Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourself, not looking to our interest but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.
Philippians 2:3-9 NIV
This Biblical truth is the only true path to marital blessing. All the marriage counseling in the world and all the marriage books ever written can never replace a husband and a wife who take God’s truth seriously in this passage of Holy Scripture and live it out. This passage of scripture revolutionized my marriage and brought the blessing of God into my marital life in profound ways.
Shortly after Kathy and I got married I noticed a very curious thing begin to happen inside of me. I found that every single day I had certain expectations of Kathy. I expected her to be super affectionate. I expected her to be verbally encouraging. I expected her to act every single day like she was madly in love with me. I expected her to meet my needs, after all, wasn’t that why God created her? Isn’t that why God created a helpmate for a man? I soon discovered that my expectations were seldom met to my full satisfaction. Truthfully I was shocked. I felt hurt and it made me frustrated and angry.
In all seriousness, this line of reasoning seemed very logical to me, it seemed reasonable and well within my rights as a husband. I am certain that I am not the only husband to have ever thought these things, and through the years I have come to realize wives also have their own set of expectations, that they too are often frustrated, let down, and get angry.
After several years of conflict, arguments, emotional tensions, and much frustration, I began to wonder “What the heck is wrong?!” Was it possible that my expectations are wrong? Is it possible that my mindset is completely wrong about marriage? The answer, of course, was ABSOLUTELY! I had been brainwashed by lies. My presuppositions were all wrong, leading me to wrong conclusions and wrong expectations.
As a Christian, the only program or app that is compatible with our new life from God and in a Christian marriage is found in Philippians 2:3-9. God wants us to change our mindset, to change what is pre-set in our minds! God wants us to change our attitude! God wants us to change our expectations. God wants us to change our hard wired programming, and insert a new mindset, a new attitude, one that is based on the very life of Jesus Christ. One that imitates his divine example. It starts with how I think and what I believe is the appropriate way for me to now live in my relationship with my spouse.
The other amazing truth about these passages of scripture is that it is also the only way you and I as a Christian will ever be truly fulfilled and satisfied. For as Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive. When we lose our life, we find true life, and experience real life! When we die to ourselves we actually live!”
We tend to think like Janet Jackson’s song, “What have you done for me lately?!” Or Whitney Houston’s, “The Greatest Love of All,” “learning to love yourself it is the greatest love of all”. These musical hooks play over and over in our minds. However, both of these are absolute lies. They are the exact opposite of Jesus Christ’s mindset. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than this than a man lays down his life for his friends/spouse!”
God began to take a wrecking ball to my selfish mentality. God began to show me the tremendous error of my ways. God began to reveal to me the wonderful life of blessing that I would experience if I dared to live this new way of life and embrace this new way of thinking.
So I set out to reprogram my mind, I set out to change the very way I dealt with Kathy daily.
1 Cor. 13 tells us the identical truth, “Love is not self-seeking, love does not demand its way.”
I started practicing putting Kathy’s interests before my own. What did she want? What would she like right now? What is best for her? How can I lay down my life, my rights for her today? I applied it to all aspects of our relationship. Our physical and intimate relationship. Serving her around the home. How many children we had. What kind of vehicles I bought. Financial decisions like supplements and vitamins, which are not a high priority to me, but Kathy believes are very important for her and her health. What would give her the best sleep at night? Does it help her if I run the AC more often, even though it costs more money to do so? It helps her with her allergies, therefore I do it!
I found that it brought me joy to put her needs and interests before my own. It ministered to my soul when I deliberately sought to refresh and encourage her and not worry about myself. As Proverbs states, “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
I could go on and on and on in great detail of all the ways I applied this passage of scripture in Philippians 2 to my marriage. It is astounding how many applications there are for this truth in your marriage. A simple example: I drive a Honda Civic, it gets almost 40 miles per gallon. However, it is hard on Kathy’s back to get in and out of. Therefore, whenever we drive together, I drive the Toyota van which is very easy for her to get in and out of, much better for her back but gets only 19 miles per gallon. The Honda is easy on my pocketbook, but hard on her back. The van is harder on my pocketbook but easier on her back. Her interest wins out! Why? Because God commands it so in the Bible verses at the beginning of this article.
I have trained my mind to think in terms of Kathy’s interests first. Kathy has trained her mind to think in terms of my interests first. Because of this, we have a wonderful, fulfilling, meaningful marriage.
God’s ways always work in real life, if you have the guts to do them.
Here is an assignment for you to do. Sit down with a piece of paper and ask yourself, “What would it look like to set aside my rights like Jesus Christ did, and put the interests of my spouse ahead of my interests?” Consider all aspects of your marriage relationship. I think you will be stunned by what you discover and write down. Make a list for yourself. Your marriage will live long and prosper if you do.