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Marriage Preparation and Improvement: Responsibility, Honesty, Self-Control

Marriage, responsibility, honestyWhy should married couples be responsible and honest? How important are trust, truth, keeping promises, paying debts, and controlling spending. Why avoid deceit, lying, and uncontrolled anger?

This is part of a ten-part series about marriage preparation and improvement. This article should be studied in context of the whole series of articles. To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

Major marriage problems often are caused by irresponsible conduct, especially regarding honesty, financial matters, and uncontrolled temper.

A. Husbands and Wives Must Tell the Truth and Keep Their Promises.

God requires us to tell the truth.

Bible teaching

Proverbs 6:16-19 - There are 7 things God hates, and two of them involve lying and deceit: "a lying tongue," and "a false witness that tells lies."

Proverbs 30:8 - Remove far from me falsehood and lies. No servant of God wants a close relationship with one who practices lying or deceit.

Revelation 21:8,27; 22:14,15 - All liars will have their part in the lake of fire outside the holy city.

Ephesians 4:25 - Putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. In no relationship is this more true than in marriage.

Romans 1:29,32 - Deceit is a twin brother of lying. It involves deliberately attempting to lead people to believe things that are not true. Those who practice it, and those who approve of others who practice it, both are worthy of death.

Psalm 40:4 - Do not have respect for those who turn aside to lies.

[John 8:44; Colossians 3:9; Psalm 24:3-5; 1 Peter 2:1,22; 3:10; Matthew 15:18-20; Proverbs 19:22; Exodus 20:16; Acts 5:1-9]


If we really understand this Bible teaching, why would we ever be dishonest with our marriage companion? Lying and deceit are always sinful. Why should we practice them toward those whom God has commanded us to love?

Marriage is based on mutual trust. When you sneak and deceive your spouse to get your way, you destroy the foundation of marriage and you sin against your spouse and against God.

And why would we marry anyone known to tell lies? If the person you are considering marrying lies to you or others, break off the relationship. A person who lies can never be trusted.

And if he/she lies to other people, don't think they won't lie to you. He will lie to anyone, when he thinks it is to his advantage. You never know when they are lying and when they are telling the truth. Why choose to live with that all your life?

God requires us to keep our promises.

Bible teaching

Hebrews 10:23 - God is faithful to His promises to us. This is just one of many characteristics God requires us to possess because it is a fundamental characteristic He possesses.

Genesis 29:18-28 - Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob for his wife if he would work seven years. But when the time came, he gave Leah instead. This is described as deceit (v25). Deceit characterized this whole family, and trouble repeatedly resulted. When a person can keep a promise but knowingly refuses to do so, that is deceitful. [31:4-13, 38-53]

Numbers 30:1,2 - The Lord commanded if a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. [Prov. 22:25]

James 5:12 - Do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment. [Matt. 5:33-37; 23:16-22; 2 Cor. 1:15-20]

The fact we don't take oaths under the New Testament does not mean that keeping our word is less needed in the New Testament than in the Old Testament; rather, it is more necessary. In the New Testament, giving your word is binding, like Old Testament oaths were binding.

Romans 1:31,32 - Among those worthy of death are "covenant-breakers" (KJV & ASV). The NKJV says "untrustworthy" - surely, one who does keep his word is not trustworthy.

Matthew 7:12 (22:36-39) - The Golden Rule requires us to do to others as we want them to do to us. If it bothers you for people to make promises to you that they don't keep, then don't treat others this way.

[See also Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:2-6; Malachi 2:13-16; Jer. 34:8-22; Ezek. 17:12-16 (cf. v17-21); Gal. 3:15; Josh 2:9-21; 6:22f; 1 Kings 2:8,42f.]


Sometimes extenuating circumstances might release us from a promise.

(1) We may have made a conditional promise. If the condition is not met, we are not obligated. [Sometimes conditions are understood, even if not stated.]

(2) Physical circumstances beyond our control may make it impossible to do as planned (like sickness keeping us from job, church meeting, etc.) [Luke 7:41,42; Matt. 18:24-34]

(3) The person to whom we made the commitment may agree to change the agreement [Prov. 6:1-5; Luke 7:41,42; Matt. 18:24-34].

(4) If we committed ourselves to do something sinful, we must repent of having made the commitment, and then not keep it (Matthew 21:28-30).

But we must never make a promise that we have no intention of keeping. Having made a promise, we must not knowingly fail to keep it when we are able to keep it.

If a person does not honor his word and keep his promises, what reason do you have to believe he will keep the marriage vows? What evidence is there that he/she will stay with you till death or remain faithful sexually?

Few things do more harm to the marriage relationship than a partner who cannot be trusted to tell the truth and keep his/her word.

B. Husbands and Wives Should Pay Their Debts and Control Spending.

Money matters are one of the biggest causes of strife in marriage. Often the problem is caused by over-commitment to debt.

Bible principles

Christians must pay their debts.

2 Corinthians 8:21 - Provide for things that are honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. Being honorable in dealing with men requires paying our debts.

Psalm 37:21 - One who borrows and then does not pay again is wicked.

James 5:12 - Let your yea be yea and your nay, nay. If you don't intend to pay for a thing, don't promise that you will. If you do promise, then you are obligated to keep that commitment.

Romans 13:7,8 - Not only must we pay our taxes, but render to all what is due. This does not mean it is wrong to borrow. But when the payments come due, you must pay what you owe.

For Christians, there can be no doubt about whether or not debts will be paid. Failure to pay a debt is one form of dishonesty and failing to keep our promises.

[James 5:4]

One reason people are overwhelmed by debt is desire for material things.

Matthew 13:22 - In the parable of the sower, the thorny soil represents people in whom God's word is choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. These problems cause much marital strife and destroy marriages, as well as making people unfaithful to God.

1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. People are often led to buy things they cannot afford because of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or pride of life. We see things that we think will satisfying our desires or that will make us feel important. We want what others have. But if we love the world, the love of God is not in us.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 - Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Instead, we need to learn to be content with basic necessities.


Just because others have something doesn't mean your family needs it. Often a couple buys things they don't really need and can't really afford, then there is arguing about how the debts will be paid. Or both husband and wife work long hours to buy material things, but as a result they neglect their responsibilities to one another, to their children, to the church, etc.

Couples need to learn from the early days of their marriage to make a budget and live by it. Make a list of the things you need in order to live and how much each one will cost you. If you can't afford to pay for a thing and still spend the time and money you need with your family and in God's work, then learn to do without it.

Avoid debt whenever possible. Never make a debt unless you have every reason to believe you can pay it. If you make a debt, pay it.

If a person has demonstrated that they cannot control their spending and cannot learn to live on their income, then don't marry them. Or wait till they grow up and demonstrate in their life the basic honesty and self-control required to live within their means and pay their debts.

[Luke 12:15-22; Matthew 6:19-33]

C. Husbands and Wives Must Control Their Anger.

Bible teaching

Ephesians 4:26 - Being angry is not necessarily sinful, but we must control our anger or it will lead us into sin. [Mark 3:5]

James 1:19,20 - Be slow to speak, slow to wrath, because man's anger does not work God's righteousness. Learn not to get angry quickly, and do not speak quickly when you are angry. You can learn to control your temper. [Proverbs 14:17]

Proverbs 29:11,20 - A foolish man utters all his anger and is hasty in words. Sometimes people say, "I just say what I think," as though this justifies their sinful statements. But some things should not be thought, let alone said (Matthew 12:35-37). And wise men learn to control their speech. Only a foolish man says every thought that comes to his mind, especially when he is angry. [Ephesians 4:31,32; Proverbs 16:32; 25:28]

Proverbs 15:1,28 - When you are angry or your spouse is angry, study to answer (think about it carefully), and respond calmly.

Proverbs 22:24,25 - Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.


Failure to control ones temper leads to sin and ruins many marriages.

Uncontrolled anger often leads to sin against others, especially those closest to us. It can even lead to violence and spouse or child abuse. If you have a temper problem, you must learn to control it if you ever expect to have a good home, to please God, or to receive eternal life.

If a person is known to have a bad temper that he often does not control, and especially if he is known to get violent, why marry him? Let him learn to grow up and prove he can control himself over a long period of time, or marry someone else.

You say, "He said he was sorry and asked me to forgive him."

Evil people often take advantage of the kindness of innocent people, especially young women. They lead you to believe that, if they say they are sorry, you must take them back and continue the relationship, even if you are not married.

Apologizing is good. But every liar will say he's sorry, when you catch him and prove unquestionably that he lied. People who frequently lose their temper will be sorry after they calm down. But real repentance requires changing, not just being sorry (Acts 26:20). Such characteristics are habits engrained in the character. They can be changed, but it will take time and motivation. Don't risk your soul and your happiness by marrying such a person.

If he apologizes and promises to change, you should forgive. But that does not require you to marry him or even to continue a relationship. Forgiving a person and marrying them are two different issues. Are you required to marry every person who asks your forgiveness? You are not required to marry anybody! You have every right to decide not to marry a person on any grounds you choose.

If he goes a year or two without committing such sins, you may have grounds to reconsider. But meanwhile, break off the relationship and let him prove himself willing to truly change. This keeps you free from an emotional bond that could bring you to ruin.

2 Peter 1:6; Galatians 5:22,23 - Self-control is both a fruit of the Spirit and a virtue one must add to his faith.

Before they marry, a man and a woman should both be mature and responsible enough to tell the truth, keep their promises, control their temper, and control their finances. If you are considering marrying a person who lacks self-control, do not think it will get better after marriage - it will probably get worse! Marry someone else, or at least wait until he/she grows up and enough time has passed to prove they have a pattern of responsible conduct.

If you are already married and have these problems, grow up! Study the Bible and make a commitment before God to change. Then keep your word and change.

This is part of a ten-part series of articles about marriage preparation and improvement. To continue with the next article in the series, please go to /family/marriage-friends.php  To start at the beginning of the series, please click here: Marriage_Improvement.php

(C) Copyright 2007, David E. Pratte;
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