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Proverbs 19:20

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

Few people would likely disagree with the notion that marriage has fallen on hard times. Although exact figures are hard to come by, an article in Time magazine in 2018 reports that first marriages have about a 40 percent chance of ending in divorce. The odds are even greater for subsequent marriages. Moreover, almost all of us know of at least one marriage that has ended in divorce. No-fault divorce laws and a decline in social institutions that support married life contribute to the epidemic of divorce in our day.

Seeing the phenomenon of divorce, many couples are reluctant to get married. They fear that they will come to a point where they will not be able to settle conflicts or communicate well, and that they will then end their marriage. Such fears, of course, are not entirely invalid. Because a husband and a wife are both sinners, conflict inevitably arises in every marriage. Much of this conflict occurs because of the differences between the two in how they subjectively value things. What we are talking about here are differences of opinions over things that in themselves are indifferent. A wife may highly value a new car and think they should spend their extra money on it. Her husband might value a vacation more and believe that their extra funds should pay for it. An argument may then ensue. Neither the car nor the vacation is inherently good or bad, and neither is inherently more valuable than the other. But the argument arises because the spouses cannot agree on how the car or vacation should be valued. The problem is not so much the money but the lack of empathy. The husband cannot put himself in his wife’s shoes and see why she wants the car and the wife cannot put herself in her husband’s shoes and see why he values the vacation.

Solving such conflicts requires good communication so that we can start to understand the perspective of the other. Moreover, good communication cannot take place without careful listening. To really understand other people in any setting, we have to listen to what they say and try not to ascribe things to them that they did not say. But this is particularly important in marriage because of the intimacy of the relationship. Scripture, therefore, contains multiple admonitions to listen and to be slow to speak, including Proverbs 19:20. Careful listening is the only way to good communication and the wisdom needed to navigate conflicts in marriage.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Good communication in every area of life requires good listening. Wise is the person who is slow to speak but takes time to hear the other person out. This is particularly true in marriage. Many conflicts could be solved or avoided if husbands and wives would take the time to listen to each other carefully.

For Further Study
  • Proverbs 12:15
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1–8
  • James 1:19–20
  • 1 Peter 3:7
The Bible in a Year
  • Judges 8–10
  • Luke 9:1–27

Eschatological Hope and Fulfillment

Two People, Two Roles

Keep Reading Luther on Trial: The Diet of Worms

From the April 2021 Issue
Apr 2021 Issue