Target. Netflix. Chick-fil-A.
What do all three of these have in common? If you guessed “drains on my bank account,” you’d be right. But the correct answer is consumerism.
Guess what’s not on the list: marriage.
A consumer mindset is fine when you’re ordering at the drive-thru or deciding which streaming series to binge, but it’s not okay when it comes to choosing a mate or being married to that mate.
The Bible’s picture of marriage is radically different and explicitly counter-consumer. In Ephesians, Paul tells his readers:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
— Ephesians 5:22–30
Did you catch that? Do you see the sacredness of God’s marital design? It is the very picture of Christ himself, wooing, caring for, and providing for his beloved bride, his Church. The Church is his very body. No wonder he cares for it so deeply. In a very real sense, it is a part of him.
As a tangible expression of Christ’s union with his Church, marriage is in a league all its own. No other human institution comes close. As the Church, we are to care for one another as members of Christ’s body (see 1 Corinthians 12:26), but in marriage, this idea is elevated even further to the level of Christ’s supreme love for the Church. There are no other fitting comparisons.
But there are contenders.
These contenders want to replace the sacredness of marriage with a counterfeit version that cheapens marriage into something far less meaningful. They reduce marriage to a mere contractual agreement or worse, a consumer arrangement where each person is in it for themselves for as long as it pleases them. But when the contract gets breached, or the pleasure wears off, what then?
However, the biblical version of marriage is none of these things. It is not contractual. It is consensual. In God’s design for marriage, the husband consents every day to give himself for his wife, and the wife consents every day to submit to her husband because that is how Christ loved the Church, and how the Church is meant to respond. In marriage, the gospel is on full display. Christ gave himself for the Church on the cross, but he also gave himself for her every single day of his ministry as he taught, healed, and served. Everything he did was for her benefit and for his Father’s glory. When we maintain marriage at the level it was conceived to be, we will do the same.
Sound like too high of a calling? It is. But even though we will never attain the perfect selflessness of Christ for his Church or fulfill his call to perfect submission, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it. After all, the closer we approach the ideal, the closer we come to experiencing marriage for all that it was intended to be, and this truth from Matthew comes most vividly to life:
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
— Matthew 10:39
If you want a deep, fulfilling marriage, don’t look to society’s norms of contractualism and consumerism. Look instead to the sacrificial love of Jesus toward his Church and to her submission to him, and you will see what marriage is truly meant to be.
And you can save your consumerism for your chicken sandwich.