I recently had an epiphany on important verse I’ve struggled to understand for years.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…
I struggled with this verse because I knew from experience and observation that the “servant leadership” approach to marriage did not lead to a lively bedroom. Quite the opposite actually.
And yet, this instruction seems to call for some kind of sacrificial love on part of the man.
So what’s the deal?
Turns out the answer was hidden in plain sight, in an earlier passage in the same chapter:
Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (5:2)
So the key for understanding the “giving himself up” part is the “fragrant offering” and “sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:25 does not introduce a new idea. It simply reminds men who the offering is for (the woman.)
The ESV’s “fragrant offering” is not a bad translation, but the significance of the term is obscured in most modern English translations.
The Concordant Literal Version renders it “an approach present.”
The approach present is an important theme that runs all through the Scriptures. And, as is often the case, we need to go to the Old Testament to understand it.
(Bear with me, there is a practical application for your “game” at the end. But there’s some nuances that need to be understood first.)
Perhaps the best illustration of an approach present is
The Reconciliation of
Jacob and Esau (Genesis 32-33)
You probably know the story:
Jacob and Esau had a falling out that began with a bowl of stew and ended with Esau wanting to take Jacob’s life.
Needless to say, they didn’t talk to each other for awhile.
After many years, it became apparent that their paths would have to cross again.
Jacob, in attempt to pacify his brother and bridge the gap between them, prepared a costly gift: 220 goats, 220 rams, 30 milking camels and their calves, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys.
One estimate I heard is that this present would be worth about a quarter of a million dollars by today’s livestock prices. So we’re not talking about a shaving kit or a gift card kind of present. This is a whole other category of present.
In fact, the Hebrew word translated as “present” in Genesis 32:13 is minchah, which means a “tribute” or “offering.” The Concordant Literal Version translates this word also as “approach present.”
The approach present has two essential qualities that elevate it above a normal present:
- It has a significant cost (to the giver)
- It is given to “bridge the gap” between two estranged parties
In most cases, the approach present was given in order to win an audience with a king (this is how Solomon made much of his wealth.)
Now, there’s an interesting implication of the approach present. We can see this illustrated in
The Real Story of Cain & Abel
Cain is the first person ever recorded to offer an approach present:
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering [approach present] of the fruit of the ground… (Genesis 4:3).
Cain’s brother Abel also brought an approach present: “the first born of his flock and of their fat portions.”
And God’s no dummy. God compared Cain’s bucket of vegetation with Abel’s tender meat and fat portions. He said, “I know who brought the good stuff!”
After all, who would honestly be excited to receive a big bucket of vegetables? Yuck…
As we know, Cain did not take well to God showing favor to the better approach present. Rather than learn from Abel’s example, he decided to kill his more favored brother.
My point here though is that not all approach presents are equal. The recepient of the present gets to judge whether it’s valuable or not.
What does all this have to do with a man’s relationship to a woman?
The “approach present” bridges the gap
between man and woman.
I believe that a false teaching on the “Christian duty” of a husband has permeated our culture and has conditioned men of faith to be sexually repulsive to women.
When men hear “give yourself up” for her, they think it means things like giving up your dreams to accomodate her, doing chores around the house, and other “sacrifices” (i.e. compromises.)
But look closely at what the text says, in context:
“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”
“…an approach present and sacrifice to God.”
So the “giving himself up” and the “approach present” are linked.
The other key word here is paradidómi (gave up) which, contrary to popular assumption, does not mean sacrifice. Sacrifice means you slaughter or surrender something.
But paradidómi refers to handing over or delivering something with a sense of personal involvement. It could refer to betrayal (e.g. Matthew 10:4). Or it could refer to personally delivering something of great value (like an approach present.)
A translation like “personally delivered” would perhaps make things more clear than “gave up.”
Nevertheless, when you put the two concepts together, the meaning becomes obvious:
Christ delivered Himself to us as the approach present.
Likewise, men deliver themselves as an approach present to the woman.
The sacrifice is not so much in the delivery (the “giving up’) but rather in the preparation of the gift.
You are the gift to the woman.
But you cannot cross the chasm if your “approach present” has no value.
If you ask Christians why Christ died on the cross, they’d say something like forgiveness of sins or to reconcile us to God. And that’s true enough.
But how do the Scriptures present Christ’s sacrifice?
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name… (Philippians 2:8-9)
The cross was Christ’s path of humiliation that led to his glorification. The cross was about obtaining power.
It was only after Christ was exalted that he could deliver himself as an approach present to us.
Just like Cain’s disappointing bucket of vegetables, nobody cares about the sacrifice of a powerless beggar. If Christ was simply a poor humiliated man who died “for love” he would be of no value to us.
Sacrifice is the means to glory,
not the end goal.
There’s a great little book by Seth Godin called The Dip.
The premise of the book is simple. There are things of value in life that everyone would like to have (e.g. a successful business, a fit body, mastery of a craft, power & influence, etc.). But few people obtain these things because there is a “dip” that turns most people away.
The Dip is the period in the middle of the journey where there is a lot of effort and suffering but no reward in sight. Most people never make it past the dip.
But the Dip is not a flaw. It’s a design feature of life. As Godin put it:
“The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value.”
And, I would add: value creates an acceptable approach present.
The cross was the “dip” that Christ had to suffer through in order to be seated “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named…” (Ephesians 1:20-21)
And, in a much smaller way, we men of faith are called to imitate the path of Christ. We suffer in order to prepare ourselves for dominion.
The throne above all thrones is Christ’s alone. But as a man, you can certainly elevate your name above the names of lesser men:
As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
(Song of Solomon 2:3)
It is only the few men who persevere through the dip who acquire the scarcity and value necessary to find favor with a woman.
So with all these insights, we’re ready to bring it all together:
A Fresh Look at
the “Ephesians 5 Program”
The man’s role is NOT to sacrifice himself for the woman. He only sacrifices to his calling from God (i.e. his mission and purpose.)
The man needs to recognize that he is the approach present. The woman is the selector. She judges whether his approach present is valuable.
Any man desiring to consumate his love with a woman would do well to follow this path:
- Make yourself scarce and valuable by persevering through a series of “dips.”
- Present yourself as a valuable “approach present” to begin (or refresh) the relationship (Ephesians 5:25)
- Beautify your woman through proper care of her body (Ephesians 5:26-29; c.f. Ezekiel 16)
- Present your beautified woman to yourself for your pleasure (Ephesians 5:27)
- Consumate your love (Ephesians 5:31)
The process is natural. Each step flows into the next.
If you persevere where other men give up, it’s easy to become valuable.
If you’re a high-value man, it’s easy to find favor with women.
If you have favor with a woman, she will readily accept your instructions on how to beautify herself.
If your woman feels beautiful, she will be happy to present her body for your pleasure.
And if your woman is presenting herself, you can’t help but get it on 🙂
A lot to digest here, I know. But I don’t think I can overemphasize how important it is to get this stuff right.
The approach present, and the costliness of it, is the key to bridging the gap between the genders.
If you want to dive into this topic further, here’s a video by Clyde Pilkington where I learned about the approach present.
Also, The Dip by Seth Godin will help you understand how value is created (and whether or not you should quit or keep going.) Very short read.
Alrighty. I think I’ve said more than enough for one week.
Till next time,