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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 8, 2012
Proverbs on the Family, Part 8
Solutions to Foolishness in Marriage, Pt. 5
While I was at the IFCA International Conference at the end of June, I spent some time talking with one of the vendors about the resources they developed for marriage and family ministry. They were also part of a larger association of ministries for marriage and family that had a resource catalog which I picked up and examined in some detail. I was already familiar with some ministries and authors listed that I know to be very good (Ken Ham, Tony Evans, Randy Alcorn and Elizabeth George), but they also listed many I was not familiar with, so the descriptions became very important in assessing the material being promoted. I was encouraged to read the description of several of the parenting books stressing the need to model the principles of Deuteronomy 6. In fact, one of the ministries even has the name, D6family, in reference to that important Bible passage. And though this may be largely due to marketing strategy, I did notice that psychology credentials of authors were often noted, but if the author was a pastor, there was no indication of his credentials. That always makes me suspicious.
Some of the titles also raised my suspicions, and please pardon me in advance for using some sarcasm here. What do you think about the title, “4 Days to a Forever Marriage”? The description says by learning “two powerful choices” you “can begin living a more intimate and loving relationship that honors God and each other in just four days.” I wonder if those choices are: 1) choose not to sin and 2) choose to love God? If not, then it isn’t going to work. There was also “Have a New Husband by Friday.” According to the book cover, the popular psychologist and New York Times Best Selling Author that wrote it wants to teach women how to change their husband’s attitude, behavior and communication in just five days. Some of you could sure use that book. You and the Lord have been working on your husband for decades and he still needs a lot of improvement! On a more serious note, I spoke last week about the sins that revolve around manipulation. That is not the means to a healthy and godly relationship.
There was also “6 Secrets to a Lasting Love.” Somehow I have a hard time believing such things are secrets for the Scriptures openly proclaim what is needed. The problem is not discovering secrets that will suddenly enable you to have a good marriage. The problem is that what is required to have a lasting love goes against man’s sin nature so he doesn’t want to hear it, much less do it. So while the catalog had many good resources to help marriages and families, it also has some that would actually be detrimental since they are not really based in Biblical truth. One advertisement states it is a “faith-based book on Imago Relationship Therapy” which is an integration of western psychological systems, behavioral sciences, and spiritual disciplines into a theory of primary love relationships. Its first basic premise is that people are born whole and complete. That is a contradiction to the claims of Scripture that we are born in sin and are by nature children of wrath (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). The foundations for the therapy only get worse from there.
Even when the ideas and advice presented help you to have a happier marriage, if they are not based in Biblical truth, then they are leading you away from God and His purpose for your marriage. Ultimately, that is a failure. The goal of a Christian in this life is holiness, not happiness.
That brings us back to the message this morning. I have read quite a number of books on marriage and on the family over the years, and though I have found some helpful tips in them, there is only one book that has been able to change my life, establish my marriage and lead my family, and that is the Bible – and that has not been done in four or five days. It began with repentance and conversion in becoming a true Christian, and then by the Holy Spirit the Lord has continued the good work that began then to conform me into the image of Christ. I have spent a lifetime learning God’s commands and how to obey them.
Even in marriage, though Diane and I both read a lot of books prior to our wedding, our first few years together were rough. It has taken years for us to learn and to develop a good marriage. Knowledge is not enough, it also takes wisdom in applying that knowledge to everyday life in a way that will honor the Lord. In many ways, marriage has been a crucible in which God has refined both of us into greater Christ-likeness, which is why we do have a good marriage now. We would not want to go back to the turmoil of those first years together, but we praise the Lord for them, for God used the struggles to make us more godly and mature. That is our desire for you as well. I believe that any married couple can have a wonderful marriage if they will follow what the Scriptures say about marriage and relationships. The quality of the marriage will be directly related to how well you are living in godliness.
For that reason, I have had no interest in tickling your ears with tips based in human wisdom about how to have a happy marriage. I am against techniques of manipulation of your spouse so you can get what you desire, and I stand firmly opposed to the various psychological methods by which you learn to satisfy each others sinful desires. I don’t think there has been anything in this series that has been ear tickling. Some of you may feel more like I have been boxing your ears, but that has not been the purpose either. The purpose has been to give you clear instruction from the word of God so that you will have the solutions to the various forms of foolishness that often occur in marriages and which tear them apart. If you feel like your ears have been boxed, then give serious consideration to what the Holy Spirit may be striving to do in your life so that you can walk in holiness and wisdom and enjoy the benefits of a godly marriage.
Be someone who is wise and is building up your home instead of someone who is foolish and tearing it down with your own hands (Proverbs 14:1). If you have not already done so, then repent of your wickedness and turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ to receive His forgiveness and righteousness. It all begins there as you become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and then continues as the Holy Spirit does His work making you like Christ. Your part is to obey the Scriptures, which may seem like hard work, but it is well worth it. Be obedient to Philippians 2:3-5. Set aside your pride and humble yourself. Turn from your selfishness and instead regard others as more important than yourself looking out for their interests. Develop the same attitude that was also in Christ Jesus.
In this series we have already covered the following areas of foolishness and the solutions to them. In the first sermon: being naive, receiving poor counsel, pride and foolishness. In the second sermon: wickedness, stubbornness, self-righteousness and selfishness. In the third sermon
: demanding, contention, nagging, being critical, quarreling, temperamental, harsh and hateful. Last week we examined neglect, indifference, manipulation, deceit and lying. All of these things work to tear apart a marriage. (See: Proverbs on the Family, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)
This morning we will examine more areas of foolishness which are directly harmful to marriage.
The idea of being unfair could be taken a lot of different directions because we live in a time when people easily proclaim something to be unfair when it is actually simply a matter of jealousy. They think it is unfair that someone else would have what they would like – material things, skills, friends, position in life, etc. Such jealousy is an evil that is the basis of class warfare which is then fueled by politicians exploiting it to their own advantage.
According to Webster’s, our word “fair” comes from a Gothic word meaning either “to be content” or “to make something pretty.” From those two usages many additional meanings developed including what is of concern here – “just and honest; impartial; unprejudiced,” “according to the rules. ” In other words, fairness is not a concept that can be applied to the outcomes, but only to the process. It is fair when everyone plays by the same rules, not when everyone has the same outcome. In fact, I would go so far to say that if the results are equal, then the process was not fair. Try to imagine a sport in which every game must end in a tie score regardless of who is playing.
Life is more complex than a sport for everyone has many different variables that will determine outcome including family background, natural abilities, acquired skills and character qualities. Of the four, character is the most important. There are plenty of people who have come from prestigious families, had good natural ability, and were highly educated to give them good skills, yet it was all squandered because of their poor character. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who came from dishonorable families, had many handicaps instead of natural ability, and received a poor education so skill development was also lacking, yet because of their good character and diligence they succeeded. Consider the contrast in these Proverbs. Proverbs 10:4, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 11:27, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, But he who searches after evil, it will come to him.” Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of the sluggard craves and [gets] nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.” Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent [lead] surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty [comes] surely to poverty.”
What does all this have to do with fairness and having a good marriage? First, life does not give you and your spouse equal family backgrounds, natural abilities or acquired skills, so to expect equal outcome is ridiculous as well as foolish. Second, God has not given you the same roles in your marriage, so to expect the other to share equally in what is your God given responsibility is also absurd and foolish. Third, which is related to the first two, a godly marriage is not a contract or partnership; it is a covenant; it is a promise to fulfill your God given role and responsibilities irrespective of the other person.
The husband is to love and cherish. The wife is to respect and submit. They are both to fulfill their role before God even if the other does not. Fairness is a matter of godliness, not equality. It is love, self-sacrifice and faithfulness to promises made. Consider the conditions set in common marriage vows – for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Is it then unfair if it turns out for worse, for poorer and in sickness? Of course not. Those were the promises made, yet it is common to hear the complaint that anything less than better, richer and health is not fair.
Biblical fairness is equity (Hebrew, mîshôr and mashar respectively). It is being upright, straight, on the level. It is tied to righteousness and the manner of judgment (Psalm 9:8; Isaiah 11:4). Proverbs 1:3 tells us that a purpose of the book of Proverbs is to give instruction in righteousness, justice and equity with Proverbs 2:9 adding that wisdom from the Lord will give discernment in righteousness, justice, equity and every good path. Such equity in a marriage would be seen being upright in character and actions. You will live according to godliness and treat your spouse accordingly.
Unfairness in a marriage will be harmful because it sides with wickedness instead of righteousness, with selfishness instead of loving sacrifice, with self-righteousness instead of humility and compassion. I have found that those who are unfair, that is, someone who is not upright and equitable, are quick to make judgments based on their limited knowledge. That should be a folly and shame to them (Proverbs 18:13; John 7:24), but is it rarely recognized because they are so focused on blaming or “correcting” the other person. I have also found that more often than not, the one making the accusation is usually the one that is unfair, not the one being accused.
Finally, if you still think that fairness is related to equality, then using that definition I am here to tell you today that it is time for you to face reality. Life is not “fair” nor can it be “fair” as long as there is sin. Grow up, get over it and move on. If you focus on being a blessing to others, especially your spouse, instead of a curse, not only will your life be happier, but you will help instead of hinder people along the way. Put your focus on what you can give to the relationship instead of what you can get out of it. Or as I said in an earlier sermon, learn to be the dog that gives in the relationship instead of the parasitic tick sucking the life out of it.
And consider what it would be like if Jesus has lived His life based on such a perverted idea of fairness? Jesus would have forsaken the cross, for the righteous paying the price of the sin penalty for the unrighteous would be the epitome of unfairness. If God was “fair” in that sense, no one would go to heaven. I am thankful instead that God is loving, merciful and gracious. That is what I strive to be as a reflection of Him in my life. You need to do the same.
The next three areas of foolishness are very destructive to marriage and family with each successive area arising from the previous.
In Proverbs the word discretion (mezimm”) is a characteristic of wisdom (Proverbs 8:12). It carries the idea of giving careful consideration before making decisions and planning how to fulfill a purpose. A purpose of Proverbs is to teach youth knowledge and discretion (Proverbs 1:4). Such discretion will guard you (Proverbs 2:11). In Proverbs 3:21 and 5:2 the father implores his son not to let wisdom and discretion depart from his sight.
To be indiscrete is the opposite. It acts on whims, is carried away by the moment, can be oblivious to the surroundings, does not consider the possible consequences. This can lead to all sort of problems.
Another word (ta’am) has a very different root meaning (to taste), but is also translated as discretion because of the similarity in its usage to convey the idea of evaluation and decision. It is used in Proverbs 31:8 in a positive sense describing the valuable woman, “She senses (perceives) that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.” However, Proverbs
11:22 describes a woman of opposite character, “[As] a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, [So is] a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.” While there is a component here about outward appearance, the actual comparison is about character. The ring of gold compares to the beautiful woman while the swine’s snout compares to her lack of discernment. A ring of gold is valuable and pretty, but put it in the ugly nose of a pig and that value and beauty is lost. The same is true for a woman that presents herself as physically beautiful. Her attractiveness quickly departs when her character becomes known by her indiscretion. What she says and how she acts will usually quickly reveal the selfishness, and given enough time also expose her wickedness.
We live in a society that celebrates physical beauty. The fashion industry is built around ways to flaunt whatever natural assets you have while trying to hide what may not be so attractive. That strategy may work for the ungodly, but the godly see through it quickly. The godly understand Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, [But] a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” A pretty girl with a vile tongue is repulsive to the godly man, but so is a woman who may have a charming personality, but dresses like a harlot. That brings up the next foolish characteristic.
The hope for someone that is indiscrete is that they may learn and mature to become wise and have discretion. If they do not, then they can easily slide down into being shameful. Proverbs 12:4, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames [him] is as rottenness in his bones” and Proverbs 13:5, “A righteous man hates falsehood, But a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.”
Shame is the grief and guilt that is caused by the exposure of what is inappropriate, disgraceful, dishonorable or sinful. Our society has for the most part lost its sense of shame. People will now even proudly flaunt their blatant sin without remorse. However, what they think is just fun, games and laughter is a serious matter before God and something that is extremely damaging to a marriage.
The contrast in Proverbs 12:4 is an issue of character and trust. The excellent wife can be trusted because of her good character as explained in detail in Proverbs 31:10-31 and so she brings honor and glory to her husband and home. The wife that has a wicked character will bring dishonor upon her husband and family by her own immorality and imprudence. She is like a disease in his bones. Proverbs 13:5 is more direct in stating that actions of a wicked man are shameful causing dishonor, humiliation and embarrassment that is a stench to others.
Such shame can arise from any sin that becomes known by others. Because husband and wife are joined together, the sin of one will have an effect on the reputation of the other. Any actions of foolishness such as displays of pride, selfishness or wickedness bring dishonor. Improper speech, immoral behavior and indiscretions will bring disgrace. Refusal to live within God’s design and commands will bring shame. While feelings of guilt and remorse will be affected by societal standards since the conscience can be trained and even seared by what is taught in society, the actual shamefulness of something is determined by God. Let me give you some quick examples.
The feminist movement has perverted our ideas about the proper God given roles of men and women. Many churches, even some that claim to be Bible teaching and believing, now believe that it is proper for women to become pastors. Many of these would say I was a male chauvinist for even trying to interpret and apply in a literal manner such passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:9-15; and 3:1-13. They may have persuaded themselves that God approves of women pastors, but every woman pastoring a church brings shame upon the men in it for she exposes their failure to rise up and lead as God commands them. And if she was as godly as she thinks she is, she would find a man she could encourage to take the lead even as Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos (Acts 18:26).
The styles of clothing that are acceptable to American society have changed now to the point where to be in fashion, ladies nearly have to dress as only harlots and Hollywood did at one time. Women may not feel ashamed of their fashion, but they should. Such women are a cause of great confusion to men for they flaunt their assets are then upset when some man answers their advertisement. Ladies, do not be surprised about the type of man you will attract by the manner of your dress. A wife that dresses immodestly opens herself up to the improper advances of other men and shames her husband. The scriptures are very clear about the importance of modesty for all people and especially for women (1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-5). We have handouts on modesty in the back of the church designed to help you think through the issue so that you will dress in a manner pleasing to the Lord.
It is never surprising when indiscretion and then shameful behavior finally results in unfaithfulness. That is simply the culmination of what has been in the heart for a long time. Proverbs gives many warnings about the adulterous woman, but the principles apply just as much to adulterous men. They may speak smoothly (5:3; 6:24) and work hard to tempt (7:10-21), but those who commit adultery lack sense and are on the path of destruction (6:32). However, if you will follow wisdom, she will protect and deliver you from such evil (2:16; 6:24).
Unfaithfulness in marriage more often than not will destroy it. According to Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, it is the only cause of divorce that does not result in adultery for the innocent spouse. With true repentance, adultery can be forgiven and the marriage healed, but even with that it is very difficult and it is the exceptional spouse that can overcome the hurt and disloyalty. If lying is a wrecking ball to the home, and you can be sure there is a lot of lying that goes on in the pursuit of adultery, the unfaithfulness is a demolition bomb. It takes a lot of patience and tenacity to clean up the mess and rebuild the home.
Tragically, by the time most people reach the point of being unfaithful, they have already turned their back on God and His commands. Proverbs 2:17 points out this characteristic in the adulteress that “leaves the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God.” It is a small step from there to a seared conscience that does not even recognize the sin as Proverbs 30:20 demonstrates, “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, I have done no wrong.'”
What is the solution to adultery and fornication – and both are forms of unfaithfulness? Adultery is unfaithfulness to the present spouse and fornication is unfaithfulness to any future spouse. Both are unfaithfulness to the Lord. The best solution is to walk in the ways of wisdom and never get near it (Proverbs 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on your own spouse as is advocated in Proverbs 5:15-21. If it is something you have been tempted by but have not yet fallen, then the solution is heed wisdom’s many warnings and flee (See also 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22). If it is something into which you have already stumbled, then genuine repentance is required. You must change your mind and see the unfaithfulness for the evil it really is and then turn from it, seek the Lord’s forgiveness and then the forgiveness of everyone else damaged by it – your spouse, other family members, and probably many friends too. And as strange as this may sound, you also need the forgiveness of the person with whom you sinned and their family. True repentance is described well in Psalm 51. It is completely humble, takes full responsibility, desires to be transformed and so seeks to make things right while warning others of falling into sin.
Because of man’s inherent sin nature, foolishness abounds in many different ways within marriages and families. However, it does not have to stay that way. Those who will walk with the Lord in wisdom can overcome foolishness and have wonderful marriages and families that are God honoring. The key solutions to foolishness are 1) repentance from sin, wickedness, and self-righteousness; 2) setting aside your pride and humbling yourself before God and man; and 3) becoming unselfish by considering God and others first.
There are two other major issues of foolishness that are harmful to marriage that I will be discussing in the future. The first is influences from outside the family that pervert the proper priorities, and the second is the improper rearing of children. I will weave solutions to these two areas of foolishness into sermons that will deal with the broader topics of Proverbs on Proper Priorities, and Proverbs on Proper Child Rearing.
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) Write down the scripture references and look them up later 2) Count how many times “foolishness” is said. 3) Discuss with your parents why it is so important to be fair, discrete and avoid anything shameful
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are the key factors in determining if a resource will actually be helpful to your marriage? What is necessary to develop a good marriage? What does it mean to be fair? What determines if a sporting event is “fair.” What are some of the variables that keep people from having the same advantages? Is that fair? Why or why not? What is the most important variable in achieving success? What three factors ensure that marriage cannot be a partnership of equality? What is the Biblical concept of equity? Why is a lack of equity in a marriage so harmful to it? Where would you be, what hope could you have if God was “fair” in the sense of equal outcome? What does it mean to be discrete? What is indiscretion? Explain Proverbs 11:22. Explain Proverbs 31:30 in terms of the response of a godly man to an indiscrete woman? What is shame? What are the sources of shame? How can a woman shame her husband – or a husband shame his wife? Why is immodesty shameful? Who determines what is modest and what is immodest, what is shameful and what is not shameful? According to Proverbs 2:17 and 30:20, what are some characteristics of an adulterer? Why is unfaithfulness so harmful to a marriage? What two solutions will keep from unfaithfulness? What do you need to do if you have been unfaithful? In what ways are both adultery and fornications forms of unfaithfulness? What are the three key solutions to most kinds of foolishness? How will you apply these solutions to any foolishness in your life?
Sermon Notes – 7/8/2012
Solutions to Foolishness in Marriage, Part 5
There are both good and dangerous marriage resources available, so be very _____________.
The ___________ is the best book on marriage and the family
A good marriage begins with ____________, conversion to being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ
A good marriage is developed over many ________of becoming more wise and mature in following God
I will not ________your ears with human wisdom, techniques of manipulation or psychological methods
If you feel your ears are being _________, consider what the Holy Spirit may want you to do in your life
Be ___________ and build up your home instead of foolish and tear it down with your own hands
Unfair – “to be __________” or “to make something pretty
“just and honest; impartial; unprejudiced,” “according to the _____.” It concerns process, not outcomes
Everyone is affected by variables: family background, natural __________, acquired skills and character
_______________ is the most important factor: Proverbs 10:4; 11:27; 13:4; 21:5
1) Life does not give you ____________ backgrounds, natural abilities, acquired skills or character
2) God does not give you the same _____________ in marriage
3) A godly marriage is a _____________, a promise to fulfill God given roles and responsibilities
Fairness is a matter of ______________, not equality – consider the conditions set in marriage vows
Biblical fairness is _________: being upright, straight, on the level – related to righteousness and justice
Equity in marriage is being upright in character & actions and living in _____________with your spouse
If you still think fairness is related to equality, then face reality: Life is not “___________”
Focus on being a ____________to others, especially your spouse, instead of a curse
Where would you be if ___________lived His life on the basis of “fairness” being related to equality?
Discretion is giving careful __________________before making a decision, planning to fulfill a purpose
___________acts on whims, is carried away by the moment, is oblivious to surroundings, lacks planning
Proverbs 11:22 – outward appearance is mentioned, but the actual comparison is about ______________
An indiscrete character overwhelms even the beautiful with ________________
A godly man is ____________by a vile tongue and a harlot’s dress even if the girl is pretty and charming
The indiscrete that do not _______________to become wise easily slide down into being shameful
Shame is the grief & guilt caused by the _________of what is inappropriate, disgraceful or dishonorable
Proverbs 12:4 is an issue of character and ___________bringing either honor / glory or dishonor / shame
Shame can arise from any _________that becomes known – and sin of one spouse will effect the other
Feelings of guilt / remorse vary by society, but ________sets the standards for what is actually shameful
Feminism has ________________the role of women in the church, but God’s commands are still clear
The fashion industry has perverted clothing styles, but God still requires _______________
Indiscretion leads to shamefulness which can easily result in ______________________
Unfaithfulness in marriage more often than not will ______________ it
With true __________, adultery can be forgiven and the marriage healed, but it will take very hard work
Lying is a wrecking ball to the home, unfaithfulness is a demolition ______________
The adulterer departs from _____ commands (Prov, 2:17) & often has a seared conscience (Prov. 30:20)
Adultery and fornication are both forms of _______________to God, and to the present or future spouse
Solution 1: Walk in the ways of ____________ and never get near unfaithfulness (Proverbs 5:8)
Solution 2: Heed wisdom’s warnings and ____________ temptation
Solution 3: Genuine _____________ that humbly seeks forgiveness from God and everyone harmed
Because of man’s sin nature, ____________________ abounds in marriages and families
Solution 1: ______________ from sin, wickedness, and self-righteousness
Solution 2: Set aside pride and _______________ yourself before God and man
Solution 3: Become ______________ by considering God and others first
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