Before I give the “10 Things”, let me give an introductory word.
This article is not a threat. It is not a passive-aggressive tool for intimidating young men. On the other hand, neither is it a mere list of opinions to be taken lightly (there are Bible verses cited, after all).
It is meant to be a help, hopefully, to any young men who think to pursue one of my daughters (or the daughter of a Christian father anywhere in the world), as well as a help to Christian fathers who share with me the sacred task of loving and preparing their daughters for womanhood, and where God grants it, marriage itself.
We have the holy responsibility of one day handing over our daughters in marriage to be loved and led by another man, a Christian husband, and it is very important that we’re able to do that with joy and with a clear conscience. We must think clearly, that is, Biblically, about this. Fathers must think clearly, and so must the young men and women who hope to enter into the covenant of marriage. Marriage is not something to be trifled with. It is a glorious thing, and therefore it is very sweet and very serious simultaneously. It must be approached with the Author of marriage in view. My aim in expressing these points is to be of help toward that end.
Therefore, here are 10 things a young man must know before I’ll grant him permission to pursue one of my daughters:
- He must know that God is holy, and that he by nature is a sinner, whose only hope is to be found in the Gospel.Any young man who hopes to pursue one of my daughters must have the fruit of a true conversion to Christ, and this should be confirmed by a body of believers that knows him. It is not enough that he has been raised in the context of Christian ministry and knows Christian language. He must have come to terms with the holiness of God and with his own hopeless condition as a sinner. He must have been brought, by God’s grace, to repentance and faith in the Person and work of Christ. It is essential that he has come to know of his great need for Christ, and has looked to Him as his only hope for salvation.
He must be able to say with the saints of all ages, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” If he doesn’t care about Christ, or if he thinks he is a Christian simply because he was raised in the church; if he is confident in his “good works” or “zeal without knowledge,” or counts himself to be a spiritual man on his own terms, I cannot bless him to pursue my daughter. I will not. I would have no reason to be convinced that he is truly a Christian. There must be seen in his life the ongoing fruit of repentance and trust in Christ if he would pursue one of my daughters.
“For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” -Lev. 11.44a
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” -Rom. 3.10-12
“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” -Rom. 3.22b-25a
“…repent and believe in the Gospel.” -Mark 1.15
“…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” -Jn. 3.3
- He must know what it means to have honor for his parents, and for all authority in his life.It goes without saying that all parents and authorities are fallible, and that no one stewards authority in a worthy manner at all times. But any young man who hopes to pursue one of my daughters should have real honor for his parents and for those authorities that God has placed in his life. The way a man responds to authority will greatly characterize the way he one day carries the God-given authority of husband-ship and fatherhood, and it will affect the way he handles growing authority in his occupation and in the church. A man who trusts the sovereign Lord and honors the authorities in his life now will likely become one who fears the Lord and leads well (however imperfectly) in whatever spheres of authority God grants him. This is crucial for any young man to know and believe if he would pursue one of my daughters. If he treats his mother badly, chances are, he’ll treat my daughter badly, and I will not open the door for that. Not one inch.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” -Ex. 20.12
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” -Rom. 13.1
- He must know Christ, and have an ongoing passion to know Him better.Our hearts are prone to wander, and boy, do we feel it. But a truly converted man will have within himself a true knowledge of Christ, and a true passion to go on knowing Him. His life should be characterized by prayer and Scripture reading, though he will have days of waning passion and lowered affections for Christ. The pattern of his life should be that he “presses on to know the Lord.” A young man who has no desire along these lines and no fruit to show in this way is not fit to think about pursuing one of my daughters. He should prioritize the glory and knowledge of Christ first, as a lifestyle. Then he may be fit to think about the possibilities of marriage.
“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” -1 Sam. 2.12
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” -John 17.3
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” -Philippians 3.8-11
- He must know that gladly assuming responsibility is the sacred task of godly men.Any young man who would pursue one of my daughters should be a working man, with plans to work until he dies or Christ returns. He should know that his role as a man is to glorify God by working, by seeking not to be a burden to others, by seeking in fact to provide for others. He should not be too great a lover of sleep. He should know that it’s noble to set the alarm and rise, to gladly assume responsibility, day after day.
Author Douglas Wilson has written: “Biblical manhood is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.”
This applies to all men, but its implications and effects are even more weighty for those who hope to be husbands and fathers. A husband and father is responsible to work, to lead, to steward money and time, to love, to discipline and nurture children, and on and on. He must understand that the life of a godly man means a life of work; a life poured out for God’s glory and for the good of others. Any young man who resists this idea or lacks wisdom along these lines is not fit to pursue a woman. He may request and obtain this wisdom by the grace of God. It is not out of his reach. And after that, he may rightly obtain a woman. He should think on these matters first, and seek God’s grace to grow up into a real awareness of what manhood requires, lest his irresponsibility and laziness wreak terrible havoc, not only for his own soul, but for a young wife, and eventually to his children and grandchildren.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” -1 Cor. 16.13
“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” -1 Thess. 4.11-12
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” -1 Tim. 5.8
- He must know what it means to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Very simply put, any man who would pursue one of my daughters must have Jesus Christ as the King of his life. He must be willing to go anywhere and do anything for the sake of Christ. His own unhealthy desires, the unbiblical ideals of his parents, and the ways of the world must have no decisive sway in his heart. He must seek first God’s kingdom and have as his great ambition this one thing: to be pleasing to the Lord, to do His will.
Seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness are both essential. A Christian man will have a growing love for righteousness. It should go without saying, but I will not hand my daughter over to marry a man who is not at war with his own sin; at war against his own self-righteousness, laziness, covetousness, impatience, and lusts of all kinds. If he’s a porn-site frequenter, if he is not making war against sexual lust through repentance and Gospel faith, Bible meditation, prayer, confession of sin to brothers within the church, submission to godly counsel, he cannot pursue my daughter. He must be seeking the King, the Kingdom, and His righteousness.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” -Mt. 6.33
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” -2 Tim. 2.1-7
- He must know that he is not entitled to my daughter.The modern dating system, honed by Hollywood and discipled by Disney, would seek to convince us that a young man is entitled to a young woman simply because he’s attracted to her. This has caused our whole approach to “dating” to amount to little more than training for divorce.
Little consideration of God, little consideration of the meaning of covenant, little Biblical clarity- these all mark the common approach to romantic relationships. That is a tragic thing, especially since God is the Creator of marriage, and the One for whom it exists. The massive landscape of destroyed marriages testifies to this.
The young man who would pursue my daughter must know that he is not entitled to a future with her. He should have as his aim to grow in godliness and to show that he is the kind of young man who is prepared to enter into covenant with a woman. He does in fact have something to prove, by the grace of God.
The swirl of hormones (for him or her) and the chemistry of “good vibes” do not make legitimate any claim to love nor guarantee a future together. He should see that having a wife is a privilege from God to be held in great honor. It is not something he is owed. It is something to be approached with reverence and fear, a gift to be cherished. A young man should get understanding on this, and count the cost before he makes his move.
Any father who will give his daughter to a young man who has little godly fear, little sacrificial love, and little Biblical wisdom, is failing in his role as a father and consigning the couple to probable heartache and destruction. He is treating his daughter and his stewardship of her too lightly, and the young man will likely follow the same pattern.
Any young man who would pursue on of my daughters must know that he is not entitled to a woman, but that she is to be pursued in reverence and awe, with a mind bent upward to God’s throne, eyes buried in His Word, a heart humbled and delighted in His presence, and feet walking steadily along the narrow path of obedience to Him. Many foolish young men are unwilling for this, but those who fear the Lord will pay heed to it.
“Let marriage be held in honor among all…” -Hebrews 13.4
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” -Pro. 18.22
“…they are heirs with you of the grace of life…” 1 Pet. 3.7
- He must know that I will be intentionally involved, as the caring and responsible authority, in everything leading up to the marriage of my daughters.The young man who would pursue my daughter must know that until I hand her off in marriage, I am her responsible head. Therefore, I will be intimately involved with whether or not the green light is given to pursue her, with the parameters and privileges of that pursuit, and with the manner of the relationship- both in courtship and engagement.
This is not because I have anything against the young man. In fact, if I give permission to pursue my daughter, my energies will be invested in supporting and helping the young man just as much as I hope to be of help to my daughter. The young man will come to know that I am for his flourishing in every way. I desire his prosperity as well as my daughter’s, and that of the children that will come to them should God so bless them.
My intentional involvement does not mean I’ll seek to control every decision, like what color flowers are chosen for the wedding, what songs are played, or what job the young man should choose along the way. A father’s intentional involvement is not some kind of anxiety-riddled micro-managing. It is in relation to how my daughter’s heart is managed along the way. I will be held accountable by God for how I carry myself in terms of responsible involvement (shepherding her along the way), and in terms of Christ-like character in that involvement (how that shepherding takes place).
Until they are wed, it is my responsibility to love and protect my daughter from foolishness, from unwise decisions that strengthen temptation, and to impart wisdom and help along the way.
Far too often, as a pastor over the last few decades, I’ve done premarital counseling with Christian couples who have fallen into sin (especially sexual sin) repeatedly with one another. It is my role to do whatever I can to protect my daughter and her future husband from this (this is part of what godly fatherly authority is for), to care for their souls, and to sow into the most glorious experience possible with relation to the future marriage. I don’t take that lightly, and I aim to be intimately involved with the whole pilgrimage of courtship and engagement. Upon their marriage my role changes, and the new husband becomes the head of the wife. The father then takes a secondary role, being present in their lives as a godly support, but not as a primary authority. That role passes to the husband, as it should. Until then, any young man who would pursue my daughter should know that I love her (and him) too much to be an absentee father. God requires this of me, and it is a joy to carry out that stewardship.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” -Eph. 6.4
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach… he must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity…” -1 Tim. 3.2, 5
- He must know that vital membership in the local church is indispensable.We cannot be Christian disciples in the New Testament sense if we are not accountable to, committed to, submitted to, supported by, and serving in a Biblically sound local church. I will never give my blessing to a man to pursue one of my daughters if he is not actively partnering with a local body of believers- walking in the light, worshiping and praying with the saints, hearing the Word of God preached, submitting to a plurality of qualified pastors/elders, engaging in the Great commission, serving alongside the people of God in the context of a local church. That church he chooses does not need to agree with me on every theological point, but it must be orthodox in Gospel-doctrine, seeking as a family of believers to be faithful in walking out the commands of Scripture. The young man who would pursue one of my daughters should care about this (and my daughters should care that he cares about this). The young man should care what I think about this, and care what my daughter thinks about this. I will not hand my daughter over to a man who has a low view of the church, and a man who is not faithfully committed to a local church shows that his view is too low. A low view of the local church means a low view of the Gospel, a low view of God, a low view of the gravity of his own sin, and a low view of Christ the redeemer, who happens also to be the Head of the Church. You man, please become a churchman before you think to pursue one of daughters.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” -Eph. 4.25
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Heb. 10.23-25
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” -1 Jn. 1.5-10
- He must know that Scripture is precious, authoritative, and sufficient.A young man who would pursue one of my daughters must have a real treasuring of the Bible in his heart- he must delight in the Word and spend real time in it.
He must have Scripture as his ultimate authority (not personal revelations, opinions, or favorite teachers). He must be seeking to be conformed to its truth and obedient to its commands.
He must believe that the Scriptures are sufficient in essential revelation for the people of God- for all of doctrine, life and ministry. He must have conviction along these lines, otherwise, where will he turn in times of trial as a man, as a husband, as a father? Where will he get wisdom from? Where will he seek understanding? He must be able to say with Peter, “Where else can we go? You have the Words of eternal life.”
“I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” -Ps. 119.16
“…scripture cannot be broken…” -Jn. 10.35
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Tim. 3.16-17
- He must know that Christ is better than everything in this world, including my daughter.I desire, hope, and pray for godly men for each of my daughters. I want each of those men to delight in the woman they marry. I want them to cherish them, to love them, to care for them, to nurture them- “’til death do us part”. And I know that they will not be able to do this perfectly. But they will not be able to do this in the deepest and richest way possible, unless Christ is their ultimate treasure. I don’t expect a man to perfectly treasure Christ. None of us are capable of that, not until the resurrection. But I do desire that they should know that Christ is better than everything in this world, even better than my daughter.
The young man who would pursue her must have as his aim, and often as a real conviction, that Jesus is better… better… better. Better than money. Better than notoriety. Better than business success. Better than ministry. Better than sex. Better than marriage, having children, and all else. Better than everything. Knowing this will empower his marriage to last, even to flourish long-term. Knowing this will cause his joy in God to be full. And ultimately, that is what I desire for the young man who would pursue my daughter, and for my daughters themselves. Fullness of joy in the One true God, through Jesus Christ- the only One who is worthy of their very lives. This alone will equip them to rejoice rightly in one another, and to spend their days in humble gratitude to God for the gift of marriage, going on in conformity to His image together, as a brother and sister in Christ, as friends, as a father and mother… as husband and wife. And that is a glorious thing.
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” -2 Cor. 11.3
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” -Col. 1.18
“…Christ is all, and in all.” -Col. 3.11b