Here’s a question for those of you in some type of ministry role: has ministry helped or hurt your marriage?
In part one we will examine a simple question that may provide insight.
It all depends on how you answer the three questions we will ask in this series, starting with:
- Are you self-reliant?
When Jesus was tested by Satan after his baptism the first temptation came through these words:“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
How was this a temptation? Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting, and as the Son of God he had the ability to turn stones into bread. What’s the big deal?
This was a temptation because Satan was enticing Jesus to meet a legitimate need (hunger) in an illegitimate way (right now through his own efforts). Jesus had a decision to make: “Do I finish my fast and then eat the food my father provides when he decides to provide it, or do I take care of this hunger right now myself?”
Changing the stones to bread in that instance would have meant choosing self-reliance over God-dependency.
It’s counterintuitive, but the one thing God’s people have never handled well is success. We see the pattern over and over again with Israel: they are oppressed by their enemies, they cry out to God in faith and humility, God rescues them, they become prosperous, they forget about God and rely upon themselves, they are oppressed by their enemies…
The sin of self-reliance is reserved for the strong and successful. The weak and broken are not susceptible. Self-reliance is sin because we elevate ourselves above God in our hearts, and that’s idolatry.
The glory of self-reliance is that I take all the credit when I can make it happen. The misery of self-reliance is that I take all the blame when everything falls apart, which it always does. Yes, we know it will eventually fall apart because God actively resists us when we trust in ourselves. James 4:6 says it plainly, God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.
In our marriage my self-reliant attitude created within me a critical and judgmental spirit, especially toward Sandi. I was able to do this or that without any help, why wasn’t she? The more I took upon my shoulders the more I felt like her parent instead of her husband. I wanted her to become dependent upon me – it made me feel better about myself but at the same time undermined my respect for her. Choosing self-reliance over God-dependency took its toll on our relationship in two ways: first, I looked down upon Sandi because she was not as “strong” as I was. Second, when the pressure became too intense and it all came crashing down I was emotionally taken out of our marriage. She was abandoned as I retreated into my anger and depression.
Next time: Do you need the approval of others?