“…First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’” – Matthew 7:5
Having a strong and lasting marriage doesn’t just happen. Without a proper focus, we will drift apart. As believers, this proper focus comes from God’s Word. And this month we are turning our attention to Christ Jesus and His teachings in Matthew 5-7–what we’ve come to know as the “The Sermon on the Mount.”
This week, in Matthew 7, we will see one of the most important teachings Jesus gives us about our relationships, especially as it applies to our closest human relationship–with our spouse. (We encourage you to read the whole chapter to see the full context. We suggest that you meet together as a couple sometime this week to read through the chapter and discuss the truths God reveals to you. See Couple Connect.) The questions at the end of this post will help you look at your own life and marriage and see how to apply these biblical teachings. Learning God’s truth together and living it out day-to-day helps you keep a proper focus.
When Problems Come
What do you do when problems come in your marriage? When you and your spouse disagree on how things should be done, or maybe when you know changes need to be made but you don’t see eye-to-eye on what those changes should be? What about when you see a problem and your spouse doesn’t?
If you are anything like me, your focus will usually zero in on your spouse’s faults. If he would just…then… If she would only…then… Somehow we automatically decide the change will only come if it comes in our spouse. And we begin to look for ways to help them change.
But Jesus points out we’re looking in the wrong place.
In Matthew 7:1, He clearly says, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.” And isn’t that exactly what we are doing when we place the blame on our spouse? Judging?
Jesus speaks directly to our sinful, self-centeredness. There is little that causes as much damage to our marriages as this attitude: “I am right. You are wrong. End of discussion.”
If we discuss problems with this attitude, we might as well hold our hands over our ears and yell, “Nah, nah, nah, nah.” That’s likely how it appears to our spouse when the conversation comes up. And about as effective. They probably figure we’re not going to listen to them anyway, so why bother? End of conversation. Beginning of silence. And we start drifting further apart from each other.
Jesus makes it clear this is not the way to deal with a problem. What should we do instead?
The Right Way to Deal with Problems
In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus asks two questions and then gives a command: “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’”
Examine Yourself First
The first step in solving a problem is to see your part in it. PRAY…asking God to show you where you need to change. Only when you acknowledge your own faults and work to make positive changes yourself should you then talk to your spouse. (This is a great communication rule in any situation.)
Remember you’re not perfect and you struggle with your own faults. Jesus says in Matthew 7:2: “’For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’” This will greatly impact how you speak to your spouse. When we approach each other in humility, we will offer grace—the same grace God has shown to us.
Before you speak to your spouse with a judgmental heart, remember this parable of Jesus in Luke 18:9-14: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
We need to live with the humble attitude of the tax collector, acknowledging our sinful nature and tendency to do the wrong thing.
Extend Mercy and Forgiveness
Before you speak with a judgmental attitude, also remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”
Think about the mercy God has shown you over the years. Think about the mercy your spouse has shown you. Those of us who are most aware of the forgiveness we have been given are more likely to forgive—and not judge—others.
Inscribe Ephesians 4:32 into your heart and mind: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Let this verse become one of the guiding verses of your marriage. If you follow it, it will make all the difference in your relationship with each other.
Jesus tells us again the importance of prayer in Matthew 7:7-12. Verses 7-8 say: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Prayer is essential in our marriages. We need to pray together, especially when we face difficulties. (If you don’t already have a regular time of prayer together, consider beginning a Couple Connect time. Click here for Instructions on how to get started.)
Put Jesus’ Teachings into Practice
Jesus concludes His teaching in Matthew 7:13-27 by calling us to put into practice what we have learned from Him. James 4:17 says, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.” Jesus gives us the illustration of two gates—one narrow and one wide. He also tells of two trees—one producing good fruit and one bad fruit. Then He tells of two foundations–one strong and one weak. He warns us through these illustrations to always choose His way or the results will be disastrous. (See “The Better Way to a Better Marriage.”)
Problems come to every marriage. But they don’t have to break us apart. When those difficulties come and change is needed, be sure to focus your eyes in the right direction—look to Jesus and His teachings.
When you choose to follow God’s way, you will see positive changes in your relationship with your spouse. It will become stronger and the two of you will grow closer. Your marriage will bring honor and glory to the Lord. It won’t be perfect—nothing this side of heaven is. And things may not always seem “good” from a worldly perspective—problems are just a part of this life. But as we focus on God and follow His truths, our marriage will always be good in His eyes. And isn’t that what we desire?
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Where do I focus my attention when faced with a problem in my marriage?
- Do I often see my spouse’s faults and needed change above my own?
- Do I tend to blame my spouse for our problems?
- Am I guilty of a haughty attitude–“I am right. You are wrong.”?
- Do we work together to solve problems that arise, or do we work against each other?
- Do I pray, seeking God’s answer to the problem?
Suggestions for Applying This to Your Life
- When a problem arises, immediately take it to the Lord in prayer, asking to see it from His perspective and to know what to do to resolve it.
- Ask the Lord to show you what change(s) you need to make.
- Humble yourself–before the Lord and your spouse–remembering your own faults and failures.
- Extend loving grace, mercy, and forgiveness to your spouse. Don’t hold things against them.
- Pray together as a couple–regularly. Have at least a weekly time set aside to pray and discuss what is going on in your life.
- Work through your problems TOGETHER. Remember, you are one in marriage. You’re a team…you need each other.
- Continue to learn how to live God’s way. Keep studying His Word and when you see something you need to change, “put off your old self” and “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Next week is a new month – February. It is the “love month,” because right in the middle of it is Valentine’s Day. We tend to think about that in terms of romance and the physical aspect of love. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact it is an important part of our marriages that God included when He created it. He also gave us teachings that will make it all He intends it to be. So next week we will begin our teachings on the sexual and physical part of marriage – as God intends it.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in A PROPER FOCUS series:
Part 1–How to Keep Your Marriage from Falling Apart
Part 2–The Better Way to a Better Marriage
Part 3–How to Have Peace and Contentment
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.