Volume 11, Issue 1: Husbandry
Many of us are accustomed to seeing those "ten commandments" of this and that which show up in sundry places, and are applied to all sorts of human endeavors. From closing real estate deals to bagging a trophy elk, we like to mimic the decalogue. So some may have been lured into this column hoping to find a "commandment three" which prohibits the practice of leaving dirty socks draped over the back of the living room couch-sort of like a masculine doily-or "commandment seven" which requires a weekly date.
But this is not about the ten commandments of marriage. We need to consider the far more important subject of The Ten Commandments in marriage. The Bible teaches us that, in terms of its content, love is always defined by the law (Rom. 13: 8-10). Since love clearly should be resident in every believing home, in every Christian marriage, this means that the law should always be seen as love's beautiful twin sister, the two of them never separated.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). A husband must love his wife less than he loves God. When a man loves God as he ought, this enables him to love others as he ought. But when a woman becomes an idol, she will frequently find herself regularly mistreated in that relationship. This is because the man who idolizes her has, in that attitude, cut himself off from the source of all genuine charity and grace, which is of course the Father. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). A man cannot be a disciple of Christ unless he hates his wife, and unless he is a disciple of Christ, he cannot learn to love his wife.
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (vv. 4-6). This commandment mentions the fruit of marriage, counted in the coming generations. One sure way to visit grief upon those children yet unborn is to tolerate any man-made conceptions and images of God and Christ in the name of maintaining a "pious" home.
"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (v. 7). We bear the name of Christ in all that we do. If we are Christians, then our marriages are Christian marriages. But modern evangelical marriages are barely distinguishable from unbelieving marriages. We display the same evidence of pathological diseases in our marriages that are seen in the world-widespread divorce, rampant counseling, preoccupation with our marital needs, sex-on-the-brain, and so forth. We bear the name of God in vain. Until we learn what the word Christian means, we will not do well in understanding what Christian marriage is.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God" (vv. 8-10). The frenetic pace of our modern culture is subsidized by husbands who have forgotten that they have a duty to give rest to every member of the household, and to do so in the presence of God. In particular, a husband should see to it that the proverb "a woman's work is never done" is false in his household. One in authority who does not give sabbaths does not know what love is.
"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee" (v. 12). Parents like to receive honor, but parents frequently forget that they also are children, and they are to set an example to their children through how they treat the children's grandparents. Many children have learned how to disrespect parents from simply hearing the conversation at the dinner table. And little pitchers have big ears.
"Thou shalt not kill" (v. 13). The antithesis of the malice that ends in bloodshed is the demeanor of warmth and kindness. A man who loves his wife as Christ loved the church is demonstrating his hatred of all lawless bloodshed. Thanks to our abortion culture, the home has become a principal place where this command is despised. But the home should be a refuge of life.
"Thou shalt not commit adultery (v. 14). Of course, a husband obeys God here by avoiding infidelity in all its guises and forms. He sets a guard over his eyes, heart, and his members which are on the earth, and refuses all offers. He turns away from the covers of magazines at the supermarket check-out, he stays out of conversations with women in Internet chat rooms, he stays out of bed with other women, he refuses to daydream about being married to someone else, and any other temptation not mentioned.
"Thou shalt not steal" (v. 15). A man who does not provide food and clothing for his wife is robbing her. He owes her financial support and must never begrudge it (Ex. 21:10).
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" (v. 16). A man's wife is his closest neighbor. He therefore must be scrupulously honest with her at all times. A man and wife should be able to talk with one another about anything.
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's" (v. 17). A happily-married man will never spend any time looking longingly over the fence at anything. He may not covet the lawnmower over there, the wife sunbathing, the car, the house itself, the driveway, the gardening ability, or anything else belonging to his neighbor.
Do this, and you do well.