Don't Count on a Wedding to Change Bad Character - Part 1
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the moment the pastor pronounced you man and wife, there was a bright glow that just began to envelop you, trumpets would blow and all of a sudden you were transformed into prince charming and lady princess! The reality is however, that a wedding ceremony doesn’t automatically change someone’s character. In marriage as in life, it is character that counts and it is in virtue that the victory is found. Ceremonies are nice, but signing a piece of paper or saying a few words over somebody doesn’t make them a person of character. A great marriage is based on solid character and deep love. Let’s look at Solomon’s thoughts on the importance of good character.
This passage is very poetic. Its beautiful language is straightforward, colloquial and proverbial. Solomon eloquently describes four situations that are very hard to stomach. He mentions four scenarios that are very disquieting and that upset everything around them. First is an arrogant employee. Nothing is harder to take than an employee who has been given everything, been entrusted with a promotion and then runs rough shod over others. Second is a “Wanna-be.” That is an obnoxious, loud, rude, and belligerent person that has an inflated opinion of themselves. Few things are worse than a “Wanna-be” that goes to a five-star hotel and then orders everybody around like they’re some kind of a billionaire! Third is an ill-natured husband or wife. This is someone with a consistently unpleasant attitude. Finally, is a disgusting gold digger. This is someone who has been given much and yet is still not satisfied. They continue to use and step on people in order to climb up the ladder. Let’s go back and focus on the third disquieting scenario.
“…For an odious woman when she is married…” (Proverbs 30:23). The word “odious” here is a word that means hateful. That really is the most accurate translation. This person is a hater of God, a hater of people and a hater of good principles. Nothing causes any more of an upheaval to a family, to a community, to a church or to society than for someone to turn their back on God’s greatest gift, outside of salvation, and be a hateful husband or wife.
There is a vital marriage principle in this verse. This person was hateful before they got married and somehow and for some reason (who knows why), the fellow went ahead with the marriage, knowing full well that he was marrying a hateful person. How foolish it would be for a woman to carry on with the wedding ceremony, or for a man to marry somebody that is suspect in their character all the while imagining that somehow, a wedding is going to make him or her into someone with good character. There are several principles to consider as we look at the topic of character development:
1. Good Character Takes Work
It doesn’t always take a long time to see a change (sometimes it does unfortunately), but it does take effort. Offensive and disagreeable people can change if they want to. People who have an unpleasant personality are not victims of their circumstances, and disagreeable personalities do not always develop because they’ve had a rough life. In fact, it’s been my experience that people with the most difficult circumstances actually have some of the most amazing and resilient personalities. I have been to Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children many times. These children have some of the most atrocious developmental and physical setbacks imaginable and yet most have unbelievable character! It is very common to greet one of these little children, who have such serious disabilities, and to see them break out into this wide smile and hear an incredibly warm, “Hi, how are you today sir?” We are not victims of our circumstances! People who are bitter, choose to be bitter. People who disobey, choose to disobey. That being said, to voluntarily step into marriage, the most intimate of all relationships, with a person of bad character is a certain train wreck.
Scripture is very clear; we are never to marry a “project.” Marrying a project is a dangerous thing to do. Conversely, it’s wonderful to minister to a project. If someone doesn’t have good character, it becomes a good Christian’s prayer and hope that they’ll have good character – but you don’t marry them! Am I saying that the only person you can marry is a perfect person, just like Jesus? Of course not. There isn’t anybody that would ever qualify for that. But there is a lot of difference between somebody who is just not complete yet, but growing in the right direction, and somebody who chooses to have bad character.
After the wedding, life comes at you in a hurry. You don’t always have a lot of time to work on character deficiencies because you are thrust into the thick of the battle. You need someone you can count on immediately. It’s next to impossible to put all your energy into helping your mate grow while at the same time, trying to raise a family, minister and work. You need to have a partner who already has a good amount of Bible character.
King David’s choices give a good example of what I am referring to. David said basically, that while I can’t control what goes on in the neighborhood, I can do so in my house, and here’s what I’ve purposed, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalms 101:2). He stated these adamant words about his close friends and those that he employs. Now why is it important that we choose friends or employees that have good character? Because to promote somebody or to give them the blessing of friendship, is a privilege not a right. When you give someone the blessing of fellowship before they have character, it hardens their bad character. If they can have their cake and eat it too, then where is their motivation to change?
There is also the danger of spreading the infection. If you marry a person with bad character, cross infection will likely occur. David in Psalm 101 gets very specific in his list of the kind of people he will not tolerate in his home. If you or I were to try and imagine who would be included in this list we might say, “He’s probably going to talk about people who do drugs, who are party animals or even people who are dishonest.” But the truth is, the things that he talks about are far less scandalous, but certainly no less dangerous!
Firstly, he states that he is not going to allow spiteful people in his home (vs. 4). A “froward heart” is a unique KJV word that simply means “twisted” – someone who’s all gnarled up inside and unkind. Basically, what David was saying is that he wanted peace in his home even if it cost him relationally. He was stating, “I’m not going to marry a gnarled up woman, I’m not going to have a spiteful employee or a close twisted friend, it’s just not going to happen.”
For example: I have noticed that one of the problems with being around a smoker is that even though you don’t smoke yourself, you will still smell like smoke after you’ve been in their presence. I have been in a place where there was smoking, come home and heard my wife exclaim, “Whew…where have you been?” The odor was all over my clothes even though I had not smoked myself. In the same way I don’t think we realize how much “attitude” gets on us when we’re around spiteful people. Spiteful, gnarled up people just have a tendency to project their “stink” on us and David states that he can’t let that happen.
Secondly, he says he is not going to be around a gossiper (vs. 5). I know for me if someone is a serial gossiper then I choose to stay away from them as much as is possible. I am not going to listen to gossip…nothing good will come of that. This is a plain and simple fact.
Thirdly, he said he was not going to have or be around proud people in his home (vs. 5). We’re not going to have those with a “high look and a proud heart.” Talk about wisdom…wow, there could not be any better plan than to steer clear of proud people. Ladies, stay clear of a proud man. Remember the old rock song lyrics, “Who do you think you are Mr. Big stuff?” Amen to that! Guys stay clear of a proud woman. There’s a really good reason for that – safety! Why? Because the Bible says God resists the proud, and I for one do not want to have someone as a close friend whom God is resisting. That sounds flat out dangerous to me! I mean, I need all the help I can get from God, I really don’t want to be on His bad side. I don’t want to be anywhere near when God chooses to send a bolt of lightning towards someone!
Fourthly, he will not company with deceitful people. The big problem with lying is that if a person will lie to you then there is no telling what they will say about you to someone else. You can’t trust them and if you can’t trust people, then you’ll never have security. If you’re dating someone, and you are constantly catching him or her in lies, the best policy is to take a step back. If you’re talking with someone and you sense a deceitful spirit then it’s time to back off. You ask, “Can’t they change?” Yes, they can and hallelujah people can change dramatically and quickly! But you need to allow plenty of time in order to see their true character come out. It should not be, “They’ve been coming to church for six weeks now, so we’re going to get married.” No, after they’ve been going to church every time the doors are open for a couple of years, then you talk about it. A couple of weeks, or even a couple of months is not nearly enough. You need to make sure that deceptive character is gone, gone, gone…gone! Wait until they’ve been through the low times, wait until they’ve been through the high times, wait until they’ve been through the medium times. Make sure you have seen them in their good and bad times. Because that’s when the character comes out.