Martin Luther: On Marriage

The following are some quick quotes from Martin Luther on the estate of marriage (quotes are copied from “A Monk Marries” from Christian History Magazineissue 39, 1993).

  • There’s a lot to get used to in the first years of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow that were not there before.
  • If I should ever marry again, I would hew myself an obedient wife out of stone.
  • I have been very happy in my marriage, thank God. I have a faithful wife, according to Solomon: “They heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (Prov 31:11). She spoils nothing for me.
  • When one looks back upon it, marriage isn’t so bad as when one looks forward to it.
  • Married fold are not to act as they now usually do. The men are almost lions in their homes, hard toward their wives and servants. The women, too, everywhere want to domineer and have their husbands as servants.
  • Of course, the Christian should love his wife.  He is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.
  • When that wise harlot, natural reason, looks at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Ah, should I rock the baby, wash diapers, make the bed, smell foul odors, watch through the night, wait upon the bawling youngster and heal its infected sores, then take care fo the wife, support her by working, tend to this, tend to that, do this, do that, suffer this, suffer that, and put up with whatever additional displeasure and trouble married life brings? Should I be so imprisoned?”
  • The Devil cannot bear to see married people agree well with each other.
  • It is impossible to keep peace between man and woman in family life if they do not condone and overlook each other’s faults but watch everything to the smallest point. For who does not at times offend?
  • Some marriages were motivated by mere lust, but mere lust is felt even by fleas and lice. Love begins when we wish to serve others.
  • The purpose of marriage is not pleasure and ease but the procreation and education of children and the support of a family… People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because the despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.
  • To have peace and love in a marriage is a gift that is next to the knowledge of the gospel.
  • In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise, I am led by the Holy Ghost.

Burning the Word

“As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words were afraid, nor did they tear their garments.”
Jeremiah 36:23-24

In Jeremiah 36 there is an amazing account of Jehoiakim, the wicked king of Judah, actually burning the Word of the Lord. Without getting into too much of the back story, Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, did evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 23:36), he “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Kings 24:5), and he even rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, leading to his capture and imprisonment.  Throughout the writings of Jeremiah, we also see that Jehoiakim had a strong dislike for the prophet of God.

Jeremiah had been threatened with death, banned from the house of the Lord, he had been ordered not to prophecy, all under Jehoiakim’s authority.  It is surprising then, that in chapter 36, the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down all the words that the Lord had spoken against Israel and Judah, so that the house of Judah would hear, “so that everyone may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and sin” (Jer. 36:3).  After all the rebellion, after all the idolatry, after all the wickedness, God is still merciful and sends His word that they may turn from their sins and be healed.

We are told then that Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, writes down all of the Lord’s words that Jeremiah had spoken, and takes the scroll to the house of the Lord.  When the scroll is read before the people, I believe the kings officials are grieved for their sins.  They are overcome with fear (Jer. 36:15), and they make plans to read the word to the king, after ensuring that Baruch and Jeremiah are safely hidden away.

However, as the scroll was read to Jehoiakim, “the king would cut (the columns) off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire… Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words were afraid, nor did they tear their garments” (Jer 36:23-24). In an ultimate act of defiance and rebellion, Jehoiakim destroyed the very word that was meant to give him life. Though the word of the Lord convicted him of his sin, it was only so that he and all the nation could turn from sin and be forgiven.

As the chapter concludes, Jeremiah has Baruch write another scroll with all of the words of the Lord. This time, however, there is no promise of forgiveness given to Jehoiakim, only one of judgment and doom.

I highly doubt that anyone reading this would ever be so defiant as to cut passages out of the Bible and burn them. But there are more subtle acts of defiance that are still as damning.

  • We bury our Bibles – not in the ground – but under layers of dust, under piles of other books.  Which is worse, to hear the word and throw it into the fire, or to simply stop listening to the word at all?  An old adage that I heard long ago says, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”  We know that when we read it, the Bible will convict us of our sin, and call us to the righteousness of Christ, and so we don’t even pick it up to read it.
  • We edit the word – In order to justify ourselves, we often find ways to change the meaning of words or to relegate whole arguments to “cultural context.”  We’ve come to point where whole denominations can read “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh…” (Gen 2:24), and, with a straight face, say that marriage can be between two people of any gender. Is this not a greater sin? Jehoiakim didn’t try to twist the words of God, he just threw them in the fire.  Selectively reading or editing God’s word is the practice of the Devil, who first asked, “Did God really say…?”

The word of God comes to us to show us our sin, not that we would be overcome with guilt, but that we would be saved through our redeemer Jesus Christ.  Do not neglect His word, but daily read it, hear it, and let Him put to death in you the sin that separates you from God.  Do not try to justify yourself in the light of Scripture by twisting or overlooking God’s word, but allow His word to cut to the very core of your being (Heb 4:12), revealing your sin, but also cleansing you by His grace in Jesus Christ.  Come to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and know the forgiveness He freely gives to all who receive Him by faith.

SDG