(Warning: This article could be considered “not safe for children.”)
In the first article of this series, we introduced the topic of a widely practiced, but seldom discussed sexual sin – depriving one’s spouse. If you missed that article you can find it here. In this article, let’s consider why this sexual sin is so dangerous.
First, depriving one’s spouse adopts the world’s rules for the use of God’s good gift. This never turns out well. God designed, created, and is Lord over marriage and sexuality. He has designed them to work in a particular way. When they are used in ways contrary to God’s design, it leads inevitably to heartache. For example, according to God’s Word, the only appropriate context for sexual activity is the monogamous marriage of a man and woman. When sexual activity takes place outside of that context, all kinds of problems ensue. (Examples from Genesis alone: Gen16:1-6; 19:1-29; 19:30-38; 29:1-24; 34:1-31; 38:1-30; 35:22 [cf. 49:1-4]).
In addition to that contextual boundary, God’s plan is for marriage/sexuality to be other-centered or service-oriented. We learned this from 1 Cor 7:1-5 in our last article, but it is also the overarching picture derived from the Christ/Church depiction of marriage in Eph 5:22-33. I am here to serve, is the God-intended attitude for every husband and every wife. Regarding the sexual relationship, that attitude should take the form of, my sexual energy exists for the pleasure of my spouse. That is why God gave it to me (1 Cor 7:3-4).
To deprive one’s spouse is to assume that the opposite is true, which is that my sexual energy exists for my pleasure. This is the message that the world propagates. It is the message that the world received from the god of this world, a message he first preached in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-7). God gave boundaries for Adam and Eve in the garden, boundaries for their good lest they die. The serpent contradicted God, questioned His motive, and accused Him of withholding something good. By this, he introduced a new ethic, prefer yourself. Don’t listen to God. Do what you want. And of course, following the devil’s rule in God’s world was disastrous.
The same principle applies in marital sexuality. God has designed it to work one way, but when we bring in the world’s perverted ethic, difficulty follows. The sexual relationship in that case will not be a neutral component of the marriage, causing neither good nor bad. Rather, that gift of sexuality will create frustration and strife instead of bliss and unity. Bank on it.
A second danger is that this sexual self-centeredness will permeate the rest of the marriage so that the whole atmosphere of the home will be one of self-fulfillment (the world’s ideal) rather than selfless service (God’s ideal). Much of what is written above could be repeated here. We cannot adopt the world’s thinking on marriage as a whole and expect marriage to function as God created it. The world’s thinking on marriage is antithetical to God’s design. If we think that we can quarantine self-centeredness to the sexual area of the marriage but have loving, selfless service in every other area, we are mistaken. Do you know why? Because this is a heart issue. And the heart that says, “no” in the bedroom is the heart that you take with you into the living room and kitchen and everywhere else.
A third danger is the danger most explicitly mentioned in 1 Cor 7:1-5: depriving one another can lead to sexual temptation. Paul begins in v2 by writing, …but because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have is own wife and each woman her own husband. Remember that the Corinthians were under the mistaken impression that ALL abstinence was good, including within marriage! The apostle corrects this by teaching that marriage is part of God’s remedy for sexual temptation.
So he commands sexual activity in marriage in v3 and forbids depriving one another in v5, after which he gives the reason for these commands: so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
In the original language, all the verbs and pronouns there are plural. So Paul is teaching that when we deprive our spouses, we put ourselves and our spouses in harm’s way. We are either creating an atmosphere conducive to sexual temptation or exacerbating temptation that already exists. We ought not be surprised then if a different sexual sin, either ours or our spouse’s, rocks the marriage.
When a husband or wife commits adultery or becomes involved with pornography or some other sexual sin – sometimes it is the case that that person’s spouse deprived them of sexual relations, exacerbating the sexual temptation. Does that mean that the depriver is responsible for the sin of the adulterer? Certainly not. No one causes another to sin. (And many people deprive their spouses without their spouses then giving into sexual temptation. Therefore, putting a stumbling block in front of someone is not synonymous with causing them to sin.) But I do believe that Paul would say that the depriver is guilty of the depriver’s sin – the sin of withholding sexual relations and thereby putting a stumbling block in front of the spouse. In those cases, there have been two sexual sins, not one. Some people may be troubled or even angered by this paragraph. I would just ask you to read 1 Cor 7:1-5 again and see if these things are not so. When we deprive our spouses, we invite danger.
Please understand, I don’t write these things to trouble those who have been hurt by the sexual sin of a spouse, but to warn all of us of the danger of depriving our spouses. This is not a small thing. We must treat it with seriousness.
It is also not my intention to imply that the only reason to avoid any particular sin is the danger is poses to us. The first and best reason to hate and kill any sin is that we love God. That He tells us to do something or not do something should be good enough for us. This issue should be no different.
“So, does that mean I can never say, ‘no’?” This question and others will be considered next time, Lord willing. Until then, if this is a sin you struggle with, prayerfully think about the dangers discussed here. The Lord has designed good things for you. And His commands regarding this area of marriage are for your good. You can trust Him.