The Generous Marriage (Proverbs 11:22-31)

Generous-Marriage
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The Generous Marriage
Sunday, February 11th, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Proverbs 11:22-31 (NKJV)

22       As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.
23       The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
24       There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25       The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
26       The people will curse him who withholds grain, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
27       He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.
28       He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like foliage.
29       He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind, And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30       The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.
31       If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner.

Prayer

Father, we thank you for this wisdom contained in Proverbs. We thank you for the blessing of marriage, and children, and the unique challenges that come from all these relationships. And so we ask now for your Holy Spirit to be upon us, that spirit of love which is the bond of unity and peace and the source of our joy. We ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

Next Sunday, Pastor Dave Hatcher from Trinity Church will be coming down to preach for me. And I asked Dave to preach on the topic of “Parenting in the Middle Years,” so how do you raise middle schoolers and teenagers into faithful adults. And then the Sunday after that, I will give a sermon on the biblical doctrine of work. And then after that we’ll try to get back into Mark’s gospel So consider today and next Sunday, and the Sunday after, a little mini-series on the family.

The title of my sermon is “The Generous Marriage.” And I want to consider this section of Proverbs from the perspective of the Christian Household, and particularly the relationship between husband and wife. So what does it mean to be a generous husband or a generous wife? That is the question I want to answer with help from Proverbs.

Now one of the things we all like about Proverbs, or at least should like about it, is that Proverbs is an eminently practical book. Or at least it appears to be. Proverbs “keeps it real” with how people actually are, with how life in the “real world” actually is.

  • You read Proverbs and get this sense that there is cosmic justice in the world. The righteous are rewarded, the wicked are punished. The good guys win, the bad guys lose. And for those of us who struggle to follow and understand long and complicated logical arguments (like Paul’s letters), Proverbs condenses things into two lines, or one sentence. Here is the cause and here is the effect. If you do this, this is the result. Proverbs is given to make simple people wise. It is the book for teenagers and young people with short attention spans.
  • So Proverbs is kind of like God’s twitter feed. Solomon has gathered all of the good common sense and street smarts that a young man needs as he enters adulthood and puts it all in one place.
    • And because finding a wife is high on the priority list for a young man, a young prince, Solomon has collected some sage advice about what to look for and what to avoid in a potential spouse. He also gives advice for how to maintain fidelity and love after you are married.
  • To give you one example, Solomon says in Proverbs 5:17-20, “Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?”
  • So God wants a husband to be intoxicated always with the love of his wife, to delight in her, to enjoy her, to find satisfaction in her, and that is the strongest antidote to infidelity (to the seductress) that there is. In modern terms, we might say, “In marriage, the best defense is a good offense.”
  • So that is just one example of Solomon’s marriage advice, and what we want to know is how do you get and sustain that kind of intoxication and enrapture of love in marriage, “until death do us part?” Is it really possible to have a happy and loving marriage all your days?
    • Well, the answer God gives in Scripture is essentially, “Yes, but it’s going to take a lot of work.” And the kind of work that a husband and a wife must engage in, is chiefly a work of generosity. A work of giving oneself to the other, a work of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and spending and being spent for one another. And this radical generosity is only possible with the help of One whose very nature is generosity, namely God.
    • Two of God’s essential attributes are that God is Good and that God is Love. And together this is what we call generosity, to bestow goodness upon another. Goodness is simply what all creatures desire, and love is the hand that satisfies that desire.
      • Psalm 145:16 says of God, “Thou openest thine hand, And satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”
      • Psalm 104:28 says, “You open Your hand, they are filled with good.”
      • So to be generous is who God is in His very essence. It is who God is as the Blessed Trinity. It is what God reveals by creating the world and calling it all “good,” and most supremely, it is what God does to redeem this fallen creation as that most famous verse of John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    • So the foundation of all generosity, whether in marriage or outside of it, is the very nature of God. It is the very shape of the Trinity that the Father eternally gives/begets/communicates the Divine Essence, His very goodness to the Son, and together as one principle they breathe forth the Holy Spirit whose personal name is Love and Gift.
    • When the New Testament speak of spiritual gifts or graces, this is none other than the action of God’s love and goodness working within you.
      • Those who have the Holy Spirit, bear the fruit of the spirit, among which are love and goodness (Gal. 5:22).
      • Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 that there are many good and wonderful spiritual gifts, and you should earnestly desire them, but the greatest gift is supernatural love.
    • It is this love and goodness that descends from God that is the only way you can have a marriage full of generosity. Put another way, apart from Christ, there is no hope for your marriage. Both the power and example of Jesus Christ, and His bleeding love for the church, and the church’s submission to Him as bridegroom, is the engine for generosity between husband and wife.
    • We are such sinful and selfish creatures by default, that we need outside help. Left to ourselves, we will only make ourselves and one another miserable. You need divine help to dwell within you. And from that infinite ocean and superabundant goodness that is God, we too can pour forth goodness into others.
    • That is the foundation for a lifelong and joy-filled marriage. Now with that as the foundation, we can turn and consider each of these proverbs and try to make some application to our marriages. How specifically can we be generous in marriage?

Verse 22

22       As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.

  • What a comical picture the Scripture paints. A pig, a muddy sow, with a valuable gold ring in its nose, and God says, if you lack discretion that’s what you are like.
  • Is that insulting? Yes. But it’s the kind of insult that comes from a father who loves you.
    • The first audience here is really a young man looking for a wife. Stay away from a woman who talks too much, who is immodest, imprudent, and indiscrete. If she follows a bunch of vanity accounts on Instagram, don’t ask her out.
    • The Apostle Peter states similarly in 1 Peter 3 saying, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
  • So in Scripture and in reality there are two kinds of beauty. There is beauty that fades and beauty that does not fade. There is beauty that is corruptible, and there is beauty that is incorruptible. Both beauties are good but one is more valuable. External, physical beauty is good, but it does not last. Whereas internal and spiritual beauty is good now and forever.
    • Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8, the all the men, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
    • So external beauty, like physical strength, is good and glorious but temporary. You are going to get old. You are going to get weak. And therefore budget your time and energy accordingly.
  • God wants women to be beautiful, and he created you women to desire to be beautiful. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, “woman is the glory of man.” Woman is the crown of all creation. And while external beauty is good and has its place, without discretion, without modesty, without a quiet and gentle spirit to accompany it, God says you are like a ring of gold in a ping’s snout.
  • So wives, one of the ways you can be generous to your husband is by cultivating this most excellent virtue and quality of discretion. Yes, do your hair. Yes, try to look pretty for your husband. But prize discretion above all of that.
  • What is discretion?
    • Discretion is verbal and emotional self-control. It is restraining yourself from the need to tell everyone everything all the time.
    • And this is not merely a personality difference between introverts and extroverts, discretion is about appropriate timing.
    • It says in Ecclesiastes 3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”
  • Discretion is knowing what season it is, and what to do in it. It is the habit of constantly asking the Lord, in every circumstance, how can I please you with my attitude and actions? Do I really need to share/say this?
    • It says in James 3:6-8, “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
    • How many petty fights and fruitless squabbles could have been avoided if you had simply kept your mouth shut? This goes for both husbands and wives of course, but either way, nobody wants to be a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
    • And so Solomon charges us, but especially beautiful women (who might be tempted to trust in their beauty, Ezek. 16:15) to learn discretion. If you want to be generous to your husband, become like the virtuous wife of whom it says in Proverbs 31, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life” (Pr. 31:11-12).
    • Husbands, can you say that about your wife? If not, it is your responsibility to figure out how to get her there.
    • Wives, if your husband cannot say that about you, why not? What needs to change in you, so that he can praise extol your virtues?
    • A generous marriage is built on love and trust, and we should all, husband and wife, be seeking to grow in our discretion of what season it is. Is it a time speak, or a time to be silent? Is it a time to sit down face to face, or is it time to work back to back and side by side in the work God has given you? Discretion is all about knowing what time it is, and what God wants you to do in that moment.

Continuing in verses 23-26 we have an assortment of proverbs about how God blesses the generous. As we give to others, God pours back into us. Or as Jesus says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is Solomonic wisdom.

Verses 23-26

23       The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
24       There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25       The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
26       The people will curse him who withholds grain, But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

  • The vast majority of marital conflicts come from forgetting that you are one-flesh with your spouse. You and your wife are not on opposite teams, you are on the same team. And God says, you are as one person, husband is head, wife is the body. Just like Christ is the head, and the church is his body.
    • Paul says in Ephesians 5:28, “men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”
    • So when you love your spouse, you are in an indirect way doing what is best for you. By being a generous soul to your spouse, and giving to them, you are the one becoming rich! “By watering them, God waters you.”
    • Marriage is not zero-sum game. Marriage is not a competition between rivals. God intended marriage to be a win-win scenario for both husband and wife. And when you put your spouse’s interests above your own, you do as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being,” then you are becoming like Jesus. And regardless of whether your spouse reciprocates or not, you are doing what pleases God and that is what all of us should be living for.
    • You cannot control how your spouse responds, but you can control you, and that is all God is asking you to control. If Jesus commands you to love your enemies, how much more ought you love the person who is one-flesh with you?
    • When we wound our spouse, we are wounding ourselves. No sane man shoots his own kneecap. And yet that is what you are doing when you sin against your spouse.
    • So this is the principle of marriage that you have to drill into your head: Genesis 2:24, “the two shall be one flesh.” We are one flesh together. “What is good for you in God’s eyes, is good for both of us.”
  • Consider verse 24 from the lens of marital generosity.  “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.”
    • In this proverb, one person is being stingy and tightfisted, and that stinginess actually impoverishes them. They hurt themselves by their own fear of relinquishing something they really want. Whereas, the one who scatters and gives and is open-handed with what God has given, increases more and more. You get richer by giving.
    • Now apply this to the marriage bed. When sexual intimacy becomes weaponized or used as tool or bargaining chip to get something else that you want, it is yourself that you are robbing.
      • God intended the marriage bed to be a place of mutual generosity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
      • So here is one place where there is “total equality” in marriage. The husband does not have authority over his own body, the wife does. And the wife does not have authority over her own body, the husband does. And what is this authority used for, bringing pleasure to the other.
      • “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time.” This means communicate, talk about what your desires are, what do you hope for in this season of life. Ask your spouse, how I can be more generous to you in this part of our marriage? I’ll leave that there.
  • Continuing in Verse 25 it says, “The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.”
  • So how rich do you want to be? How good of a marriage do you want to have? Many people are just content with the status quo and don’t realize that you can be enraptured and intoxicated with one another’s love if you obey God. That is the big if.

Now I want to highlight one potential pitfall for those who of you desire to be more generous.

  • Think of generosity as like a great fountainhead of water that is just gushing out of you.
    • Jesus says in John 4:14 to the woman at the well, “the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
  • So the fountain of God’s love is flowing, and the question is who do you give this living water to first?
  • Well, this is where I have seen many people go wrong. They overlook those closest to them, because they think generosity is only for those outside and far away from us. They think that hospitality is just serving the poor and needy, but not your own household. This is the false dichotomy that well-meaning people can fall into.
    • This is the missionary who sells everything and goes to evangelize some distant foreign tribe but does so at the expense of his wife and children. The missionary thinks he is being generous, and to the tribe indeed perhaps he is. But the generosity that God wants us from us, is like a growing river. It starts in us and goes outward watering everyone along the way. Jesus says to love your neighbor, and that begins with the neighbor closest to you, namely your wife, and then your children, and from there on outward.
      • Generosity and hospitality must begin in our own soul, and only after we have drenched our own marriage and household with love and goodness, are we qualified to give real goodness to anyone else.
      • It does you no good to invite more distant neighbors into your home, if your home is a place of bitterness, resentment, and enmity.
      • Nobody wants to be a guest at your table if there is no love between husband and wife and children.
  • So prioritize your generosity as God commands.
    • Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
      • So do good to everyone but prioritize your church body.
    • Or consider Proverbs 13:22, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”
      • So this is a charge to parents and grandparents. Plan, save, and be generous to your children and grandchildren. And don’t feel bad about it. Don’t be that wealthy billionaire who gives all his money to charity and not a dime to his own flesh. That is not biblically ordered generosity, and it will only provoke resentment.
    • There’s a great story from Jim Wilson (Doug Wilson’s dad), who was a marvelous evangelist. And he would have people over to his house for counseling. And one day little Doug Wilson kept running into the room and interrupting their meeting. And the person being counselled was annoyed and asked Jim, hey can do you something about this?
      • And Jim in his blunt way said, “He’s more important than you.”
      • Jim Wilson knew his priorities. He knew that his children were his qualification to minister grace to anyone else.
      • And it was that kind of thing that taught little Doug Wilson, what God the Father is like.
    • God is not too busy for you. God is not preoccupied with other people’s problems. God is not so far away that he will not drop everything, get down on the floor and wrestle with you. God is good and God is love in his very essence. It is the Father’s name and nature to give, to beget, and to pour forth very being.
    • And that is what we as earthly husbands and fathers should want to imitate and communicate (in our very finite and imperfect way) to our wife and children. “You are more important.”

Conclusion

God wants you to be happy. God wants you to possess a joy that no-one and no-thing can take from you (John 16:22). And that indestructible gladness and joy is found exclusively in God. It says in Psalm 43:4, “I will go unto the altar of God, Unto God my exceeding joy.”

  • The only way to participate in God’s superabundant and overflowing joy, is to first participate in God’s goodness and love. To become like the most blessed and happy God, you must acquire a generous soul, you must be willing as the Apostle Paul says, “to spend and be spent” for your wife, for your children, for your people, for your God.
  • For this is what God has done for us. He has given Himself, He has given His Son, He is the very Gift and Love that our hearts yearn for, and as St. Augustine said, our heart is restless O God, until it finds its rest in thee. May you know this peace, love, and joy in your marriage.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
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