are prenuptial agreements biblical?


Today it is common for couples entering marriage to craft contracts with an attorney dividing the assets between what is ‘mine, yours and ours’. These contracts are helpful if the couple were to divorce or die. Yet an important question lingers: Are prenuptial agreements biblical?

The Bible never deals with the subject of marriage contracts or prenuptial agreements with built-in clauses negotiating the division of assets and/or custody of children in the event of divorce. However, the Bible does speak of agreements and marriage.

GOD AGREES WITH MARRIAGE AGREEMENTS

First, the Bible describes marriage as a permanent lifelong covenant that is both unconditional [never to be broken] and universal [for all people of all times]. When a couple stands in a marriage ceremony before God and their witness sharing an “until death takes us apart” vow of commitment, it is more than an agreement or handshake between two parties. God calls it a spiritual covenant. The covenant is between two humans who vow to forever love each other by becoming one-flesh. God sees marriage as an everlasting agreement.

At wedding ceremonies you often hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 read. This passage teaches unconditional love, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” As committed followers of Christ enter the marriage covenant, this love is possible through Christ. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” It is wise for couples to participate in pre-marital counseling and post-marital counseling from their local church to receive biblical wisdom on how to cultivate this kind of unconditional love.

When God created Eve from Adam’s rib, He was signifying the purpose of a husband-and-wife relationship. The woman is the man’s helper, the man is the woman’s protector and leader, and both are submissive to Christ. Ephesians 5:21-33 teaches about the roles of a husband and wife in marriage. Both spouses should submit to each other out of reverence for Christ [v. 21]. The husband has the final authority as Christ does for His church. When the husband is lovingly submitting to the will of Jesus, the wife will in turn lovingly submit to her husband. Husbands are called to love their wives with the same love that Christ showed the church [v. 25]. Christ loved the church enough to sacrifice His life for it.

Even if you marry someone who is not a committed follower of Christ or who falls away from God, you are not to leave him or her. At the least you are to be a Christlike example, and the unbelieving spouse may be won to Christ by your example [1 Corinthians 7:10-16; 1 Peter 3:1-7).

Second, the biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage are very narrow when those married are both committed followers of Jesus Christ [i.e. adultery; Matthew 19:9]. So Jesus warned, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” [Matthew 19:6]. Marriage is a sacred covenant.

Divorces are always messy and emotional. It is like trying to rip apart plywood. With or without a prenuptial agreement onefleshness is an important factor to consider. How can man separate what God miraculously unifies, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [Genesis 2:24]  The one flesh of the marriage union is an emotional, physical and spiritual bond. God despises divorce (Malachi 2:16). The only reason divorce was ever allowed was because of sin and peoples refusal to obey God’s Word. “Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted divorce as a concession to your hard-hearted wickedness, but it was not what God had originally intended’” [Matthew 19:8].

There are no reasons two committed followers of Christ who are faithful to God and one another should ever need a divorce. Yes, the two people will sin, but God calls you to forgive one other just as He has forgiven you. Unforgiveness could be a sign you are not truly His grateful children [Matthew 6:9-15].

AGREE TO DISAGREE WITH PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

God intended marriage to be permanent and lifelong covenant. The marriage ceremony is not a contract, but a symbol of covenant. When two committed followers of Christ enter marriage it should be with the intention that divorce is not possible. To have a prenuptial agreement allows—if not assumes—for the possibility of divorce.

Couldn’t a conditionalized prenuptial agreement be a built-in way for a couple to “cross their fingers” when saying, “I do”?  Our world today, says prenuptial agreements are necessary, and anyone who does not enter into one is a fool and will ultimately get financially burned. Therefore, couples make provision for the decision of one or both partners to violate their vows. What the Bible teaches about marriage does not fit into the notion of a “just in case we get divorced you can’t take my stuff” agreement. This could demonstrate a lack of commitment to one another in such a fundamentally important and biblically intimate relationship.

Couldn’t a conditionalized prenuptial agreement be an issue of materialism? It could be argued that prenuptial agreements increase marital trust by taking the issue of money “off the table”. However, it is said that money issues are the #1 reason why marriages end in divorce. Committed followers of Christ are encouraged to respond joyfully when their assets are lost or plundered [Hebrew 10:32-34]. God says money is not inherently sinful, but the love of it is. Money can take the place of God. You cannot take your hearse or a a trailer packed with your money and possessions. Heaping up treasures on earth do not compare with the treasures of Heaven [Matthew 6:19-33]. It is worth serious consideration before a couple marries—if either man or woman is wealthy—to ask: “Are we really willing to let go of it if we had to?”

A prenuptial agreement might not be the wisest idea, though the Bible does not directly speak against it. There is not anything intrinsically evil or sinful about prenuptial agreements, but they might not convey the most biblical approach to marriage. It could raise questions of mistrust, which can have a harmful effect on the marriage relationship. It is understandable why non-Christians would contract prenuptials because of the unbiblical view of marriage, but for a Christian who understands covenant marriage, it is a different story.

Commitment is the cornerstone of marriage. Without commitment to Christ and one another, marriage fails. Christ is the glue that keeps a committed marriage together. Marriage itself is a beautiful picture of the Gospel concerning Christ’s commitment to His church. After a sinner commits to Christ within a redemptive relationship God never divorces Himself from His children. There are certainly no “if’s” or “maybe’s” about the Gospel. May your marriage put Christ and His church on display through your lifelong commitment to faithfully follow Christ and serve your spouse!

Questions to ask before getting a prenuptial agreement:

Q: What is the purpose of a prenuptial agreement? How is that purpose different for committed Christians and non-Christians?

Q: Do the prenuptials contradict our marital vows to one another?

Q: What about the implications for Christ’s marriage to His bride, the Church?

Q: How does the gospel help you understand everyday human marriage?

Biblical Resources on Marriage and Pre-Marriage:

Biblical Resources on Money in Marriage:

Biblical Resources on Divorce:

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave says:

    Great thoughts, Justin. I love your careful thinking here. While not wrong per se, it’s hard to see how a prenuptial agreement can be drawn from the one-flesh approach to marriage that Jesus Christ calls us to.

  2. Patricia says:

    I have just published a book explaining how a Christian Prenuptial Agreement is not only biblical, but should be mandated. It’s not a secular “I keep my marbles” type, but one that says, I am a sinner. I promise to stay together until death do us part. If I break my covenant with your, I will provide for you. (not keep my marbles). Check it out at http://www.christianprenutial.com

    1. JT Hutts says:

      Patricia, I can appreciate the principle of “not keeping my marbles” since the covenant relationship, though broken by divorce or separation, does not mean one neglects or forsakes the obligation to provide for one another. However, is a prenuptial agreement the only way? “Mandate” is a strong word. Where do you see this mandated in Scripture?

  3. Patricia says:

    If we live in a society that has laws that contradict our biblical world view, and we can by the simple signing of a document help us to contravene the negative impact of those laws, is it not our duty to sign such a document?

    1. JT Hutts says:

      I have no problem with your question or signing the documents, however the word “duty” seems to be too strong. What say you?

      1. Patricia says:

        I suppose it would depend upon each person’s level of conscience and commitment. I feel a duly to and a moral mandate to help someone in trouble, return change that is not due me, and do what it takes to ensure that my marriage lasts until death parts us. For me it’s a mandate and a duty.
        May I send you a gratis copy of The Chrisitan Prenuptial Agreement and then you can decide for yourself.

      2. JT Hutts says:

        Patricia, your commitment to marriage and desire to serve “the other” really exemplifies your belief in the biblical paradigm of marriage.

        As you read my article, I hope you see that I am not against prenuptial agreements. I do challenge the idea, since the image and institution of marriage was created long before modern law or culture defined it. But I understand we have to live within the system and cooperate according to our conscience (cf. Romans 13-14).

        I would certainly be interested in a copy of your work and studying further. You can receive my address by emailing jthutts@gmail.com

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