One of the most important qualities in a spouse for a successful life and marriage is something I never even considered when I was single.
I’m not talking about faith in God—I certainly considered that. Physical attraction mattered a lot to me, and I’m not saying that physical appearance doesn’t matter at all. But there’s another quality that wasn’t even on my radar. Since Lisa excels at it, I’ve probably taken it for granted because I had “it” when I chose her. But when I see other people marry someone who doesn’t have this it reminds me that this quality should be near the top of any single person’s “list.”
What is it that’s so important for singles to consider in a future mate?
A strong work-ethic.
The older I get the more I realize that life is a lot of work; if you marry someone without a strong work ethic, you’re sentencing yourself to a lifetime of picking up the slack.
In his book A Passion for Faithfulness, Dr. J.I. Packer points out how “In the Bible, work as such means any exertion of effort that aims at producing a new state of affairs.” So, for example, you might have to work at finding a job. If someone is the kind of person who just gives up and feels sorry for himself or herself, they won’t do the work of finding employment and they won’t produce “a new state of affairs.” They’ll just wait for someone to help them out.
If a child becomes addicted, they may just give up and say, “Kids will be kids.” If the responsibilities of keeping up a house become too overwhelming or caring for an ill spouse (that would be you, of course) becomes too wearisome, they may seek refuge in an escape type of addiction. Rather than confront life and work to improve their current situation, they collapse, feel sorry for themselves, and make things worse with “self-medication.”
If you marry someone who isn’t prone to work, who in fact abhors work and is lazy, things will tend to go from bad to worse. Staying in shape as you get older is a lot of work. Reading books and listening to sermons to gain wisdom is a lot of work. Growing in prayer is a lot of work. Saving responsibly for retirement is a lot of work. Raising kids is a ton of work. At certain points in your marriage, even cultivating a fulfilling sex life may take a good bit of work. The best things in life are dependent on someone who is willing to work to lay hold of them. If you marry someone who resents work, you’re marrying someone who will never lay hold of the best this world has to offer.
Packer stresses that “God made us all for work” (Gen. 2:15) and that God “has ordained work to be our destiny, both here and hereafter.” Jesus reflects this aspect of deity when he said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). If you marry someone who despises work, you’re marrying someone who ultimately resists God’s design for our lives. God wants us to work on our character, our marriage, our children, our future, our wisdom, our prayer life and our vocation. A lazy person won’t ever live the life God created them to live.
The benefits of work are enormous. Because God made us for work, work causes us to spontaneously praise God. If you’ve ever finished a productive day of meaningful work, you know exactly what I’m talking about; when you work hard at something and succeed, there’s a thrill of fulfillment that few things can match. Work matures us as we learn to say “no” to our worst tendencies and “yes” to the best. Work deepens our relationships with others as work requires us to understand and serve others and it often builds a sense of teamwork and cooperation. Work stretches us to become the kind of people who depend on God, who keep on learning, and who refine latent skills that need to be perfected.
Now that my son and his wife have a new baby, I’m newly reminded of the exhausting work raising a child involves. Fortunately, both my son and his wife are extremely hard workers; I can’t imagine what it would be like for either of them to have to do this on their own. I know—single parents do this all the time, and I stand in awe of how so many single parents rise to such a challenge. But in God’s best timing, we won’t choose to become single parents if we can avoid it. If you marry a lazy person, it may feel like you’re a single parent even if you’re married.
So, as you consider who to marry, I hope you’ll put a strong work ethic near the top of your list. Care about yourself and your calling enough to say “goodbye” to a potential suitor who is lazy. One of the greatest dangers of laziness as a sin is that it prevents us from experiencing so much good. It is thus a foundational sin that negatively impacts virtually every arena of life.
For more advice on making a wise marital choice, check out Gary’s best-selling book The Sacred Search: What if It’s Not Who You Marry, but Why?