There is one commandment of the Ten Commandments which applies specifically to marriage. In five simple words, it is translated from the Hebrew as “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18).
People are often bothered that the Ten Commandments stress actions that God is AGAINST and not as much what He is FOR. In fact, this small set of big rules has been called the “Thou Shalt Nots.”
But before you go storming the throne of God demanding Him to become a more positive guy, remember that the entire Word of God — all 66 books — tell us who our Father is. And he is VERY positive about marriage. In fact, I would argue that if one were to word God’s heart for marriages as commandments, you might find these concepts:
Thou shalt honor your commitment to one another above your feelings. Emotions run the gamut in most marriages, ranging from desperate admiration for the love of your life to absolute disgust that you married a guy who clips his toenails in bed and then asks to make love. More seriously, the vast majority of spouses experience ups and downs in their attraction toward their mate.If you go by how much you feel “in love” with your honey at the moment, you may dismiss how good your marriage really is or can be. Commitment is the foundation that makes you work on your marriage and make it the best that it can be.
Thou shalt treat your spouse with action love. Throughout the Bible, God gives commands on how we are to treat others with love — not a love born of mushy-gushy I-wuv-you sentiment, but of actions that display respect, concern, and desire for that person’s best. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31), the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and all of those “one another” passages are applicable to marriage.
Indeed, if you should be kind, gentle, patient, and loving with anyone, it’s the person you plan to spend a lifetime with. Of course, those married longer than about five days know that daily display of Christ-like love to our mate is a bigger challenge than we might have expected. Living in close quarters with someone for long periods of time breeds an awareness of the small stuff that can drive you a little crazy. But love anyway. Love when it’s hard. Love with your actions. Love, love, love.
Thou shalt have sex. There are plenty of spouses who wish that the command had been that clear, so they could dangle it over their mate and say, “See, it’s a BIG one — right up there with ‘Do not murder.'” No, it’s not stated that directly, but the Bible is clear that married couples are supposed to physically intimate.
From Genesis talking about husband and wife becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24), to the celebration of sexual love in Song of Songs, to the admonition to fulfill our marital duty of having sex (1 Corinthians 7:3), the Bible is clear that sex is part of marriage.
Moreover, this isn’t a honeymoon phase. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” Always and ever. Sounds like a pop song I remember. But the meaning is obvious — that we are supposed to make love and keep making love for the duration of our marriage.
Thou shalt give your spouse priority. It’s easy to assume that your marital love is secure and thus put your spouse down on the priority list. You almost expect him to behave like a dog who, though ignored for a while, will still come up and nuzzle against you when you’re ready. Newsflash: Your hubby is not a dog.
I don’t know why I felt the need to say that, since it should be obvious. However, we sometimes don’t understand how important this marital relationship is, how it must take priority over such competing activities as recreation with friends, children’s activities, volunteer work, and ministry duties. Yes, of course, we should engage in all of those things, but not to the neglect of our marriage.
I love that God included this command to husbands in Deuteronomy 24:5: “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” Even in life-and-death times of war, God placed priority on a husband and a wife coming together and experiencing joy. If you feel you don’t have time for conversation or date nights or sexual encounters with your mate, perhaps you need to take a good, hard look at your priorities.
Thou shalt remain faithful. This is simply the flip side of “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Interestingly enough, the Proverbs passage about being always satisfied with your wife comes after a long warning about not giving in to adultery. The proscription for staying away from other women comes in this advice a few verses earlier: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well” (Proverbs 5:15). In other words, remain faithful to your own spouse.
And remain faithful in every way. That means that you place your efforts into building up your own marital relationship and do not allow yourself to even toy with other options. Be careful about who you spend time with and how much time. Don’t fantasize about others, through porn, erotica, or other stimuli. Keep your eyes focused on your own mate rather than lusting after others (Matthew 5:28).
Stay the course with your spouse. Avoid adultery by remaining heart-and-soul faithful to the one you chose.
What other “Thou shalts” would you include for the marital relationship? What biblical commands about marriage stand out to you?