The Marriage Advantage
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith once again. Thank you also for your prayers and support. I am overwhelmed by a sense of my unworthiness and uselessness in the cause of God without Christ in my life. But to be a servant in the cause of Christ is the only thing I want to do. I need Him more than ever. So, please continue to pray for me and for Keep the Faith and our dedicated team. Thank you also for your confidence in our work. So many of you write to me or share your thoughts with me. I really appreciate it.
To start with, I would like to share with you a very encouraging statement that has often been a huge blessing to me. In a world of confusion and false ideals and contradictory messages, this statement gives me a sense of the bigness of God. It tells me that I can trust the Holy One of Israel, the almighty God, to give heavenly guidance, Christian strength and Bible maturity in the midst of the wicked and corrupt generation we have now. It is also a great comfort in uncertain times. It is from the wonderful book Ministry of Healing, page 417. Listen carefully.
“Above the distractions of the earth [God] sits enthroned; all things are open to His divine survey; and from His great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best.”
Isn’t that a wonderful statement, my friends? If you take some time to think about it, you can almost sense a connection to that calm eternity in which there is no disunity, no war, no fighting of any kind, no divorce, no child abuse and no impurity. Oh, what a wonderful day that will be, when we can all gather in that calm eternity around our heavenly Father’s throne and bask in the unrivaled atmosphere, love and song of heaven. Perhaps we’ll need 1000 years just to unwind, just to fully relax and take it all in. The curse will be over. Sin and wickedness will not plague us anymore. The precious hours we spend in Bible study and reflection here on earth are a foretaste of that great day. They infuse a little of heaven’s peace and calm into our hearts. May God help us all be there.
Today, my subject is on the topic of marriage and its consequences on children and families and on society. No one single factor can be more damaging to a child’s chances of security and success in life, than a home with only one parent, or a home in an alternative relationship to biblical marriage. On the other hand, no one single factor can be more helpful to a child’s success in life and to our society’s future than the honest-to-goodness, biblical marriage. Many scientific studies have borne this out, especially in recent times.
Yet, there are those that are determined to destroy this God-given institution. The secular left has an agenda to destroy the family and all of traditional and biblical morality that has been the undergirding of national greatness. But the scheme is personally devastating as well.
The secular left, and many on the right, have no idea that they are being manipulated and played by the enemy of souls who is determined to keep as many souls out of heaven as possible. Imagine the devastating power of a social order on the salvation of souls that has no family at its foundation. Confusion and passion bear sway and hardly anyone understands why society is crumbling. Today, we have all manner of confusion, including gender identity, morality, right and wrong, authority and a host of other principles. The family, and consequently society, is being frayed at the seams, and it has lead to an ever-increasing stream of violence and bloodshed poured into the streets, schools and homes of our neighborhoods.
The family is the most basic unit of society. And therefore, it is the special target of the enemy. And over the last 50 years or more, he has been able to largely destroy the ideal of stable, secure families and the influence and protection they bring to the social order of all western civilizations.
It is more than mere coincidence that the family is being undermined by a malicious movement that intends to overthrow the family. To do so, it must overthrow Christianity, and in particular make it impossible for the last generation to understand, let alone proclaim the three angels messages of Revelation 14. Through society, the enemy is aiming to destroy God’s last message and its messengers if he can, by destroy everything that is good and noble. Without solid, stable, secure and thriving marriages, God would not be able to develop mature examples of His character in the world in these last days. Without stable, secure families, society is falling to pieces in the name of equality and justice. And we blame anyone but ourselves.
In the context of the end-times, we need to understand the marriage advantage. So let us bow our heads and ask for God’s presence as we study these things today.
Our Father in heaven, we pray that Your presence through the Holy Spirit, would be with us more than ever. We need to understand Your will in our lives and make certain of our salvation. Help us to see the importance of forming biblical marriages and secure families. Help us to see the efforts of the enemy to destroy even godly families if possible, by the influences around us. Give us victory over our own selfishness and self-centeredness. As we study the marriage advantage today, we pray that You will enlighten us and give us a sense of Your presence and Your will for us. In Jesus name, amen.
As I begin this message today, let me first of all, say to those who may be listening to this message that have not had successful marriages, that I am not going to judge you or your circumstances. I do not mean to make anyone feel as though they are a failure, or that there is no hope for them or their children. I believe that God has ordained the church to assist those who have lost their footing in marriage and restore them as much as possible and provide kind counselors and guidance for them. God has ways by which He can guide you through the maze of challenges in this area. So, take courage, there is a heaven still to be gained and a hell to shun.
I also want to share with you that my wife and I collaborated on this message. She did much of the research and wrote an article for her magazine Last Generation, and I have expanded it and put it into a sermon. So, I hope you can hear a little of Betsy coming through this important message. And speaking of Last Generation, if you are not getting your own subscription, you are missing something really worthwhile. For those who love present truth, Last Generation is chock full of great stuff to help you and your loved ones along the way to heaven. You can also use the Last Generation Magazine as a soul-winning tool. You can order bulk subscriptions in almost any size you want, and you can hand them out to people who don’t know our God like we do. Call Last Generation and talk to them about subscriptions for you and your friends and family, as well as ways in which you can be a literature missionary. Here is their number 540-672-5671.
Turn in your Bibles with me if you can, to Genesis 1:27-28. After creating a perfect world to sustain life eternally, “God created man is his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Did you notice that God blessed the holy pair in Eden? That was their wedding. God married them and told them to be fruitful and multiply. This marriage was perfect, just like the rest of creation. It was designed to be a special relationship that was more than just love between two people. It was to also be a loving incubator for secure children to grow and mature under godlike parents and friends. Within the marriage union, God’s intention was to secure both the family and society, for marriage is really the foundation of a stable society. No wonder the enemy is so determined to destroy the family and thereby destroy the image of God in man if he can. On the other hand God is working to have families in these last days that will reflect his law and his order so that the confused world will have shining examples of God’s grace.
Marriage has been around as long as man and woman. God had created the world, and each step of that process laid a foundation for families to flourish. It was God’s intention that all the elements of nature work together for the perfect ecosystem for eternal life and to sustain families in optimum perfection. It was idyllic. Once God had created the sustainable environment, he then created man, gave him his work to do, and established his headship over the entire planet and all living and inanimate things; then God created a helper for him. And in doing so, he created the first family.
When God created marriage and told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, He set up a stream of blessings for parents, their children and the communities they would build. It was to be a cooperative engagement. They were to work together, all three of them, to build up their home and minister to each other thus providing a foundation for a harmonious planet.
When sin came into the hearts of Adam and Eve, home life was disrupted. Eve led Adam into sin. She started “wearing the pants in the family,” as the saying goes. Now Eve was the head and Adam was something else. Everything was changed now.
When God came to the garden to talk with Adam, He first had to restore order so that human beings would be happy again. And today, the enemy has continued his effort to distort the order that God created for marriage, society and His church. He is constantly looking for ways to rearrange headship so that women dominate and men are effeminate. He prepares for this through men who are unsanctified and mistreat women by demanding unreasonable compliance with men’s demands. He gets women to react and seek liberation from unreasonable dominance. Then he introduces the idea that women need to recover their equality with men because they have been subjected to cruel and unreasonable control. Once feminism gets a foothold, he then introduces alternative arrangements to marriage. After all, he argues, it is the marriage institution that is to blame for the problems. He introduces same-sex attraction and marriage alternatives. He also puts a lot of stress on families through alcohol and drugs. Anyway, he is always working toward divorce. And as immorality increasingly runs riot, he watches in glee as families falter and then collapse one right after the other.
My friends, have Christ in your heart and in your home you are in trouble, and your marriage isn’t likely to succeed if the statistics mean anything. Today, biblical marriage has all but collapsed. And now, God’s people face the greatest crisis that they have ever faced, and here we are on the verge of eternity, but we are muddling around without strength and power to resist and overcome the enemy, especially in regard to our families.
And society is feeling the pinch. Our world is changing fast. We are enthralled with change—at least change away from God, —and the faster the better. We are updating technology, embracing innovation and novelty, discarding yesterday’s model, dismantling social norms, tearing down statues, revising curricula, rewriting laws, reinventing sex and gender and especially redefining marriage and family— all at a lightning pace.
In every way, and in a thousand forms, the enemy does all he can to destabilize families. He has been at it for nearly six millennia, and he isn’t going to stop in these last days, even though he has almost unlimited control of the whole world. And by the way, you can tell who is under the control of the enemy by what they demand or try to impose on unwilling people. You can tell that God is not on the minds of the globalists. They’re trying to impose global controls and limit your freedom. You can tell that God is not on the minds of those of the same-sex marriage movement, because they are trying to force everyone to accept them even though their lifestyle is condemned in scripture. Coercion is never God’s way. It is the enemy’s way of doing things. That should tell you something. And now he has caused an enormous amount of family dysfunction at all levels of society. And it has been happening with such blinding speed that many people just cover their eyes and ears and hope that it will not affect them.
The spirit of revolution is in the air. Anything and everything that has anything to do with biblical norms, or traditional principles, whether of marriage or business is under assault. And marriage is truly under assault in these last days, just as Jesus said it would be.
We are in circumstances today that have almost totally destroyed functional families that live within God’s principles. So few of them exist that many have given up on biblical marriages. What has been the effect of that crisis? What has been the result of decades of declining marital and family stability?
Only in the last few decades have researchers fully comprehended just how important the institution of biblical marriage is in synchronizing the energies of two committed adults on raising the next generation to become secure, healthy, productive and resilient.
Did you hear those words? Secure, healthy, productive and resilient. What do those words mean? Secure, refers to someone who understands himself and is able to identify his or her priorities and moral principles. It is someone who looks at life in a positive way. It is someone who is not afraid to venture into uncharted waters and has a sense of direction and purpose.
Healthy, in this case, refers to a person who is able to function in reasonable health and is not limited by debilitating diseases, real or imagined so that the spouse doesn’t have to spend an excessive amount of time looking after their basic needs. It is important to note that there are times when accidents happen or illness comes unexpectedly through no fault of the individual, which changes the situation for their marriage. This term healthy is referring to a state of mind as much as anything else.
The word productive is referring to someone who can get a job and keep it, and who is also active in other areas of home life and other factors so that their spouse is content and happy, and the children are secure and suitably cared for.
Resilient refers to a person who is able to bounce back from setbacks, problems, mistakes and even physical or emotional limitations or debilities. It is someone who is capable of finding solutions to problems and working out those solutions to turn the problem into a success or victory.
The results of the research are compelling. But despite all the impressive research on the benefits of marriage, there has been very few times in history when the principles of marriage in society have unraveled at the unprecedented rate it is today. The research I will share with you today reflects the reality of today’s families and the crisis they are in. But the trends that currently effect children and their development are some of the most devastating and heart-rending ever and are undoubtedly felt around the world.
Biblical marriage these days is under a very heavy assault from heterosexual partners cohabitating, to absentee fathers, to LGBTQI activists attempting to make society queer. And though it has been undermined for many years going all the way back to the free love sexual revolution of the 1960s, it is as if in the last decade the enemy has dramatically stepped up his attack on marriage with devastating effect on society. He has been more effective than in any previous generation with a direct assault on the very institution that was created in Eden to ensure man’s happiness.
Marriage was one of the two institutions that God established in that beautiful home for the newly created and newly married couple, Adam and Eve. The other institution was the seventh-day Sabbath. Needless to say, the enemy is determined to destroy both, in his last effort to erase the image of God in man and overthrow anyone that still clings to the Bible as their rule of faith and practice.
And in the last days, both marriage and the Sabbath are facing powerful forces determined to destroy any remnant of them if possible, especially among God’s people. Once marriage is viewed as a casual convenience to be entered or exited at will, he will have successfully destroyed the whole of God’s plan for marriage (and we’re nearly there). Then the direct assault on the Sabbath will begin.
The only way that the enemy can undermine marriage and the Sabbath is by undermining confidence and loyalty to the Bible. And believe it or not, the Bible actually predicts that this will happen. Turn to Revelation 11:3. Listen to it carefully. “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth.” This is speaking of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments. They continued their witness during the middle ages, when Rome kept the Bible hidden from the people. Yet the Waldenses and others continued to secretly publish portions of the scripture and spread them around throughout the empire so that at least some people would be able to understand the true way of salvation. Rome has falsified the way of salvation with a lot of fake representations of God and the way in which man was to have his sins forgiven and be saved.
This led to the complete overthrow of the Bible in the time of the French Revolution. Notice verse six. “These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
And this is exactly what happened in the time of the French Revolution. Water in Bible prophecy refers to people, even multitudes of people. During the French Revolution the bloodshed was tremendous and tens of thousands were killed in the name of establishing a new government in the absence of God. The guillotine wasn’t fast enough in executing its victims. They had to find other and more effective ways to kill.
The Bible goes on to say in verse seven and eight that when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
So “the great city” is compared to Egypt. This is talking about the atheism of Pharaoh who denied the existence of God. No king or ruler so adamantly opposed God as did the Pharaoh of Egypt. “Who is Jehovah, that I should harken unto his voice, to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, and moreover I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2. Well, he did, in the end, let Israel go, but at great cost. You can’t fight God and win. And while the nation of France gave voice to this defiance of the living God by the secular philosophers of their time, it was only because God let them do that in order to reveal the lengths of depravity to which the enemy would take them. It also exposed the evil philosophy that led the nation of France into the abyss. But we also see this same arrogance today among the secular leftists in our society as well. And they have been dominating society for quite some time through the mainstream media, through politics and, of course, through social media.
But “the great city” is also compared, “spiritually,” to Sodom. “The corruption of Sodom in breaking the law of God was especially manifested in licentiousness. And this sin was also to be a pre-eminent characteristic of the nation that should fulfill the specifications of this scripture. Listen to this terrible description of what the government of France did to fulfill this prophecy. It’s from The Great Controversy, page 269.
“According to the words of the prophet, then, a little before the year 1798 some power of satanic origin and character would rise to make war upon the Bible. And in the land where the testimony of God’s two witnesses should thus be silenced, there would be manifest the atheism of the Pharaoh and the licentiousness of Sodom.
“This prophecy has received a most exact and striking fulfillment in the history of France. During the Revolution, in 1793, “the world for the first time heard an assembly of men, born and educated in civilization, and assuming the right to govern one of the finest of the European nations, uplift their united voice to deny the most solemn truth which man’s soul receives, and renounce unanimously the belief and worship of a Deity.” —Sir Walter Scott, Life of Napoleon, vol. 1, Ch. 17.
“France is the only nation in the world concerning which the authentic record survives, that as a nation she lifted her hand in open rebellion against the Author of the universe. Plenty of blasphemers, plenty of infidels, there have been, and still continue to be, in England, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere; but France stands apart in the world’s history as the single state which, by the decree of her Legislative Assembly, pronounced that there was no God, and of which the entire population of the capital, and a vast majority elsewhere, women as well as men, danced and sang with joy in accepting the announcement.” —Blackwood’s Magazine, November, 1870.
That’s from The Great Controversy, page 269. Don’t we have defiance of God today? Don’t we have an aggressive anti-Christian spirit that has become very high-profile. They often use the term “conservative” but they really mean “Christian” especially when speaking politically. The leftist media rails against conservatives and anyone who would stand in their way of achieving their goals to essentially undermine all traditional values, constitutions, and social regulations in order to have their own licentious ways legalized and recognized as equal in value, neutral in morality, and accepted as normal by all of society. Today, our nations are largely atheistic and licentious.
Let me read a little more from The Great Controversy about the way marriage and morality was undermined at the time of the French Revolution. This is from page 270. Part of this statement is a quote from historian Sir Walter Scott.
“France presented also the characteristics which especially distinguished Sodom. During the Revolution there was manifest a state of moral debasement and corruption similar to that which brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. And the historian presents together the atheism and the licentiousness of France, as given in the prophecy: “Intimately connected with these laws affecting religion, was that which reduced the union of marriage—the most sacred engagement which human beings can form, and the permanence of which leads most strongly to the consolidation of society—to the state of a mere civil contract of a transitory character, which any two persons might engage in and cast loose at pleasure…. If fiends had set themselves to work to discover a mode of most effectually destroying whatever is venerable, graceful, or permanent in domestic life, and of obtaining at the same time an assurance that the mischief which it was their object to create should be perpetuated from one generation to another, they could not have invented a more effectual plan than the degradation of marriage… Sophie Arnoult, an actress famous for the witty things she said, described the republican marriage as ‘the sacrament of adultery.’”
Oh, my friends, are we not essentially there today? This is, in the clearest terms, describing the way in which the vast majority of people in todays’ western societies view marriage isn’t it? Did you notice that the author called marriage a permanence that leads to consolidation of society? What does consolidation mean in this sense? It means that society is stable and strengthened. So marriage is at the center of the security of society. Why do we have so many mass murders in America, for instance? It is because families have been destroyed. The shooter in the Florida mass murder a couple of months ago had come from a very unstable family situation.
So, we are now very close to the fulfillment of the prophecy that compares the end of time to the French Revolution. Listen carefully to this statement from the book Education, page 228.
“At the same time anarchy is seeking to sweep away all law, not only divine, but human. The centralizing of wealth and power; the vast combinations for the enriching of the few at the expense of the many; the combinations of the poorer classes for the defense of their interests and claims; the spirit of unrest, of riot and bloodshed; the world-wide dissemination of the same teachings that led to the French Revolution—all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France”
You see, the enemy does not want anyone to be loyal to Christ. And to destabilize marriage is one way that he can annihilate it, and destroy any vestige of loyalty to God and His law. And today, Marriage is in deep trouble. It is sinking dramatically among lower-and middle-class Americans, down to a minority of 48 percent today. And this problem is even worse in largely secular commonwealth countries.
On Christmas Eve, 2015, celebrated U.S. National Football League quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers became a father to his first child and son—Chosen Sebastian Newton. A popular mentor for kid’s sports camps, Cam also visits kids’ Christmas parties as Santa Cam and hands out generous gift certificates to sporting goods stores while promoting “football, family, and philanthropy.” He would be considered to be the consummate father.
But here’s the catch. Newton, who openly claims to be a Christian, is not married to Chosen’s mother—his long-time girlfriend, Kia Proctor. Even after their recent announcement of a second child’s birth (a daughter), Cam and Kia still have not “chosen” to give the best gift parents can give their children—marriage. And while Cam’s children might have access to economic privileges unavailable to most children who live with unmarried parents, they will be at risk for other negative outcomes when parents don’t make a marriage commitment.
Being a sports hero, Cam’s influence in favor of alternative relationships rather than a biblical family is certainly going to push the popular idea forward that you can cohabitate without marriage and the outcome for your children will be the same. And Cam and Kia are not alone in their lifestyle. Cohabitation is increasingly seen as an equal alternative to traditional marriage, even among Christians. But the research shows that it is not. In fact, it is very inferior.
Apparently, Cam and Kia view their relationship as an equal and neutral alternative to marriage. Marriage was God’s idea. Therefore it is not a human convention, but a divine covenant. But the Bible teaches that the only secure basis for procreation is in the marriage covenant between two individuals before God. Only then can children be brought into the world as the two marriage partners from two separate families become “one flesh,” meaning that they produce their own offspring from their united DNA. Any other alternative will have consequences that will place unnecessary burdens on society, the church or other institutions and individuals. It will also have less than ideal outcomes in the children themselves.
According to recent polls, the birth of children to unmarried parents has been rising. The 2015 Pew Research Report on “Parenting in America,” reveals that between the years 1960 and 2014, the percentage of children under 18 living with their married, biological parents has declined by more than a third. In contrast, the number of children living with a single parent has nearly tripled. Another emerging trend is the number of children with cohabiting parents like Cam and Kia, who live together without getting married.
Children now find themselves in a variety of family arrangements throughout their childhood. They could start as a child of cohabiting parents who might eventually marry, then divorce, and then start the cycle over again in another family arrangement with other children and adults both related and unrelated to them.
The direction of these trends is not good for children, because we now know that marriage gives children the best childhood outcomes: “Reams of social science and medical research convincingly show that children who are raised by their married, biological parents enjoy better physical, mental, and emotional outcomes, on average, than children who are raised in other circumstances.”
Marriage, as opposed to other family relationships, has direct positive associations on a child’s wellbeing. Research has shown stunning evidence of the value of biological parents living together. In fact, the effect of marriage on a child is more than the sum of various other parts, such as economic circumstances, educational opportunities, social networks, parental skills and ability, stability, social support, and their neighborhoods, among others. The advantages of marriage for children’s wellbeing are likely to be hard to replicate through public policy intervention, such as welfare or insurance assistance, other than those that bolster marriage itself. Researchers have made a strong case that marriage has a positive impact on children’s schooling, their social and emotional adjustment, their employment, marriage and mental health as adults.
For instance, comparisons between children raised in homes with only the mother’s involvement with no paternal engagement at all with single mothers raising children with the father’s involvement though he is not living in the home show some improvement in the child’s wellbeing. However, neither of them are as good as when the father and mother are cohabitating together on the outcome for the children. Better still, parents in a marriage have the best effects on children. In other words, marriage benefits children much better than any other form of family structure. No wonder God instituted marriage as the way to provide for the security, stability and long-term happiness of the children both as children and as adults.
But the research details specific advantages of marriage on children. Whereas in the past, education made the difference between the haves and the have nots, for the last 20 years or more marital status has increasingly become the central factor in whether today’s children rise above, remain, or descend into poverty. Income, for example in a lone-mother household in the U.S. is only 37 percent of married households, while cohabitating, unmarried parents, have an average of only 61 percent of marriage households. So from an economic point of view, marriage is far better, not just from an income point of view, but from the efficiencies gained through marriage. Also, U.S. children raised in two-parent married families suffer a 41 percent loss of income when their parents get divorced, while children born in lone-mother households experience a 68 percent increase in income when they get married. And the many studies done on this, confirm that this is a worldwide phenomena at least in Western countries.
Furthermore, married-parent families have more financial assets and are wealthier than other types of households, including home ownership, and that lone mother and cohabiting parents have substantially fewer assets than other households. Home ownership, though more expensive than renting, is a way of increasing wealth through equity and appreciation, but it also provides access to lines of credit and other financial instruments. Researchers also found that two parents living apart and one child have a 50 percent higher poverty threshold than a married couple living together with a child. In other words, the separated parents have considerably higher costs, which greatly increase the chances that the child or children will live in poverty, which in turn will limit the child’s opportunities.
Ninety-seven percent of millennials, a person reaching young adulthood, or marriageable age in the early 21st century who follow what is called the “success sequence” will not be poor as they enter their 30s. What is the “success sequence?” First earn at least a high-school diploma and get a job; then marry before having children and wait until at least 20 years of age to have those children. This success rate is largely true for ethnic minorities as well as those who grew up in poor families. But unfortunately, fewer millennials are keeping these things in order, compared to their Boomer and Xer forbearers.
This is why it’s not merely one-parent versus two-parent families that make the difference. The U.S. Census Bureau finds the poverty rate for children living with two unmarried cohabiting parents is similar to that of single-mother homes than to those living with their married mother and father. Married people, regardless of how much they have, tend to manage their money differently than divorced, single, and cohabiting people.
So, marriage has become the fault line dividing economic classes. The proliferation of single-parent households has been the cause of virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the 1970s. But it isn’t just that the wealthy are more likely to marry, it is that marriage itself is “a wealth-generating institution,” and all classes who follow the “success sequence” no matter what their socio-economic background are better off than their counterparts who do not follow the “success sequence.” Marriage is even a more powerful factor than race in dividing social classes.
God’s plan, my friends, always leads to the best economic results. Listen to what God inspired Moses to say to God’s people. It is found in Deuteronomy 28:1-13. I won’t read all the verses. Listen to what God says. “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
“Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.”
Now verse 9. “The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways.”
Verses 11 – 14, “And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
Did you hear those promises of prosperity? If we follow in the ways of the Lord, he will bless us with all that we need. We will not be in poverty. The trouble is that so many people don’t follow the instructions God has given. They live the way they please, even though they call themselves Christians or followers of Christ. And they defend their lifestyle as if that is the best they can do. Oh, my friends, God’s way is the only way that makes sense. And in the context of marriage, it produces the best results.
Now, here is another serious problem of alternate marriage arrangements. Children growing up without the benefit of marriage face heavier social challenges that will impact their chance for academic success, increase their risk of substance abuse and chronic disease, increase their risk of being involved in criminal behavior, increase their likelihood of having a child before they are able to support themselves or their child, which will dramatically increase their own risk of being poor and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
“A consistent and irrefutable mountain of research has shown, reaching back to the 1970s and beyond, that marriage strongly boosts every important measure of well-being for children, women, and men. Pick any measure you can imagine: overall physical and mental health, income, savings, employment, educational success, general life contentment and happiness, sexual satisfaction, even recovery from serious disease, healthy diet and exercise. Married people rate markedly and consistently better in each of these, and so many more, compared to their single, divorced, and/or cohabiting peers. Thus, marriage is an essential active ingredient in improving one’s overall life prospects, regardless of class, race, or educational status.”
Certainly many single parents can and do provide quality parenting. But the research overwhelmingly shows that the odds are formidably stacked against a child raised in a single-parent, or a cohabiting household. But a marriage with a father present has a substantial effect on the stability of the home, and consequently the adjustments a child needs to make are much easier because both parents contribute to the learning and growth of the child.
Single Parent Families Are Fragile Families. Prior to 1960, non-marital births were rare and were followed by quick marriages, or adoption. But when the sexual revolution hit, births to unmarried mothers increased dramatically by a startling 700 percent in just two generations—from 5 percent in 1960 to 40 percent of all births in 2014!
Children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to grow up in a single-parent household, experience unstable living arrangements, live in poverty and have socio-emotional problems. As these children reach adolescence, they are more likely to have low educational attainment, engage in sex at a younger age and have a birth outside of marriage. As young adults, children born outside of marriage are more likely to be idle (neither in school nor employed), have lower occupational status and income, and have more troubled marriages and more divorces than those born to married parents.
Unmarried mothers generally have lower incomes, lower education levels, and are more likely to be dependent on welfare assistance compared with married mothers. Even children born to cohabiting parents experience higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage, and fare worse across a range of behavioral and emotional outcomes than those born to married parents.
These exponential birth increases have been largely among poor, uneducated young women. At first they were at a higher rate in black and Hispanic populations. Since the 1980s, however, births to unmarried white women have been on the rise as well.
Unmarried mothers with limited education and low earning power, as much as they would like to, struggle to provide their children with even the basic opportunities they need to thrive and develop. If their children had access to the time and money of two married adults, even if that family were poor, it also would provide a system of checks and balances that promoted a higher quality of parenting.
And its not easy. A 36-year-old single parent from San Diego who works as a hairdresser describes her struggle to provide a nurturing environment: “Sometimes you don‘t feel like a real person, you don‘t feel like you‘re doing your job as a parent no matter how much you love them… You don‘t have any time with them because you‘re working all the time. …Suddenly your child is walking and talking, and you‘ve missed it. But then there‘s the child-care bill, and you have to put it off with excuses, and your child runs a fever for three days and you haven‘t the money to pay for a doctor‘s visit. When they get sick, you stay home with them, and you miss work, which means you don‘t get paid and aaaahhhhhh…it‘s like a chain reaction.”
Social scientist Charles Murray believes that single parenthood is “damaging to children in so many ways that to list them individually would be to trivialize them.”
Not all single parents start unmarried, of course. Thirty percent of American single parents are divorced and the vast majority of children of divorces live with their mothers. But if you want to give yourself and especially your children the most difficult path in life, try starting out as a single mother. They don’t have it easy. Not at all. And we should have sympathy for them, even though they have often made the worst of choices.
A good marriage has qualities that single families cannot substitute. We are in a cultural crisis with fewer and fewer understanding God’s plan for marriage. God intended that marriages should be formed in a permanent, mutual and exclusive sacred covenant before God between a biological man and a woman for an intimate relationship that represents and glorifies God. Consider Matthew 19:4-6. Listen for as many of these elements of marriage included in Jesus’ words as you can. “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Of course you see the biological male and female part of marriage. That means that same-sex marriages are an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. And a civil contact will never have the sacredness or permanence of a true marriage. Also when society has diluted the distinctness of biological gender, and under various types of abuse, many people become gender-confused.
Did you see the permanence and exclusiveness of the relationship in “let not man put asunder,” and also “leave father and mother” and start a new family? God’s intention was for children to have the love and nurture of both a father and a mother and for good reason. Both of them contribute different things to a child’s understanding of life and the world around him. They cannot be substituted without substantial loss to the child. Only God can resolve some of the underlying insecurity and uncertainty, as well as the personality issues of fatherless children.
Did you see the implied mutuality in Jesus words “cleave to his wife?” Each person is in the marriage to give of himself or herself for the benefit of the other and their offspring.
And did you see the intimacy of marriage in the “one flesh?” The children are a combination of the two parents. They are identified as their children by their DNA. There is a deep connection there that is not involved with other children from other marriages.
Did you notice the sacred covenant involved in marriage in the words, “what God hath joined together? God intended that marriage should be so close and so loving that nothing can separate them except death. That sacred covenant is not to be lightly entered into.
Marriage and the family were God’s idea and as divine institutions they are not open to human renegotiation or revision. The problem is that our social culture has redefined marriage to be something that it isn’t. So, the intimacy of the marriage is no longer respected by multitudes. Neither is the sacred covenant. And many times people enter into relationships to meet their own needs. These, along with other factors, set the stage for divorce and the chaos that it brings to a child’s mind and experience.
At the beginning of the 20th century, divorce was rare. But since 1915, divorce had risen steadily in first-time marriages from about 10 percent to about 33 percent in 1970. Divorce settlements can be acrimonious, and child custody and financial support arrangements so stressful that some single, divorced parents envy single, never-married parents. With the rise of no-fault divorces in the mid-70s, divorce had risen to about 40–50 percent of first-time marriages in 2015. It is significantly higher for second marriages.
The effects of divorce on children are often as profound as the death of a parent but linger much longer and can haunt children into adulthood. “I just really miss having a mom and a dad,” said a teenage girl who had experienced a family break-up. “I‘m afraid of falling in love someday and having the fear of my marriage ending up like this.” Such statements are very common among children of divorce. Sadly, this girl’s fears are real, as children are more likely to replicate the same households in which they were raised.
Jesus teaches that divorce is a compromise because of the wickedness of their hearts. Here are his words, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Fornication is not God’s plan, so divorce is also not God’s ideal. Yet he permitted it. Actually, God hates divorce. Malachi 2:16 says, “For the Lord, the God of Israel saith that he hateth putting away…”
Another sobering fact is the significantly higher rates of child abuse in single-parent families in contrast to intact married family. And you KNOW what Jesus said about that! Speaking of little children He said, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
And really, alternatives to God’s plan is an offence against the little children that are brought into the world in these alternative arrangements to marriage.
Mothers are by far the primary parent in single-parent families. As important as mothers are in the life of a child, fathers matter and their absence affects a child into adulthood. Many studies now substantiate that if a child lives apart from a biological father, multiple areas of his wellbeing, including education, mental health, family relationships and job and career opportunities come under increased assault. Here is a brief summary of these findings.
When fathers are absent, especially in the early years of a child’s life, the social and emotional development of a child is impaired. During childhood, parents help their children learn to deal with negative emotions such as fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, loneliness and sadness. Fathers, as well as mothers, are instrumental in helping children learn appropriate responses to these emotions. Additionally, children with absent fathers may experience higher levels of negative emotions as a result of the extra psychological stressors placed on households without fathers.
Children with absent fathers are more likely to externalize their negative emotions. This could include physical aggression, disobeying rules, cheating, stealing and destruction of property. This is especially true of boys whose fathers are absent, although some girls also exhibit these behaviors.
Impaired social and emotional development persisted into the teen years of a child with an absent father and seemed to be the cause for a higher degree of risky behaviors such as early experimentation with cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, as well as sexual promiscuity and teenage pregnancy. In turn, these behaviors had a direct influence on their adult lives. These children were more likely to not finish high school, which impacted their earning power and income levels. They were more likely to experience adult poverty and to be involved with criminal behavior. They also had a higher incidence of poor mental and physical health.
Young people who are fearful of divorce but don’t want to raise children on their own have opted for another family arrangement—cohabiting. In the last 20 years, the number of cohabiting couples has tripled. Today, about 1 in 4 children in America, and presumably other western nations, are born to cohabiting couples and that number is growing. How does cohabiting affect children? As eighteen notable family scholars stated in a 2011 report from the National Marriage Project, “cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage,” and is “the largely unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s lives today.”
Cohabiting parents are less stable than married parents. Nearly half of parents cohabiting at the time of their child’s birth break up within five years, compared to only 20 percent of married parents. Children born to cohabiting parents are more likely to transition in and out of new—and often confusing—family arrangements after their parents’ split up. They have a much higher rate of poverty (47 percent), comparable to single-parent households (48 percent), than do children of married parents (11 percent). Additionally, children of biological cohabiting parents are over four times more likely to be physically, sexually and emotionally abused as are those living with their married parents.
The benefits that accrue to children from living with married biological parents are incontrovertible. But how do we increase the likelihood of marriage?
Ironically, marital success and personal success go hand-in-hand, like a good marriage! Those who follow the three secrets of the “success sequence” provide a much better environment for their children to prepare them for success in life on multiple fronts. Here are the three secrets again in order. First finish high school before marriage; marry before having a child; wait to have your first child until you are at least 20 years old. While so-called “shotgun marriages” where the couple chooses to marry after conception but before the birth of their baby gives them and their child a better outcome, but it is still far from God’s ideal. After all, anything done in haste, is never done well.
Getting this sequence right gives children incredible advantages across all racial lines and economic classes. It also gives married couples better advantages, too. And as generations of productive, stable families enrich a community, they impact societies and nations. Conversely, as more and more people live by their impulses and for themselves, families become less stable and children become less certain of their security, gender and ultimately their destiny, societies and nations lose their footing and eventually collapse. Go back and study the history of Greece, Rome, and many other nations or city states that have fallen into liberal and moral uncertainty.
Why does this formula work? It has to do with men and marriage. Marriage shapes men into producers, providers, and savers. Singleness and cohabiting don’t. The Nobel prize-winning economist George Akerlof, in a prominent lecture more than a decade ago, observed: “Married men are more attached to the labor force, they have less substance abuse, they commit less crime, are less likely to become the victims of crime, have better health, and are less accident prone.” Then he explained why: “men settle down when they get married and if they fail to get married, they fail to settle down.”
Here is one important thing a settled, married man can give to his children. It is the father who gives his children the strongest lessons on self-control. Without self-control, no one can succeed in this life or the life to come. While mothers can teach some lessons on self-control, it is mature fathers who provide children with the strongest sense of what that means. How to think logically and objectively; how to restrain oneself in frustrating circumstances; how to maintain and even keel emotionally, these are key aspects of a father’s somewhat intangible but very real influence on his family and subsequently and eventually on society. While mothers can provide something along this line, a father is far more gifted in this area. Mother’s have contributions in other areas of course that are far better than a father, but in this area, there are distinct advantages to having father in a secure marriage.
Men who fail to settle down seek uncommitted sexual intimacy. They lack restraint, and are not fit to teach their children those important intangible lessons of life.
Tragically, the unmarried women who give sexual favors to these men are the least financially situated to care for their children. A staggering 61 percent of poor women and 44 percent of working class women choose to have their first baby outside of a marriage commitment to their baby’s father. Contrast this with middle/upper class women where only 19 percent choose to have a baby without a marriage commitment. The reality is that marriage has become the single most important factor in whether or not you succeed in stabilizing your own life and the life of your children, often for generations to come.
In his book Sex and Culture (1934), J. D. Unwin studied 80 primitive tribes and 6 known civilizations through 5,000 years of history and found a positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the sexual restraint they observe. According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The effect, says the author, is irrevocable. When monogamy erodes in the name of emancipating women from sexual repression, a society is nearing its end, as he shows has occurred numerous times and places throughout all of written history.
The lesson is clear. Cultures that upheld the ideal of exclusive committed marriages thrived. But once a society loosened its sexual mores and abandoned monogamy, it began to degenerate and eventually fell.
In an age of rampant sexual abuse, sexual predators, and intense pressure to engage in pre and extra-marital sex with much encouragement from Hollywood, the music industry, peers and social networks, we can see that our western societies are nearing their deaths. The Lord’s plan for His people is even more relevant in our generation than in previous generations.
Training for the life work, then marriage, then children, is always the best plan for raising secure children. And now science has documented the rightness of this principle.
Professor Bill Galston, President Clinton’s domestic policy advisor and now a senior fellow at Brookings Institute, explained in the early 1990s that an American need only do three things to avoid living in poverty: graduate from high school, marry before having a child, and have that child after age twenty. How true that is today! Sociologists still say the same thing today. They call it the success sequence.
It is interesting that research is now upholding the value of biblical marriage (though they don’t call it that) as more important than ever to maintaining social stability of any society. And since biblical marriage is under massive assault, God’s people need to be more concerned about it than ever. Biblical marriage is something worth fighting for, voting for and defending at every turn.
When God charged married parents with the task of bearing and raising children, He was setting in place social laws of cause and effect that, if followed, would result in blessings for many generations. By studying the effects on children of married and non-married households, these laws of blessing are being understood more fully. Research now validates that the closer we come to God’s ideal for marriage and family, the better our lives, our communities and our nations will be.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, what an important lesson we’ve learned today. Our families are so important to a stable society. Yet the enemy has attacked families incessantly. And in recent times, in these end-times, it is as if he has unleashed an avalanche of marriage alternatives, gender confusion and general immorality. All of which is designed to undermine biblical marriages. God’s plan is always the best plan. Let us uphold it wherever we can. Give us the strength of mind to understand the issues we face as we near the close of probation. Let us be faithful mothers and fathers. Let us let our family light shine to the world around us. And thank you for Your Holy Spirit which can imbue in us a sense of the higher purposes of God who sits in calm eternity working to the benefit of His children. Thank you for Your overcoming power that we can use to do battle with the enemy. In Jesus precious and holy name, I pray, amen.
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