DEAR ALI: “Don’t you think the reasons for Christians staying single are entirely secular? Even in church, the guys prefer to date the pretty girls, and the girls prefer the guys with money…”
Often the reasons for Christians staying single are entirely secular: even in church, the guys prefer to date the pretty girls, and the girls prefer the guys with money. It’s not that singles shouldn’t trust God. But when it comes to issues of marriage, material factors often determine who gets a ring, and who doesn’t. Sometimes, if attracting a mate is one’s goal, losing ten pounds might be more effective than prayer alone. Do you agree that secular factors often play a decisive role in finding love?
Thank you for writing in with these very poignant and shall I say, blunt questions. You are one of the few male readers that has written in and I appreciate the opportunity to hear a perspective from the other side of the gender line! You raise some great points and are definitely not alone in wondering what kind of role the ‘secular factors’ play in our spiritual quest to find a mate.
I think this idea of sacred versus secular is one worth addressing. Could it be that we are over-valuing the spiritual notion of ‘trusting’ God to match us with a mate, and thus undervaluing the secular reality that we are living as human beings in this world? I don’t know if it is possible to ever put too much value on trusting God, for we are called to trust Him with our whole heart, mind and soul. But I do think the way we understand the relationship between the sacred and secular can shape our perspective in how we navigate the dating world and that is what I want to touch on in this week’s post.
In considering today’s primary question whether finding a mate depends largely on secular/material/worldy factors, I want to propose that perhaps we are making assumptions of what ‘secular’ factors are and what they are not, thus defining and dividing what is sacred versus what is secular. But are the two spheres as mutually exclusive as we make them out to be? In other words, is there no room for the sacred in the secular and vise vera? As I read the Bible, studying the ways Jesus lived on earth, I can only come to this conclusion: God wants the sacred to exist within every aspect of secular society. He wants us to live and breathe His holy and sacred nature in all we do: our jobs, relationships, families, hobbies and everything we put our hearts and minds to while we are alive on this earth. As we pray so frequently in the Lord’s prayer, “thy Kingdom, come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
So what does this have to do with dating and attracting a mate? Things that we deem ‘material..worldly…secular’ factors in finding love, such as physical looks, career success and wealth, may not be entirely secular factors after all. That is, if we see them from God’s perspective. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what the Word of God says and let it do the talking:
God cares about our physical bodies. The Apostle Paul says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?…Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19). What does it mean to treat our bodies as ‘temples’ of the Holy Spirit? It means we must take great care for our physical beings. God created us to live on earth in human bodies and it is up to us how we manage them. Think about it: a temple is a holy place, greatly revered and respected by the people of God. We should see our bodies in the same light: ‘buildings’ to be respected, taken care of and revered as holy. When we understand the weight of this analogy God gives us, we will value things that will help us with the upkeep, such as regular exercise, healthy eating and sufficient sleep.
When it comes to attracting a mate, sometimes we can fall into the trap of valuing only our spiritual selves, while neglecting the physical. For example, in church circles we often say it’s all about “inner beauty” and “what’s in our hearts” and “accepting us for who we are.” These things are important of course, but can create a mindset that undervalues the importance of caring for our physical beings in the name of holiness. This doesn’t mean we strive to be perfect Barbie just so perfect Ken will like us. Heavens no! But if we are properly caring for our ‘temples,’ it will naturally result in good health, energy and confidence, which will undoubtedly help in the attraction department.
So is it wrong for a man to desire a pretty woman? Or vise versa? We cannot deny that attraction is an important element in the relationship equation. God designed it and it should be looked for when considering a mate. Physical appearance does play a role in the chemistry between two people, it just does. But if we begin to see not just the physical, but God’s holiness at work in and through it, we will see that God’s blessing will be all over it. He wants us to be attracted! He wants us to enjoy an electrifying chemistry with the object of our affection! These are all good things! But we must see them as sacred elements working within the secular, just as He intended them to be.
(A great resource on living as spiritual beings in a physical world is Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, not Food, http://madetocrave.org/)
God Delights in our Success. Verses about God’s desire to see His children succeed are sprinkled throughout the Bible:
- “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)
- “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
- “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)
The common thread with all of these verses is that success is dependent on one’s relationship with the Lord and reliance upon His Word. We can be sure that if we are doing our work as if we are working for the Lord, and not for men (Colossians 3:23), He will lead us on His path of protection, provision and prosperity, according to His will. For some, this might be rising the ranks of the corporate latter. For others, this might be serving the nation of Africa as a traveling nurse. But the important thing to remember is this: God wants to bring the sacred into the secular. He us, as His children, to reflect Him in our spheres of influence.
So when it comes to attracting or looking for a mate, is it bad to desire someone who is ‘successful’ in their work? God never said we are to shun success and prosperity and become lazy bums! Nor did He say the only way to please Him is to work in jobs that are deemed ‘spiritual.’ Our motives are what God cares about, and if we are working with all our hearts as for Him and not for man, with a standard of excellence in all we do, then God very well may move us ‘upward’ into places of influence and power. We should not be attracted to a person because of the title he or she holds, but because of their pure heart to want to please the Lord through the work He has assigned them to do. As Eric Liddell, the olympic runner and Christian missionary said so beautifully, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” When we express the gifts God has given us through our work, we too should feel the Lord’s pleasure. It is a holy desire to want to be with someone who sees their work in this way. There again, the sacred… invading the secular. Pretty powerful.
Wealth comes from God. Our questioner today said ‘the girls prefer the men with money.’ While this may be true in some cases, the issue of money should not be relegated to the ‘secular’ realm. We cannot deny that Jesus does have some harsh words for the ‘wealthy’ people of His day. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” He says to His disciples in Matthew 19:24. But we must read these verses in context and understand what Jesus was saying and why he said it. He was speaking to those who had put their trust in riches and had made money their God. When wealth becomes the basis of our happiness and fulfillment, we are a far cry from the Kingdom of God and to desire to be with someone who sees money in this way is not a good thing.
But wealth in and of itself is not a bad thing. All God asks is that we recognize where it comes from–Him. He says, “But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:18). If we see everything as God’s, we will see money and all material things in a different light. We will be obedient to how he guides us in creating and managing wealth in a ways that please Him and blesses others.
So is it wrong for a woman to desire a wealthy man? Or vise versa? If the money is what we are after, then yes. But if the motive is to find a man/woman who believes and acknowledges everything belongs to and comes from the Lord, then no. I personally find it attractive when a man lives with an attitude that says, “I recognize my ability to create wealth comes from God and I will do all I can to be a wise steward with the money that God will bring through my hands.”
After reviewing Scripture, we can see that the things we deem ‘secular’ factors in attracting and finding a mate, such as physical appearance, career success and wealth, are in fact important matters to God and when lived out with the proper motive can bring His beauty, favor and blessing into our lives. The important thing is that we continue to check our hearts and motives when we are navigating the dating world, for it is so easy to let the truly secular ways (devoid of God) creep into our lives. May we frequently utter the words of the Psalmist, who said:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting.” (psalm 139:23-24)
Questions for Contemplation:
- What are your thoughts on your body as a ‘temple’ for the Holy Spirit? In what ways can you take better care of your temple? How does this sacred way of viewing your physical being influence your preferences in a mate?
- How would you define success? Are you attracted to a certain type of person based on their career success? Is it for sacred or secular reasons?
- What is your view on material wealth? When you are getting to know a new person romantically, do you focus more on how they view money or how much they actually have in the bank? Ask God to search your heart and help keep your motives in the right place.
Feel free to share what you agree and/or disagree with in this post. I would love to continue the conversation around this topic!
Have a wonderful weekend. See you back here next week!