Contradictions?

The title of the blog, “He who finds a wife…” is from Proverbs 18:22. This verse is sorta where I started when I began studying what the Bible has to say about marriage. I’m not arguing with the Word on this one, but judging from current trends, a lot of people in this country might disagree. I’m sure most of us could come up with some sort of anecdotal evidence refuting Proverbs, but could you find a Bible verse that disagrees?

He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the LORD.
– Proverbs 18:22

This verse is easy enough to understand on its face, but if you recall what Paul says about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, things could be confusing.

 “Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” – 1 Corinthians 7:27

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned…[y]et those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” – 1 Corinthians 7:28

So are wives (and marriage) a good thing? Who’s right, Proverbs or Paul? Both and nope. I’m not going to try to write a bunch of perfectly reasoned theological theses in this blog, so here’s the simplest explanation I can come up with for what seems like a disagreement in the texts.

In Proverbs 18:22, “good,”means that marriage is good for us in a Romans 8:28 kind of way, not an, “everything will always be awesome,” kind of way. Romans 8:28 reminds us that everything in our lives leads toward our ultimate benefit; this is an especially helpful reminder through difficult times and painful circumstances. So while Proverbs certainly means “good” in the normal sense, it also means that God is going to use every part of a marriage for the ultimate good of those involved. The ultimate good I’m talking about is knowing and becoming more like Christ. This process is called sanctification. If marriage makes us more like Christ then that’s certainly a “good thing” for everyone involved. But if marriage is for our sanctification, then why would Paul say it’s better not to marry? Paul isn’t saying that a marriage is bad in these verses, he just thinks singleness is better.

 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. –             1 Corinthians 7:32-35

So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. – 1 Corinthians 7:38

So while Proverbs 18:22 and portions of 1 Corinthians 7 may seem to contradict one another, I think it’s pretty clear that they actually agree.

Besides, we’re ignoring the whole, “the reason you’ll marry is so you better understand Christ’s relationship to the church,” knowledge-bomb Paul drops in Ephesians 5. If marriage was meant to teach us about Jesus, then Paul’s gonna be all for it. So, yes, Proverbs 18 and Paul agree.

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