Conventional Thinking: Marriage works
For better or worse, Americans are a pragmatic people. On any given issue, if you talk to them about theory or principles, you tend to lose them. If you talk about what works, you reach them.
A recent case in point occurred in the July 14 edition of The New York Times. In a feature-length article, “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do,’” the piece examines the economic and social benefits of marriage.
Quoting a Princeton University sociologist, the article states very matter of factly, “While many children of single mothers flourish . . . a large body of research shows that they are more likely than similar children with married parents to experience childhood poverty, act up in class, become teenage parents and drop out of school.”
The good news in The New York Times’ observation, of course, is that the secular world is starting to acknowledge what Christians have known all along. Put simply, marriage works.
Christians have spent much time in the public square defending marriage. While we ought to continue that, I think it is high time we start promoting marriage.
In their book, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, co-authors Linda Wait and Maggie Gallagher convincingly make the case. Contrary to myths and media headlines, married people tend to be happier and more prosperous. Their offspring are better educated and are better-adjusted children. The list goes on and on.
Christians, of course, recognize that not every believer who is married lives happily ever after. In marriage, there is much that can be challenging. Yet marriage offers an opportunity to grow in our walk with Christ.
Indeed, marriage ought to be looked at as a gift from God for our own good. The Bible has much to say on marriage. From Genesis to Revelation, marriage is woven throughout the story of God’s redemptive plan. While the Lord gifts many people to a life of being single, marriage is by and large God’s plan for mankind.
The very word “matrimony” speaks to the nature and essence of marriage. The root of the word is not “eros” (i.e. erotic or romantic love), but it is “mater,” which means “mother.” Taken literally, marriage is about motherhood. We are all born of woman. That which ties us to our fathers, then, is marriage. In His infinite wisdom, God gave children a home consisting of father and mother, each of whom reflects complementary parts of His character.
The aforementioned New York Times piece hones in on this point by telling the story of two mothers. To the casual observer, Jessica Schaireer and Chris Faulkner should be about equally well-off in life. They hail from the same background, work in the same type of environment and have the same level of education.
Yet Schaireer, a single mother on food stamps, struggles to get by in life. Faulkner, meanwhile, is thriving, along with her husband, fiscally and in other observable ways. The couple’s weeks, which are full of edifying activities like sports and Boy Scouts, are more manageable and meaningful with their combined efforts.
What are we to make of this attention on marriage? The first response would be to thank God for creating holy matrimony. If you are married, thank God for your spouse. If you know a single parent, look for ways to assist and pray for them, knowing what an uphill battle it can be. If you know of a couple struggling, encourage them to keep to their vows and persevere. In its 2009 article, “The Case for Early Marriage,” Christianity Today magazine calls on churches to support young couples financially and in other ways who are ready to tie the knot. All of these noble actions call us to honor marriage.
After all, the Bible says “Marriage should be honored by all” (Heb. 13:4). That means you. That means me. And that even means The New York Times.