Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage

May 23, 2012 at 9:29 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians, John | 10 Comments
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Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

I Corinthians 13:4 (emphasis added)

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Husbands and wives are one flesh. The opposite of a sound heart is a divided heart. Can a one-flesh body thrive with a divided heart? No, the Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. We have a word for when something inside our body starts attacking the very body that gives it life: cancer. That’s what “rottenness of the bones” means. It is describing an eating-away from the inside.

This is how it works: First you think there is at least some basic minimum to which you are entitled. “I don’t ask for much, but…” Second, you see something that you don’t have that would fulfill that longing (covetousness). “All I’m asking for is…” Third, you see that your spouse does have the thing you long for or something that satisfies him or her in the way that you are not being satisfied (bitterness). “Well, I don’t see you having to put up with that…” Fourth, it occurs to you that if you don’t get to have it, he or she shouldn’t either (the wrong kind of jealousy). “Fine! If you’re going to be that way about it…” Fifth, out of spite, you don’t want your spouse to have it, or you want to have it for yourself instead (envy).

To further aggravate the situation, there are usually two sides to envy. You are not happy because you don’t have something, and you are resentful that your spouse does have it. Even if you are able to suppress the kinds of statements used for illustrative purposes in the paragraph above because you realize that these types of feelings are too ugly to express out loud, you can still succumb to love-negating envy. It’s just that you do it secretly. You rejoice when your spouse weeps. You weep when your spouse rejoices. When that happens you have lost your “soundness of heart.” You have “rottenness” eating away at “the bones” (the infrastructure) of your marriage.

Let’s see how the Bible says to handle this by looking at the example of John the Baptist:

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:22-27

John recognized that envy is not only potentially disastrous to a relationship or a common cause, but it is an attack on the wisdom and the providence and the sovereignty of God.

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:28-30

Most married couples had a “best man” and a “maid or matron of honor” in their wedding. The attitude of these people is supposed to be happiness for the bride and bridegroom’s joy. How awful if your best man or maid of honor had been standing there at your wedding, secretly seething with anger and envy because you were getting to experience joy that they weren’t – or if you were marrying the person that they secretly wanted for themselves! In my marriage I don’t normally think of me decreasing and my wife increasing, but I should think of the Lord of my marriage increasing. In marriage we are supposed to actually want our spouse to have every good and perfect gift that God has for her or him. There’s no room for envy of each other. (Likewise, there’s no room for envy of what another couple has in their marriage.)

In the last lesson on marriage I asked, “Is there some quality or virtue about your spouse that you wished he or she did not possess?” With recognition of the destructiveness of envy in view, a better question now would be, “Is there some virtue or quality about your spouse that you are glad he or she has even though you don’t have it?


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