How to Have a Happy Home
December 28th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-28-88 7:30 p.m.
Once again, welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You are now a part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled How to Have a Beautiful, Happy Marriage. In our preaching through the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, we have come to a gloriously moving story in Genesis 24. And I read the conclusion of that chapter, beginning at verse 58:
And they called Rebekah and said unto her, "Wilt thou go with this man Eliezar, a servant?" And she said, "I will go."
And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, Eliezar, and his men.
And they blessed Rebekah and said unto her, "Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them."
And Rebekah arose, and her damsels, and they rode upon the camels and followed the man, the servant. And the servant took Rebekah and went his way.
– Now Isaac –
Isaac came from the way of the well Lahairoi, for he dwelt in the south country.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, the camels were coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she lighted off the camel;
For she had said unto the servant, "What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?" And Eliezer had said, "It is my master." Therefore, she took a veil and covered herself.
And the servant told Isaac all things that he had done.
And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
How to have a happy marriage. When practically, I would say, when anyone marries, that one has a plan and a hope and a desire for everything good. It’ll be for keeps. There’ll not be a divorce. There’ll not be a failure. It’ll be "till death do us part." What actually happens is more than one-half of the marriages in America end in divorce. There was a time, I remember, a few years ago when seventy percent of the marriages in Dallas ended in divorce. There are still some cities in America when two out of three marriages fail.
Sixty percent of American mothers are in the labor market. They have to work in the labor market; and there are six million children who live in fatherless or single-parent homes. Is this what we want? Is this the desire of our hearts? Do we marry for that?
You never get over a broken marriage; I don’t care who you are. The scar of it is there as long as you live. And if you have children, they never get beyond the trauma of that broken home. Well, how do you make it work? In my studying – I wish we had an hour for me to reply – but as quickly as I can, I have thirteen rules that I have chosen for a happy marriage.
Number one and above all: Make God your Friend and your Confidant. God is for you. He’s on your side. Always remember, He is for you; and He will work for you if you will let Him. Proverbs 18:24: "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." And that friend is God who is always with you. His intention for you is that you have a beautiful and happy home forever. In the beginning, there was one man and one woman [Genesis 1:27, 2:18-25].
The first time divorce appears in the Bible is in the Mosaic Law [Deuteronomy 24:1-4] – one of the strangest things in this earth. And Jesus, commenting on that in Matthew 19:8, said, "Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to break up your home." Divorce is a man’s invention. Polygamy and the breaking up of the home and the family were never in the intention of God [Matthew 19:8]. It came through fallen man. Malachi 2:16 says of God, "He hateth putting away." Make God your friend. That’s your first great foundation for building a happy home.
Number two: Begin with God’s definition of true love. It is amazing. The whole Graeco-Roman world used one word for love: eros; and if you’ll go down Piccadilly in London, there at Piccadilly Square, you’ll find a bronze statue of Eros, the little god of love. That is the word used universally in the Graeco-Roman civilization for love, but you will never find it in the Bible – not one time. Those inspired apostles of the Lord God chose a word that was practically unknown in the Roman Empire, and they used that word extensively throughout the Bible. The word is agapē.
For example, 1 John 4:8: Ho theos agapē estin, "God is agapē, love." Ephesians 5:25 in the verbal form of it: "Husbands, agapaō your wives, even as Christ also agapaō the church." A word – good Greek word but seldom used; and they made that word in the New Testament to describe the true love of God, and the true love that ought to obtain between a husband and his wife.
The world’s definition of love is eros. You watch television ever, and so much of it is filthy, and if you go to a movie house – which many of us never go to – but if you watch the screen today, you’ll find eros: maudlin sentimentality over which we have no control and emotion alone – nothing you can do about it, helpless before it. We are pawns of our sexual glands, and we’re animals. "Nothing is morally right or wrong. Do what feels good!" And it makes marriage hopeless and divorce inevitable.
But God’s concept of agapē is in a different world: it is a commitment to Christ and to one another and is holy and forever. It is a way of choice, a way of thinking and living: "I will place your highest, best interest above anything in my life," one says to the other. And that makes for a beautiful home. I have here a long discussion on the difference between love and infatuation, the difference between eros and agapaō, and I haven’t time to speak of it.
Number three: To have a beautiful home and a happy marriage, bestow words of appreciation lavishly on each other – praise. Proverbs 25:11, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Don’t criticize and don’t find fault. If you want your wife to cook for you – if you want her to be a slave in the kitchen – praise her cooking. Keep on praising it no matter what it tastes like. Just keep on praising it. Always turn it to a wonderful end.
The wife said to her husband, "Oh, Sweetheart, the dog ate the biscuits!" And he replied, "Don’t worry, Honey. We’ll get another dog." Always something gracious and something nice.
Number four: Never criticize in public no matter what. Don’t make him or her feel small; always build up one another [Ephesians 4:29]. He may be a pygmy, but if you brag on him in public, he’ll feel like he’s ten feet tall. How a girl, or a wife, or a woman can manipulate a boy, can manipulate a man, is just almost unbelievable; and it is that easily done.
A little boy came home from school and said, "Daddy, today I learned what girls are for." Well that immediately intrigued the father, and he said, "Son, you learned what girls are for? What are they for that you learned today?"
"Oh, Daddy," he said, "My little friend came up to me and said, ‘Billy Bob, I want you to show me how to throw a ball, and how to use a bat, and how to use a mitt, and how to catch a fly, and how to run a base.’" And the dad said, "Yes, son, what?"
And the lad replied, "Daddy, I learned what girls are for. Girls are to teach things to." Marvelous! I can just see that little girl. She just had that little boy wrapped right around [her] finger. It’ll never fail; it’ll work forever.
Number five: Treat her after you marry her as you did when you were courting. You were so sweet; you were so nice; you were so affectionate. Why change now? Why treat her as a dog now? Before marriage you loved to be together. Why not now?
She says, "I wish I were dead."
He says, "I wish I were dead."
And she says, "In that case, I wish I were alive with you dead."
Before I married Maggie dear
I was her pumpkin pie,
Her precious peach, her honey lamb,
The apple of her eye.
But after years of married life,
This thought I’m forced to utter:
Those fancy names are gone,
And now, I’m just her bread and butter.
That ‘s all.
Don’t change. If you were honey pie before, just keep on. Keep on.
Number six: Plan little kindnesses, surprises for each other – a gift, a dinner. That’s not a waste of money. That’ll be the best investment you ever made in all of your life.
Number seven: Place the other’s good and happiness above everything else. Romans 12:10: "Be kindly affectioned one to other . . . in honor preferring one another." Seek to make her happy. Seek to make him happy. It’ll do your heart good, and it will be a learning experience in being unselfish – beautiful thing.
Number eight: Talk and discuss things together. Talk and listen. Communicate. No decision ever to be made unilaterally. Both share in it: a shared life.
Now I have a crazy thing here. Here’s a couple before a marriage counselor. And she says to him, she says to him, "You call it nagging. You call it nagging." So the counselor says, "Try listening to her. It’s harder to listen than to talk." She says, "He always has his nose in a newspaper, or glued to TV, or he’s sound asleep. I’d just as well not be there."
Counselor: "Then shake him and say, ‘Listen, I have something to say.’" Then the woman took off. Then the counselor understood. The man had perfected what is known as occupational deafness. She’d just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, and his reaction to it was he was just occupationally trained. He was looking at the paper. He was looking at television, or he was staring out into space. Give him an opportunity to say something back. Just don’t talk forever.
Number nine: Never speak or air a problem of the family outside the home. Whatever the problem is, keep it there inside of those four walls. Others are not interested; I can sure tell you that. If you have any kind of a problem in your house, you remember there’s nobody outside of that house interested in what your problem is; and when you start delineating it or talking about it, they are bored to death. If anybody asks you, "How are you?" You answer, "Fine." And you may be so sick you’re going the way to the hospital. Doesn’t matter. Just say, "Everything’s fine." Just smile and go on. It’s the best way to do.
Number ten: Thrust anger far from you. May I expatiate for just a second on Ephesians 4:26? "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Now isn’t that something? He does not say, "Don’t get angry." That would have been unrealistic. There are times, if you’re normal, when you’re going to rise up on the inside. You’re going to get angry, but don’t be controlled by it. Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. Don’t talk when you are angry.
The preacher was describing a couple, and he was doing it beautifully. Fifty-five years and they’d never had a quarrel, and they’d never been angry, and they’ve never had a cross word; and the eyes of the people were moist, and they were moved by the beautiful example. Then he gave his account for it. In soft confidential manner and tone, the preacher added, "They were lying." That’s the Lord’s truth. You just don’t be normal and live for all the years and the years and there not be things in your life before which you arise in your heart. Never make anger a permanent guest in your heart.
"My wife," said a man, "is the most even-tempered woman I ever knew. She’s mad all the time." Don’t. It lies in the power of anyone to throw rotten apples of discord into domestic harmony. Family quarrels are the most bitter of all. You’ll never experience, in all of your life, anything comparable to the bitterness of a quarrel in your house and in your home. Doing and saying things designed to hurt, seething things, thinking them up to say; and we react in kind. If you’re cruel, there’s always the human tendency to strike back. We seek a whip to induce pain, and the converse is true. Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turneth away wrath." Don’t be angry at the same time. If she’s angry, you keep your composure. If he is angry, you keep your composure. Always a soft answer.
Number eleven: Never live beyond your means. Watch that money problem. Watch that going in debt. I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but I have read – and these things I speak tonight are summations of what I have read – I have read that the number one problem in marriage is money. Money: living above your means.
Now, I know this ’cause I study the Book – the Bible – and Jesus. They have more to say about money than about any other thing. That’s the strangest thing: Jesus had more to say about possessions than about any other thing.
Living in slavery, literally, is what you do when you live beyond your means [Proverbs 22:7]. Do you have a credit card? Tear it up. Tear it up. Tear it up. If you have a credit card, tear it up. I have one. It is stuck away, and I have to sit down and try to remember, "Where is that confounded credit card?" Don’t use it. Don’t use it. Those endless payments keeping your nose to the grindstone.
Ben Franklin said a strange thing, "He who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing" [The Way to Wealth, by Benjamin Franklin, 1758]. Romans 13:8 says, "Owe no man anything but to love one another." I think what that means is you’re not to go beyond what you’re able to pay. If you have a house and you go in debt for the house, it has to be in a programming in which you can pay the payments. If you have a hospital bill and a baby, plan to pay it. If you go beyond your means, you’re going to have trouble.
"Well, preacher, what have you done about that?" When I attended the university, I never allowed myself to spend more than ten cents for breakfast, more than thirteen cents for lunch, and more than eighteen cents for dinner. Never, never. And when I was in school, my first church paid me twenty dollars a month, and I lived on twenty dollars a month. When I married, I was making twenty-five dollars a month, and we lived on twenty-five dollars a month. When I had my doctor’s degree and my first full-time pastorate, I made two hundred fifty dollars a month, and we lived on two hundred fifty dollars a month.
Money is a good servant but an awesome, dangerous master [Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 16:13]. I don’t care what you have to do, live within your means [Hebrews 13:5]. Don’t go beyond it, never, ever. You may have to half starve. Fine. It’s better for you to half starve than to be a slave in debt.
Number twelve: Work and strive to make your intimate life beautiful. Experts agree sex alone seldom makes or breaks a marriage, but it has a lot to do with it. The master bedroom is well named, and for the man and the woman to have a beautiful life together is a thing that heaven itself alone can bestow.
And last, number thirteen: Center your marriage in our Lord and in the church here. 1 Corinthians 7:39: "Marry . . . but only in the Lord." When I counsel a young couple, I’ll say to them, "I have five fingers. Say grace at the table. Pray out loud at the table. Say grace. Before you go to bed at night, pray out loud where the other one can hear. Make attending church something special. Dress up for it. When I see people come to church in their off-scouring clothes, it offends me; and I’ve been at this so long – been a pastor sixty-two years. When a girl comes to church, she ought to put on the best she has. I don’t care what. Put the best you have. It may be sorry and ragged, but it’s the best you have; put it on. And when a boy comes to church, let him wear the finest that he has. This is for God.
And then, last, number five: accept some responsibility. It doesn’t matter what it is. "I’m going to sweep out the floor. I’m going to open the window. I’m going to park the cars." Do something. Do it.
And bow before the Lord. It’s like slipping the car into gear. It’s letting a super engine assume the load. He can do what we could never ever do. If you have God on your side and you let Him lead and direct in your home and in your life and in your work, it is marvelous what God is able to do. When things are the blackest, He turns them into the brightest [Psalm 30:5, 11]; and when things have the most despairing outlook, God makes it the most precious, endearing pilgrimage that you could ever imagine [Isaiah 66:13; Jeremiah 31:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Peter 1:6-7]. He doesn’t fail us. That’s how to have a happy home.
Now, Fred, I want us to sing a stanza of a hymn, and our men will be here. And while we sing this hymn, Charles, our little boy, has gone to the baptistry, has he? Fine. And we in the sanctuary, in a moment standing, will sing our song; and a family you to come into the fellowship of the church, a couple you to dedicate your home to the Lord with us, a one somebody you to give your heart to Jesus – I can’t make the appeal; the Holy Spirit has to do that – as we sing this song, if God speaks to you tonight, you come and stand with us. Do it now, and welcome, while we sing our appeal.
HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1. Isaac and Rebekah – one of the happiest weddings in the Bible
2. People purpose to have a good marriage
3. People never get over a broken marriage
4. How to make it work
II. Make God your friend; confidant
1. God is for you; Proverbs 18:34
2. His intention is for your happiness in marriage
III. Begin with God’s definition of love and trust
1. The mainstream definition of love, eros; is never found in the Bible
2. God’s definition is agape; a selfless commitment
IV. Bestow words of appreciation and lavish with praise
V. Never criticize in public
1. Matthew 18:15; be alone when speaking of faults
2. Build up in public
VI. Treat your spouse just like you did when you courted
VII. Plan kindnesses and surprises for each other
VIII. Place the other’s good and happiness above your own
IX. Talk discuss things together
X. Never speak of family problems outside the home
XI. Thrust anger far from you
1. Ephesians 4:26
2. Do not let anger be a member of your home
XII. Never live beyond your means
1. Debt is slavery
2. Romans 13:8
XIII. Strive to make your intimate life beautiful
XIV. Center your marriage in Christ
XV. Five Do’s every day
1. Say grace at the table
2. Read Scripture every day to each other
3. Pray aloud with each other at bedtime
4. Go to church together
5. Be a servant in the church