The creation of man was teleological, which is a fancy way of saying that God had a particular intention and purpose for us that is revealed in the way that He designed us. A screwdriver is teleological in this sense—designed to drive in screws. A hammer is teleological in this same sense. It is designed to pound nails. Well-designed tools exhibit their design. It is possible to figure how what they are for if you just look at them closely—although a simpler approach, if the tool is complicated, is the expedient of reading the manual that came with the tools.
Marriage is a complicated tool, and it comes with a manual. That manual is the Holy Bible.
Now this is what the Scripture teaches. After God had created man, He gave to us what has come to be called “the cultural mandate.”
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” ().
Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
This is the task that mankind was assigned. The performance of this task is what the human race is for. In other words, we are the tool designed to accomplish this work. We were told to be fruitful, and to multiply. We were told to subdue the earth, not ransack or strip mine it—which can be seen in the fact that we were told to “replenish” it. In addition, we were commanded to wield authority or dominion over all the living creatures on earth.
So this is what we are for. This is our mission.
But it is striking that in the verse just prior to that cultural mandate, Genesis says this:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Genesis 1:27 (KJV)
The fact that we were created male and female is directly connected to the mission that God assigned to us at the very beginning of the world. It was clear that Adam could not do all this all by himself—the world is huge—and so a foundational command embedded within the cultural mandate is found in that word multiply.
If God had simply told Adam, the solitary male, to multiply, it is fair to say that Adam would have been up against it. How was he supposed to do that? But with the creation of Eve, the mother of all the living, everything falls into place.
So in order to understand who and what we are, it is necessary to go back to the book of beginnings, back to the book of Genesis.
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)
We are going to come back to those words, tend and keep. But before doing that, let us set up the basic orientation between man and woman.
“For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”
1 Cor. 11:8–9 (NKJV)
The short form is this. The man was created to tend the garden, and the woman was created to tend the gardener. If he knows his business, he will love and care for her—the way Christ does the church—but he is still oriented toward his overall mission. She, on the other hand, is oriented toward him. The man tends to the mission, while the woman tends to the missionary.
The temptation of husbands is to remember the mission, and to forget and neglect the partner. The temptation of wives is to remember the partner and to forget and neglect the mission. Both are temptations to serious sin and failure.
His assigned task is to accomplish something worthwhile out in the world, doing so in a manner that provides for his wife and family, while also protecting them. We can infer that he should be engaged in doing something worthwhile from the cultural mandate itself, which we have already noted, and we infer that he is supposed to provide and protect from the words tend and keep.
When a man works or tends a garden, the end result of that labor is food. And downstream from the fact of food is the fact of dinner. This is where we get his responsibility to provide. But what about protect? The word keep means to guard or protect. As Richard Phillips put it, “A man is not only to wield the plow but also to bear the sword.”
But we must not think of this in a limited or truncated way. It is not that the man brings home the bacon, and the woman does nothing more than make it hot enough to consume. What happens is this. The man provides her with the raw foodstuffs and then she, being who she is, receives it from him in order to glorify it.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
1 Cor. 11:7 (KJV)
Man is the glory of God, and the woman is the glory of that glory. How someone can think that the biblical roles assigned to men and women are somehow disparaging to women is simply beyond me. Yes, the husband is the head (Eph. 5:25), but an excellent wife is his crown. “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: But she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones” (Prov. 12:4).
She tends to him through becoming his glory. She tends to the gardener by glorifying the produce of the garden. This happens across the board. He brings home the bacon, and she fills the house with the aroma of breakfast. He gives her a house and she glorifies it into a home. He gives her seed, and she returns a child to him.
Thomas, my charge to you is this. You are called to a husband’s sacrifice, and my exhortation is to never begrudge that sacrifice. This is because the apostle Paul says that the man who loves his wife (sacrificially) is the man who loves himself (Eph. 5:28). You are called to step to the front, and your role is to embrace the blood, sweat, and tears. Whatever trial it might be, you called to stand in between that trial and your household. When you learn to think this way, the harvest is always a disproportionate blessing. God is just like that.
Jocelyn, here is your exhortation. You are called to be the very center of that disproportionate blessing. Whatever Thomas goes through for the sake of his household, he should always be able to come home, take one look at you and think, “Man, that was sure worth it.” He should always feel like providence is buying nickels off him with twenty-dollar bills. You are called to be where the blessings of your home chiefly register. Thomas is to give himself in sacrifice for the sake of glory, and it is not selfish or vain for you to be that glory. It would be selfish not to be.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.