Counting the Cost:
Using Biblical Principles to Guide our Children in Spouse Finding

by Sally Ann Perz

Choosing a spouse is the second biggest decision in one’s life—this is surpassed only by choosing to follow Christ. We must guide our children in this effort just as we lead them to Jesus. We often leave this important choice to them—somehow they are ‘on their own’ when it comes to the spouse search. This is not the way it ought to be. We need to teach them to count the cost. This is a Biblical principle to be used in any big decisions—consider the ramifications of choices (Luke 14:28). The following notes were used to teach a ladies’ class on teaching our children how to find a godly spouse.

Is there an example in God’s word of a parent teaching a child about finding a spouse? Proverbs 31 is a spouse-finding-metric for a man. That is what the text was originally intended to do (King Lemuel’s mother’s advice to her son on what to look for in a women), and not only as we most commonly use it today (what a woman should be). It sets the bar very high. Raised expectations by girls will mean men will rise to meet those expectations. The same holds true of young men for young ladies. If we lower the expectations, boys and girls will sink to those levels. It is inevitable! When does our teaching end? Are they on their own to find their life-partner? Think about Job’s sacrificing to cover for his children’s sins—even his grown children—we can keep this involvement in our children’s lives. In the very least—pray for them! (Job 1:4-5).

Consider how we, as parents, can guide our children in this area by teaching them what to look for in a spouse and how to go about finding a spouse. Is finding a spouse a natural process? Should it be difficult, complex and one size fits all? This quest for a spouse has been a process in existence since the dawn of time; it is cross cultural and fundamentally the same for everyone. Boy meets girl…

Do we need to try many before finding the right one? This is a man-made concept and it is not found anywhere in the Bible. Simply put, consider this quote from Little Women. Amy March says, “You don’t need scores of suitors. You only need one … if he’s the right one!”.

We aren’t talking about rushing into a relationship without knowing someone, we aren’t talking about rushing into a relationship before the time is right. You can get to know many young people of the opposite sex (as friends) enough to know how compatible you are or aren’t without having to ‘go steady’ and become emotionally involved with one after another weeding your way through the cast offs.

Is there a right one? Maybe not in the way we’ve come to understand the phrase—but there is a right one in many senses. There is the one that will be your soul mate (in the true sense of the word as in one-flesh — Genesis 2:24). Once you’ve chosen that ONE, it better be the right one. Because while there might not be one man specifically designed for one woman, you can be certain there are many wrong ones. Consider that you must be careful in your choice; you must never regret the one you chose because you simply MUST love the one you are with. This will be relatively easy if you choose a compatible spouse, and seemingly impossible if you choose badly.

It is critical to remember that our capacity for love and making love work has more to do with long term happiness than finding a perfect person. Statistics show that if you’ve had a great love once you are more likely to find another after the loss of a spouse — Why is that true? Because it’s all about our foundation, our commitment, and yes — it’s all about the love. (I Corinthians 13) Our attitude about our spouse, about marriage and about family will affect our relationship with our spouse in ways that can make or break our relationship.

Have we convoluted premarital relationships by loosing and binding (loosing God’s commands to abstain from fleshly lusts and then binding man’s mandates in an effort combat the years of loosing)? Christians swing from seeing others of the opposite sex as potential crushes to not having any relationships at all with the opposite sex. Neither of these ideas is good. Christians universally agree that one night stands and the boy crazy behavior of girls that are out to make another notch on their lipstick case are completely unacceptable — yet, how close does our dating come to this? On the other hand, not being able to relate to the opposite sex because you keep a distance and fail to build strong friendships with members of the opposite sex may render you unable to effectively search for your Mr. or Mrs. Right.

Does God acknowledge the pull of the flesh? Should it be strong? Is passion a God-designed gift? Yes! (I Corinthians 7:1ff). Consider that physical intimacy is pure and good in the ‘marriage bed’—and that’s not the physical bed—it is in the marriage relationship. A husband and wife should have an amazing, fulfilling relationship—to include a wonderful physical relationship. A husband takes comfort in his wife’s body. A wife is designed to desire her husband. All it takes is ONE KISS — sometimes even just a caress — between two people attracted to one another and the dominoes roll. God designed us to desire one another this way (Genesis 3:16; Proverbs 5:19).

Outside the marriage relationship this sexual intimacy is immoral. Is immorality—specifically unacceptable premarital behavior — a new concept? Certainly not … consider Dinah. Dinah’s example fits right in with modern dating as we know it — making provision for the flesh … (Genesis 34:1-5; Ephesians 5:3). Dinah went out, seemingly without parental permission, socialized with the pagan children, and got involved with a boy. We often forget that this boy cared for her — she may have felt her behaviour justified because of that, he certainly did. Yet that still did not make it right. Dinah got involved and brought an entire town into it … the consequences were horrific.

What should we call this search? Dating? Courtship? It is not wise to get caught up in the name—dating or courtship. Neither term is found in the Bible. It is not the name that makes it acceptable or unacceptable to God it is the process. Don’t worry about what you call it. The concern should be about how the spouse-searching is done and what is done during the spouse search!!

Characteristics of Mr. and Mrs. Right:

What are you looking for? Seek a godly companion — don’t even consider anyone who will not bring you closer to God. It’s been said that if you marry an unbeliever you will have trouble with your father-in-law (i.e. Satan) (I Corinthians 15:33-34b). For all those who convert a spouse dozens more fall away because of an ungodly spouse. Convert the lost, but don’t take a chance on losing your soul.

Why did God forbid intermarrying in the Old Testament? How does this apply to us today? Is there a principle to consider here? (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; II Corinthians 6:14-18). God did not want His children to be corrupted by the pagans. This has not changed. He still wants us to come out from among the unbelievers … this does not mean that we aren’t associating with the lost. It just shows us by example that there is a danger in marrying the ungodly.

This is not the only danger in marrying an unbeliever. Sadly, believers married to unbelievers often (not always) miss the bond of God’s family that cannot be replaced by a secular relationship. An unbeliever is bound to her duties to her spouse and these may keep her from associating with brethren and, most especially, the edification that comes from working alongside her spouse in God’s kingdom.

Here are some specific things to consider when looking for a spouse:

  • Is this your best friend?
  • Are you able to be yourself?
  • How does he relate to others? Family? Brethren? The Lost? Children? Babies?
  • What kind of fruit does he bear? Behavior? Attitude? Settling Conflicts? Stewardship?
  • Will he be a good provider? Will she be content as a stay at home mother to the children? A happy homemaker?
  • Are you compatible? Mind, Desires, Politics, Beliefs, Personal Convictions, Personality, Parenting…do you have ‘chemistry’—don’t dismiss physical attraction!
  • What about love? Is this I Corinthians 13 love?
  • Young ladies: Can you submit to this man as your leader?
  • Young men: Can you lead this woman and honor her?

What is the best way to find this godly spouse? Is modern dating the only option? For sake of clarity, the term dating will be used to discuss the modern act of playing the field (going steady, hopping from one boyfriend to another, going together) and the term courtship will refer to the act of finding a spouse without the dating game. Note that the name is not the point, it is what is behind the name. We are simply using terms to simplify our considerations.

Pursuing a Spouse by Playing the Field: Pitfalls of Modern Dating

Dating gained popularity over a thirty year period between the 1920’s and the 1950’s. Dating was characterized by little or no parental involvement, the idea of ‘going out,’ no chaperone, increasing physical intimacy, fleeting commitment. It often includes a certain unsteadiness of going from one “soul-mate” to another, is usually designed to try out varying people, and is frequently based on attraction more than friendship.

Note: Even the worst sort of dating can result in happy marriages. Many of us are proof of that. However, that doesn’t make it wise or mean that there is no need for improvement to the process!

How much fire can you take into your bosom before you are burned? (Proverbs 6:27-29; 22:3; I Corinthians 6:18). Does modern dating encourage long term commitment? One bond after another—many broken? Does dating encourage working through difficulties? Consider reasons for breaking up vs. the dedication needed for keeping a marriage together.

Are we making provision for the flesh when we go off with the opposite sex alone? (II Timothy 2:22). Two young people already attracted to one another don’t need much fuel to start a fire. Consider what was discussed previously about our God-designed passion. Allowing our children to put themselves in situations in which temptation is a given is like giving them matches before they are capable of safely starting a fire. Most healthy young adults who are attracted to one another will have more than enough chemistry to cause one major explosion. We need to be careful that we don’t make allowances for these strong desires!

What about lust? (Matthew 25:27-28; contrast with:I Corinthians 13). There is a huge difference in our children looking at one another as brethren vs. looking at one another in lust … friendship building can avoid looking at the opposite sex as an object and not making provisions for the flesh will make it easier to say NO to lustful temptations. This is not just about physical attraction — which is a God-given characteristic. This is about how our children reflect on the opposite sex in general. Potential crush or Friend?

Can we separate physical intimacy from commitment—just how much physical intimacy is appropriate before marriage? Temptation leads to sin. (James 1:14-15; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13). Physical intimacy should be reserved for the marriage bed. The consequences of premarital sex are not always evident to others. But, there are always consequences. The ghosts of partners of the past will visit unannounced even after years of purity. Premarital sex has been around since sin was introduced into the world.

The ‘everybody does it’ cliché is not so far from the truth in the secular world. Let us not let this be acceptable … let us teach our children a ‘hands off’ policy. This might not be the same for everyone, but we must acknowledge that physical intimacy is progressive … it’s got to be kept in check until the two have become one flesh before God by becoming united in marriage.

What about when Mr. Right becomes Mr. Wrong? How does this affect friendship between brethren? When the ghosts of past relationships (mentioned above) are your brethren — your preacher, your elder, your future in-laws. This can be uncomfortable in the very least. The young men need to look at the young women as sisters, in all purity (I Timothy 5:2). We need to encourage our children to love their brothers and sisters in Christ enough to respect their feelings. They need to be careful not to treat them in ways that occur after a ‘break up’...this is quite challenging when our children are hopping from one relationship to another. Is it really wise for dating games to be played by godly people? Should finding a spouse be done with a clear purpose or to pass the time? Consider the effects on hearts when it comes to rejection and break ups…is this really beneficial in the long run (Proverbs 4:23)?

Is there a real need for recreational dating? Friendship is a wonderful way to get to know people and for future spouses to be ‘matched’ — perhaps this would be a better use of one’s pre-marital days!

Pursuing a Spouse with a Purpose: The Many Faces of Courtship

Courtship is often used to describe finding a spouse without mainstream dating — that’s rather simple, really. Anything more than that is to rely on man-made guidelines. I suppose the Bible term would be find a wife.

There are many definitions for the term courtship — one can get a plethora of how-to books written by most modern denominations. These often include lists of rules and guidelines for the parents and the courting couple — ranging from permissive (not much different than modern dating) to fully parent controlled. I have purposely avoided sharing any of these because not much of what is included is found in God’s word. However, as previously noted, the act of spouse finding is age old. For centuries it included parental and family involvement, chaperoning, group activities or family activities, and little or no physical intimacy. It often springs from friendship and naturally progresses. Courtship is not an arrangement between two sets of parents. Even biblically it often included a choice for the woman. Remember that Abraham acknowledged that Rebekah might not be willing. If that had been an arranged marriage in the sense it is often understood, Rebakah would not have had a choice.

A Christian’s example in this area is critical to the world. (I Timothy 4:12). This is an area in which much influence can be gained or lost. When we look like the world looks and act like the world acts, what is there to separate us. It is interesting that of all of the good things about the Amish, many focus on the period of time before the youth join the church — called rumspringa. This is that period of ‘wild oat sowing’ that some Old Order Amish still allow. How many souls are lost to wild oat sowing in God’s kingdom? Avoiding this behaviour, showing our love for one another—not our crushes, break ups and bad blood — can be a powerful tool. Let us use or morality, our good choices, our relationships to glorify God!

An important part of finding a spouse is seeking wise counsel and parental advice. (Proverbs 15:22; 28:26). This is critical. We need to teach our children to seek godly advice — reading the scriptures, having open discussions, listening and learning from others successes and failures. As noted from Proverbs 31 earlier, we need to teach our children about finding a spouse. We need to be the kind of parents who our children will seek for help.

Another aspect of godly courtship is delayed physical intimacy — making no provision for the flesh, not being overconfident in our ability to withstand our desires and taking heed (Job 31:1 - covenant with eyes; I Corinthians 10:13 - taking heed). Consider what we’ve discussed about progression in physical relationships — the power of touch, the domino effect. We need to teach our children to delay physical intimacy — to take heed and to not take fire in their bosom. How far do you want your spouse to go with the girls before you??

Is this courtship process determined by a timeline and a set of rules? Not biblically. There is a time that is right, but that will be different for different people. Note that we ought not to awaken love prematurely. This should show us that the idea of ‘puppy love’ is surely of man and not God (Song of Solomon 2:7). If our pre-teens are already boy/girl focused … that’s a long time to wait to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Don’t be naïve, worldly pre-teens are having sex young and often. This is what our children are exposed to unless they are extremely sheltered.

We don’t need a how-to book. When approached as a natural part of life, when friends are made and relationships grow, love will bloom from friendship. This is a natural progression?

Does God give step by step guidelines? Do we have direct commands or principles to follow? Is there only one authorized way to find a spouse? A definitive, “no.” We need to work with our individual circumstances — children may be living at home or away at college. Honoring adult children will be critical. At that point, it is up to them. Many will have daughters live at home until marriage. Many will have daughters living away. We need to respect various choices when it comes to the ‘how to’s’…Most importantly, we must be careful not to bind man-designed rules and guidelines for spouse-finding.

Let us honor God and glorify Him in our teaching so that our children will rise to glorify Him in their behaviour. Finally, pray. Pray early, pray often, and pray for God to bless this choice!

Verses to Study:

Proverbs 31:1ff
The words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him…Who can find a virtuous woman?
Job 1:4-5
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. 5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually
Genesis 2:24
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthians 7:1-25
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Genesis 3:16
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Proverbs 5:19
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.
Genesis 34:1-5
And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. 3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. 4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. 5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
Ephesians 5:3
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
I Corinthians 15:33-34b
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not.
Deuteronomy 7:3-4
You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
II Corinthians 6:14-18
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Proverbs 6:27-29
Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
28 Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
Proverbs 22:3
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
I Corinthians 6:18
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
II Timothy 2:22
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Matthew 5:27-28
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart
James 1:14-15
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death
I Peter 2:11
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.
I Corinthians 10:12-13
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it
I Timothy 5:2
Older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Proverbs 4:23
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life
I Timothy 4:12
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Proverbs 15:22
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 28:26
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
Job 31:1
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
Song of Solomon 2:7
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.

Class Discussion Notes:

  • Choosing a spouse is the second biggest decision in one’s life—surpassed only by choosing to follow Christ. We must guide our children in this effort just as we lead them to Jesus.
    • We often leave this important choice to them, somehow they are ‘on their own’ when it comes to the spouse search. This is not the way it ought to be.
  • Is there an example in God’s word of a parent teaching a child about finding a spouse?
    • Proverbs 31 is a spouse finding metric for a man. That is what the text was originally intended for (King Lemuel’s mom’s advice to her son on what to look for in a women), and not as we most commonly use it today (what a woman should be).
    • It sets the bar very high. Raised expectations by girls will mean men will rise to meet those expectations. The same holds true of young men of young ladies. If we lower the expectations, boys and girls will sink to those levels. It is inevitable!
    • Think about Job’s sacrificing to cover for his children. We can keep this involvement in our children’s lives. In the very least — pray for them! (Job 1:4-5)
  • What does it mean to count the cost in general? This is a Biblical principle to be used in any big decisions — consider the ramifications of choices (Luke 14:28)
    • Consider how we, as parents, can guide our children in this area by teaching them what to look for in a spouse and how to go about finding a spouse
  • Is finding a spouse a natural process? Should it be difficult, complex and one size fits all?
    • Consider that this has been a process in existence since the dawn of time; it is cross cultural and fundamentally the same for everyone. Boy meets girl…
  • Do we need to try many before finding the right one? This is a man-made concept and it is not found anywhere in the Bible. Simply put, consider this quote from Little Women. Amy March says, “You don’t need scores of suitors. You only need one…if he’s the right one!”
    • Consider that we aren’t talking about rushing into a relationship without knowing someone, we aren’t talking about rushing into a relationship before you are ready…but, you can get to know many young people of the opposite sex (as friends) enough to know how compatible you are/aren’t without having to ‘go steady’ and become emotionally involved.
  • Is there a right one? Maybe not in the way we’ve come to understand the phrase…but there is a right one in many senses. There is the one that will be your soul mate (in the true sense of the word as in one-flesh — Genesis 2:24). Once you’ve chosen that ONE, it better be the right one. Because while there might not be one man specifically designed for one woman, you can be certain there are many wrong ones.
    • Consider that you must be careful in your choice; you must never regret the one you chose because you simply MUST love the one you are with.
    • This will be relatively easy if you choose a compatible spouse, and seemingly impossible if you choose badly.
  • It is critical to remember that our capacity for love and making love work has more to do with long term happiness than finding a perfect person. Note statistics that if you’ve had a great love once you are more likely to find another after the loss of a spouse — Why is that true? Because it’s all about our foundation, our commitment, and yes — it’s all about the love (I Corinthians 13).
    • Consider how our attitude about our spouse, about marriage and family will affect our relationship with our spouse.
  • Have we convoluted premarital relationships by loosing and binding (loosing God’s commands to abstain from fleshly lusts and then binding man’s mandates in an effort combat the years of loosing)? Christians swing from seeing others of the opposite sex as potential crushes to not having any relationships at all with the opposite sex.
    • Consider that neither of these ideas is good. We all will agree that one night stands and the boy crazy behavior of girls that are out to make another notch on their lipstick case are completely unacceptable. How close does our dating come to this?
    • On the other hand, not being able to relate to the opposite sex because you keep a distance will render you unable to effectively search for your Mr./Mrs. Right.
  • Does God acknowledge the pull of the flesh? Should it be strong? Is passion a God-designed gift? Yes! (I Corinthians 7:1ff).
    • Consider that physical intimacy is pure and good in the ‘marriage bed’ — and that’s not the physical bed -- it is in the marriage relationship. A husband and wife should have an amazing, fulfilling relationship — to include a wonderful physical relationship. A husband takes comfort in his wife’s body. A wife is designed to desire her husband.
    • All it takes is ONE KISS between two people attracted to one another and the dominoes roll…God designed us to desire one another this way (Genesis 3:16; Proverbs 5:19).
  • Is immorality -- specifically unacceptable premarital behavior -- a new concept? Certainly not. Consider Dinah. Dinah’s example fits right in with modern dating as we know it — making provision for the flesh (Genesis 34:1-5; Ephesians 5:3).
    • Consider that Dinah went out seemingly without parental permission, socialized with the pagan children, and got involved with a boy. We often forget that this boy cared for her…that still did not make it right. Dinah got involved and brought an entire town into it…the consequences were horrific. More on this later…
  • Yet, let’s not get caught up in the name -- dating or courtship. It is not the name that makes it acceptable or unacceptable to God it is the process.
    • I can’t make this clearer. Don’t worry about what you call it. The concern should be about how the spouse-searching is done and what is done during the spouse search!

Characteristics of Mr. and Mrs. Right

  • Seek a godly companion—don’t even consider anyone who will not bring you closer to God. It’s been said that if you marry an unbeliever you will have trouble with your father-in-law (i.e. Satan) (I Corinthians 15:33-34b).
    • For all those who convert a spouse dozens more fall away because of an ungodly spouse. Convert the lost, but don’t take a chance on losing your soul.
  • Why did God forbid intermarrying in the Old Testament? How does this apply to us today? Is there a principle to consider here? (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
    • God did not want His children to be corrupted by the pagans. This has not changed. He still wants us to come out from among the unbelievers…this does not mean that we aren’t associating with the lost. It just shows us by example that there is a danger in marrying the ungodly.
    • Additionally, you will be missing the bond of God’s family that cannot be replaced by a secular relationship.
  • Is this your best friend? Are you able to be yourself? How does he relate to your family? Others? Brethren? The Lost? Children? Babies?
  • What kind of fruit does he bear? Behavior? Attitude? Settling Conflicts? Stewardship? Will he be a good provider? Will she be content as a stay at home mother to the children? A happy homemaker?
  • Are you compatible? Mind, Desires, Politics, Beliefs, Personal Convictions, Personality, Parenting…do you have ‘chemistry’? What about love? Can you submit to this man as your leader? Can you lead this woman?
  • What is the best way to find this godly spouse? Is modern dating the only option?

For sake of clarity, we’ll use the term dating to discuss the modern act of playing the field (going steady, hopping from one boyfriend to another) and courtship to discuss the act of finding a spouse without the dating game.

Pursuing a Spouse by Playing the Field: Pitfalls of Modern Dating

About dating: Dating gained popularity over a thirty year period during the 1920’s-50’s, little or no parental involvement, no chaperone, physical intimacy, false idea of commitment (fleeting, not a *real* commitment), unsteadiness of going from one “soul-mate” to another, designed to try out varying people, attraction more than friendship.

Note: Dating can result in happy marriages. Many of us are proof of that. However, that doesn’t make it wise or mean that there is no need for improvement to the process.

  • How much fire can you take into your bosom before you are burned? (Proverbs 6:27-29; 22:3; I Corinthians 6:18).
  • Does modern dating encourage long term commitment? One bond after another—many broken? Does dating encourage working through difficulties?
    • Consider reasons for breaking up vs. the dedication needed for keeping a marriage together.
  • Are we making provision for the flesh when we go off with the opposite sex alone? (II Timothy 2:22).
    • In the dark, without chaperone, one kiss — the domino effect
  • What about lust? (Matthew 25:27-28; contrast with: I Corinthians 13)
    • There is a huge difference in our children looking at one another as brethren vs. looking at one another in lust…friendship building can avoid looking at the opposite sex as an object and not making provisions for the flesh will make it easier to say NO to lustful temptations.
  • Can we separate physical intimacy from commitment — just how much physical intimacy is appropriate before marriage? Temptation leads to sin (James 1:14-15; I Peter 2:11; I Corinthians 10:12-13).
    • Physical intimacy should be reserved for the marriage bed. The consequences of premarital sex are not always evident to others. But, there are always consequences. The ghosts of partners of the past will visit unannounced even after years of purity. Premarital sex has been around since sin was introduced into the world.
    • The ‘everybody does it’ cliché is not so far from the truth in the secular world. Let us not let this be acceptable … let us teach our children a ‘hands off’ policy—this might not be the same for everyone, but physical intimacy is progressive…it’s got to be kept in check until the two have become one flesh before God by becoming united in marriage.
  • What about when Mr. Right becomes Mr. Wrong? How does this affect friendship between brethren? (I Timothy 5:2).
    • When the ghosts of past relationships (mentioned above) are your brethren—your preacher, your elder, your child’s future in-laws.
  • Should dating games be played by godly people? Who wins? Should finding a spouse be done with a clear purpose or to pass the time? (Proverbs 4:23).
    • Consider the effects on hearts when it comes to rejection and break ups…is this really beneficial in the long run? Consider that there is no real reason for recreational dating…friendships are a wonderful way to get to know people and for future spouses to be ‘matched.’

Pursuing a Spouse with a purpose: The Many Faces of Courtship

About Courtship: The act of spouse finding is age old. For centuries it included parental/family involvement, chaperoning, group activities or family activities, little or no physical intimacy, usually springs from friendship and naturally progresses, it has included arranged marriages in the past, but biblically it often included a choice for the woman (Consider Abraham’s acknowledgement that Rebekah might not be willing)…

  • Courtship is simply a term used to describe the act of finding a spouse. Anything more than that is to rely on man-made guidelines. I suppose the Bible term would be find a wife.
  • A Christian’s example in this area is critical to the world (I Timothy 4:12).
    • This is an area in which much influence can be gained or lost.
  • Seeking wise counsel and parental advice (Proverbs 15:22; 28:26).
    • This is critical…having open discussions, listening and learning from others successes and failures.
  • Delayed physical intimacy — making no provision for the flesh, not being overconfident in our ability to withstand our desires and taking heed (Job 31:1-covenant with eyes; I Corinthians 10:13-taking heed).
    • Consider what we’ve discussed about progression in physical relationships. How far do you want your spouse to go with the girls before you?
  • Is this process determined by a timeline and a set of rules?
    • Not biblically.
  • There is a time that is right, but that will be different for different people. Note that we ought not to awaken love prematurely. This should show us that the idea of ‘puppy love’ is surely of man and not God (Song of Solomon 2:7).
    • If our pre-teens are already boy/girl focused, that’s a long time to wait to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Don’t be naïve, worldly pre-teens are having sex young and often. This is what our children are exposed to unless they are extremely sheltered.
  • Love Blooming from Friendship? The natural progression? (Recall the treatment of sisters-in-Christ in I Timothy 5:2).
  • Does God give step by step guidelines? Do we have direct commands or principles to follow? Why so many disagreements? Is there only one authorized way to find a spouse?
    • No, we need to work with our individual circumstances — children may be living at home or away at college. Honoring adult children will be critical. At that point, it is up to them. Many will have daughters live at home until marriage. Many will have daughters living away. We need to respect various choices when it comes to the ‘how to's’
  • Be careful not to bind man-designed rules and guidelines for spouse-finding.