In the news recently was a report of a woman who bought a necklace at a flea market. The fact that she did so was not noteworthy but what she discovered certainly was. This necklace, unique in nature, was bought by the woman for $15.00. Three years later, after seeing one similar in a museum she got curious and inquired of her own necklace’s real value. Upon exploration she discovered its real worth was closer to $200,000 - $300,000.
This necklace’s hidden value reminds me of marriage.
Listening to the leading voices of the American culture, one would believe that marriage has only trifling value. Marriage has become the storied $15.00 necklace. But if we knew its true worth, would we be so dismissive of it?
The Benefits of Marriage
To highlight the significance of marriage, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops compiled “research on the benefits generated from families rooted in marriage.” The list of marriage’s unexpected benefits are staggering:
Happily married men are more physically healthy; less likely to attempt or commit suicide; are more secure in their employment; decrease risk of alcohol and drugs; less violent and live longer (23-24).
Happily married women are emotionally healthier experiencing less depression; less likely to live in poverty; decreased risk to be victim of domestic violence or sexual assault and live longer than non-married peers (23).
Children who are part of stable-marriage homes experience more physical and emotional well being; more likely to attend college and land in stronger positions in the work force; less likely to produce delinquent behaviors, do better in schools and are less likely to initiate sexual activity (23).
Summarizing their findings, the Bishops write::
Marriage is a ‘seedbed’ of pro-social behavior that fosters social connections, civil and religious involvement, and charitable giving…Marriage is the greatest social educator of children. It is the institution that most effectively teaches the civic virtues of honesty, loyalty, trust, self-sacrifice, personal responsibility, and respect for others (24).
Married families are the essential contributors to wealth generation. Their income and savings immediately translate into revenue for government and capital for the economy.” Intact families—a married mother and father— benefit the economy.
Clearly, marriage remains the bedrock of society; without a strong marriage culture, society disintegrates. As the founder of the Center for Marriage Policy,David Usher points out, “Marriage absence is driving America’s greatest problems, including out-of-control spending, much of the home-loan foreclosure crisis, poverty, children who fail in school, lack of healthcare coverage, and personal bankruptcy.”
Answering Marriage Pallbearers
Contrary to what Hollywood, media or relationship “experts” say: marriage is important. Its success impacts not only the two people involved, but it radically benefits and shapes the environment and people around it. It’s decline works in similar fashion, dragging men, women and children--and even our government--down with it.
Beyond social science, how do we answer those who treat marriage lightly, as though it has little value?
By treating marriage as a beautiful gift.
Marriage and family expert, Dr. James Dobson eloquently summarizes the gift of marriage this way:
"Behold, the institution of marriage! It is one of the Creator’s most marvelous and enduring gifts to humankind….Five thousand years of recorded history have come and gone, yet every civilization in the history of the world has been built upon it….The institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor, and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability. When it is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure begins to wobble."
Marriage is not something to be trifled with; the idea of a man and woman united as one for a lifetime is undermined at great peril to our culture and society.
A standard bearer for courage, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote movingly about the enduring beauty and value of marriage:
"With your marriage you are founding a home…Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary. It is not founded on the shifting sands of outward or public life, but it has its peace in God, for it is God who gives it its special meaning and value, its own nature and privilege, its own destiny and dignity. It is an ordinance of God in the world." (A Wedding Sermon)
If our bargain hunter had listened to the skeptics, she would not have purchased, much less had appraised, her flea market trinket. She would have passed it by as many other shoppers did, assuming it was old, out of style, irrelevant and worthless.
In the same way, our society must now look at marriage in the context of history, and through the lens of sociology and religion. Join with other young adults, who with our words, actions and lives, are sending the message to our culture that marriage is too priceless to dismiss. It’s value, though at times obscured, must be appraised and then treasured for its full worth, today, tomorrow and forever.Media: