One of the most famous questions posed in Christian theology is found in the Westminster Catechism, which asks, “What is the chief end of man?” To which is answered, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
The catechism was developed by English and Sottish theologians in the 17th century. The question and answer response is still one of the more popular teaching tools used in many evangelical Sunday schools today.
I’ve been a marriage counselor for years, and now I’m a family pastor. So, when I think about the big questions of marriage, for some reason this creed comes to mind.
Let’s take a look at the catechism as it pertains to marriage. Please excuse the creative liberties. We might restate the phrase like this, “What is the chief end of marriage? The chief end of marriage is to glorify God and to enjoy marriage until death do us part.”
Let’s briefly unpack what that means.
We glorify God in our marriage by honoring our marriages. This instruction comes from Hebrews 13:4 which says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” To glorify someone or something means to honor it. To honor someone means that we hold them in high esteem. We treat that person as though they have great value.
According to Scripture, marriage should be honored by all and bring God glory by the way we treat our spouses. Some questions we should ask ourselves are, “Do I hold my spouse in high esteem?” And, “In what ways do my actions toward my spouse reflect they are valuable to me?”
Our marriages should also glorify God through praise. We bring praise to God when we maintain gratitude in our marriages. It’s easy to keep our spouse’s inventory of shortcomings and develop a critical spirit. It requires more diligence though to highlight their virtues.
Most marriage researchers agree that a critical attitude in marriage will eventually lead to resentment toward a spouse. This is what Jesus referred to as “hardness of heart.”
In order to combat this, we should focus our minds and hearts on the things that are praiseworthy in our spouse. This could range from physical appearance and attributes, to talents and character qualities.
If you haven’t tried this, I would recommend keeping a marital gratitude journal for a week. Each day, look for and list as many praiseworthy things about your spouse as you can. Then observe the effect it has on your marriage.
Exaltation is another key way we glorify God in marriage. To exalt someone is to acknowledge their greatness. When we exalt God, we are proclaiming that He is greater than us. When we exalt our spouse, we take on a similar posture to communicate that they come before us. Philippians 2:4 teaches us, “Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Jesus gives us a clear example of exalting others in a principle known as the lesser seat. Jesus taught when you go to a wedding feast, don’t grab the best seat reserved for someone of high honor. Someone else will come along and make you move because of their importance, and then you’ll be embarrassed.
Instead, you should take the lesser seat, then perhaps you’ll be bumped up to a higher position. Jesus said, “‘For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’” (Luke 14:11).
In God’s economy, humility precedes greatness. Exaltation is a fundamental value for a great marriage.
Lastly, marriage should be enjoyed by husband and wife. Don’t let anyone tell you that God doesn’t want you to be happy, He just wants you to be holy. That’s found nowhere in Scripture. What we find in Scripture is that He wants both. It’s an issue of value alignment that determines the outcome.
I can’t help but notice the order in the Westminster Catechism. It first states that we should glorify God, then we enjoy Him forever. I think this is true in marriage as well. When we strive to glorify God in our marriage, the byproduct is an enjoyable marriage. When we seek to enjoy ourselves apart from God, we get neither.
Matthew 6:33 proclaims, “‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you’” (NKJV).
God definitely wants you to have an enjoyable marriage. It is one of those things He adds to our relationship with Him. And if we seek to honor, praise and exalt Him with our lives, we will enjoy Him and everything He adds to our lives, especially our marriages.
Nathan Thompson is Family Ministry leader at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus.