Have you ever wondered what causes the conflicts in your marriage? Is there one basic reason why you and your spouse seem to continually battle with each other? If you have considered these questions, you are on the right track because you are searching for the root of your problems. If you have never asked yourself these questions, won’t you stop and consider them right now?
Is there a root cause to the disagreements and strife between you? Think for a moment about the one thing that Scripture requires of us in order to reconcile our conflict with God and follow Him. Jesus put His finger squarely on our greatest need: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24,25). Jesus made it clear that the disciples could not continue to live for themselves and follow Him at the same time. Self had to be denied to the point of death. These men were called to go to the cross in their personal lives for the sake of the One who called them. Jesus knew that self had to be dethroned if He was ever to be enthroned as Lord of their lives.
The self-life is what keeps any person at war with God and living an independent life. If you want to follow Christ, living for self will be impossible. Paul addressed this issue with the Corinthians as one of the root causes of their many conflicts with each other. He encouraged that since Christ had “died for all . . . those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). He explained that living for self is directly opposed to living for Christ. Therefore, selfishness is the primary issue that God desires to deal with in every life. Only as you renounce selfish living can you begin to live for Him and be able to truly serve others.
The Apostle James also wrote to the church explaining why the Christians in his day were having so much strife. He declared, “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:16). The word confusion means “a state of instability and disorder.” Self-seeking is what causes this instability and disorder in all relationships. Envy is equally self-oriented because it is only concerned with getting for itself what another has. Every conflict you have and every evil thing begins with a concentration on self. If you want to deal with the root cause of the conflicts in your relationship, here it is: selfishness.
Why is selfishness such a root issue?
First of all, self-seeking is completely contrary to love. Paul taught the Corinthian church this vital truth when he explained that “love does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). Scripture makes it clear that love is always more concerned about others’ well-being. Paul had already made this clear to the Corinthians when he commanded them: “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24). Therefore, love and selfishness cannot co-exist. They are like oil and water that can never mix. Always remember this fundamental truth: the degree to which you love others equals that of the denial of self.
What does selfishness look like in a marriage?
Selfishness has many faces, all of which are ugly. Sometimes self is seen in a very bold and aggressive way when a person will verbally insist on having his or her own way. It’s his way or it’s no way. It’s the straightforward demand of me first. Sometimes this bold demand is accompanied with a violent outburst of anger to insure its way is obtained through intimidation.
Other times selfishness is very subtle. It can have the quiet face of cunning manipulation with gentle words. But in reality, it is still just a persistent pressure to work its own will upon you. It also may be seen as that stubborn resistance to bend or compromise over even the smallest issues. When its will is not acknowledged or yielded to, there is a quiet sulking or an attitude of indifference until the other partner finally surrenders.
Whether selfishness is seen in its bold or subtle forms, it is the root of the problems between you. Beloved, be not deceived. When you allow self-righteousness, self-will, self-justification, or self-indulgence to reign in your heart, it can only bring every evil thing to your relationship. Only by laying the ax to the root of this tree will you ever see the fruit you desire in your life and marriage.
To learn more about Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, visit www.covenantkeepers.org
Enjoy another wonderful marriage series by Pastor Steve Carr: What Can You Do to Build Friendship in Your Marriage