No one likes to see his own flaws. This is what makes Christianity so fascinating. On the one hand it says your flaws don’t matter so long as you have Christ, but on the other hand it then entices you to look unabashedly at those flaws and eradicate every last one of them. The beautiful importance of this process should be obvious since even a casual survey of common human practice reveals a robust set of tactics for hiding our ugliness from ourselves.
Consider what I’ll call defense mechanism number 84, in which we soothe away the awareness of our own moral decay by finding a more extreme version of ourselves, labeling it as a special category of evil, and then castigating it as some unimaginably sub-human horror. Today’s case study: the “gold-digger.”
This woman is despised by society because she marries entirely (or even mostly) for the purpose of financial security, perhaps hoping (with enough age disparity) to become a surrogate heir to an existing male fortune. Evil, right? Sure. But for clarity’s sake, let’s rephrase. Described less pejoratively, isn’t she really marrying for the purpose of getting something from her spouse that she wants? The problem is that she wants something from him rather than wanting him.
But when you put it that way, it seems rather ordinary for the simple reason that we all marry for this reason. We marry in hopes of sexual pleasure. We marry to get entertaining companionship. We marry because our beloved is pretty, or accomplished, or appealing in some other way and thus an effective proof to others (and ourselves) that we are the sort of people who can bag off such a trophy. To put it bluntly, don’t we all marry primarily for the most selfish of reasons?
Oh, sure, we love the other person, but would we marry them if they were uglier, stupider, meaner, and more irresponsible? We may say “for poorer…in sickness…and in bad times,” but we don’t cherish those possibilities, and we strive valiantly to date around them. So unless I’m performing logic poorly, this means we’re all basically gold-diggers at heart, a conclusion our security in Christ permits us to face without the risk of psychological self-destruction. But there’s a silver lining to this precious metals analogy. None of this is a surprise to God. In fact, one might even suppose He knew it some time ago. And in response, He crafted the institution of marriage.
Now as anyone knows, marriage has a funny way of exposing your flaws and then cultivating your undeveloped virtues. You see, although she might resist it, I suspect that even the schemingest gold-digging sexpot discovers during the course of her matrimony that this man is worthy of love and that she cares for him as a man rather than as a means. That’s just what marriage does to you. And although I may have married for what I would get from my wife, over the years I have learned how to gain the most joy from being married for what I can give to her. Yes, it’s a practice I am still learning, but I learn it every day from the God whose pattern I am following and in whose marital health club for the soul I am growing.