I have often heard people say “Marriage is 50/50; do your part and you’ll do fine” or even take it a step further and say, “Marriage is not always 50/50. Some days you will wake up and may have to give 90% and your spouse will give 10%. Other days you may wake up and give 25% and your spouse will have to put in the 75%.” And while this may sound good, there is a Kingdom alternative that Jesus espouses that moves beyond the traditional give-and-take approach to marriage. Let me explain:
A marriage that is based on a 50/50 or even a one-day-I’ll-pick-up-the-slack-and-the-other-day-my-spouse-will mentality will always end in frustration. There will always be a reason why your spouse is not fully pulling his/her weight. What happens on days when both spouses only bring 20%? Who makes up the other 60%? It is a slippery slope. It becomes a game of who is upholding his/her end of the bargain better. And when you begin to think like that, you start keeping tabs and you have a running list of the things your spouse has done wrong or hasn’t done at all. It becomes about winning and losing instead of being in relationship. It becomes about being better than the other and then being bitter because he/she didn’t do what he/she said… and holding that against them and over their head. This is the happiness model of marriage with you at the center and your happiness being the ultimate end. If you are not happy, it’s your spouse’s fault and you either let them know or you secretly hold it against them and let that grudge fester in your heart.
The Biblical model of marriage is what I call the 100/0 principle: self-sacrifice, loving unconditionally, serving, and not considering yourself better than others or doing things out of selfish ambition. That means regardless of what my wife does or does not do around the house, regardless of whether she hates or loves me, slaps me in the face daily or showers me with kisses, my call is to serve and love her with no expectation of getting anything in return. I do everything and expect nothing in return. That is how Jesus loves us, so that is how we are called to love our spouse.
My job, duty, and delight is to love my wife unconditionally and give her 100% of what I can bring and give to our relationship and not expect anything in return. And that is your Biblical call as a husband and a wife as well. Most people don’t like that because it is “unfair” and this type of approach lets his/her spouse off the hook. Most Christians think that fairness is a Biblical principle when it comes to service and relationships and frankly, it isn’t. Fair is not a Biblical principle, it’s not a fruit of the spirit, and it is not a command of Jesus. It is an American principle and a secular humanistic principle… but a Kingdom principle? No. If anything, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be massively lopsided and completely unfair! We should be the most unfair people on the planet. We should be so unfair that we are known for our unfair nature!
You know another word for unfair?
Grace. Grace is not “fair”
Especially in marriage, we get ourselves in trouble when we live by the ridiculous notion that relationships are 50/50. If you are following Jesus, this is an absolute cop out. Grace means you give 100% when it is undeserved and expect nothing in return. Grace has to accompany service or else it is simply dead works that you are going to use to leverage against someone in the future for your benefit. Even if Tracy (my wife) never lifted another finger in our house, hated me forever, or God forbid became catatonic I would remain faithful to my wife because marriage is supposed to be a shining example of how Christ loved the church and never turned His back on her. Is this easy? No. Is this Biblical? Yes. And what you find out is that as you are transformed into the image of your Creator, becoming more like Him in service and humility, there is a deeper satisfaction when you are serving rather than the superficial happiness of being served.
100/0: The only way to fully be satisfied in a marriage is to serve without expectation and to accept every little thing your spouse does back for you as a gift and act of grace.