Testing Faithfulness

“A woman’s faithfulness is tested when her man has nothing.  A man’s faithfulness is tested when he thinks he has everything.”   Unknown source

This is a quote that would work perfectly on twitter (in fact, I might put it there.)  It encapsulates a truth that is apparent to everyone in a few words.  Most of the time what this quote says is true.  Why?

First it implies a marriage relationship.  (Yes, I know there are partnerships that form that are not legal marriages.  Yet, their commitment is often total just like that of a marriage. Both parties expect the other to be faithful.)  Second there is an undefined difference between how men and women see their relationship.  I read a column by “Dear Amy” where a man (in his mid twenties I am guessing) wrote to lament the recent marriage of an old girl friend that he still longed for.  What could he do? The answer?  Nothing.  Get over it.  I noted that the young man was living with his parents, had a menial job and no apparent prospects.  My first thought was “I doubt she is longing for you.”  He is a man who has nothing.  Yet he imagines that the love of his lost girl friend would solve everything.  It wouldn’t.

Ideally, we know there is something wrong with this.  Shouldn’t love be unconditional?  Material things don’t matter because they are not eternal.  None of it will last.

I am reminded of the famous poem by Percy Blythe Shelley inspired by the career of the great Ramesses II, perhaps the most effective and influential Pharoah in the history of Egypt.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

The dearest wife of Ramesses (he had eight at once and an unknown number of consorts but there is usually one wife who stands above the others) might have thought herself a very lucky woman.  Her husband had everything.  Yet she had to share him with a huge supply of other women.  Perhaps she was not happy at all?  Was Ramesses pleased to have so many women at his disposal?  Not if he tried to keep them all content.

My point is this.  Marriage is not a contract.  “I promise to do this if you promise to do that.”  That is a contract. When marriage is formed on this basis it is doomed to be miserable and possibly fail.  A woman who marries expecting her man to always be solvent enough to supply her with material goods will be dissatisfied.  A man who considers his wife a possession who should be satisfied so long as he supplies her with material goods is likewise doomed.

Since many marriages are really “if-then” contracts, the opening quote is often true.  Faithfulness is conditional based on whether the other party keeps the agreement.

It shouldn’t be this way.  We know it in our very soul.  Marriage should be eternal and full of grace.  The fact that it is often not so is a sign of the brokenness of life on earth.  God has a plan.

He  redeems and restores mankind to relationship with Himself via Christ on the cross.  He slowly change our hearts replacing the selfish and conditional love with unconditional love.  Then and only then, it is no longer true that “A woman’s faithfulness is tested when her man has nothing.  A man’s faithfulness is tested when he thinks he has everything.”

 

 Philippians 1 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB)

 

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