The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

As I was reading my marriage devotion tonight with my fiance I couldn’t help but find this particular passage profound. This is not only for engaged couples or for those who are already married, but also for those who are single as well. It gives you the knowledge you need before entering marriage and seeing the seriousness and selflessness that is involved when you take the vows ’till death do us part’. Timothy Keller is an amazing author by the way and he has a high-vocabulary… some of the words can go over your head a little but you’ll get the gist of it (hopefully). Happy reading! If you need prayers for your relationship, marriage, or any prayers in general please comment below! 

The problem of Self-Centeredness

Self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. It is the cancer in the center of a marriage when it begins, and it has to be dealt with. In Paul’s classic description of love, 1 Corinthians 13, he says, “Love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (verses 4-5).

Repeatedly Paul shows that love is the very opposite of “self-seeking,” which is literally pursuing one’s own welfare before those of others. Self-centeredness is easily seen in the signs Paul lists: impatience, irritability, a lack of graciousness and kindness in speech, envious brooding on the better situations of others, and holding past injuries and hurts against others. In Dana Adam Shapiro’s interviews of divorced couples, it is clear that this was the heart of what led to marital disintegration. Each spouse’s self-centeredness asserted itself (as it always will), but in response, the other spouse got more impatient, resentful, harsh, and cold. In other words, they responded to the self-centeredness of their partner with their own self-centeredness. Why? Self-centeredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended, and angered by that of others. The result is always a downward spiral into self-pity, anger, and despair, as the relationship gets eaten away to nothing.

But the Gospel, brought home to your heart by the Spirit, can make you happy enough to be humble, giving you an internal fullness that frees you to be generous with the other even when you are not getting the satisfaction you want out of the relationship. Without the help of the Spirit, without a continual refilling of your soul’s tank with the glory and the love of the Lord, such submission to the interests of the other is virtually impossible to accomplish for any length of time without becoming resentful. I call this the ‘love economics’. You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.

To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the center, to put the needs of others ahead of your own. The Spirit’s work of making the Gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness in the soul. It is impossible for us to make major headway against self-centeredness and move into a stance of service without some kind of super-natural help.

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