you tend toward perfectionism, then ask yourself why your standards have to be met and why others must do it your way? Unless you are God, those things are not really that important. Each of us are responsible to do things God’s way to achieve His standards, everything else is relatively unimportant. Paul’s commands in Romans 14:7-10 have application here. 7 “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived [again], that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Verse 19 adds, “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
Is it not enough that each of you will have to give an account of yourself to God? Are you pursuing that which promotes peace or quarreling? Does your pride blind you to the fact that the other person may not only have legitimate reason for doing things differently than you, but their way could even be superior – at least for them? Their standard may also be superior simply from the fact that they are willing to accept a lower standard in some areas in order to place a higher priority on more important things. And even if your way and standard are better – so what? How important is the issue anyway that you would pick a fight over it? Whom are you trying to please? God? Your spouse? Or yourself?
Humble yourself, lower your expectations of others and be realistic. Too many people withhold their love unless their spouse is what they want them to be. Learn to love your husband or wife for whom they actually are flaws and all. Follow Jesus’ example and learn to love as He did. That is both His command to us and the measure by which we demonstrate that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).
Temperamental, Harsh & Hateful
When wickedness is added to the mix, then the expressions of pride, self-righteousness and selfishness can become temperamental, harsh and even hateful. Nagging is bad enough, but when the person doing it is temperamental it is much worse. Complaining is irritating enough, but when it is done harshly it is much worse. Quarreling can be damaging enough, but when it is hateful, it can cause injury that is difficult to heal. Do no
t allow wickedness to characterize you in anyway. All of these are sure ways to destroy a home.
When it comes to temper, Proverbs 29:11 sets the contrast. “A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.” How fast you lose your temper is an indicator of how foolish you are. Proverbs 14:29 – “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.”
A hot temper invariably results in saying things that should not be said in a way that should not be expressed. And when you give others a piece of your mind, you have less left with which to function. The result is a harshness that only aggravates the situation. Proverbs 29:22 –“An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” It could also result in hatred which also stirs up strife (Proverbs 10:12).
The wise understand that the most important time to hold their temper is when the other person has already lost theirs. Proverbs 15:1 – “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger,” and Proverbs 15:18 –“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention.” A wise person understands that if they are right, they can afford to keep their temper, and if they are wrong, they cannot afford to lose it.
However, even if your spouse is wise and so is a kind, patient and loving individual who is willing to cover over your transgressions, a hot temper, harshness or hatred can still destroy the relationship. That love can be worn down so that isolation is sought. Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, Than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” They may still love and cover over your transgressions, but they will seek out solitude and peace by avoiding you. It is not uncommon for those married to such contentious and harsh spouses to stay longer at work, spend more time away from home with friends, hobbies or even volunteer work, and when home, find some other room to be in than with you.
What is the solution? If you are married to such a harsh person, then you have to commit yourself to fulfilling your God given role in the marriage and glorify God in the midst of it while striving to make the best of it. That could be very difficult, yet there is still success and fulfillment in pleasing God even if the marriage is not according to God’s design or what you had hoped.
If you are such a harsh person, then the solution begins with repentance. Recognize your sin and turn from it to follow Jesus. You will need a change of heart before there will be a change of action. That change of heart begins by turning from sin to the savior and then learning to walk with Him. You are then transformed by the renewing of your mind which occurs as you learn God’s word and follow it. One of the functions of the church is to help you with that as part of the Great Commission – “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” If you need personal help with that, then see me or one of our church leaders to we can direct you to the counseling, discipleship or Bible study that will assist you in living as a new creation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “foolish” or “foolishness” is mentioned 2) Talk with your parents about how to avoid foolishness in your life
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How has American society become adversarial to marriage and the family? What effect has that had on the Christian community? Describe the problem with each of the following characteristics and the solution to them: Naive, poor counsel, pride, foolishness, wickedness, stubbornness, self-righteousness and selfishness. What three things should you do if you are married to someone who is foolish? How does a mature and godly marriage protect against demanding, contention and nagging? What is the difference between demanding, expressing a desire, presenting reasons for an opinion and being contentious, and nagging and reminding? Give illustrations of each. How do contention and nagging damage a marriage? What is the solution to them? What effect does pride and self-righteousness have on contention and nagging? What is the relationship between foolishness and quarreling? What is the difference between critiquing and criticizing and complaining? How can you correct something without complaining about it? What is the danger of being a perfectionist? How is that corrected? What is the relationship between wickedness and a hot-temper, anger and hate? How do those things destroy a marriage? What do you do if you are married to a harsh person? How can you change if you are harsh?
Sermon Notes – 6/10/2012
Proverbs on Family, Part 5: Solutions to Foolishness in Marriage, Pt. 3- Selected Proverbs
Are you _________ and building up your home, or foolish and tearing it down with your own hands?
We must be wise and ___________ to resist society’s pressures against marriage
The _______lack knowledge and discernment resulting in gullibility which can be exploited (Prov. 22:3)
The Solution: Heed the call of wisdom – become a student of the ______________& seek godly counsel
The counsel of the wicked is _____________ – Proverbs 12:5; 13:20; Psalm 1
The Solution: Walk with those who are ________ so that you will become wise (Proverbs 13:20)
__________blinds people to the truth and makes people stubborn in their sin – Proverbs 12:15; 30:12
The Solution: Be humble, fear the _________, and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:7; James 4:6)
The _______ of the Lord is also the solution to foolishness – Proverbs 1:7; 8:13; 9:10
Wickedness is the opposite of ______________________and moves a person away from God’s design
The Solution: _______________ from sin that leads to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
Stubbornness is an increasing _____________toward God that is part of foolishness.
Married to a fool? 1) Don’t be ____________or provoking yourself. 2) Confess your own foolishness.
3) Fulfill your God given _______: Men, sacrificially love your wife. Ladies, be chaste & respectful
The Solution: _________________ and humility
Self righteousness sets a false standard and _____________ a person to their own faults
The Solution: ______________, the word of God and godly counselors
The selfish are primarily concerned with their own profit and pleasure with little concern for _________
The Solution: Develop the humble and sacrificial attitude of _________- learn to be like a dog, not a tick
Demanding, Contention & Nagging
None of these are problems in a mature and ____________ marriages
Desires, reasons & reminders can be expressed _
___________being demanding, contentious or nagging
How much you demand and nag are ______________of how well you are doing at being a godly spouse
Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 27:15 – the more contentious the demands, the more ___________they will be
Yielding to the nagging is always only a __________fix – the underlying problem must also be corrected
Proverbs 21:9, 19 – Contention / nagging drives people away to ___________ themselves
The solution: become _________by humbling yourself and developing the attitude of Christ – Phil. 2:3-8
Critical & Quarreling
Pride and self-righteousness _____________demanding and nagging to complaining and quarreling
Complaining & quarreling reveals _____________and drives wedges in relationships (Prov. 20:3; 17:1)
We are to strive to be a __________with all men (Rom. 12:18), but that is not possible with some people
________alone will stoke the fires of criticism and quarreling, and self-righteousness adds a blower to it
Even a person with OCD does not have to ______________- they can simply do the work themselves
If someone does the work without complaint to raise the standard – there is no _____complaint against it
Critical and complaining people are ________________ to work for and worse to live with
The solution: Only God’s standards are important – Pursue __________ – Romans 14:7-10, 19.
Humble yourself, lower your expectations, be realistic. Learn to _____people with their flaws – John 13
Temperamental, Harsh & Hateful
Wickedness escalates the expressions of pride, self-righteousness and selfishness into anger and ______
Proverbs 29:11; 14:29 – How fast you ___________your temper is an indicator of your foolishness
A hot temper invariably results in _____________________ the situation – Proverbs 29:22
The wise learn to ____________ their temper and diffuse contention – Proverbs 15:1, 18
A continued hot-temper, harshness and hatred will drive even loving people _________- Proverbs 15:17
The Solution: If married to such a person, commit yourself to ________God in the midst of the situation
If you are a harsh person: Repent and follow Jesus being transformed through God’s word. Get _______
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