Bible Insights,  Devotions,  Life Stories/Lessons

Marriage: Humility in Action

In this fourth post on marriage, we will look at the character of God that was perfectly illustrated through the submission of Christ to carry out the Father’s will, leaving Heaven, humbling Himself as a man, and bearing the weight of the whole world’s sin. If you would like to receive my three page download on the 13 Ways to Improve Your Marriage by Applying I Corinthians 13:4-7, click here or subscribe at the bottom of the page.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:3-8 ESV

I Corinthians 13:4-6 tells us that God’s love is humble. It is not puffed up, not rude, doesn’t seek its own, is not provoked, and thinks no evil but rejoices in truth. We are to have this same mind and posture towards others, especially our spouses.

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I believe humility encompasses all of the next five love attributes, so I will speak briefly to each one.

Humility Defined

Humility is defined by the Strong’s concordance/Vine’s Dictionary as:

Abase: signifies “to make low, bring low,”

(a) of bringing to the ground, making level, reducing to a plain, as in Luk 3:5;

(b) metaphorically in the Active Voice, to bring to a humble condition, “to abase,” 2Cr 11:7, and in the Passive, “to be abased,” Phl 4:12; in Mat 23:12Luk 14:1118:14, the AV has “shall be abased,” the RV “shall be humbled.” It is translated “humble yourselves” in the Middle Voice sense in Jam 4:101Pe 5:6; “humble,” in Mat 18:42Cr 12:21 and Phl 2:8.
See HUMBLELOW. Cp., tapeinos, “lowly,” tapeinosis, “humiliation,” and tapeinophrosune, “humility.”

From these definitions, we can see that God gives no room for thinking we are better than others. We are to view one another as equal heirs of salvation in Christ. In particular, in marriage, we are not to view our partners as being lower than ourselves. Quite the opposite, we are each to think more highly of the other and looks for ways to serve out of love. No one person in a relationship should be demanding to be served and puffed up about their role in marriage.

Love is not rude.

A humble person is not rude. If you view the other more highly than yourself, you will not condescend and speak haughty words or bark commands at the other. A humble person is in touch with their own flaws and is slow to point out the flaws in others. They speak life-giving words and not corrupt communication.

Do we spend more time criticizing or building up our spouse?

In our early years of marriage, there were times I was discontent. We had little, yet everything we needed. Jason was working hard, and I appreciated how he tried to better our lives by working two jobs at times. And yet, when we would sit and dream like young couples do, I would grow cynical and unbelieving. I would say phrases like, “well, that will never happen”, “we will never have a home like that”, or “our kids will never go to college”.

You know what that did to my hard-working husband? It discouraged and disheartened him. I hate that I behaved like that. We were a team, and I needed to believe in our dreams even if it was hard to see at the time. We get stuck in our day to day rhythms and feel like things will always be the way they are. I can look back now and see how many blessings I thought were pipe dreams have now come true. We worked and believed together for those things. When Jason stopped me once and pointed this critical spirit out, I was able to see it and, in humility, confess it and fix my attitude towards one of hope.

Love does not seek its own.

Many marriages struggle to manage their time as couples. Especially once you throw in a few kids into the mix, it seems there is never enough alone or “me” time. When you are single, you can spend time doing the things you love as often as you like. But when we join with another, our time is not just our own. Healthy marriages desire for both individuals to be who they are and enjoy those things that make them distinctive. Whether its hunting, video games, antique shopping, or reading, we should want our spouse to enjoy the things they enjoy. And we don’t always have to enjoy them together.

Jason and I each have our own interests as well as shared interests. When the kids were younger, we traded duty often so the other could enjoy friends, pursue their passions, or reach a career goal. We also always made time together as a family and as a couple. It might have just been thirty minutes on the couch laughing together over a sit-com after the kids were in bed, but we always sought to be a couple.

There are many ways we can seek our own in marriage. If we see ourselves as more important than the other, we will view our time as more important. While I certainly knew that Jason’s work had priority at times in our lives, I also knew that he valued my work in the home, with our kids, and in the community. He honored my time with family and willingly kept the kids for a Saturday shopping trip. The key is good communication. Talk about what each of your needs are. There will be times when one person needs more and in those moments, we humbly serve for the good of the whole family.

Love is not easily provoked.

Jason and I were brainstorming about how we can provoke or incite one another to frustration, anger, or even sadness in marriage.

One of the top ways we found to be a culprit was not listening to the feelings of the other. We both have different personalities and ways to express ourselves. Jason is not much of a talker. He listens while I talk. Normally, he does this with patience and grace. I can have a lot of words!(This is why he likes that I am writing…more time typing and less time talking his ear off. ha!) But Jason also likes his sleep. He has a mentally taxing job and doesn’t like to stay up late talking during the work week. I however, was usually busy until the kids went to bed and then had things to do to prep for the next day or my own hobbies to pursue. Right now, as almost empty-nesters, I write in the evenings after dinner and he has taken up guitar. It is easy to lose track of time. Then when I hear him moving downstairs for bed, I remember all the things I wanted to talk to him about from my day. 🙂 Well, he doesn’t want to talk at 11 pm at night, because he is tired. There are times when he does, but I have learned that it frustrates him when I could have come to talk to him at any point in the evening. Plus, once his head hits the pillow, it is difficult for him to stay awake enough to listen. This is just one very real way that I can provoke him to frustration. There are things that he does at times that he knows I find irritating. We both have to consider the other’s feelings and work on a solution for these issues. That is loving out of humility.

Love thinks no evil and rejoices in truth.

We should not automatically assume the worst about our spouse. If they are running late, it would be humble to stop and ask what happened before we scold or get mad. I understand that if there is past history of mistrust, this is even harder to do. But love does not jump to conclusions without evidence. It seeks the truth, even if that truth is hard to hear. Love doesn’t look for ways to punish one another or throw past mistakes back in their faces. Sometimes, we get in a pattern of nit-picking flaws and fail to see all of the good the other contributes.

Even in little things that are expected behavior…like picking up after themselves, filling the car with gas when it’s low, reading to a child before bed, or saying “I love you” are things that can be rejoiced in. Take the time to humbly acknowledge the good things you see in your spouse. Make it the norm not the exception.

Applying Truth

Humility is hard. It is unnatural and countercultural. As humans, we seek our own. But as Christians, who follow the example of Christ to humbly submit to one another in love.

In marriage, God calls us to live in mutual affection and love and to serve one another with humility. His example led Him to leave the power and glory of Heaven to ascend to a low, earthly state. His act was sacrificial and beneath Him. He is God and yet submitted to His Father’s will. Jesus is equal yet distinct to the Father. They are one.

This is the picture of a biblical marriage. A husband is to love and serve his wife as Christ modeled for the Church and for each of those in the body of Christ. His wife is an equal heir to the kingdom with her own distinction. Yet, they are one. They love and serve one another in humility. The husband is to be the leader, lovingly guiding his family to seek God and to make decisions for the good of the family. His needs aren’t more important than his wife’s. Her needs are not more important than his. It is a beautiful mystery when done in humility and love.

How can you show humility in your marriage today?

  1. Watch for when you spouse sighs or show signs of frustration. Is it due to your behavior in any way? Ask them what they are weary or frustrated over? If there a way to lighten their load?
  2. How are you spending your time? Do you demand too much attention or ignore their signals of loneliness and longing? Do you set aside time to make sure their needs are also being met? Have a conversation about what you both need and work together to carve out the time to meet these needs, whether individual or together. Schedule a date even if it means after the kids are in bed. If they want to pursue something, how can you work to make it a reality?
  3. Believe the best about your spouse. Be slow to anger. Ask questions before reacting.
  4. When you think about your spouse, what kind of thoughts emerge? If they are mostly negative, consider changing the narrative. When they mess up, do you throw it back in their face or do you seek to humbly see them restored and helped?
  5. Speak life over your spouse today. Acknowledge the ways they show up for you and the family no matter how small.
  6. Pray together and humbly ask God to strengthen your marriage.

Humility is hard, but it is the very mind of Christ. Will you join me in making every effort to honor our spouses and live humbly together as God’s people?

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  • Sondra

    This is a very good word, friend! Lots of good info to digest. Thanks for sharing so openly. A former pastor frequently used a phrase with his young boys to remind them to “prefer the other.” Perhaps he was inspired by the first scripture you shared, “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It struck me in reading that much of what brings success to a marriage is also important for other relationships. God is good and efficient in teaching us these truths!

    • terriprahl

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Sondra. Yes, having the mind and character of Christ will transform all of our relationships!

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