“What?!” you might say. “Isn’t it wrong to live with someone before you’re married to them?”
Yes, you’re right; it is wrong to shack up romantically with someone before you’re married! However, there is much more to “living” like you’re married than cohabiting with them. It’s developing a lifestyle now that you will carry into your marriage after you say, “I do.” It’s based on conviction, good habits, and maturity that will go a long way to making a happy and God-centered relationship.
Let’s look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-19:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”
For the sake of time and space, I will recap the ending to this parable through verses 20-30. The first two servants did well in investing their talents so that it caused increase for their master. The third, however, hid his talent in the ground and returned it to his master without any increase of value at all! The master reprimanded him, gave his talent to someone else, and sent him away as punishment.
The two wise stewards received a great reward in that they were given more responsibilities. The master’s response to their faithfulness is found in verse 21: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
You have been given stewardship of your life, “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property” (Webster’s). How you choose to “take care” of your life determines what will be entrusted to you, including in marriage. If you are handling your life selfishly and unwisely before you’re married, God is not able to honor you with the greater responsibility of marriage. If you desire the man God has chosen for you, you must live your life ready for him. Like in the parable of the talents, God will never bring you a blessing you’re not responsible enough to manage well.
This principle can also be found in 1 Corinthians 4:2: “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
To be faithful means to be trustworthy. God is looking for people that He can trust with something as important and honorable as marriage. It’s a relationship based on a covenant that reflects the relationship between you and Jesus. More than romantic feelings, marriage is a huge package of responsibility.
From experience, I know the level of responsibility needed to make a marriage and family work. Had I not put effort into being a stable and responsible adult before I was married, I would have been far more stressed as I attempted to adjust to another person in my life! The following are several areas I recommend all single people practice as good stewardship in preparation for Mr. or Mrs. Right and the life that comes with them.
1. Strengthen your relationship with Jesus. Jesus should be the foundation for every marriage, as He is the one who created it and set the greatest example of covenant commitment. Without Jesus in His rightful place of lordship in every area, life – whether married or unmarried – is incomplete, messy, and eternally hazardous. Fall in love with Him first, and you’ll be able to pass on His love to someone else!
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
2. Strengthen your understanding of family. If your relationship with your own family before you’re married is shaky, you will take that same instability into your own family after marriage. Seek peace in your family relationships to the best of your ability. And while you’re at it, study up on how God desires families to function. Many good Christian books have been written about marriage and child training. Often conferences on family and marriage are open to single people as well. It’s not too early to learn!
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
3. Learn to love. This is probably one of the greatest assets – and commandments – you could bring into marriage. Walking in love is necessary for every relationship, including marriage. If you don’t learn to walk in love with others before you’re married, walking in love with your spouse will be very difficult. It could even lead to divorce. The God kind of love is not romantic emotions or extravagant gifts; it’s treating someone as God has treated you – with unconditional love not based on your actions.
Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
4. Maintain the lifestyle of attending and serving at church. Part of our walk with God is consistent church attendance. God has also called us to serve the Body of Christ by helping in various church ministries and outreaches. This teaches us to be selfless and sows seed into our future that we will one day need to reap! Marriages and families thrive with this connectivity, so making it a priority now will lead to making it a priority later.
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
5. Manage your money well. Money problems and miscommunications are one of the leading causes of divorce. Becoming a wise steward of finances now will enable you to manage it well when you’re married. After marriage, there is often more finances coming in, but that also means more bills to pay and another person to coordinate with in financial decision-making. Learning to spend within your means, tithing, and giving now will create a good habit of money management that will help keep the peace later!
Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—
6. Manage your time well. Once you’re married, more activities and responsibilities will be added to your life as you include another person and their interests and families. If you are good steward of your time now, you’ll be able to handle organizing a busier schedule later. Striving not to waste time but to use it productively will lead to a less stressful marriage!
Ephesians 5:16 . . .redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
7. Learn to communicate well. Words can bring strife or bring unity. It all depends on how things are said and with what heart motivation. Effective communication, done with pure heart, can snuff out opportunities for hard feelings and bring resolution to any situation. The tone of voice, attitude, and body language sends messages to others. If things are communicated selflessly and with a gentle tone, even challenging topics can be better received. The key is grace!
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
8. Practice an excellent work ethic. Some marriages include two working people. Regardless of whether you’re the main bread-winner or not, an excellent work ethic leads to raises, favor, and job promotions. With a family depending on you at home or at work, working as if you’re working for Jesus is key to being a responsible spouse and parent.
Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
With these strengths as a lifestyle, whoever gets you is going to get a gem! No, you won’t be perfect, and marriage will still take work. But you’ll be relieved of a lot of stress that many others slave through. Regardless of whether you intend to get married, living the life of a responsible disciple of Jesus is worth it to you and others around you!