Dear Young Engaged Man,
It seems people are concerned because you are a young engaged man. You just turned twenty and people wonder if you can even shave, let alone lead a family. The murmurs of relatives rumble and friends begin to prophesy your doom.
And it might just be that their concerns are warranted. After all, divorce rates are high, and they don’t want you to join them. I’ve always wondered if those stats included teenagers getting married. If so, they must be recent polls because if they included everyone’s grandparents, surely that would tip the scales a different direction. I think my grandparents got married at 19 and 21, and last year celebrated their 72nd anniversary.
Regardless, their concerns might be 100% valid if you were a lust driven high school grad who now eats Cheetos while playing Xbox into the wee hours of the night. If that were the case, we should all bar the chapel doors.
So the question must be asked: What does qualify you to get married at such an early age?
Here are some guidelines to think about.
Spiritually: Is your walk with Jesus thriving and growing? Proverbs says that the Word makes you wiser than all your teachers. (Psalm 119:99) God is not a respecter of age. His Spirit often quickens the young and at times matures them at lightning speed. The Scriptures do not card you before they give you bottles of strong wisdom.
As you pursue Christ, ask yourself: do you feel comfortable standing before God being held responsible for the spiritual direction of your wife? Adam was responsible for the spiritual direction of Eve. Let us not think that God will let us slide by easy. Leading a woman is a serious calling, and we should be prepared and sober-minded before we answer.
Financially: Are you able to support a family? You must literally count the cost before you get married. It is not sexy to buy your new bride chocolates with food stamps. Plan and present your budget to your parents. Save money and secure a job. If you cannot provide for your wife, you are worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Having said those things, we must wake up from the American dream. You can actually live off of less than what most Americans think it takes. You don’t have to have thousands of dollars in the bank beforehand; you don’t have to eat out twice a week; you don’t have to live in prime real-estate; you don’t even have to have brand new furniture or two well-tuned cars. You need food for energy and clothing for when you leave your apartment.
Directionally: You need to have a God-honoring trajectory. You need to be gripped by the gospel and be driven for the glory of God. You don’t have to have all the details worked out, but you do need a direction. Before you get hitched, you should have an idea about what the next five to ten years will look like. Will you finish college? If so, how will this happen? Will you be living in a new location? Will you be pursuing a particular ministry? Will she be in school? When do you want children? These are not soft ball questions to hit around in the backyard. Wise counsel must be loaded into these conversations and the cannon must be prepared for firing. You must find your pulsating passion in life that surges for the glory of God. Life is too precious and God is too glorious for us to waste our lives. There are souls at stake and disciples to make.
John Piper says it well,
You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don’t need to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them. (Don’t Waste Your Life, Chapter 3)
Should you get married young?
Not if you are unprepared spiritually, financially, or directionally. But I do not think marriage should be postponed because of a numerical number. The Scripture says to rejoice in the wife of your “youth” (Proverbs 5:8) and that to desire a wife is a good gift. (1 Corinthians 7:7) And God gave us passions so that we can pursue them in Biblically mature, God-honoring ways.
So young engaged man, do not let anyone look down upon you because you are young. As long as you are setting the standard in faith, life, love, and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
The content for this post has been updated and expanded in Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in 2017 by P&R Publishing.