Worshiping marriage? — “The Ten Commandments of Marriage” — Discernment needed
The most effective way to propagate a lie is to mix it with some truth. As Mary Poppins noted, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. However, in the case of many Christian bloggers, counselors, pastors or authors that provide marriage counseling, it is not medicine going down the throats of those that seek their advice, but pure arsenic mixed in with the sugar of Truth.
Mixing a bit of poisonous advice with scriptures implies an authority to that advice that it would not merit on its own. After all, for most Christians the words of the Bible are considered sacred, true, and something we strive to model our lives around. The genuine desire to please God, ignited in a believer’s soul when she first hears and responds to God calling her as His own may cause her to suspend a natural discernment when those around her supposedly quote Him. Christianity 101 demands that we get wise about discernment and exercise it with diligence.
I spent several decades listening to soul-destroying lies sandwiched between eternal truths because of a lack of awareness that God gives His children discernment. The worst of the things I ingested spiritually concerned the role of women in relation to their husbands and their churches. I’m still shoveling out the debris and ashes from the tornado of destruction that my lack of discernment created in my life. In part, the destruction was unleashed by suspending my own responsibility to study scriptures myself to determine whether the person quoting them did so accurately and that they actually reflected the intention and Spirit behind the text.
Unfortunately in patriarchal churches or those especially invested in hierarchal structures, women are often instructed that they are easily deceived and therefore not to trust their thinking or questions. Thus, if any queasiness or uncertainty arose in my mind, I tended to dismiss it as “doubt”, the devil, or rebellion that should be resisted. However, I now understand that when anyone asks me to suspend thinking in order to accept what they are promoting, they are promoting a lie.
Questioning and verifying if something said or taught is actually scriptural was considered a noble activity and commended by the apostles rather than discouraged:
Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with all eagerness, daily searching the scriptures, whether these things were so.
Believers must understand the importance of discernment to avoid the familiar pitfalls of being taken in by false teaching. Very often in the church, a statement is made or an idea accepted without challenge, to the point where it becomes a central tenet, ethos or characteristic of the church. A lie then coopts the truth and weaves itself in with the truth so that it sounds familiar, good and right. Before long a “lens” is adopted and all truth is then filtered through that lens. Truth is then adjusted to fit that lens to the point that the truth is gone and all that remains is a lie with a shallow scaffolding of truth to make it palatable.
Lies are only effective if they are well disguised. An example of a pervasive lens that distorts the Spirit and intent of the Word are those churches that believe a sign of Divine favor is most evidence by material wealth. They will look at the Word of God as a source to back up the belief that materialism is somehow a central right and tenet of the church.
The thousands of passages that command God’s people to care for the poor are replaced with a constant emphasis “God is good to me, you can tell, I have a piece of the American Dream; if you don’t, something is wrong with your Christianity.” How easily we justify the idols we create as Divinely Certified good things.
Another lens evident by strident teaching, massive amounts of words, money and effort is the lens and cultural warping that marriage is the God-ordained, be all, end all, and central aspect of being a Christian. Please don’t misinterpret me here, I believe in marriage, and that it was created before the fall, something God pronounced “good”. It is used as a metaphor for Christ’s love, devotion, and commitment to his followers. Jesus did perform his first miracle at a wedding, and there is a message in that, but not the message that became the lens it has become for the church.
I’ve watched a sad evolution as the church has adopted with increasing stridency the idea that marriage is a transcendent purpose for all of life and is in that way supreme. Couching the supremacy and centrality of marriage as the center of all life in “God words” was illustrated to me by the twisting of the 10 commandments by Tami Myer to reinforce marriage’s sovereignty over a life. When domestic abuse survivors come in contact with those who have created a god out of marriage, it is no wonder they are treated as heretics. ACFJ is full of the stories of their dismissal from the fold or ridiculous insistence that they make this false god work out — to fit the lens of their friendly church persecutors.
“The Ten Commandments for Marriage” — an idolatrous teaching by Tami Myer
When The 10 Commandments for Marriage landed on my Facebook page recently, I could not remain silent. Myer’s 10 commandments triggered a memory of decades of bondage to a lens that is not only unscriptural but is in competition with the only Being in the universe deserving of that sort of worship. My former bondage to the idea that marriage should be worshiped included painful emotional gymnastics trying to make an abusive marriage look beautiful.
My experience does not make me a skeptic about marriage. It does make me look at the whole counsel of the word of God, and note that Jesus stated “in heaven there will be no marriage”. In fact, I wonder sometimes if the emphasis on it in ‘c’hristianity isn’t actually narcissistic and an excuse to indulge in the temporary pleasures of this world with abandonment, thinking that this self-focus on me and mine “is all holy”.
The narcissism of it is justified by all sorts of teaching these days making your marriage the happiest show on earth. I remember a Christian women’s speaker at a conference stating emphatically that she was a team with her husband and “my team is going to win.” She wasn’t talking about winning souls. Win what: lovers of the year recognition with a bed on a platform and sex manuals written by ministers? Win fame as the most loved woman in the congregation evidenced by a husband’s slavish devotion and her own to making another human happy by gratifying his flesh 24/7? Win a competition with other women that my husband gives me nicer toys than yours, is that the point?
The lens focusing on marriage as the supreme of all of life which we uphold in our preaching, teaching, book writing, living emphasis on “this is the reason I’m alive” looks to a lost and dying world like pure narcissism. Let them die and go to hell; hubby and I are going to have a date night. This is not to say marriage isn’t meant to be fun and companionable and provide needs and be joyous, but, for heavens sake, where does that overflowing joy touch the starving world around it? It is rather like an insatiable bottomless pit demanding more and more attention, more and more books, sermons, blogs, teaching and now this “10 commandments for marriage”.
Subverting the meaning of the real 10 commandments to foster worship of an institution that will pass away when Christ returns, is the height of purveying the false gospel that marriage is to be esteemed and honored above God himself. I point out a few obnoxious twists on the original 10 commandments —
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR MARRIAGE BY TAMI MYER
1. Thou shalt have no other lovers in your life.
2. Thou shalt have no affections or priorities which displace thy spouse.
3. Thou shalt not speak of thy spouse in a dishonoring way.
4. Remember to schedule a date with thy spouse. Guard it, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but on the seventh day, thou shalt relax and recharge with thy spouse.
5. Honor the father and the mother of thy spouse.
6. Thou shalt not wound with anger, cut with cruel words, or kill hope.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery, in thought or in deed.
8. Thou shalt not rob one another of attention, esteem, affection, or kindness.
9. Thou shalt not lie or deceive.
10. Thou shalt not compete or resent. For you “are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:8-9, NIV)
From Tami Myer, Manna for Marriage (link)
For abuse survivors whose unfortunate non-relationship is more hell than heaven, the above is grievous advice. There are marriage worshipers that will insist on telling the victim of domestic terrorism that if she just did the above, everything would be fixed.
The truth that a wife should not entertain any lovers other than her husband in the original 10 commandments, but the command to have no priority that displaces thy spouse is the opposite of the original which states “we are to have no other God before Him.” Placing a spouse before God is another word for idolatry. In commandment three she will be discouraged from telling the truth about her husband, so she will feel guilty-bound not to break her silence and disclose the abuse. In commandment four she is told that time with her spouse is the same as a Sabbath rest, which is opposite to the truth of her life. Time with her spouse is time spent in pain, confusion, dashed hopes, and fear. There is no ‘rest and recharge,’ there is only walking on eggshells.
Has Tami Meyers gone so far as to replace God with a husband? Please note her suggestion that Psalm 23 is the husband chapter of the Old Testament like Proverbs 31 is the wife chapter — and her expectations of what men are supposed to be to their wives. There is not a man alive that could possibly be to a woman what God alone is meant to be. Her teaching puts unrealistic expectations of trust on the wife’s part and a performance on a man’s part when he needs a Savior and Shepherd every bit as much as his wife does. I believe these sort of expectations contribute to domestic violence in our churches. God alone is the Great Shepherd.
It is time for discernment in an age where the church is being rocked to sleep by lies hidden in truth. God has given us an internal teacher available 24/7 to guide, guard and lead us into all that is true. But we must do our part in searching out the scriptures. I recommend the Blue Letter Bible an online resource to check out the original Greek and Hebrew meanings of bible passages. God speaks, and He speaks to you; if some teaching makes you uncomfortable, pray for discernment, search out the meaning. Above all avoid those teachers that fear your questions.
John 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].
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