Turn on your TV. Find your favorite channel. Wait a moment, and you will be confronted with an ad that offers an immediate miracle solution to a nagging problem. Whether you need a perfect pan for your cooking woes, an unkinkable hose for your garden gloom, or a miracle medicine for your many maladies, modern media is loaded with ads and gimmicks promising to heal anything that ails you in just a moment. As a society, we have been conditioned to expect quick fixes and instant successes. We long for solutions simple enough “for dummies.”
When it comes to marriage and family, we are prone to seek out the same solutions: miracle cures and momentary fixes. Book after book, blog after blog, and page after page has been written to instruct us on how to have a better marriage. Certainly, many of these books offer wisdom on how to live with and love your spouse better, but they are short on a practical path for making lasting changes in your marriage. Where these books often fail us, Scripture rewards us.
Micah 6:8 reads, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
These words from the Lord provide for Israel and for us a summary of God’s expectation for the life of His children. J.M.P Smith describes this verse as “the finest summary of the content of practical religion to be found in the OT.”
Each of these principles will serve to better not only the lives of God’s children but also the marriages of God’s children. Consider each of these principles individually.
In Micah 6, the Lord requires his children to do justice. This means simply doing what is “right, that which is just, lawful, according to law.” In all times, in all places, and with all people, those who do justice seek to do the right thing. To apply this in the marriage context, the spouse who seeks to do the right thing in every situation will be a spouse who limits the areas of potential conflict in his or her marriage.
The most common martial stressors and causes of divorce are infidelity and financial issues. If, as a spouse, you are always seeking to do right, you would never commit infidelity, as that would be doing wrong by your spouse. The one seeking to do right would also always handle his finances in a way that is right and correct by his family and by those with whom he interacts in financial dealings.
Doing what is right may not be easy, but if this is the desire of both spouses, the points of contention in the marriage will be severely limited. Even when areas of dispute arise, if you can trust that your spouse was ultimately seeking to do right in a situation, you will be much more prone to forgive and forget any wrong that was done.
The second principle required by the Lord is to love kindness. God’s reminder in this passage is centered on Israel loving the kindness, or mercy, that God has shown them as His chosen people.
Just as the people of Israel were to love and cherish the mercy that God had shown, so should modern believers. Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:7-8a: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.” The mercy of God given to us in Christ Jesus is a mercy that not only covers over our sin; it also abounds in its graciousness and goodness toward us.
Loving the mercy of God will help us love showing mercy to others, especially our spouses. When one considers the depth of his own sin and the abundant mercy of God to forgive his sin, he becomes much more prone to show mercy to his spouse, no matter how heinous the offense.
Dave Harvey, in his work When Sinners Say I Do, writes, “And when I find myself walking in the shoes of the worst of sinners, I will make every effort to grant my spouse the same lavish grace that God has granted me.” A spouse who is committed to loving mercy will extend mercy to his spouse every time his spouse fails. Cherishing each day the mercy of God makes giving mercy in return much easier.
The third principle required by the Lord is to walk humbly. The figurative use of “walk” here is a reminder of the daily commitment required to walk in humility. The challenge for the Israelites—and for us—is that our natural inclination is to daily walk in our own pride instead of in humility.
Just as gasoline is a poison and an ignition hazard to a field, so pride is to a relationship with God and a relationship with a spouse. Pride seeks to sabotage and sink both of these relationships by telling us that our desires are the best desires and our plans are the best plans with no consideration of God’s will or, in the case of marriage, any concern for the needs of our spouse.
Pride is always a liar. Pride tells us we are in control when the reality is that God Himself is in control. If we want to walk humbly with God, we must eradicate the sin of pride from our lives. Philippians 2:3 states simply, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Humility before God is regarding God’s will above our own. Humility before our spouses is regarding their needs and desires above our own.
This is why Paul, in Ephesians 5, reminds husbands to give themselves up for their wives, and for wives to submit to their husbands. Paul understood that humility is the primary key to the prosperous marriage. Just as pride is like gasoline, humility is like water to a field. Whereas gasoline brings the threat of death and flames, water brings life and refreshment. Humility is life-giving and growth-inducing to a marriage and to a spouse. When you choose to sacrifice your own pride for the needs and desires of your spouse, you will deepen your relationship and commitment to them.
A marriage built on pride is destined to fall. A marriage built daily with humility will be impossible to sink.
Ultimately, the point of Micah 6 is not marriage; its primary concern is how all people should walk rightly with God. All of these principles are life-giving to everyone’s spiritual health, not just those who are married. Anyone who has trusted in Christ as Savior and daily commits to these principles will see growth in his relationship with God and his relationships with others.
That is not to say this will come easy; this is no quick-fix miracle cure. But certainly Psalm 19:8 is true when it says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” The one who follows the Lord in this way will receive joy from the Lord.
Thus, the key to navigating marital strife is spiritual growth. The more we follow the commands and expectations of the Lord, the better our marriages will be. The more we commit to do rightly, the less we will wrong our spouses. The more we commit to love mercy, the more we will forgive our spouses. The more we walk humbly with God, the more we will serve our spouses. Ultimately, the more we follow God’s will and walk in His ways, the better and stronger our marriages will be.
Kenneth L. Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, vol. 20, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 113.
Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 520.
Harvey, Dave (2010-12-01). When Sinners Say “I Do” (Kindle Locations 503-504). Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.