Why does the Bible make me feel worthless as a woman?

Modern America teaches women that they should judge their own worth by how intelligent they are, how educated they are, how independent they are and by how successful they are in their career.

These new standards of a woman’s worth are a radical shift from the standards by which women have historically judged their own worth.  Consider the table below which illustrates stark contrasts between how women judged their own worth before the 1960’s and the new standards after the 1960’s.

The measure of a woman before and after the 1960’s

Pre-1960’s Post-1960’s
Beauty Intelligence
Potential for having children(age/health) Education Level(College/University)
Submissiveness Independence
Cooking/Home Keeping Skills Career/Income Potential

We can make two primary observations about the differences between these two lists.

The first observation is that before the 1960’s a woman’s sense of self worth was very much tied to what she had to offer a future or current husband.  After the 1950’s women were taught to stop centering their sense of worth on what they had to offer a future or current husband and to concentrate more on what they wanted for themselves regardless of how attractive or unattractive such pursuits or qualities made them to men.

The second observation we can make from these two lists is that the modern list for what woman are told should give them their sense of worth is identical to what men historically have been told should give them their sense of worth.

In other words, women today are told that they must compare themselves to men to have any sense of worth.  So for example, if a woman has a submissive spirit this is not seen as a quality adding to her worth, but rather one that takes away from her worth.  If a woman does not speak her mind whenever she has a disagreement but rather holds her tongue and shows deference to men this quality is not seen as a worthy one, but one that takes away from her worth.

And if a woman has no desire for a higher education or career ambitions, but rather seeks to find a man and serve him by bearing his children and caring for his home this women is viewed today as the most worthless of all.

Recently I received a heart felt plea as comment to my blog from a woman who stated she has recently become a believer in Christ. She said that as she reads the Scriptures I present on this blog on why God made woman she has found herself feeling depressed and worthless by the Biblical view of womanhood.

It actually is easy for me to understand why she might feel worthless after comparing herself to Biblical standards for what should give a woman her sense of worth because they are so different than our modern standards. It is like studying for one test, only to be given a completely different test.

The name she wrote under is Adrienne.

Adrienne’s Dilemma

“As a new believer who is desperately trying to pull myself out of the pit of feminism, I find myself becoming depressed reading some of the articles and comments on biblicalgenderroles.com. I had bought into all the lies about marriage being an equal partnership. The whole “we are a team” as opposed to the master/ servant relationship it really is. I completely understand that everything (including men and women) is made for God’s pleasure.

I struggle with the knowledge that everything I am is made for my husband’s pleasure. Kinda makes one feel worthless as a person. I feel like I am not allowed to have my own tastes or preferences in anything. Should I even bother having an opinion or should I ask my husband what my opinion is?

It also kind of makes me feel like God hates women. After all, there are no women in heaven, and probably never will be. The Godhead is male, the angels are male and from what I understand there will be no marriage or children in heaven/eternity so there will be no need for gender. The pastors I have talked to about this tell me either:

  1. all women will be turned into men at the final judgement.
  2. women have no souls/ no need for salvation and when we die we just cease to exist like the animals.

They said God only created us as women b/c He had to for reproductive purposes not b/c He wanted to. This all hurts and I have no idea what is biblical or not. I just started reading the bible and have not made it past exodus yet. How do I find joy in my role as a woman if I feel like I am nothing to God or anyone else?”

My Response to Adrienne and other women who feel worthless in God’s sight

Adrienne, I could summarize your concerns as a new believer with this statement:

Why does the Bible make me feel worthless as a woman?

The first reason that you feel “worthless”(or have low self-esteem) when looking at the Biblical view of womanhood is because you still have a faulty view of what gives a woman or people in general their worth.  The Bible tells us as Christians that we have been preprogrammed with faulty ways of thinking by both our sin natures as well as the cultures and families we were brought up in.

When we begin our walk with God we must recognize this daily and seek to unlearn what our sin natures, cultures and families have taught us and renew our minds with what is good, acceptable and perfect according to the will of God which is found in his Word.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Romans 12:2 (KJV)

Women definitely have souls

I know in past centuries there were some who threw around such rumors as a church doctrine that teaches women do not have souls.  But the Bible supports no such notion.  I am unaware of any Pastors or churches today that preach such nonsense.  I would be very curious to know who you spoke with or at least their denomination.

The Scriptures show us definitive proof that women have souls and here is just one example from Mary, the woman who God chose to give flesh to his Son Jesus Christ:

“46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

Luke 1:46-47 (KJV)

So yes there will be women in heaven and women in hell just as there will be men in heaven and men in hell.  Every soul goes to one of these two destinations.

Did God just create women for procreative purposes?

While the pursuit of motherhood for women is definitely honored and even commanded in the Scriptures (“be fruitful and multiply“– Genesis 1:28) that is not the only reason God made woman.  In fact God could have made men as asexually reproducing beings as other organisms on earth are.  He did not need to create a different type of human being for humans to reproduce.

Instead God created woman for a much more glorious purpose which we will explain next.

Equal personhood does NOT mean equal opportunity

One of the falsehoods we have been taught in American society is that if a certain class of people does not have equal rights or privileges with other classes of people then they are said to be treated as “less than human” or not as persons.

You will find no support for such a definition of personhood in the Scriptures.  In fact the Scriptures routinely show different rights for people based on various classes.  Free women had more rights than slave women.  Indentured servants had more rights than slaves but less rights than free men. Free men had more rights than free women, indentured male and female servants, male slaves, or female slaves.

In other words, in God’s view, our personhood is NOT determined by our social class or the rights we have or do not have.

But now let’s bring this back to men and women.

Every human being is given a soul by God which inhabits our “vessel” which is the word the Scriptures often use to speak to our bodies.  God made two types of vessels, one that is classified as the “weaker vessel” (I Peter 3:5) and thus the other by comparison is the stronger vessel.  The souls of women inhabit the weaker vessel and the souls of men inhabit the stronger vessel.

But then we must understand that God did not arbitrarily make one vessel weaker than the other.  He made one vessel stronger and one vessel weaker for a glorious purpose. The scriptures tell us that God made man to be his image bearer – to bring God glory by imaging him:

“7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:7-9 (KJV)

This passage of Scripture, which is part of a divinely inspired commentary on the Genesis account, tells us that God created man to bring him glory by imaging him.  God then created woman from man to glorify man.

But how does a woman fully bring glory to man as God intended in his purpose in creating her? We will answer that question in our next section.

How does a woman bring glory to her husband and thereby bring glory to God?

The scriptures reveal to us the full and glorious purpose for which God designed woman (and man) in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church”

Ephesians 5:22-29 (KJV)

Again just as with I Corinthians 11, we have here in Ephesians chapter 5 divine commentary from God regarding the Genesis creation account.  God did not create women as soulless creatures simply for procreative purposes but rather he created them for man to be able to fully image God.  Man needed someone to love as God loves mankind by leading them, protecting them and providing for them.  This is why we God made woman “the weaker vessel” (I Peter 3:7) because just as mankind is weaker than God and needs him for all these things, so too woman was designed to be weaker than man and need him for these things.

So how does a woman glorify her husband as God intended her too? By modeling what God desires from his Church in honoring, reverencing, submitting to and serving her husband as the Church is to serve Christ.

What is the measure of a woman’s worth by God’s standards?

As I said at the beginning of this post, God’s standard’s for what gives a woman her sense of worth and what our culture says gives a woman her sense of worth are two very different things.

The Scriptures tell us that a virtuous woman is worth more than rubies:

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”

Proverbs 31:10 (KJV)

In another passage the Scriptures tell us that a virtuous woman is her husband’s crown:

“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”

Proverbs 12:4 (KJV)

Are rubies not of great worth? Is a crown not of great worth? We know these things are of great worth. But how does a woman make herself worth more than rubies to her future or present husband?

Seven ways a woman makes herself of great worth in God’s View

Do you as a woman want to be of great worth to your future or current husband?  If you reject the world’s definition of the worth of a woman and follow God’s definition you will have great worth both to God and to your husband.

Below are seven ways a woman can be a ruby and a crown in the eyes of God and her husband:

  1. She happily seeks to play her part in modeling the Church’s subordinate role to Christ. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  2. She happily seeks to marry, bear children, and keep the house for her husband. (I Timothy 5:14)
  3. She happily seeks to be obedient to and submissive to her husband. (Titus 2:5, I Peter 3:1-6, Ephesians 5:22-24)
  4. She happily seeks to reverence her husband and never bring any shame to him or God by her behavior(Proverbs 12:4,I Timothy 5:14,Titus 2:5)
  5. She demonstrates her prudence and wisdom by being discreet and kind in when and how she shares her advice with her husband. (Proverbs 11:22, Proverbs 19:14, Proverbs 31:26, Titus 2:5)
  6. She makes both her inner person and her outer person beautiful to please her husband (Psalm 45:11, I Peter 3:3-6)
  7. She happily sees that God not only gave her to her husband to care for his children and his home, but also to bring him pleasure with her body and she never denies him a drink from the well which is her body. (Proverbs 5:15-19)

Is a wife allowed to have different opinions and tastes than her husband?

Adrienne, you asked “I feel like I am not allowed to have my own tastes or preferences in anything. Should I even bother having an opinion or should I ask my husband what my opinion is?”

Absolutely as a wife you are allowed to have your own opinions and “tastes” by which I think you mean preferences.  In fact the Scriptures say these two things are part of what makes a woman of great worth to her husband:

“House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:14 (KJV)

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Proverbs 31:26 (KJV)

So the Scriptures tell us that a prudent and wise wife are of great value to a man.  What is prudence? Prudence is planning for the future.  A wife who has things planned out for the needs of her home whether it be clothing needs or food needs or the other needs of the children is of great value to a man.  And wisdom is not just knowledge, but knowing how to use that knowledge in a right way.  This is also of great value to a man.

So yes you are absolutely allowed to have opinions and preferences and these can be beneficial to your future or current husband. But the key concept to understand is that you are not allowed to express your opinions and preferences in any way you want or at any time you want and you need to accept the fact that your husband may not always follow your opinions.

Let me give a few examples to better illustrate this.

The President of the United States has a chief of staff. The President delegates certain powers and responsibilities to the chief of staff to run the White House and represent the President publicly.  A good chief of staff certainly has his own opinions and preferences as to how the President should do certain things but he keeps those differences private and always shares them in a respectful and reverent way with the President.   If the President says “this is the way it will be”, then the chief of staff submits to that direction.

But from the outside world’s perspective – the chief of staff is always in lock step with his President.   One other thing about what makes a good chief of staff to a President.  The chief of staff realizes he is there to serve the President and not vice versa.  He realizes that he is there to help implement the President’s agenda – but never to set it.

This is the way a wife is to be toward her husband in regard to her opinions and preferences.  When she shares opinions and preferences with her husband she needs to ask herself “I am sharing this opinion or preference to help further his agenda or my own?”

For example – your husband may set these agenda items for your marriage and your family:

  1. He wants to have regular sexual relations with you at least 3 times a week.
  2. He wants the children to clean their rooms on a daily basis.
  3. He wants the children to do their homework on a daily basis.
  4. He wants to have certain budget priorities for the family.

I could come up with a much larger list but you get my point.  Now as a wife you could privately meet with him and share your opinion on how to best meet his agenda goals.  For instance in the sexual arena you could share your sexual preferences to help him better please you and thus have more sexual pleasure in the bedroom.  You could say maybe mornings work better than evenings sometimes for sex.   All of this is meant to further his agenda for you both to have a good sex life together as a couple and not simply to further some agenda that you have.  Maybe he wants oral sex – but you would prefer that he bathe before you do that.  You could share things like this with him in a private setting in a respectful manner.

In regard to the children – you could share your opinions on how to best implement his agenda items that they clean their rooms and do their homework.  The same goes for the budget.

One last thing in regard to your opinions and this would even apply to my chief of staff example with the President.  Sometimes a President will not accept the recommendation of his chief of staff.  Sometimes he may even accept the recommendation of another advisor over his chief of staff. In this same way you must accept that your husband will not always accept and act on your opinion or your preferences.

Your husband may actually take someone else’s advice against yours as his wife and you need to accept that and be OK with that.

A lot of Christian wives get offended by this.  But you need to realize as a Christian wife that if you are angered by your husband taking someone else’s advice over yours this comes from a place of pride.  You are one of his advisers, but not his only adviser as so many wives falsely see themselves.

The other thing to remember is that contrary to false teachings today you are not the Holy Spirit for your husband and your opinions, like his are not inerrant.  To put it bluntly, it is possible for a man to have a wife who is stupid in certain areas or a wife to have a husband that is stupid in certain areas.  But the chain of command remains.  I don’t get to say because my boss does something stupid that I no longer have to listen to him or respect him as my boss.  In the same way the chain of command in a family is not dependent on the husband’s intellect.  A wife must always submit to and obey her husband unless he asks her to directly sin against God.

Conclusion

I hope that if you are a Christian woman like Adrienne reading this that you will realize God has glorious plan in creating you as a woman.  You are not some soulless creature only made to procreate for mankind.  You were created to bring glory to God by bringing glory to man.  You are an indispensable part in helping to model the relationship of the Church to Christ with your future or current husband.

You need to come to reject the lies of this world.  You need to unlearn what the world has taught you gives women their worth and renew your mind according to God’s view of you – not this evil world’s view.

This world will tell you to compete with your future or current husband for power and equality rather than placing yourself in subjection to him so that you can fulfill the purpose for which God made you.

And here is the secret the world won’t tell you that I have heard from so many women through this blog and other ways. You need to realize that the woman God designed you to be, the nature that he gave to Eve is buried within you.  For someone women there is a little rubble to clear to get to it and for others there is a mountain of rubble to clear.  Some of the rubble simply comes from the corrupting influence of sin or to say it another way – some of the rubble you were simply born with.  But other parts of the rubble may have come from the corrupt teachings of our culture, or your parents or even your own bad life experiences.

Either way – you have to recognize this spiritual rubble and clear it away to see the woman that God truly designed you to be.  You need to clear that rock away from the ruby God meant you to be and then you will make yourself of great worth to God and your future or current husband.

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7 Principles for Making Biblical Marriage Vows

It may surprise many Christians to know that while the Bible speaks a great deal on marriage it never actually gives any examples of marriage vows. But the Bible does give us principles and teachings about marriage that can help us to construct Biblically based marriage vows.

For many engaged couples writing marriage vows can be a very scary thing for a variety of reasons.  One is that it is hard for some people to express their feelings or put their feelings into words. Another might be that they are afraid they might say something that offends people at the wedding. Still another is that they may feel pressure to promise or say they something they know they can’t or won’t keep in the future.

My goal in this article is to help alleviate these concerns for you and help give you some Biblical principles to help you write your vows and also provide you with some real examples. I encourage you also to keep an open mind to what the Scriptures have to say on marriage.  There will probably be many things in this article that will challenge your preconceptions about marriage.  But as you read the Scriptures presented here I encourage you to remember what the Bible teaches us:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Romans 12:2 (KJV)

My prayer is that after you finish reading this article that you will come away with a renewed passion to not be conformed to our culture’s view of marriage, but rather to conform yourselves as a Christian couple to God’s view of marriage as presented in his Word.

Is it “marriage vows” or a “marriage covenant”?

First let’s clear up some confusion.  You may read Christian articles online or you may have even heard a pastor in your church say “Marriage is not based on vows, it is based on a covenant!” But what many Christian teachers fail to recognize is that while not all vows are covenants, all covenants are vows. The Scriptures prove this when God pictures his marriage to Israel:

“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”

Ezekiel 16:8 (KJV)

We can see here that when God entered in his covenant marriage with Israel – he swore unto her.  That he vowed unto her this covenant.

So then the answer to the question of “Is it “marriage vows” or a “marriage covenant”?” is that it is BOTH!

Some Christians try and teach that Christ outlawed the making vows but this is not the case.  I encourage you to read my article entitled “Is it wrong for Christians to make vows or oaths?” for more on this subject.

The conclusion I came to in that article regarding vows was that Christ was taking on the corrupt system the Jewish leaders setup allowing people to get out of their oaths based on what they swore the oath upon.  Christ was saying our word is our bond – if we make an oath then we must keep it. We should swear by nothing on this earth, but only by God as the Bible commands.  We should always consider our vows carefully and not easily enter into them.  And above all – we should never ever make a vow that we know up front we cannot or will not keep.

What type of love are Biblical marriage vows based on?

There are three types of Biblical love that may occur between a couple seeking marriage and then later these types of love should occur within marriage.

Phileo – Affectionate, feelings based loved – this is the love that is based on emotional attachment to another.  It is usually very strong in the beginning phases of a relationship especially during the engagement period and the first year or two of marriage.

Eros – Sexual love.  This is the love that has to do with physical attraction and desire toward one another.  Again as with Phileo love, this love is usually very strong at the beginning of a relationship and through the first year to two years of marriage.  And contrary to those Christian teachers who say this has no part in Christian marriage this type of love has an entire book of the Bible dedicated to it in the Song of Solomon.  But this love is one that must be contained and controlled until a couple enter into the covenant of marriage.  We see this warning in Song of Solomon 2:7:

“I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.”

Agape – Unconditional love of the will based in duty and commitment toward another.  Phileo and Eros love are often reactionary types of love to the attributes or actions of another. When Phileo love and Eros love fade because of changing circumstances, Agape love remains because it based in a choice.

Biblically based wedding vows should never be made with reference to Phileo or Eros love.  This is not because these two types of love are bad. Christian marriage can and should have both these types of love in it if it is to be everything God intended it to be. But the foundation of Christian marriage is Agape love because it will weather the storms of life and will remain in those times when Phileo love and Eros love may wane.

If you are a young Christian couple reading this – you may think your affection toward each other (Phileo love) and sexual attraction (Eros love) will never fade.  You are convinced of it! But don’t just take my word for it – ask five other Christian married couples that have been together at least 10 years or more.

The reason I ask you to ask five couples is because most likely you will get one or two that simply lie to themselves and others to put on a show.  But if you ask five married couples who have been married for a longer length of time most of them will admit to you that there have been many times in their marriage where their Phileo and Eros love toward each other has waned and the only thing that kept them going was their Agape love toward one another as Christians.  It was the commitment they made to each other before God when they entered into the covenant of marriage that helped them weather the storms of life.

One last part I want to add on this subject of love in marriage vows.  I am not saying a couple cannot say words of affection toward each other and express their Phileo love toward one another at their wedding ceremony. You certainly can do this.  But these words of affection should come before or after the marriage vows and should never be mixed into your vows.  Your vows should be based purely in Agape in love.

Do marriage vows have to include all the duties of marriage?

Nothing in the Scriptures say you have to reference all the various duties of husbands and wives toward one another when you enter into a covenant of marriage.

Your vows could be very concise and they need not be verbose.  In fact your vows could be as concise as the groom saying “I take you as my wife” and the bride saying “I take you as my husband”.

Nothing needs to be said about a covenant, the duration of marriage or the duties of husbands and wives to each other in marriage.  There does not need to be a priest or pastor present, nor does it have to be done in a church.  It does not even require a state marriage license.

On caveat I would add is that while the man needs no permission to enter into marriage from his parents if the woman is not a divorced or widowed woman and “being in her father’s house in her youth” then she and the man she wishes to marry must have her father’s blessing to marry.  In fact if they marry in secret and he finds out and disapproves a father has the spiritual authority to annul any of his daughter’s vows in including a vow of marriage – see Numbers chapter 30 for more on this.

However, just because marriage can be entered into so easily does not mean that it SHOULD be entered into easily.

The Scriptures tell us this regarding vows made to God (and vows of marriage would be included in this):

“2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. 3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

Ecclesiastes 5:2-5 (KJV)

It is foolish and wrong to hastily enter into any vow and to hastily enter into a vow of marriage is the perhaps the most foolish of all.

Let me mention something else on the “easiness” of entering into the marriage covenant.  In Biblical times not only was the father’s permission required for marriage, but a bride price was required.  For some men this was a half a year’s wages. Men were required to prepare a home for their bride to be able to demonstrate to her father he was ready to take her as his wife.

The idea today of two young people who just randomly decided to get married without the man being able to provide for his wife in one way or another was rare and not the normal practice.

Some might say “Well we are not compelled to live by examples in Biblical times of marriage customs”. That is true if the statement regarding marriage is descriptive, rather than prescriptive.  If a command is given that would impact marriage then this still stands. A father’s ability to override his daughter’s vows while she is in his house still stands.

Also Exodus 21:10-11 and Ephesians 5:29 show that a man is required to provide for the physical needs of his wife.  If a man seeks marriage to a woman but cannot yet provide for her then he must wait to enter into the covenant of marriage with her until he can provide for her.

One last thing on the subject of “concise vows”.  Make no mistake, even if the groom simply says  “I take you as my wife” and the bride simply says “I take you as my husband” you are still entering into a covenant of marriage together whether you say the word “covenant” or not.  It is God who defines the parameters of marriage not man.  Even though you are not mentioning any of the duties or purposes of marriage they still apply as much to you as if you had mentioned them in your vows.

Ignorance of God’s laws regarding marriage it is not an excuse for breaking God’s law regarding marriage.

That is yet another reason why couples should not hastily enter into marriage and should consider their vows carefully before making them.

We need to take great care with more verbose wedding vows

If you choose to have more verbose wedding vows that “I take you as my husband” or “I take you as my wife” then great care needs to be taken as you utter these words before God.

Verbose marriage vows should be an affirmation of what the Bible says are the distinct purposes, responsibilities and rights of the husband and wife in the marriage covenant. Nothing should be added or taken away from marriage as the Bible defines it. In fact not only is it sinful to add to or take away from what God has established regarding marriage, but any vow which adds or takes away what he allows or commands regarding marriage is null and void in God’s view. For example, to say “until death do us part” without quantifying that with God’s allowance for divorce in the case of certain sins is by definition taking away from marriage as God has defined it.

Now let just put a word in here on divorce.  I know there many good Bible believing Christians who disagree on God’s allowances for divorce.  If you are truly convinced before God that there is absolutely no allowance under any circumstances for divorce and with this conviction in mind you add “until death do us part” with no caveats then in my view this is not an intentional sin, but a sin of ignorance as I believe the Bible clearly does give allowances for divorce.

But if you see certain allowances for divorce in the Scripture as I demonstrate in my articles on that subject and then you add “until death do us part” without the Biblical allowances for divorce that is a greater sin in my view.  And this brings us to our next principle regarding the construction of Biblical marriage vows.

And now I want to share another crucially important principle in when it comes to making verbose marriage vows.

If you are going to write verbose marriage vows and you want them to be Biblically based you must account for sin in marriage just as God accounts for sin in marriage in the Bible.

If you are a woman – you must come to the realization that the man you so passionately love now is the same man you will sin against in the future.  There are going to be days when you do not submit to him as the Church submits to Christ. There are going to be days that you do not reverence him as you should and there will be days when you are contentious and angry with him.

If you are a man, you may not always have the passionate feelings of love that you do now toward your wife to be.  There are going to be days when you do not love her as Christ loves his Church. There may come a day when in a moment of cowardice you do not protect her from others or even protect her from herself.  There may come a day when you dishonor her and do not dwell with her according to knowledge as the Bible commands.

Please don’t fall for the lie that your heart tries to tell you that you will never fall short of your God given duties in marriage toward your spouse.  Because in one way or another you will.  The Bible tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Your vows need to take into account the very real possibility of sin on your part as well that of your future spouse.

This is why in the example vows I will give I mention the sin nature and the inability for us to perfectly love our spouse as God would have us to.  This why we need to avoid terms like “always” and “never” in our wedding vows but instead we can use words like “try” or “endeavor” as we submit ourselves to the Lord on the daily basis.

Another important point to make is if you are going to have verbose marriage vows you need to reference the Biblical teaching that marriage is to be a model of the relationship of Christ to his Church.  This is a foundational principle for Christian marriage.

Critical components of this model include the duties of men to be a head and the leader of their wives as Christ leads his Church. Not only should references be made to Christ loving his Church and giving himself for her, but also the reason he gave himself for her to wash her spots and wrinkles and present her to himself a glorious church.

It is a husband’s sacred duty to wash his wife with the Word of God as Christ washes his Church with it and that involved him teaching her the Word and correcting her with the Word.

But we must not forget that husbands are to show grace and mercy to their wives as Christ shows grace and mercy to his church.

The duties of a husband to love his wife as his own body and thus protect and provide for his wife as Christ does his Church should be referenced as well.

In regard to the wife – even though it is extremely politically incorrect to do so – a great emphasis needs to be placed on her submission to him as her head and her reverence for her husband. The Scriptures teach this time and time again toward women and any Christian marriage vows that omit the requirements of submission, obedience and reverence of wives toward their husbands while speaking to the duties of a husband to love his wife as Christ loves the Church are telling half truths about Biblical marriage.

If you will not speak to the duty of the wife to submit to her husband in marriage your vows, then you cannot speak to the husbands love for his wife as Christ loves the Church either.  These are two sides of the same coin.

And again as I said before regarding concise marriage vows even if you don’t mention it in your marriage vows – these things are all required by God in marriage.   And with that being said below are is summary of everything we have discussed up to this point in regard to making Biblically based marriage vows.

7 Principles for Making Biblical Marriage Vows

  1. While all vows are not covenants, all covenants are vows. Marriage is based upon a vow or set of vows which together forms the covenant of marriage.
  2. The marriage covenant, like all other vows, should not be easily entered into it. It should only be done with contemplation and consideration before God.
  3. The Bible does not command that verbose marriage vows be made, nor does it require clergy to officiate, church authority or state authority in the form of marriage licenses. The only authority that may be required for a man and woman to enter the covenant of marriage together is that of the father of the bride if she is still young and living in her father’s house.  However, even if only concise vows are made this does not free the couple from all the responsibilities, rights and purposes of marriage.
  4. If a couple chooses to make verbose vows, then these vows should only affirm the teachings of the Bible regarding the purposes and distinct duties of husbands and wives toward one another in marriage. Christian marriage vows cease to Biblical and binding when they add or take away from the rights, responsibilities and purposes of marriage as defined in the Bible.
  5. When making verbose marriage vows, the sin nature of both the groom and bride should be taken into account in the vows. That means words like “always” and “never” should be avoided.  Instead words like “endeavor” or “try” should use when referencing the couple’s commitment to perform the duties of marriage toward one another.
  6. When making verbose vows, if you are going to add a phrase like “until death do us part” then great care needs to go into this. Unless you truly deny the Biblical allowances for divorce both in the Old and New Testament you need to add this to any statement about remaining together until death.
  7. When making verbose vows you should reference marriage being a model of the relationship of Christ and his Church. It is critical to mention not only Christ loving his Church and giving himself for her but also the submission of wives to the headship of their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ.

Examples of Biblical Marriage vows

Below are three examples I put together based on the principles we have discussed.  The first example of concise vows we already mentioned but I will put it here again for reference.

Example Vows #1 – Concise Biblical Marriage Vows

Groom

I take you as my wife.

Bride

I take you as my husband.

Example Vows #2 – Moderately Verbose Biblical Marriage Vows

Below is what I would call a “moderately” verbose set of marriage vows that build on the principles we have discussed.   Each set of vows below (one for the groom and one for the bride) are just under 200 words. Not too long, but definitely more expressive than the concise vows I showed in the first example.

Groom

I, [insert groom’s name], swear before God to enter into a covenant of marriage with you, [insert bride’s name] and by this covenant I take you as my wife.

I will endeavor to love you as Christ also loves his Church by leading you, giving myself up to wash you with the Word of God as well as showing grace and mercy towards you.

I will endeavor to love you as I love my own body by providing for you and protecting you and I will give my body to you in the marriage bed.

I will endeavor to dwell with you according to knowledge and honor you as my wife.

If you do not break our covenant of marriage I will remain by your side until death takes me.

On this day, I leave my father and my mother and cleave to you as my wife and we will no longer be two, but one flesh.

Bride

I, [insert bride’s name], swear before God to enter into a covenant of marriage with you, [insert groom’s name] and by this covenant give myself to you as your wife.

I will endeavor to reverence you as my head as Christ is the head of his Church.

I will endeavor to submit to you and obey you and as the Church is subject to Christ so too I will endeavor to make myself subject to you in everything.

I will endeavor to look well to the needs of our house and be the help meet and homemaker you need and that God has called me to be.

I will endeavor to love you and ravish you with my body in the marriage bed.

If you do not break our covenant of marriage I will remain by your side until death takes me.

Today I leave behind my own people and my father’s house and will become one flesh with you as my husband.

Example Vows #3 – Very Verbose Biblical Marriage vows

Below is a very verbose example of vows I have written.  Again this is just an example and you could add or take away as you see fit as long as you are following the 7 principles we discussed.  Also in this example set of vows I have included Scripture references next to most of the statements so you can further study those passages to see the principles of marriage that I am referencing.

Each of these sets of vows (one for the groom and one for the bride) are about a one page if you print them out.  I have seen couples use one page vows they have written so I don’t think these are two long if you want to have more verbose vows.

Groom

I, [insert groom’s name], swear before God to enter into a covenant of marriage with you, [insert bride’s name] and by this covenant I take you as my wife. (Ezekiel 16:8)

Even though at this moment it is my heart’s desire to perfectly love you as your husband I know that because I am a sinner, like my forefathers before me, I cannot make such a pledge because God forbids me from making vows that I cannot keep. (Ecclesiastes 5:2-5)

I can only pledge to endeavor, to try as I surrender myself daily to God’s will for my life and as I lean on him for his grace and power to love you in my own imperfect way. (Romans 7:18-25)

I will endeavor to love you as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. (Ephesians 5:25)

I will endeavor to present you to Christ and myself as a glorious wife, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but to help you to be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:26)

I will endeavor to be gracious, compassionate and merciful toward you as God is gracious, compassionate and merciful toward his people. (Psalm 86:15)

I will endeavor to teach you the Word of God in our home and to be the spiritual interpreter of the Word to you that God calls me to be. (1 Corinthians 14:35)

In my endeavors to wash your spiritual spots, blemishes and wrinkles I will endeavor to rebuke and chasten you from a place of love for you. (Revelation 3:19)

I will endeavor to love you as I love my own body by providing for your physical needs and protecting you as I would my own body. (Ephesians 5:29)

I will endeavor to provide my body to you as a kindness that is due toward you.  (I Corinthians 7:3)

I will endeavor to dwell with you according to knowledge, giving honor unto you as my wife and remembering that you and I are joint heirs of the grace of life. (I Peter 3:7)

As I end my vows of marriage to you I must acknowledge the possibility that in the same way I may sin against you in the future, you too may sin against me as well.

And while it is true that love covers a multitude of sins there are some sins a wife can commit which can break her marriage covenant with her husband. (1 Peter 4:8, Isaiah 50:1, Ezekiel 16:59, Jeremiah 3:8, Revelation 2 & 3)

It is for this reason that I must give to you a solemn warning like God gave to both Israel and his Churches regarding his covenant of marriage to them.

I swear before God to remain in this covenant of marriage with you for the remainder my life as long as you remain faithful to me. If you break this covenant by committing any type of fornication including defrauding me of your body or giving yourself to another or if you abandon me or seek to bring physical harm or death to me I reserve my right before God to end this covenant. (Matthew 19:9, I Corinthians 7:15, Exodus 21:26-27)

But I am hopeful of better things for us and I believe that in you I have found a good thing and also favor with God.  I look forward to rejoicing with you and living joyfully with you for the remainder of our days together as the Lord wills. (Proverbs 5:18, Proverbs 18:22)

On this day, I leave my father and my mother and cleave to you as my wife and we will no longer be two, but one flesh. (Mark 10:7-8)

Bride

I, [insert bride’s name], swear before God to enter into a covenant of marriage with you, [insert groom’s name] and by this covenant give myself to you as your wife. (Ezekiel 16:8)

Even though at this moment it is my heart’s desire to perfectly submit to you and love you as your wife I know that because I am a sinner, like the women who came before me, I cannot make such a pledge because God forbids me from making vows that I cannot keep. (Ecclesiastes 5:2-5)

I can only pledge to endeavor, to try as I surrender myself daily to God’s will for my life and as I lean on him for his grace and power to submit to you and love you in my own imperfect way. (Romans 7:18-25)

I will endeavor to remember in my thoughts, words and actions that God made me for you and not you for me. (I Corinthians 11:9)

I will endeavor to remember that I am not my own, but that I belong to you as the Church belongs to Christ. (Acts 20:28)

I will endeavor to remember that I am not your equal any more than the Church is Christ’s equal but rather I will reverence you as my head in the same way the Church is to reverence Christ as its head. (Ephesians 5:23 & 33)

I will endeavor to submit to you as I do unto the Lord and make myself subject to you in everything as the Church is subject to Christ. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

I will endeavor to obey you as Sara obeyed Abraham calling him Lord. (I Peter 3:6)

I will endeavor to meet your desire for me to make myself beautiful as God desires the beauty of his people not only through my outward appearance but also by having a gentle and quiet spirit. (Psalm 45:11, I Peter 3:3-4)

I will endeavor to satisfy you with my body and ravish you with my love. (Proverbs 5:19, Titus 2:4)

I will endeavor to be the homemaker God has called me to be and look well to the ways of our household. (Proverbs 31:27, Titus 2:5, 1 Timothy 5:14)

I will endeavor to submit to and seek out your guidance as my spiritual head in all matters of life and living including marriage and family issues. (1 Corinthians 14:35)

I will endeavor to share my advice with you not in a contentious or angry way, but rather with discretion, kindness and reverence. (Proverbs 9:13, Proverbs 11:22, Proverbs 21:19, Proverbs 31:26, I Peter 3:1-2)

I will endeavor to not shame you either with my words or actions but rather I will endeavor to be your crown and glory. (Proverbs 12:4)

As I end my vows of marriage to you I must acknowledge the possibility that in the same way I may sin against you in the future, you too may sin against me as well.

And while it is true that love covers a multitude of sins there are some sins a husband can commit which can break his marriage covenant with his wife.

It is with these sins in mind that I swear before God to remain in this covenant of marriage with you for the remainder of my life as long as you do not break the covenant of marriage you make with me today.  As a wife I reserve the right given me by God to consider myself freed from our marriage covenant if you defraud me by willfully refusing to provide me with food, clothing and your body in the marriage bed or if you seek to bring physical harm or death to me.  Also, if you abandon me either by divorcing me or by some other means I will no longer consider myself bound to this marriage covenant I make today with you.  (Exodus 21:10-11 & 26-27, Deuteronomy 24:1-2, Romans 7:2-3, I Corinthians 7:15)

But I am hopeful of better things for us and I look forward to rejoicing with you and living joyfully with you for the remainder of our days together as the Lord wills. (Proverbs 5:18, Proverbs 18:22)

Today I leave behind my own people and my father’s house and will become one flesh with you as my husband. (Psalm 45:10, Mark 10:7-8)

Is it wrong for Christians to make vows or oaths?

Some Christians believe that Christ outlawed the making of vows based on Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12.  They believe based on these passages it is wrong for Christians to swear allegiance to their country, to swear to tell the truth in court and even to make marriage vows.  But is this conclusion based on sound principles of Biblical interpretation?

First we will look at Christ’s words from the Gospel of Matthew on this subject of vows:

33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

Matthew 5:33-37 (NASB)

I have used the NASB here because I think it communicates the language a little better than the KJV in this particular case.  But both the NASB and KJV accurately reflect a key phrase “But I say to you, make no oath at all” (NASB) and “But I say unto you, Swear not at all” (KJV).

So it appears based on this passage Christ is telling us that we should no longer make oaths or vows which are really the same thing.

Again, James writing under the inspiration of God states this about vows:

“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.”

James 5:12 (NASB)

He makes a clear statement here – “do not swear” which seems to echo Christ’s words on the subject.  Many Christians have taken these two passages as undeniable proof that Christians are forbidden from taking vows or oaths.

However, I will demonstrate that such a conclusion violates the following principles of Biblical interpretation:

  1. We must always take the context both of the passage itself and the historical context in which is stated into account as we make our conclusion on any doctrinal matter.
  2. We must always take the entire witness of the Scriptures on a particular subject taking into account both the Old and New Testaments while understanding that God can and does alter his laws from the Old to New Testaments.

What did the Old Testament say about making vows?

In the book of Genesis Abraham made his servant swear a vow to him when seeking a wife for his son Isaac:

“And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:”

Genesis 24:3 (KJV)

Later Moses would give these commands regarding oaths to the Israelites:

“Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.”

Deuteronomy 6:13 (KJV)

The Israelites were only forbidden from swearing falsely by God’s name falsely or using it in vain (as in a curse word) as seen in these two passages:

“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.”

Exodus 20:7 (KJV)

“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:12 (KJV)

New Testament Examples of Vows

The Book of Acts shows that Paul, one of James fellow Apostles and writers of the Scriptures, made a vow and fulfilled it:

“And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.”

Acts 18:18 (KJV)

Paul also made other vows – essentially swearing by God’s name that what he was saying was the truth:

“Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.”

II Corinthians 1:23 (KJV)

“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”

Galatians 1:20 (KJV)

For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:8 (KJV)

These examples from the New Testament prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christians are not forbidden from making oaths and swearing by the name of God that what they are saying is the truth. If that were the case than Paul sinned in penning the very Word of God in the examples I have shown and we know that can never be the case.

So what this tells is – we need to look a little deeper into what Christ and later his Apostle James were saying about swearing and taking oaths and vows.

Understanding Christ’s prohibition on vows and oaths in their historical context

A good way to understand what Christ was talking about in Matthew 5:33-37 is to look at what he later says in the same Gospel of Matthew:

“16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?  20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.”

Matthew 23:16-22 (KJV)

What was happening is the Jewish leaders were saying if people swore by one thing – they could not be held to their vow, but by another thing they could be.  They were using things they vowed on as a way of tricking people and getting out of their vows.

So what was Christ telling us about swearing by God’s name and making vows and oaths? He was saying we should never ever knowingly make a false vow.  We should never make an oath or promise knowing we will later try to weasel out of it or break it.  Every oath or vow should be made with the genuine intent to fulfill that vow.

And we should never ever swear use God’s name falsely to say we are telling the truth when we are not.  But if we are telling the truth we may do as the Apostle did and swear by God’s name that we are indeed telling the truth.  So if we are asked in court to swear we are telling the truth, “So help me God” there is no sin in this.

Don’t play the games that the Jewish leaders were allowing people to play and be a man or woman of your word – who keeps your commitments – this is what Christ was saying.

A warning on making hasty and emotional vows

The Scriptures give a great warning about making rash vows, oaths and promises:

“2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. 3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.  5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

Ecclesiastes 5:2-5 (KJV)

God does not want us to be rash or hasty in making vows, oaths, commitments or promises.  Many good Christians with noble intents and the full intent of fulfilling a vow have made rash and hasty vows based on the emotion of a moment. This behavior is wrong for a Christian.  We should always take the time to pray and consider the consequences of any vow. We should make our vows based on leading of the Holy Spirit, not the leading of our emotions and feelings.

Far too often Christians with noble intentions in the passion of a moment make rash and hasty vows that they should not have made.  While both men and women struggle with this – in my life experience I have seen women struggling with this more than men because they are emotionally driven creatures.

Even in the case of well thought out vows (such as marriage vows), we often invoke emotion into our vows and make parts of our vows completely based on the emotion of the moment.  We do not consider the future or the fact that we are sinful creatures and will not be able to keep some of our emotionally driven vows.  I will speak more on marriage vows in an upcoming article on this subject.

It is a foolish Christian who makes vows hastily and often. A wise Christian rarely makes vows and oaths and when he does so he only does so after careful consideration.

When we make vows we should always be mindful that we do not control the future.  We should make realistic vows that we can keep.

For example, it is realistic to swear in a given moment that we will not lie.  I can swear in court that in that moment my testimony will be the truth before God. But what I cannot do is swear I will never tell a lie for the rest of my life.

It is utterly wrong for a Christian to vow things like “I vow before God to never do [fill in the sin]”. You can’t vow not to sin! You are a sinner and you will be one till the day you die.   But many Christians think if they vow not to do something – then they won’t do it any more for fear of breaking the vow. The problem is you are setting yourself up for failure and only compounding your sin when you make such vows.

It is also foolish to vow things like “I will always do [fill in the blank]”.

The fact is we should avoid terms like “always” or “never” in our promises, vows or oaths.

Instead we should say “I will endeavor (try hard) to not do such and such or to do such and such by God’s power as I submit myself to him”.  This is not absolute promise to do something or not do something, but rather a commitment to try with the Lord’s help to do something.

Making commitments and allegiances is a good thing – as long as it is done with careful consideration of this sinful world we live in and our own sinful natures.

Conclusion

In the Old Testament we see patriarchs like Abraham and others making vows in the name of God. In the Law of Moses God actually commands his people to swear by his name while at the same time warning them not to use his name in vain or swear falsely by his name.

Yes, God can and does change his laws.  There are some Old Testament laws such as the ceremonial and civil laws of Israel that are rescinded in the New Testament.  Some definitions of sin are even expanded such as when Christ spoke on adultery.

But the question is – did God change his law concerning the making of vows in the New Testament?

While at first glance it might appear that Christ took away the ability to make vows based on passages like Matthew 5:33-37 and James 5:12 if we look at the entirety of the New Testament we will find this cannot be the case.  Paul made a vow and kept it as well as he swore that he was telling the truth by the name of God several times.

We know that Scripture never contradicts Scripture so that means we must look deeper into what Christ was saying.  After looking at other parts of the New Testament as well as the history of the time we see that Christ is addressing the abuse of making vows – not vows themselves. He is addressing the false system the Jewish leaders had setup concerning vows that if you swore by certain things your vow did not count.  Christ was saying all vows count and that we should not swear by things on this earth or by heaven itself but only in the name of God as Paul did and only in a truthful manner. Our “yes” should truly mean “yes” and our “no” should truly mean “no”.  We should never ever make a vow knowing there is a good possibility we will break or that we intend to break it.

Also we should not make hasty vows.  This truly does come from the Devil.  Satan wants us to make rash and hasty vows that he knows we will break. Like when we vow not to sin anymore – he knows we will break that vow and he knows it compounds our sin when we do so.

Christians can make vows, oaths and promises.  However vows, oaths and promises should be rare for us and only in the most important of matters.  Our vows should be well thought out and always take into consideration the sinful world we live in – including our own sinful natures.  Also when we make vows we should not be afraid to add in many caveats and disclaimers should circumstances in the future change that make it too difficult or even impossible to keep such vows.