According to a Washington Post article dated 2011, the proportion of adults who are married has plunged to record lows. It went on to say:
“The marriage patterns are a striking departure from the middle of the 20th century, when the percentage of adults who never wed was in the low single digits. In 1960, for example, 72 percent of all adults were married. The median age for brides was barely 20, and the grooms were just a couple of years older.”
The New York Times similarly reported:
Married couples have dropped below half of all American households for the first time, the Census Bureau says — a milestone in the evolution of the American family toward less traditional forms. Married couples represented just 48 percent of American households in 2010, according to data being made public Thursday and analyzed by the Brookings Institution. This was far below the 78 percent of households occupied by married couples in 1950.
For anyone working in an urban context, that’s a stunning stat. In 1950, eight out of every ten households in America were occupied by married couples.
A Pew survey done last year gives helpful insight to this seismic shift in attitude towards marriage. It determined that more than four in ten Americans younger than 30 consider marriage passé. D’Vera Cohn, a Pew researcher, concluded that many young adults today “…see marriage as an obsolete social environment.”
In an urban context, it’s worse. African-American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, one study showed that the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics led Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin lamented, “I was stunned to learn that a black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents during slavery days than he or she is today.”
In another Washington Post article written by Joy Jones, whose title came from one of her black 6th grade students, “Marriage is for White People,” wrote:
“I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.”
“That’s wonderful!” I told my class. “I think I’ll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children.”
“Oh, no,” objected one student. “We’re not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers.” And that’s when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: “Marriage is for white people.”
It is obvious from these stories and statistics that for many Americans marriage is no longer esteemed as it once was. And sadly for far too many Christians, the world’s way of thinking (Rom 12:2) has successfully influenced the attitudes and actions of Christians.
But what do the Scriptures say about the importance of marriage? If Christians will be Christ-like, then they have to learn how to think biblically. So what significance does the Bible place upon the institute of marriage?
The Bible explicitly teaches that God made marriage. In the OT, God, Himself, performs the first wedding ceremony (Adam and Eve). In the NT, Jesus performs His first miracle at a wedding, allowing His presence to affirm the beauty and dignity of marriage. The people of God in the OT are extolled as God’s wife. In the NT, the church is given the lofty title of the bride of Christ. The love between a man and a woman is marveled over as one of the great mysteries in life. Proverbs 30:18-19 says it this way:
“There are three things, which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the middle of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid.”
The Bible teaches that marriage itself existed as a mystery throughout the history of the world to be unveiled in the NT as the God-ordained picture of what His love relationship with His people would look like. In the beginning, only after God officiated the first marriage did He say, “Behold it is very good.” And interestingly, the end of history reaches its apex with the marriage supper of the Lamb.
From this brief survey, it would be hard to conclude anything other than the fact that the Bible places a tremendous amount of importance on marriage. There is even an entire book of the Bible—The Song of Songs—dedicated to expressing the wonder and joy of marital love. And because these truths are so self-evident, I am not sure that there has ever been a time in history, or a place in the world, where there has been a need to appeal to men to seek and find a wife.
But here we are today, faced with this life and death challenge for the church and our society—men, even Christian men, in critically high numbers are not getting married. As marriage declines, a million other biblical expectations will decline with it. So what does the Bible teach about the significant of marriage? Let’s look at that together.
First: the Bible teaches all people that marriage is important.
Hebrews 13:4, says “Marriage is to be held in honor among all.” The meaning of the verse is clear, regardless of how outdated the world may consider marriage — regardless of the number of people shacking. The Bible says “to all” Christian men and to whoever else will listen, that marriage is to be held in honor. That is to say that marriage is to be thought of as valuable as gold and jewels. It is to be sought after like a great treasure and to be held in high regard and with great respect.
Second: Man Must Pursue the Woman
Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” It’s interesting how we are tempted to add the word “good” wife. He who finds a “good” wife finds a good thing. But the text doesn’t. It says that in finding a wife a man finds a good thing. Of course, a man can marry a type of woman that can bring the same kind of deep pain as of having rotting bones. But if a man finds a godly wife, then he can be sure from the wise teaching of God that He has received a good gift from the Lord. In fact, the words, “obtains favor from the Lord,” means in marriage, a man receives a pleasant gift from God. That, brothers, is a deal that should sound too good to pass by. But the catch or condition to receiving favor with God is that a man actually finds a wife. The idea of finding a wife is pretty straightforward. Finding means seeking in order to locate or until you obtain. The application is that a man gets a wife by looking for one. Conversely, you don’t find what you don’t look for. The key question then is how should a man “look for a wife?” For that answer, you have to hold on for part 2 of this blog series.
Third: Male Singleness (in General) is Not Good.
When God says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him,” it is obvious that He is talking about Adam. However, it is equally obvious that there is a general principle that should be applied to men. It is that unless God has granted a man the permanent gift of celibacy, it is “not good” when he through passivity avoids seeking a wife.
The application of 1 Cor 7:7-9 from the apostle Paul to men is that a man should not try to live in that temporary state permanently unless He is so gifted by God to do so. Paul, in so many words, is commanding Christian men to stop sitting on the fence. Christian men must either dedicate themselves to a life of celibacy for service to God or get married! In other words, brothers shouldn’t give themselves the option of indefinitely enjoying singleness, if they don’t have a God-given permanent call to it.”
In conclusion, with all the staggering problems plaguing the urban and black communities, there is an answer, and there is hope because God is long-suffering and gracious and because the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. I believe four God-produced changes can bring revival to urban and black communities. First, more men need to be genuinely saved; second, those men need to get married; third, those fathers have to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord; and fourth, men in the black and urban community need to pray and labor hard to reach men and disciple men to be faithful husbands and godly fathers. The church must stop laboring without aim, and not running to win. God has a plan. Christians must find it and follow it, and for most men that means finding a wife, getting married, and raising a God-fearing children.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Bobby Scott