Dr. Heath Lambert is a pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL, Executive Director for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, husband to Lauren and dad to three wonderful children.
God created sex, which makes it good. God made sex to be enjoyed in marriage, which makes it important for couples. People are sinners, which makes sex complicated. That all means that Christian married couples need to have an ongoing conversation about how to honor God’s good creation, enjoy God’s good gift, and alleviate sinful pressure regarding the issue of marital sex.
My wife Lauren made a very helpful contribution to that conversation last week when she wrote to tired wives, encouraging them to have more regular sex with their husbands.
I have been asked to contribute to the conversation in my own way by encouraging men to be the kinds of husbands with whom their wives would be more eager to have sex.
But I’m a bit nervous about my assignment.
I’ll tell you why.
A Crucial Difference
Lauren’s post was full of a practical, biblical advice to help women think about having a more regular sexual relationship with their husbands. This is exactly the kind of thing I love: biblical wisdom that seeps into the practical crevices of life, which God uses in his grace to empower us to live lives of greater faithfulness. I get frustrated by advice that is unbiblical, unpractical, or devoid of grace. That is not the kind of wisdom that helps people truly change.
Many women struggling to have a fulfilling sexual relationship with their husbands need the kind of counsel offered by my wife. But when it comes to sex, men’s problems are different. And therefore, the encouragements and admonishments they need are different too.
More Sex from Your Wife?
It is right for men to make investments in their marriages that make it easier for wives to desire them sexually. This investment requires the grace of God and includes a number of very practical things they could do to become these men: they could serve more at home, take time to listen to their wife, touch her regularly in non-sexual ways, speak to others about her in encouraging ways, fight for sexual purity, resolve conflict, avoid neglecting their health, have a sense of humor, and on, and on. I’ve got dozens of suggestions.
But the primary need of most men is not to be educated about these suggestions. In fact, I am afraid that it will be dangerous for the average guy to consider such suggestions.
That is true for a very important reason.
Lauren was addressing the exhausted wife that needs to think about sex more. I am concerned that the vast majority of husbands need to think about sex less.
The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons
I do not want to give men practical suggestions designed to get them more sex, when they should really be concerned about something completely different. Practical suggestions to do a good thing with bad motives will compound marital difficulty more than solving it.
Here is what James says about this idea, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
James is commending the good practice of prayer. He tells Christians that the reason some people do not have the good things they want is because they have not engaged in the good task of asking God for them.
But then the plot thickens.
Some do not have good things because they have not asked for them. Others do not have good things because they have asked in the wrong way. They have done the good work of prayer, asking for good things, but they have asked with the wrong motivations. Their prayers are selfish rather than selfless. James’s point is that God does not honor a good thing done for the wrong reason.
James presents us with one of the most profound realities in the Christian life: it is possible to do a good thing in the wrong way. And when you do a good thing for the wrong reasons you destroy the goodness of that thing.
This is not only true with prayer. It is true with sex too.
Thinking about Sex Less, Loving Your Wife More
Most of the men I know think about sex way more than their wives, and they think about sex selfishly. Sex is about their desires, their timing, their interests, their pleasures. The desires, pressures, interests, and pleasures of their wives are far removed. In such a scenario a wife is little more than a vehicle for the fulfillment of his sexual desire. I am no more interested in giving a man practical strategies to get more sex on these terms, than Jesus was to teach the Pharisees how to scrub the outside of a tomb (Matt 23:27).
There is a time and place for men to learn practical strategies in pursuing a sexual relationship with their wives. There is a proper moment to teach good husbands to find comfort when wives withhold sex.
But there is also an occasion for us husbands to be told to quit thinking about sex all the time. To focus on loving our wives as Christ loved the church. To give up our interests for theirs. To cleanse them by the washing of water with the word. To focus on presenting them to Christ without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.
When we focus on this truly overwhelming job, we are certain to discover that we have way bigger problems than how much sex we’re getting.
Our calling before God is to work toward the holiness of our wives in such a way that they look more like Christ for having been married to us. Our wives do not exist for our pleasure. We exist for their holiness. That means we men need to marshal every effort to selflessly love and serve our wife. Until our central job becomes clear, strategies to get more sex seem to me like a dangerous distraction.