I can already hear the furious fingers typing a scathing response to this post. But before you hit send, hear me out. I understand where people are coming from when they say marriage is a ministry, or sometimes that marriage is your primary ministry. What they are saying is, “Marriage is extremely important and requires lots of time and attention to flourish”. I get it and agree with the premise however it does not follow that because marriage is important that it should be considered a ministry. I know that for some, this is topic is sacrosanct; a type of sacred cow, if you will, that must be revered. Well, I think it’s high time to kill this particular sacred cow. Here are the top 5 reason that marriage is NOT a ministry…
1. The Bible Does Not Call Marriage A Ministry
No where in the Bible is marriage referred to as a ministry. In fact, the two topics are not even addressed within the same paragraphs of scripture. The Bible treats them as separate, unrelated topics. To call marriage a ministry would be akin to calling sleeping a ministry. Technically I guess you could call anything a ministry but you’d be adding something to the word of God that is not there. Bottom line, if marriage is a ministry God forgot to add that bit to His word.
2. The Bible’s Definition Of Ministry Excludes Marriage Form Being One
If you look up ministry in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and Louw-Nida you can put the Biblical definition of ministry into two large categories. The first is an appointed office or position and the second is any act of service done to glorify the Lord.
In the first category- an appointed position, ministry can be split into two subsections; the ministry of the gospel and the ministry of the word. The ministry of the gospel is about preaching the gospel to the unsaved so that they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Now, unless you are in a missionary marriage, you know ‘flirt to convert’, then marriage does not fit into that biblical definition. Nor does marriage fit into the ministry of the word, where one has the official position of teaching other believers what the bible says and how to be more like Christ (If this is your idea of marriage as a ministry you need to jump down to number 4).
The second categorical definition of ministry is where, I’m assuming, most people justify marriage as a ministry. In the broadest sense this type of ministry means service of some sort. It can be financial, it can be serving food, or using your spiritual gifts to bless someone. There are two reasons that marriage does not fit this definition. The first is that there is a difference between ministering to someone and having a ministry. The biblical use of this category is the former and not the latter. For example when I lived in LA, there was a one armed homeless man that washed windows at the freeway entrance I took to work everyday. Most weeks, I would give him money 2-3 times a week. I was ministering to him on a regular basis, but I did not have a homeless ministry. In the same way, just because you minister to (serve) your spouse on a regular basis does not mean that is your ministry. Secondly, if you have a ministry to everyone you serve than your marriage is not your only ministry, indeed every single relationship you have is a ministry. The reason people say that marriage is a ministry is because marriage is important, when every relationship is a ministry, then the importance of marriage is reduced. Additionally, ministry is about having a specific focus. Its a simple fact, if every relationship is a ministry, then all of your relationships, including your marriage, stops being a ministry they are just relationships.
To sum up- the biblical definition of ministry just doesn’t fit marriage. It is biblically inaccurate to say that marriage is a ministry. You can co-opt ministry and give it a different definition to fit your preference, but in the end your standing on the sinking sand of personal preference not the solid rock of God’s word.
3. God Created Marriage For Companionship Not For Ministry
When God created Adam he gave him ministry in the loosest sense of the word. Adam was placed in the garden to tend and keep it, then he was given the task of naming all the animals. It’s in the context of his God given ministry that Adam is given a wife. Interestingly, God did not say, “It is not good that Adam doesn’t have a wife to minister to.” But He did say, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Why did God create the institution of marriage? One word: Companionship. According to God, the main purpose of marriage is companionship, or friendship. There was ministry involved in the beginning, but it is completely disassociated from Adam and Eve’s marriage. Ministry was something they did together but it was not a description of their marriage. Any interpretation that is contrary to that is not based on the biblical account.
So, after the first three points there is no need to for the last two reasons why marriage is not a ministry. I mean, biblically speaking the case is closed, the coffin is buried. But I committed to give five reasons why marriage is not a ministry and my momma didn’t raise no quiter! So, on to the final points…
4. Your Spouse Is A Person Not A Project
There is an inherent danger in all ministries; people are viewed as projects. Even when you know that, it is still easy to slip into seeing those you minister to as projects because you’re always trying to help people get to the next level with God, always trying to ‘fix’ them, their issues, and their paradigms. When you bring then mentality of ministry into your marriage, it can set you up for hard times. What is important to remember is that your spouse needs to be treated as a person not a project. Thinking of you marriage as a ministry makes it difficult to see and treat them as a person because you’re to busy trying to change or help them. Your spouse to someone you walk with life through not someone you minister to.
5. Marriage Is Not An Excuse To Not Do Ministry
Whenever someone tells me that their marriage is their ministry I ask if they are doing other ministry. 9 times out of 10 the response is, “No”. Bottom line, being in a marriage is not a good reason to not be in a ministry. It’s a cop out to justify doing nothing with your life by saying your marriage is your ministry. If there is no difference between your activities and the activities of your neighbor that is going to hell, you are lying to yourself.
All of us are called to have amazing marriages, to love and serve our spouses. Its the base line requirement, nothing special. On top of having an off the hook, God glorifying marriage you and I are also called to be serving in ministry.