The marriage relationship is one of the most important relationships that most people will ever be involved in. It is vital that those who are married treat their spouses right. Christians need to excel in love, devotion, and faithfulness to their spouses. However, there is one relationship that takes a priority even over our marriage relationship: this is our relationship with God. It is true that we are to love our spouses and others in our family deeply, but we cannot truly love them enough if we do not first and foremost love God. That is why Jesus told his disciples that loving God comes before loving our families:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
The verse above is not saying that we should not love our families. Actually, the Bible commands us to love our families and all other humans we come in contact with (Leviticus 19:18). But we are not to love them more than we love God: If they make us chose between them and God we must chose God. This means that we must not put our familial responsibilities above our responsibilities towards God. The apostle Paul explains that we must not use our familial duties as an excuse to get out of our Christian duties:
What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (I Corinthians 7:29-30)
What Paul is saying here is not that we should neglect our families–especially not for selfish reasons–but sometimes we need to put God’s work above some of the preferences that our family members might have. For instance, your son may want you to buy him a new i-phone with your money, when it might be better for you to give that money to missionaries serving overseas. Paul is warning us that the time is short; any of us could die soon, or Christ could come back soon. Therefore, those who have wives should live as if they do not. That means those of us who have wives must not neglect our Christian ministry and focus exclusively on making our wives happy. Being married does not excuse us from our responsibility to minister to the poor and the hungry, for instance. Those who mourn should live as if they did not. This means that a Christian who has suffered a tragedy in life (such as the loss of a spouse) must not spend all their time grieving, but must continue to serve God by ministering to the living. On the other hand, those who are happy need to live as if they were not. In other words, those who have food, good houses, and plenty of family, must not, in their security, forget to care about and care for those who are less fortunate for themselves. They need to grieve for other Christians who are hurting more, and be a comfort to them. Those who buy something should not act as if it were theirs to keep. Christians need to remember that this world in its present form is passing away. Therefore we need to be careful not to idolize anything in our current circumstances and worship it above God: this includes our careers, our automobiles, and even our families.
Now, this is not to say that we should neglect our families. NO ONE SHOULD EVER USE THESE VERSES AS AN EXCUSE TO RUN AWAY FROM THEIR FAMILIAL RESPONSIBILITIES. Rather, these verses simply tell us that our primary concern should be God’s will. It is NEVER God’s will for us to divorce a spouse (unless they force us into it), or withhold the money to care for our parents. If you do these things you are dishonoring God:
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)