'Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God' (Ephesians chapter 5, verse 5).
We have all heard this verse preached in church before, the wise words of Paul, usually used to guide our sexual conduct before marriage, or as a biblical justification for why practising homosexuals will not be accepted by God. This kind of selective, hypocritical bigotry has always grinded my gearsâbut even more so now that I am engaged and planning my own wedding.
As sexually moral and pure that we may be, many Christians are still endorsing unholy matrimony. We love to focus on those sinsâsuch as immorality and impurityâused to distinguish the holy from the unholy. But what about the third sin that Paul discusses, the deadly sin of greed?
If we took this sin as seriously as the others, it would be much more difficult to distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous, those who will inherit the Kingdom and those who will notâthe Goats and the Sheep.
Jesus was pretty serious about sharing our fortunes, or fortunate circumstances, to help the poor or downtrodden. Two of his most noted parables, the Good Samaritan, and the Sheep and the Goats, directly link our acts of generosity (or not) to our inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
'I do'...with a price tag
And yet, we continue to buy into a multi-billion dollar wedding industry. In the United States of America, tying the knot comes at an average price tag of a whopping 50 billion dollars per year. The average wedding costs approximately $30,000, with nearly 2,000 going towards a single item of clothingâthe beloved wedding dress.
The Bible tells us greed is the disordered love of riches: when we begin to love money, possessions or appearances more than God and more than our neighbour.
If we applied biblical principles consistently, we would take a stand against all forms of unholy matrimony, including the opulent expenditure on one ceremonious event while we know of brothers and sisters in need.
It is not wrong to have a celebratory wedding ceremony or receptionâon the contraryâit is a wonderful and important moment to honour. Surprisingly to some, we can honour this special day without spending tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary frills.
We may try to fool ourselves into thinking we need to spend a lot to 'bless' our family and friends at the occasion. Is it truly a blessing to divert all of our resources, time and energy into a single event? Is it really about blessing others, so much as it is about satisfying our own desires to keep up with the Jones's and meet the standard of a society defined by consumption and glamour?
Starting our marriage the right way
A wedding ceremony is an important occasion to mark. It is the day two people join as one, committing the rest of their lives together before God and their community.
We may honour our future spouse by saving sex for marriage. We may stand up against alternative forms of unions, such as those between loving gay couples. But are we upholding the full vision Paul provides of Christ's Kingdom when we are being poor stewards of the resources we have been blessed with?
Jesus makes it undeniably clear that our lives are to be defined by generosity, not by greed. We want to start our marriage in a way that is pleasing to the Lord; a marriage that is built upon a foundation of love for God and our neighbours above all else.
Do you remember the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Monica is upset with Chandler who doesn't want to spend all of his savings on their wedding? When asked what could be more important than a wedding, Chandler simply but profoundly answers 'the rest of our lives'.
This is the thing for me: spending the rest of my life with the person I love and making a commitment to each other and our community is worth investing my resources and time in more than anything else.
Where's the limit?
My fiancÃ© and I are currently planning to have a special ceremony and reception. We want to share the start of our new life together with the people we love. So where is the limit? How much is too much? When do we cross the invisible line that leads to greed? These are the questions we have asked ourselves since the beginning of our journey. How can we honour God in our marriage from day one?
For us personally, we have set ourselves a modest budget and will be asking friends and family to contribute where they can. We want to have a fun, simple, and community-focused celebration of our love. It's important to constantly remind ourselves that marriage is not just about two individuals, but a time to honour, and be honoured by our our wider community.
We also try to invest more in building a strong foundation for our life-long journey, ensuring we put equal amounts of time into fostering a healthy marriage as we do in planning our special day.
Marriage is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. We don't to want to fall subject to an unholy matrimony through something so destructive as excessive abundance or greed. Our hope is that we can be bold in our statement of faith and live a life of simplicity and generosity as we have been called to by Christ.
Bex Silver is from Auckland, New Zealand and has a Masters in International Development. She is currently setting up her own social enterprise working with former refugees to find meaningful employment. Bex is passionate about people and advocating for social justice through her writing.
Bex Silver's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bex-silver.html