This article is intended for adult women only.
It’s a tale as old as time. An exhausted wife looks at the mountain of laundry, and then at dirty dishes practically jumping out from the sink. She glances over, only to see her husband relaxing on the couch. She thinks to herself, I know what will make him help me. And thus begins her manipulation to get the help she desires.
The only problem is, sex is not and never should be a bribe.
The Purpose of Sex
There are multiple purposes for which God created sex. In Genesis 1:28, we see sex was a means to reproduce and fill the earth. While this is the most obvious reason God created sex, we can infer from the way he created it to work, between husband and wife, that he also created it to bring pleasure within marriage.
God is in control of the biological, emotional and spiritual affects of sex, because he created it. (Genesis 1:27, 31). Not only did God create it to be pleasurable, he also created it to be a bonding agent between the husband and wife. When a couple has sex, a chemical called oxytocin is released that draws them closer together and deepens their bond. This is one reason, among many, why sex outside of the commitment of marriage is so destructive. Furthermore, the release of oxytocin is meant to draw the couple to keep coming back to each other for more.
The act of sex is a picture of the unbreakable bond between Christ and the Church, as well as the joy to come when we are with our Bridegroom.
Paul brings up another purpose for sex:
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV)
Due to our sinful flesh and this fallen world, God ordained sex within marriage to be a safeguard from sexual sin.
Sex is a Command
“My advice to you is that you have a lot of sex in your marriage. If you aren’t having sex, you are sinning.” My Pastor shocked us with this statement years ago in a premarital counseling session.
That’s beautiful news to the ears of a couple awaiting their wedding night. But once married for a while, it can, for some couples, feel like more of a chore than a gift. Especially for women with children or too much on their plate.
I think this is where it starts–the temptation to lessen sex to a toy used to manipulate our husbands to get what we want. We begin to take it for granted, forgetting that not only is it a gift from God to us, for the good of our marriage, but he has commanded married couples to strive for a healthy sex life.
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5 ESV)
If you are married, your body is first and foremost God’s, and then your husband’s. And his is yours. When you spoke your vows on your wedding day, you entered into a covenant in which you promised to give yourself fully to your spouse. We have sex with our husband whether or not we get what we want from him. A gift is not earned but it is given regardless of whether or not it is deserved.
Sex isn’t a piece of candy to be dangled for good behavior, but rather a gift to be given fully and without condition.
When we use sex as a bribe, we threaten to withhold our bodies from our husbands if they don’t obey us. And in doing so, we sin against God.
Sex within a biblical marriage is sacred. Making it into a reward system devalues the true meaning and beauty of sex, and is detrimental to the health of a marriage. Furthermore, it demeans our husband. When we use sex as a bribe, we treat him like a child rather than a man. We disrespect him and set him up for failure.
Do you really want to cultivate an environment in which your husband only helps around the house to get something from you? Or would you rather have a man who cleans because he loves you sacrificially? I know there are men out there who don’t lift a finger to help. Wouldn’t it be better to pray for God to change his heart in this area rather than sacrificing your own value by making some sort of payment plan?
Sex is about pleasing the other person. It’s not a device used to gratify our desires. In the marriage bed, we seek the other’s joy. When wives make it into a reward to be earned, they cause their husband to focus on getting his own sexual desires met, rather than seeking to please his wife. All the while, creating a selfish environment where the true, self sacrificial beauty of marriage is crushed.
When you and your husband make love, you are partaking in a holy act. Did that last line cause you to blush? It feels uncomfortable for us to think of sex as “holy”, because our minds have been tainted by sin. I love what John Piper has to say about this:
“We need a robust vision of the beauty and sacredness of sexual intercourse as God designed it.” John Piper
If we truly understood the meaning of marital sex, we would never think to offer it up as a bribe to get what we want. Instead, we would hold it up and honor it for the beautiful, glorious gift it is. And we would praise God for allowing us to partake in such a holy act that is a metaphor of Christ and his Bride. Something we don’t deserve, but is given to us by God just as we should freely give ourselves to our husbands.
Not as a reward, but as a sacred gift.
For more from John Piper on the sacredness of sex within marriage, check out this podcast episode: Why Sexual Metaphors of Jesus and His Bride Embarrass Us
I LOVE this so, so much! This is so applicable, even from the flip side: the husband shouldn’t use sex to bribe his wife either. I know there are marriages where it’s the wife with the higher drive than the husband. Great article!!
So true! It can definitely go both ways. And it’s really easy to fall into this temptation. It was a good heart check for me to write this. Thank you for reading!
A wise husband knows that doing his share will help meet the needs of his exhausted wife. A wife who is fully present during sex, with the help of her husband is surely preferable to a wife who can’t (not won’t) enjoy sex because she is too distracted, or feeling unloved and taken for granted.