Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why family for men? The blessing of a yoke

As our generation increasingly takes a cost/benefit analysis approach to getting married and starting a family, it seems that the cost side is easier to articulate.

The 20,000 Quips and Quotes book on my shelf offers more entries on the costs of marriage than the benefits—with quotes like, “The trouble with wedlock is that there’s not enough wed and too much lock” and “Marriage is a feminine plot to add to a man’s responsibilities and subtract from his rights.” When it comes to the costs of parenting, there are even calculators available now to let you know how much you can expect to shell out to raise a child over a lifetime (around $170,000 on average according to Parenthood.com).

These examples add to a growing list of costs (financial, emotional, social and otherwise) that we are told come with family. Yet the Bible describes family as a good thing and as a blessing. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” And check out how The Message paraphrases Psalm 127:3-5:
3 Don't you see that children are GOD's best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy? 4 Like a warrior's fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. 5 Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!
While giving a blessing at our wedding, one of our graduate school professors noted that a blessing is not a passive thing, it’s active—the intense opposite of a curse. Social research consistently reinforces the blessing of marriage in a man’s life—showing that married men are much happier, healthier and wealthier. A study by Ohio State University showed that a person who marries (and stays married) builds nearly twice as much personal wealth as someone who is single or divorced.

One explanation for this blessing is Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” The economies of scale mean a husband and wife can pool their resources and efforts to make everything go further. I know I’m also healthier because my wife keeps things like vegetables in my diet and because she encourages me to have a doctor check things that I probably would keep on ignoring.

However, the primary reason men tend to benefit from family is because of the yoke that it places on them. Like the powerful oxen that can be guided with a yoke to cultivate the land, the structure of family channels a man’s energy into productive causes. This is a principle George Gilder articulates well in Men and Marriage (especially in his opening prologue called "The Princess and the Barbarian").

A good recent example of the power of a yoke was the movie Cinderella Man. (check out the Plugged In review). Based on the true story of boxer Jimmy Braddock, the movie shows the desperate times of the Great Depression challenging Jimmy’s desire to be a good provider for his family. Going up against the daunting Max Baer, Jimmy is asked what he’s fighting for. “Milk money,” he says. While Max towers over Jimmy in the ring and even though he is known for killing a man with his powerful punch, he lacks Jimmy’s motivation. In contrast to the earlier scenes of Max in bed with two women, we know Jimmy is doing his best to care for his wife Mae and their three kids. Towards the climax of the fight, Jimmy delivers every other punch following a mental flash of his family. It’s the drive of a provider that ultimately proves to be his competitive edge.


At 7:35 PM, Blogger Ashleigh said...

Great post! As a wife, I love reading the argument for how marriage is good and beneficial for men. And, how you counter society's "put downs" of marriage and family with biblical truth. I know my husband would definitely say it's been good for him! :-)


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