Chapter 2 – God’s Design for Marriage

In general, God created men to be more accomplishment-oriented and women to be more relationship-oriented. This is why Adam’s primary commission from God was in the area of labor and accomplishment – cultivating and keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15). Eve’s primary commission was in the area of relationships – serving as a helper to her husband (Genesis 2:18).


Correspondingly, when mankind fell to sin, Adam and Eve’s curses were also related to labor and relationships. For Adam, the ground was cursed so his labor would become toilsome. For Eve, God multiplied her pain in childbirth and warned her about the effect of sin on her marriage (Genesis 3:16-19).


Of course, men also have a relational side and women also esteem labor and accomplishments. This speaks of their primary orientation, not their only orientation. Men’s and women’s qualities together fully reflect God’s image, which is why they were both created in His image (Genesis 1:27) and commissioned jointly to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28).


Adam’s Labor

Before the fall, both the environment and Adam’s mental and physical abilities were flawless. His labor would have been unimaginably fulfilling, marked by fluid creativity and innovation. Over time, he would have experienced success after success, his influence always expanding, like a career path that goes from one plateau to another. As the population grew, all people would have used their unique gifts and abilities and labored harmoniously alongside one another. Adam and his descendants would have built homes, cities, technologies, and governing / organizational structures completely devoid of sinful influence. There would have been an abundance of every kind of valuable good and service. No one would have worried about how to survive. The earth would have been far beyond any conception of utopia fallen mankind has contrived.


After the fall, Adam’s labor became a frustrating struggle. He faced opposition from the environment and diminished mental and physical abilities. He faced setbacks, injuries, and confusing problems with no solution. As the population grew, people frequently worked against one another, vying for positon, ruled by selfish motives. Leaders enslaved and dominated others. People toiled to make ends meet and worried about the future. There was poverty, starvation, and violent conflicts over valuable resources.


Eve’s Relationships

Without sin, Eve’s relationships with her husband, children, and others would have been completely pure. She would have given herself to her husband unreservedly. She would have been delighted to help him because she knew he always had her best interests at heart. She would never have questioned his motives or worried he might try to dominate her. She would never have felt jealous because she knew his romantic desire was for her alone. She would have felt no compulsion to control him because she knew he perfectly relied on God’s grace to lead their family. She would have freely poured out love and wisdom into her children. She would have watched her beautiful legacy expand to grandchildren, great grandchildren, and on and on. Her family line would have been forever devoid of pain, fear, or grief. 


After the fall, Adam and Eve’s marriage was distorted by sin. Pain and distrust crept in. Just as God warned (Genesis 3:16), Eve was prone to idolizing Adam, looking more to him for her sense of value and security than to God. This caused her to often feel jealous and insecure. Also, as God warned, Adam was prone to ruling over Eve from selfish motives (Genesis 3:16). This caused her to become fearful about how he led their family. She also experienced multiplied pain in childbirth, which paralleled the pain she experienced in their spiritual development. She saw her children rebel, hurt one another, develop addictions, and cause her heavy grief.


Society’s Values

Today in the west many women relate more to career ambition than dreams of marriage and family. However, this may be due in part to the fact that our society greatly affirms career / monetary success and dismisses traditional, domestic life as insignificant. Women are often made to feel as though they’re settling or missing out if they devote a large portion of their lives to raising children. The desire for society’s affirmation has reshaped many women’s values and curbed their domestic instincts. This is part of the enemy’s strategy to erode our esteem for the family.



If someone said to me, “Women are just as competent and qualified as men for the most important jobs in society, so why should they be the ones to stay home and raise children?” I would say, “You just answered your own question.” The bigger problem in our society is not inequality in the workplace, but the eviction of motherhood from its rightful place of honor.


I fully support equality in the workplace. My mother was police officer and a therapist during different seasons of my upbringing. My wife is an excellent therapist. In my professional life, some of the best mangers I’ve reported to were women. I don’t deny that women often aren’t compensated for the value they provide in the marketplace in the same way as their male colleagues. Nor do I deny that this inequality is wrong, detrimental to society, and should be pointed out in public discourse by corporate and media influencers. 


But the idea that a woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom is somehow missing out or settling for less is a ridiculous notion. When exactly did raising the next generation, sacrificially teaching them integrity and kindness and wisdom and work ethic day in and day out come to be considered less important than the labor of doctors or lawyers or accountants? How is caring for people’s bodies or companies or money more important than the formation of their souls? It’s not less important – it’s more important.


Motherhood is the ultimate act of service, the greatest sacrifice, and the most pressing need. Women are indeed just as competent and qualified for the most important jobs in society. In some ways they are more qualified, as we’ll discuss in coming chapters. This is why those who choose the most important job of all – staying home to raise children – should be held in the highest esteem.


Social Media and Rest Home Talk

Two illustrations come to my when I think about the aforementioned male-female differences. First, I frequently check current events on my phone. My wife Jenny, on the other hand, regularly checks social media updates. One day I turned to her and said, “You know, you and I both like to check the news – only you prefer news about your family and friends, while I prefer news about what’s happening in the world. But they’re both just news.” She smiled and agreed, adding that this was probably a common difference between men and women.


Second, my dad recently spent time with his mom in her rest home. Afterward he observed to me, “All the men talk about is their health problems and all the women talk about is their grandchildren.” I pondered this later and thought, “How appropriate.” Men pride themselves in being strong and capable. Somewhere deep down it feels wrong that our bodies incrementally break down and die – like it’s not supposed to be this way. Likewise, women take pride in their seeing their families grow from one generation to the next. It feels wrong that their participation in them must come to an abrupt end.


The Purpose of the Curses

Why was the ground cursed for Adam? Why did God give Eve pain in childbirth? Because of sin, our greatest gifts can become our greatest idols. We look to our gifts for our sense of purpose and identity more than we look to God. This is why men make idols out of their careers and women make idols out of their families. This reinforces our lost condition and intensifies our trajectory toward eternal separation.


Gifts make us proud and secure, but pain is humbling. After the fall, men and women experienced pain in the areas in which they were most prone to take pride or find false security. The curses hindered our ability to find our identities in idols. They help us recognize the futility of life apart from God.


God Did Not Curse Adam and Eve’s Marriage

It is important to point out that the breakdown in Adam and Eve’s marriage was not God’s doing. It was simply a natural consequence of sin entering the world. Notice what God said in Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”


With the first part of the verse, the part about pain in childbirth, God took responsibility. “I am the One doing this,” He said.  “Multiplied pain in childbirth is from Me.” This was not the case with the second part.  God did not say, “I will make you desire (idolize) your husband” or “I will cause your husband to rule over (dominate) you.” He only said it was going to happen. In other words, God was telling Eve what effects sin would have on their marriage. 


The Need for Humility

Whenever two people or groups relate to one another, the only way for them to receive the full blessing that God wants to impart is for both to exercise humility. This is especially true when men and women relate to one another.


Men and women have profoundly different gifts, but they correspond to profoundly different weaknesses. Therefore, we should give grace to one another to have completely different struggles without condemning each other. Criticism is deadly. It is part of our sin nature to accusingly point out someone else’s struggle just because we don’t struggle with the same thing ourselves.


Here are a few examples of different gift-struggle combinations we can give each other grace for:

  • Most women do not fully understand the power of a man’s sexual desire and how Satan distorts it into lust.
  • Most men do not fully understand the depth of a woman’s longing to be desirable and beautiful and how Satan distorts it into vanity, self-criticism, or envy of other women they perceive to be more attractive.
  • Most women do not fully appreciate the power of a man’s drive to be successful – to do something significant that impacts the world – and how Satan twists it into selfish ambition, pride, and idolatry.
  • Most men do not fully understand the depth of a woman’s need to feel safe and secure in her relationships and how Satan twists it into controlling or idolizing family members or friends.


Men and women can be strong where their spouses are weak. We can give grace and cover each other’s sin. Humility does not mean refraining from confronting sin. But it does mean recognizing we are not in their shoes and don’t fully know how difficult their struggle is. It means exercising patience and gentleness with their growth process.


My Critical Attitude

Early in our marriage I felt critical of Jenny because I thought she was too attached to her parents and siblings. I saw it as a sign of immaturity and a lack of surrender to God. I feared it would stand in the way of us moving away if God should lead us to do so. It took me many years to understand that Jenny’s intense love and loyalty for family was how God made her.


It also took me many years to realize my concern about Jenny’s “lack of surrender” was not at all for Jenny’s sake. I just didn’t want anything to get in the way of what God might have in store for me. I was only concerned about my gifts, my dreams, and my calling – it was all about me!


In addition to being selfishly motivated, my criticism was just wrong. A couple years later, Jenny agreed to move with me across the country, away from everyone she knew and loved, for no other reason than because she felt God wanted her to.


Appreciating Our Differences

Now I have discovered that one key to not condemning another’s struggle is to intentionally appreciate the corresponding gift. Men and women can be amazed at each other because God made us so wonderfully different. Now when I observe the depth of emotion that comes up in my wife’s heart towards the people she loves, I am amazed. I see how much joy it gives her when they are happy. I see how much grief she feels when they are in pain. Watching her causes me to feel a small part of what she feels. It amazes me to think her emotions are just a tiny glimpse of the emotions God feels.



Is there an authority structure in marriage? If so, what is it and why did God design marriage this way? In the next chapter, we’ll address these questions.