Marriage: God First, Spouse Second, Children Third
Marriage is a hot button topic these days. The definition of marriage is challenged all around us, and the nuclear family is attacked by the secularized world. As the Humanae Vitae 2018 Symposium, held at the University of America, recently confirmed the nuclear family is in danger. Yet, it is vitally important to the common good of society. The prevalent use of contraception has had a disastrous effect on families and society as a whole. Instead of reducing the number of abortions, which was the stated intent, abortions have actually increased during the upswing of contraception. The cheapening of sex, and the decline of respect for the procreative aspect of the marriage bed, has much to do with this. Leaving God, and His command to ‘go forth and multiply’, has largely been abandoned as well, leaving us with up-side-down values.
“Fertility is not a disease to be treated but a blessing to cherish.” Deacon William Williams, M.D. of the Catholic Medical Association
With God-given instructions in mind, we find areas of conviction in need of improvement. To facilitate a turnaround in popular thinking it is a good idea to scrutinize our priorities. If we are to succeed in being a part of the reestablishment of society, it is imperative to look toward what it is that needs changing.
Any good Catholic can tell you that our priority lies in living the kind of life leading to the path toward Heaven. If Heaven is our ultimate goal, then God must be our first priority, for it is through Him that we have the opportunity of spending Eternity in His Presence. Yet, in a worldly sense, moral priorities often take a back set. In order to prepare immortal souls for their true purpose, we must reset our priorities and acknowledge that God comes first.
In a past post, I examined what my husband and I learned about the Sacrament of Matrimony. Yet, to my surprise, the order of priorities was met with resistance.
Children come third, after God (#1) and spouse (#2).
God’s nature definitely created an unbreakable bond when it came to offspring. The instinct of protection and nurture is a formidable force. This ensures the safety of the little ones and the furthering of the human race. As strong as these impulses are, a worthy spouse will never let children displace the primary earthly spot given to spouse.
According to the instructions my husband and I received before our wedding, and other sources, this should be obvious. Imagine my surprise when I received quite a bit of push-back on this order of priorities. After a few spirited exchanges, I further elaborated on my reasoning. To read the comments of others go to the combox here.
Where Spouse Fits In
Although the Bible doesn’t specifically lay out an order of relationship priorities, there do appear to be some general principles. These might be helpful in understanding the proper priorities and the reasons behind them. Obviously, there should be no disagreement with the fact that God comes first. A quick look at the Ten Commandments confirms this – the first 3 are related to Him.
In direct relationship to this, however, comes scriptural instruction for a married man. He is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Similarly, the wife is to submit to her husband ‘as to the Lord’. (Ephesians 5:22). This appears to support the perspective that spouses are second only to God. Since they are ‘one flesh’, this should be a two-way street of respect and mutual love.
Further, under the heading “The marriage bond” the CCC states:
1639 The consent by which the spouses mutually give and receive one another is sealed by God himself. From their covenant arises “an institution, confirmed by the divine law, . . . even in the eyes of society.” The covenant between the spouses is integrated into God’s covenant with man: “Authentic married love is caught up into divine love.”
How About The Children?
As a logical conclusion, this places the fruits of this divine love (the children) as the next natural priority. In this context we find the institution of the Domestic Church.
1666 The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church”. Ideally it a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.
I must admit that some may be thinking of this in different terms. Naturally, the physical needs of children (whether infant or disabled) must be dealt with on a practical, earthly priority scale. A grown man or woman can certainly deal with their own physical needs – food, shelter, etc. That really isn’t the point I am attempting to make. But even in this instance, care must be taken as to the soundness of the marriage. After all, the natural product of a good marriage is healthy, happy children who are given all they need whether it be spiritual, mental, or physical. Further, when the children mature and go their own way, the covenant that was first established between husband and wife remains.
God bless all marriages and families. As the family goes, so goes society. May we ever preserve our godly relationships!
It’s so funny because I know a woman with small children that believes this completely and spends about 7 hours a day in prayer while her kids wear dirty clothes and take ketchup sandwiches to school. Sometimes she isn’t even sure when the kids leave for school or when they come home because she doesn’t allow herself to be interrupted in her prayer time. The people who create these doctrines don’t even have children, they don’t realize how much they need a mom who is present and interested in them. Kids can’t live on mommy’s leftover time after God and her husband. Mothers are the most important influence in a child’s life and if she doesn’t show up to be the parent, who will? God can fix his own lunch, your kids need their mother. Total devotion to God will wait until your kids are grown and gone. Until then, limit prayer to times when they are asleep or at school.
In other words, a mother’s primary ministry is to be the mommy to her children.
That sounds like an unhealthy situation and yes, I agree that a mother’s primary objective should be the care of her children. Putting God first actually means caring for your children and putting them as well as your spouse first.
This can’t really be a fixed and Biblical order. John the Baptist and Jesus came to “Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of their children to their fathers.” That surely means that putting God first sometimes means putting the children first. If God wants that from the man at a given time, then the family should put the kids first. The order of God isn’t God, then spouse, then children. It’s God in Christ, Christ over man, man the head of the woman, and women over children.
The author already said something to that same effect.
“Naturally, the physical needs of children (whether infant or disabled) must be dealt with on a practical, earthly priority scale.”
There are also some times that the ‘authority’ (which is your later list) isn’t exactly that either.
None of these lists/orders is written in stone. The key is to do things with this order in mind—God, spouse, children. If you put God first, then, when you are following your vocation and caring for your spouse or children, you *are* putting God first. Like St Theresa of the Little Ways says you serve God best by doing little things the way your supposed to…