Christians have a tendency to borrow philosophy from the world and treat it as though it were truth. The world has a poor track record when it comes to advice, so why do we adopt failing philosophies and ignore God’s advice. His track record is perfect. The failures among Christians are the result of distrusting God, not the result of trusting His word. G. K. Chesterton said it best, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” No truer words could have been spoken. Also consider the words of Colossians 2:8
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Following the wisdom of the world will cheat you out of the blessings of the Lord. It isn’t God who withdraws blessings, it is we who choose to walk in the place where God’s blessings are not found. In no area is this more true than in relationships.
Consider how the world presents the male role in marriage. There are two false examples and rarely do we see a good example. Worldly example 1 is the macho man. He’s the guy who looks at women as objects of his pleasure. He takes what he wants, and the woman likes it. In mainstream Hollywood this man wins the woman’s heart by his own hard heart and selfish attitude. A classic movie showed a woman stomping off in anger. The macho man snatched her by the arm, spun her around and kissed her. She fought at first, but then melted in his arms and said, “I like a man who takes what he wants.” This would be laughable if not for the fact people actually believe the selfish lie.
Example 2 is the Bundy syndrome. The popular 80’s sitcom, Married with Children, depicted the father figure of Al Bundy. He was a moron, wimp, and lacked any type of positive leadership skills. This has become the trend in Western culture for depicting the male role in the family. Listen to the commercials on the radio. Smart woman, dumb man. The man is clueless until he submits to the leadership of his wife. In some ways this is a backlash against the bimbo blonde image of women from the 50s and 60s, but to degrade one sex does not make up for the degrading of the past. It only creates new problems. Emasculating men does not empower women. It merely abandons God’s design and tries to fix worldly problems with worldly solutions. The worldly degrading of women was a failure in the family. Do we think worldly degrading of men will have a better effect?
The world’s methods of portraying family roles has always failed. Yet the Christian continues to look to the world to adopt the image of males and females in the family. And what is the result? The divorce rate in the church is almost identical to that of the culture. This means the church is adopting a philosophy of those who fail, but promise success. It reminds me of a comedy where someone directed a young man to the town expert on marriage. “Eugene knows all about women. He’s been married eight times.”
The role of women hasn’t done much better in the world. In the ancient culture, women were property. They were subject to men as inferior. Many fleshly minded people throughout history have twisted scriptures for selfish purposes and attempted to manipulate God’s word to bring about self-centered motives. To mix scripture with worldly philosophy only creates a customized worldly philosophy. The same passages that teach women to be subject to the family structure also teach men to love and honor women. Leadership does not equate to degrading. In the same passage that teaches women to submit also teaches men to submit to Christ and imitate His love toward their wives. In every instruction for the wife, there is also an instruction for the husband. But because pride is the standard of the culture, the church adopts this and declares, “I will not be subject to anyone.” And then we wonder why God doesn’t intervene to fulfill His promises.
The truth is that obedience leads us toward God’s best for our life. Obedience cannot earn grace, but it does put us into the path were promises flow. A life focused on the flesh cannot see the abundance already laid up for our lives. We want God to bless our worldly behavior, but God is inviting us to enter His promise. Because the people of the church are unwilling to humble themselves, they allow pride to drive them to pursue their own wisdom instead of being led by the wisdom of God.
The teaching of happy wife, happy life, is a lie. I know, just stating this will ruffle some feathers, but I believe you’ll understand why this won’t work if you follow this to the end. The truth is that no husband can make his wife happy. No wife can make her husband happy. Not one person is immune to the flesh and we all become self-seeking to varying degrees. If my will is not in full agreement with my wife, she won’t be happy. If I can’t fulfill every desire, she won’t be happy. If I can’t provide all the things of life she wants, she won’t be happy.
These same things also apply to the husband. We can provide moments of happiness, but true satisfaction comes when we learn to seek others and not our own happiness. True satisfaction is a gift from God and not the work of our efforts.
Just think about the reality of this statement from scripture, “The eyes of man are never satisfied.” If you don’t think this is true, look at all you have and compare it to all you want. I’m happy when I get a new car. In six months, am I still happy? In a short time I will want something else. Maybe something for the car, or something else my desires ‘need’. A new house makes us happy for a moment, but then we need new furnishings. Or need more home improvements. In time, we may even need more room. I was happy with a yard, but now I want more land. I was happy with my relationship, but now things I don’t like are beginning to annoy me. And what happens to satisfaction when annoyances draw our attention? Even when we get what we want, happiness crumbles when other things come in that displeases us.
Happy husband, happy life would also be a lie. Consider a few plainly observed examples of those who have learned to expect happiness. The end result is always disappointment. What happens to children when the parents give them everything they want. Are they happy? Only at the moment of receiving, but they end up with rotten attitudes and unrealistic expectations. What happens when an adult becomes self-absorbed? Executives who are accustomed to being catered to are greatly displeased at petty things that deprive them. Athletes are also great examples. Colleges often cater to star athletes because they want to keep them at the school. But when they make it to the pros, many self-destruct because they expected to be catered to and are offended when they are expected to perform to their multi-million dollar contracts. Athletes complain and go on strike because they aren’t getting enough. Why don’t they recognize how much they have compared to the rest of society?
Two celebrities have made the news in recent years for assaulting hotel maids because they were displeased with something about their room. Hotels treat celebrities like royalty, yet instead of being appreciative, they begin to become discontented about what they don’t like. Never mind that they have luxury all around them. They can only focus on the petty annoyance they dislike.
And that’s the result of human nature. Certainly we want to please others, but if we teach others to expect perfect happiness, it only sets them up for a self-centered world view, and discontentment is the fruit of selfishness. The same is true for ourselves. If I expect to be served, I will be discontent when I feel the service isn’t good enough. When I expect to be happy, I will be discontent when anything fails to make me happy. Then the smallest annoyances can become large problems in my eyes. This is your life when selfishness is the focus. This is my life when I view the world through selfish eyes. We all have selfish eyes, but as we grow in grace, our eyes learn to look to the Lord instead of ourselves. And the result is always contentment. Selfishness always produces discontentment. Faith always satisfies. It’s a fact, but this truth can only be seen when we step out of selfishness and into faith.
Our flesh loves to focus on what we don’t have, and what irritates us. Have you ever met a grumbler or complainer? The vast majority of their complaints are about petty annoyances. The more they complain, the less they recognize the good all around them. Consider the words of Jeremiah 17:5-6
5 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.
The Christian lives in the promise, but the flesh draws us to invest back into what is under the curse of a fallen world. This is why seeking happiness cannot satisfy anyone. The word ‘man’ is referring to mankind in the general sense. Anyone who looks to the flesh as the way of satisfaction is pursuing the curse of the world. Not only will they not be happy, but they will not even have eyes to see good when it comes into their lives. And the more they pursue the flesh the more barren their soul becomes.
This is why pursuing happiness doesn’t work. This is also why encouraging people to set their expectation on being made happy is a recipe for disappointment. Pursuing my own happiness can’t satisfy my soul, so how can the concept of happy wife create satisfaction in the family? The more the focus is on happiness the more deprived both sides will feel. Obviously this does not mean that men should not try to please their wives. This should be the case, but when wives believe the lie of the culture that family happiness is dependent upon their own pleasure, they will feel deprived when the husband falls short. And he will fall short often. The same is true for men. If happiness is dependent upon their wives meeting their expectations, they will always feel slighted, for no one is able to fulfill all our expectations and wants.
Do you see the problem with this philosophy? If either side is being fed the expectation that the other should be catering to them, it is a set up for disappointment. The wife will never be happy, for no human will measure up to their full expectation. And anyone being taught to look to anything of this life as the source of satisfaction is pursuing a path to the desert – not the path of happiness. That person will always end up in a barren desert, for no one can every meet your every want or expectation. But look at the rest of God’s word to Jeremiah:
7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Who waters the soul? It is the Lord. The one who looks expectantly to the Lord and trusts that all things are of Him will be satisfied. It’s a guarantee. When your spouse fails you, because God is your expectation, you will flourish even when circumstances would indicate otherwise. It is God who waters the soul of those who walk by faith. God will water through your spouse, through your friends, through His word, and through your fellowship with Him. And the primary source of satisfaction comes through your walk with the Lord.
If you are dependent on a person – including yourself – you have cut off all the ways God waters you and you are limited to only what the flesh can provide. And the flesh is fallen and highly limited. It should be evident that if you can’t satisfy your own soul, how can your spouse do so? You know what you want and you can’t fulfill your own needs; therefore, how can someone who cannot see your perspective fulfill your needs. God did not put your spouse into your life to feed your selfishness. The purpose of marriage is to fulfill our longing to express love, not to be a source for selfish gratification. A good marriage is two people seeking the Lord together, and upholding one another. If either party becomes selfish, it robs intimacy out of the marriage and puts self on the throne instead of the Lord.
When one person feels obligated to make the other happy, they will naturally feel a sense of resentment – though they may work to bury it deep inside. Any service out of obligation is not an act of love. Forcing ourselves to submit to being used may work for a time, but in the end love is harmed, not grown.
But there’s more! Look at the promise of Proverbs 11:24-25
24 There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
There is a reason why the Bible says that the way of Christ is foolishness to the world. The world views everything through the eyes of the flesh. The flesh says, “I must be served in order to be happy.” God says that the soul who seeks itself will only come to want. The true road to happiness is not the pursuit of happiness. It’s to trust in God to be the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Because we know that God is our source of good, we stop looking at what others are doing for us and start trusting in what God has empowered us to do for others. We give knowing that it is God who will prosper us.
Prosperity does not merely refer to physical possessions. Our soul needs prosperity much more than our wallets. There are those who scatter good into the life of others. The world says that we should make ourselves number one, but how many people do you see that have found lasting satisfaction through self-focused living? God says to scatter into others and you will increase all the more. In other words, you will abound greater than what you have given. But those who take and demand others to give to them only come to poverty. Their soul wants for more and takes from others, but finds no lasting satisfaction.
Do you see why teaching that happy families depend on feeding one person’s desire is a destructive lie? Whether we are teaching wives that in order to have a happy life they must be gratified, or if it’s teaching men that wives are for their pleasure, or to teach kids that happiness is found in things, it is a lie that robs each person of true satisfaction.
If you are barren, stop seeking someone to water you. Stop sulking until your spouse meets your needs. If you want to be watered, start watering others – your spouse, your children, your neighbor. God has promised that if you give to others, He will give to you. God has promised that the one who waters others will be abundantly watered by God’s hand. Do you believe this? Your life testifies to your faith. When I withdraw love because I am not satisfied with the other person, I have made flesh my strength and declared I don’t believe God. Or that I would rather deprive myself than to give to those I don’t feel deserve it. Then I will remain in the barren desert, refusing to drink from the Lord’s blessing because I wish to submit to the flesh.
In Christ, these promises are already yours. Don’t be drawn into worldly philosophies. Don’t listen to the voice of pride which says, “I’d rather be miserable than be a blessing to someone I don’t feel deserves it.” We have received grace. Don’t submit back to the flesh and miss out on living in God’s abundance. A giving life is a happy life. Walk by faith and not by sight through eyes of the flesh. Enjoy God’s gift of true abundance and prosperity. The only other option is to put our trust in the pride of the flesh. As with all promises, the watered soul receives from God by faith – trusting in Him and His word.
Giving to others is to take what God has given us and invest it into the lives of others. Those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully. This is true because it is God who gives the increase.
Keep in mind, the target of this post is not your spouse, but you. And me. It is to examine our ways of thinking and adopt a giving rather than taking attitude in our relationships.