Avoiding The Pitfalls

By Weldon E. Warnock

Gospel preachers, elders and deacons, “chasing women,” having extramarital affairs (which the Bible calls adultery) and divorcing their wives for some other woman have become epidemic. Such disgraceful conduct was hardly ever heard of a few years ago. In some instances, it is not the preachers, elders, and deacons who are “running around,” but rather it is their wives.

What has happened to cause such widespread occurrences and how may it be avoided? In my opinion the basic problem is at home between husband and wife. One or the other, if not both, is failing in his commitment to the other.

Brother Ed Nowlin wrote two booklets several years ago (1954) entitled, Studies on the Home. Some of the things he wrote are most pertinent and applicable to the subject under discussion. I quote extensively from brother Nowlin in dealing with this problem.

Pitfalls In the Home

In volume 1, lesson 5, brother Nowlin discusses wedlock let-downs, listing four different let-downs of marriage. He says:

The let-down of courtesy needs to be considered. How often it is that we find a man who is the very essence of courtesy while courting the girl. He is careful to let her precede him through every door, to walk on the outside when going down the sidewalk, to remove his hat when entering her house, to thank her for every little favor done him, to hold her coat for her to get into, to open the car door and close it after she gets in safety, to help her up or down stairs or across the street, and to be solicitous of her welfare and comfort at all times. Her slightest murmur gets his full and rapt attention! But after the “knot” has been tied the let-down comes over him. He goes barging through the door ahead of her. She gets around too slowly! He never thinks to walk on the outside anymore, he is not afraid she will get away, now! He sits around the house with his hat on, or a pair of muddy shoes – why, he is the head of this house! He hardly remembers how to say “Thank you!” Why she is supposed to do favors for him. He is her husband! There is no use for him to hold her coat, why she can get it on (and get all of the children ready, too!). Why bother to open the car door, she can get it open! . . . He justifies himself for his inattentions and discourtesies toward her because she is his wife. Of course, she could do all these things for herself before she married him, too, but he wanted to do them then. It showed his love for her and added to her happiness during courtship! Should he not be just as interested in her happiness after marriage?

All of this let-down in courtesy is not on the part of the husband, either. Many times we find that the girl who was kind and attentive and courteous to him during courtship days has become a careless wife who takes everything for granted . . .

This thing of common courtesy between husband and wife is important to the enjoyment of the marriage relationship. Courtesy just for the sake of appearances is not worthy of the name, but when prompted by genuine appreciation and sincerity of feeling it can go far to prevent the husband-and-wife relationship from degenerating into a drab, monotonous, unappreciated existence within four walls . . .

The let-down of compliments is another thing which saps the happiness out of marriage . . . This let-down in compliments is the thing which starves both parties in the marriage to death for a little appreciation. Without it they may live together till death; but they could live together much more happily with it and have many pleasant memories to cherish because of it. The tragedy is that many husbands are led away from home by smart little, unscrupulous women who have the unmarried attitude toward compliments and are not stingy with them; and many women are driven to the conclusion that home is the place where they slave the hardest and are appreciated the least! Sincere compliments can produce a flood of the milk of human kindness to feed the marriage with happiness.

The let-down of personal pride is a third thing which makes a dream a nightmare. If the wife pays no attention to the appearance she makes and “lets herself go” she may be heading for real trouble. She probably attracted him in the beginning with a fresh, neat appearance. If so, she can keep him by keeping herself that way. It is not enough to tell herself that he loves her anyway. Married men are still men, and men attach a great deal of importance to the way a woman looks. Most of them would not marry a dishevelled, stringy-headed, shapeless mass of a woman, and they do not want to live with that kindl He may hesitate to say much about her appearance or the unkept house or the uninviting meal for fear of hurting her feelings or getting a piece of her temper; but if she is so dull as to disregard his wishes in these matters she may wake up some fine day to the realization that she no longer has his admiration . .

. . On the other hand, the husband’s let-down may not produce such dire consequences. Women seldom marry a man because he is handsome but his personal appearance on the job is usually important enough that there is little let-down there. But no wife wants to kiss a porcupine! He should keep his whiskers mowed off and dress nicely so that she will be proud to introduce him as her husband . . . .

The let-down in behavior toward others many times becomes a source of embarrassment to the wife, especially. The “laying-on-of-hands ” is a marr iage privilege between husband and wife; but sometimes married people forget that they should keep their distance from other persons . . . . This writer knew of one preacher who was fired because of such behavior. He insisted on kissing the ladies of the church! He forgot that in the marriage ceremony he had promised to “keep thyself unto her, and to her alone . . . .

In Lesson 7 brother Nowlin says that “One of the most common causes of unhappiness in the home and the complete disrupting of the home is just plain selfishness.” He further states:

Selfishness is sometimes displayed in the matter of food and clothing in the home. The husband or the wife who is selfish will show it in various ways; such as, taking choice portions of food for themselves when the other needs or desires it just as much, or spending the family budget for clothes to the neglect of the other or of the children . . . . On the other hand there are wives who will buy expensive clothes and go out with their husbands in old overalls! They look like a show horse and an old farm mule teamed up together!

Selfishness is sometimes displayed regarding work in the home. Dishes have to be washed, children cared for, and a dozen other things done. This is primarily the work of the wife, and some husbands are selfishly content to let her do all of it, even though they may have nothing at all to do. They sit around the house and never turn a hand to do anything . . . . On the other hand, some wives are too sleepy-headed to get up and cook breakfast for their husbands who must be on the job at the mill when the whistle blows. One might call this laziness, but that is just another way to spell selfishness! The old spirit of “all for one and one for all” may be clannish, but it will promote happiness in the home.

Selfishness is often shown regarding recreation. Such recreation as the family can afford should take into consideration the best interest and desires of all concerned, and the more recreation the members of the family can plan and participate in together, the happier the family is going to be . . . .

From the standpoint of happiness in marriage, selfishness in the sex relationship is probably the most detrimental form it takes. This is a perfectly normal and moral relationship within the married state. It is the one privilege that is peculiar to marriage.

. . . . Recently a man in the prime of life came into this writer’s study with his problem. He started out by saying that his wife had just about destroyed all the love he ever had for her . . . . His wife wanted no sexual connection for fear of pregnancy! He had been treated like a criminal before the births of their two children. Now, he was at his wit’s end. Had he ever gone to the Bible for the answer? Even though he had preached considerably, he had never thought of I Cor. 7 as applying to this problem . . . . In another case, the home was about to break up because of the selfishness of the husband in refusing to exercise self-control in the frequency of such relations.

In chapter 9 brother Nowlin deals with the middle-age “fling” as a danger to the home. He points out: “To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and the grown person who does not take the trouble to inform himself on the dangers of middle-age may be rudely awakened sometimes by finding himself or herself the star performer in a drama of life, the like of which was never contemplated before. In such cases, the otherwise intelligent, successful husband and father who has always enjoyed the respect of the community finds himself entwined in the coils of a clandestine, extra-marital romance and his home and all that he has worked for and held dear fast approaching a state of shipwreck. The otherwise sensible and thoughtful wife and mother finds herself making eyes at some handsome man and vacating her throne in the hope she was given all to ascend . . . . The wayward, cheating husband and wife is gambling all that is of value to them in that stage of life in the insane hope of living over again the thrilling days of youth . . . . Happy is the person who can grow old gracefully, since we all have to do it.”

Finally, in chapter 10 brother Nowlin writes about absenteeism. He says “our problems of absenteeism in the home is a serious one.” Later in the chapter he asks, “But why is absenteeism so dangerous to the home? There are as many dangers to the home as there are possibilities and occasions for unfaithfulness which may be thrust upon the husband and wife under such a circumstance. Without seeking to name each one, we can trace them all to the same cause: in a condition of absenteeism the wife does not have her husband, nor does the husband have his wife! Although legally married, they do not have each other when they are separated in a prolonged manner. One of the purposes in having a wife or husband is to avoid fornication. Paul says, ‘Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband’ (1 Cor. 7:2).”

For preachers to avoid the pitfalls that lead to the disruption of their marriage, there needs to be maintained an atmosphere that characterized their marriage when they first became married – courtesy, kindness, longsuffering, affection, compliments, neatness, etc., and a total, unselfish commitment to one another. Keep the relationship alive and exciting with the sparkle that was reflected in the eyes as newlyweds. With this kind of vibrant relationship nobody is going to be looking for “greener pastures.

Pitfalls Outside the Home

In his book, The Preacher and His Work, brother Jack Meyer, Sr. devoted a sizeable section to preacher’s pitfalls. On pages 87 and 88, he lists “women” as one common pitfall, and then sets forth some rules to follow in order to avoid the problem. He says, “Right here, in preachers’ relations with women, is where some of the biggest names – in and out of the church – have tripped. It is tragic, but true.” He then states five simple rules to observe:

1. As to women, be more careful with your hands than is observed in some preachers and teachers. “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). “Appearance” of the King James Version in this text is one meaning of the Greek word, but Thayer prefers the “form” or “kind” here. But that will include appearance. And Philippians 2:15 will help this point” among whom ye are seen as lights in the world.”

2. Avoid being in a position with one where either of you could be tempted. Never forget 1 Corinthians 10: 12: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” That Scripture will help you at this point.

3. Avoid situations where enemies could reasonably charge the possibility, or probability, of evil. After you exercise the utmost care at this point, dishonest people will seek – and sometimes find – such pretexts. And other people will believe their stories. In Romans 12:17 the apostle Paul directed: “. . . Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.” This is not the only time when Paul said that. It applies as a principle to all life – and especially appropriate at this point.

4. Assist women with their problems, but be careful as to the how or where. One of the best things found in the New Testament on the subject of a preacher’s – and especially a younger preacher, though it is applicable to all – treatment of women in the church is found in I Timothy 5:2: “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity. “

5. It is best to have your wife along, at least most of the time in visiting women, and practically all of the time in conferences with them. If you have no wife, then enlist the assistance of some mature or aged woman, or couple. Many men have landed in this pitfall who never dreamed that it could happen to them.

To prevent the sin of adultery all of God’s people need to develop the attitude of Joseph when he said to Potiphar’s wife after she enticed him, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God”‘ (Gen. 39:9). Reverence and love for God kept Joseph from sinning. Solomon said, “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul” (Prov. 6:32).

May God help us to live right.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 3-5
January 5, 1984