How Less is More in Marriage

Do you like to watch those home design shows on TV? You know, the ones like “Fixer-Upper” recently or “Trading Spaces” back in the day. All of them feature designers who put their own style on someone’s home.

One type of design that had been around for some time but became popular in the 1980’s was minimalism. The phrase that described this style was coined by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He described minimalist architecture as “less is more.” His idea was that good design came from simplicity and clarity. So you placed useful and multi-purposeful items in a building, not items simply for aesthetical reasons.

“Less is more” became a popular phrase that is still used to describe all kinds of things today.

I read an example just this past week. It was an article about the New Orleans Saints football team having one of the best beginnings in the NFL this year.* Why are they having such a good start to the season?

The article’s author began with these words: “Less has meant more for Drew Brees this season” (bold mine). What did he mean by that? Brees, the star quarterback of the Saints, has thrown fewer passes for fewer yards as the team has had this success. This has meant the Saints’ running backs have run for more yards leading to more success for the team as a whole.

This idea of “less is more” can be true in marriage as well. Ephesians 3:14-21 tells us:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (bold mine)

It all begins with thinking about ourselves less and being concerned about our spouse more. We can only do this when we give ourselves “to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” We do this by placing our faith in Him as our Savior and Lord. (See Meet Jesus for more on how to do this.)

When we make Jesus our Lord, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us forever (see John 14:15-17). The Holy Spirit teaches us through God’s Word everything we need to know in order to have the marriage He intends for us (see John 14:25-26). He also provides for us the fruit–or attributes—necessary to enjoy that marriage (see Galatians 5:22-25).

The first fruit mentioned is love. Not just the feeling of love. The Greek word for love used in Galatians describes a love that goes far beyond feeling and seeks the best for our spouse even over our own desires and good.

It is the love described in 1 John 4:9-11: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

God expands on this truth in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he (God) first loved us.” It is this type of love that will allow us to have the marriage we seek. It is this minimalist, one-focus marriage that will allow us to “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

When we give our lives and our marriage to God, we are totally under His control through the Holy Spirit. Then our marriage will be strengthened (Ephesians 3:16), and “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17). We will “have power together” (Ephesians 3:18), and “grasp” and “know” how great the love of Christ is (Ephesians 3:18-19).

This will allow us to truly love each other as we are “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). It will enable us to love others and lead us to serve God by serving others.

This all begins with seeking less for ourselves and more for Christ.

John the Baptist mentioned this in John 3:30: “‘He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.’” And Paul also wrote about it in Philippians 3:8: What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

As we follow this biblical example of “less is more,” we will have a marriage that brings glory to God and great blessing to our lives (Ephesians 3:21). We will indeed have more–“immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). What more could we want?

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God taught you through it. How can you will apply what you learned?

♦   Have you both made Jesus your Savior and Lord so that the Holy Spirit lives in you and is guiding your lives and marriage? If not, please read Meet Jesus.

♦   Have you made Jesus the “more” in your lives and marriage above everything and everyone else? Do you consider everything as garbage in comparison to knowing and serving Him? Are you becoming less and Jesus becoming more in your lives and marriage? Discuss how you can help each other do this.

♦   Close your time in prayer together. Ask God to help you to follow through on the commitments to Him and one another that you discussed in answering the previous questions.

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Until next week, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

* “Drew Brees is throwing it less than he has in years, thanks to Saints improved running game,” by Joel A. Erickson,
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.
Photo by Ina Soulis on Unsplash, (CC0), cropped/text added.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.