Watch a classic black-and-white movie, and you pretty much know how it’s going to end. In an old-fashioned Western, the white-hatted hero will ride into the sunset. A monster movie? The monster won’t survive to the credits (until the next sequel comes out, that is). And if it’s a romance, you’re bound to hear wedding bells — a Hollywood-made happy ending.
But today, in real life, wedding bells aren’t ringing all too often.
According to a Pew Research Center study, the number of “never married adults” is at a historic high. In fact, single people outnumber married people in the U.S. for the first time ever.
Why? The study cites several reasons.
- People are marrying later in life (age 28 for women and 30 for men).
- Many couples are living together and raising kids outside of marriage.
- For some, “tying the knot” can be a frightening proposition, especially if their parents divorced.
- Today, a bewildering number of choices can lead to indecision. It used to be that you’d meet a potential spouse at school, church or around town. But now — with dating apps and social media — options are seemingly unlimited, so people may obsess about finding the “perfect” match.
These statistics raise a couple of logical questions: “Is marriage a dying institution? And do we still need it?”
Why get married?
A young man at a marriage conference where Erin and I were speaking once asked me, “Why get married? I love my girlfriend and I’m committed to her. I do all of the things that you’re encouraging us to do to have a strong and healthy relationship. Why do we need a couple of expensive rings and a piece of paper to prove our love?”
It’s a good question. And to answer it, we need to start with the apostle Paul.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he had a lot to say about marriage. “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound,” he wrote in Ephesians 5:31-32.
And he’s right. The commitment we make when we enter into a marriage — when we become “one flesh”— is indeed profound and mysterious.
In God’s eyes, marriage is much more than a formal declaration of love and commitment between two people. Here are nine reasons to get married, although there are undoubtedly others:
1. Marriage is the cornerstone of a stable society
Why do great civilizations collapse? What happened to Carthage, Egypt, Greece, Rome and other ancient superpowers? While there are many reasons for the decline and fall of an empire, historians have identified the breakdown of the family as a main contributing factor.
“History shows that the strength of any nation depends upon the strength of its families,” writes Gerald Flurry in The Trumpet. “Family is the rock-solid foundation on which a country’s superstructure is erected.”
Families provide built-in support systems, financial security and health benefits for people. They ensure children are educated and communities thrive.
“The family is the first and vital cell of society,” Pope John Paul II once said. “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Those families begin with a husband and wife, and their union welds society together. Creating a stronger world for your kids to live in is a pretty good reason to get married.
2. Marriage is a sacred covenant between the couple and God
During a traditional wedding ceremony, the man and woman make this vow: “I take you to be my wedded wife/husband, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”
When you get married, you’re making a lifelong promise to God and each other. You don’t do this if you’re cohabitating. In our culture, I’m not sure if young couples really understand the seriousness of the wedding vow. But God certainly does. Take a look at Matthew 19:4-6:
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (emphasis added).
God is involved in a marriage, which is what makes it a sacred agreement that’s supposed to last a lifetime. This is just one of the reasons marriage and living together are vastly different.
3. Marriage benefits the individuals
Compared to singles, married people tend to be happier, healthier, safer and wealthier. They enjoy certain tax deductions, have better health insurance coverage and statistically have the most satisfying sex on the planet!
According to federal law, there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status. As romantic as a good tax break sounds, these advantages would never inspire someone to get down on bended knee and beseech their beloved to spend a lifetime together. I didn’t ask Erin to marry me for better insurance coverage.
But I did know that the marriage would benefit me. I wanted to experience life with my best friend. I wanted to enjoy passion and laughter, deep connection and shared dreams and, most importantly, I wanted to pursue Christ with Erin. The anticipation of experiencing these and many other wonderful things for the rest of our lives is why I married my wife. Who wouldn’t want that?
4. Marriage is the best way to raise children
Married parents tend to provide a safer and healthier home environment for their kids. On average, children in these families:
- Fare better in school.
- Exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
- Are more likely to form healthy romantic relationships as adults.
And did you know that the way your kids see you treat your spouse is how they will treat their own spouse someday? A son learns how to be a husband and how women should treat him by seeing how his parents interact. A daughter learns how to be a wife and how men should treat her by watching her parents. So if you love and respect each other, your children will want to do the same in their marriage. Your marriage is your child’s blueprint for intimacy and relationships.
5. Marriage creates a safe relationship where you can reach the deepest levels of intimacy and connection
When two people make a lifelong commitment before God and to each other, they create a level of safety and security that can’t be replicated in any other human relationship.
When spouses truly trust the vows they made on their wedding day, they’re willing to be naked and unashamed, just as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:25). They can be completely known by their spouse at the deepest levels: spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. They experience a profound vulnerability and openness that can’t happen in other relationships.
I’m not suggesting that every married couple actually reaches this level of intimacy, but the potential is there — and it’s unique to marriage. How’s that for a reason to get married?
6. Marriage creates a powerful synergy
The Oxford Dictionary defines synergy as “the cooperation of two or more elements to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” You could almost define marriage the same way.
Let me repeat what Paul wrote in Ephesians: “The two shall become one flesh. This is mystery is profound …” The profound mystery is how a man and woman, even with all of their differences, can be united as one in marriage.
This “oneness” is a superpower. When a husband and wife are unified, they can accomplish amazing feats together. When they’re united in vision and pursue a shared dream together, they can serve God in powerful ways.
Pastor Francis Chan said, “Picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.”
God wants you to use your superpower, your oneness, to bless others and do extraordinary things for the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t want you to hoard the power He’s given you. Your marriage should be about something bigger than individual gratification, petty arguments and the pursuit of pleasure. Inwardly focused marriages are not fulfilling. Find a vision for your marriage that you both are passionate about and use your synergy to benefit others.
7. Marriage helps us become more like Christ
Is marriage designed to make us “happy” or “holy”? Actually, it makes us both. God created marriage to be much more than a relationship that meets our needs and gives us happiness.
That’s why holiness always outweighs happiness. In fact, God’s preeminent goal for your marriage is not your mutual happiness at all — it’s Christlikeness. As Paul explained, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” (Romans 8:29; emphasis added).
Now, you’ll surely find happiness if you cooperate with God’s purpose for your marriage. But He wants so much more than happiness for you; He wants joy. He wants impact. He wants your marriage to have significance and spiritual power and a compelling attractiveness that turns people’s heads. God designed marriage — with its joys and its trials, its ups and its downs, its good times and its bad times — to help you to grow to be more like Christ.
This process isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. But once you understand that fact, marriage’s inevitable conflicts and rough times don’t feel quite so threatening. This seems so simple; a great marriage is the outcome of becoming Christlike.
That said, to suggest that marriage is only designed to bring spiritual growth through fiery trial is a complete misreading of God’s intent. If marriage points to the final wedding of Christ and His Church, then there must be a sense in which it’s designed to bring joy and bliss. Just as parents delight in seeing their children happy and thriving, our heavenly Father desires to see us happy and thriving in our marriages.
8. Marriage gives us the help we need
Genesis 2:18 says, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ ”. Our spouses can give us help that the world doesn’t offer. Having lifelong help from the human being who knows us best is a great reason to choose marriage.
Just to be clear, the Bible makes a big distinction between what we should deal with ourselves and when we should seek help. Galatians 6:5 says, “for each will have to bear his own load.” The Greek word for load means “cargo,” a light problem that individuals must carry. Think of it as a backpack.
But just a few verses earlier in Galatians 6:2, we’re told to “Bear one another’s burdens.” The Greek word for burden means something that’s heavy, something that’s too much for one person to bear alone. Instead of a backpack, it’s more like a huge steamer trunk on our shoulders.
Paul is saying that we shouldn’t allow a person to be crushed under the excessive weight of their burdens. Spouses play a huge role in alleviating these burdens for each other. To help carry them, we must be there when needed.
9. Marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church, and the healthy family is our greatest witness to a lost world
Marriage points to the final marriage of Christ, the Bridegroom, with His bride, the church (Revelation 19-21).
A healthy marriage also provides a strong evangelism opportunity. In his book Life-Style Evangelism, Joe Aldrich writes:
The two greatest forces in evangelism are a healthy church and a healthy marriage. The two are interdependent. You can’t have one without the other. It is the healthy marriage, however, that is the true ‘frontline weapon.’ The Christian family in a community is the ultimate evangelistic tool, assuming the home circle is an open one in which the beauty of the gospel is readily available. It’s the old story: When love is seen, the message is heard, or to put it more succinctly… more is caught than taught.
The marriages of Christian couples who have allowed the Lord to redeem and bless them personally and relationally become a living testimony to the Lord. Their stories bless other couples and benefit the Kingdom of God.
Choose God’s best
Wonder. Joy. Intimacy. Purpose. If those qualities matter to you, then don’t be afraid of marriage. A marriage that’s consistent with God’s design will allow you to experience all of those things together.
At Focus on the Family, we believe there are many reasons to get married and not just cohabitate. We believe that God’s design for marriage is a lifelong covenant where a husband and wife are relentlessly growing as individuals into the image of Christ and creating a relationship that both people are thrilled with.
Remember that man who wondered, “Why get married?” As this young man and I talked during each session break, I unpacked the reasons marriage matters. At the end of the conference, the man told me that he wanted to honor God and provide the very best for his girlfriend.
“I’m taking her ring shopping,” he said.
Months later, I received a wedding invitation.
I know the young man and his new bride will have plenty of challenges ahead of them. Anyone who marries always does. But are those challenges worth it? You bet they are. Because marriage matters, and there are more than enough reasons to make that commitment.