Is the Marriage License Just a Piece of Paper?

“‘We don’t need a marriage license to show our love. It’s just a piece of paper!’

Photo credit: sjrankin / Foter / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: sjrankin / Foter / CC BY-NC

I have lost count of how many times I have heard this over the years. ‘It’s just a piece of paper.’ Those who make that statement often declare that they are doing “what is right for them” and that make sense to them. But in the fuller picture, especially when it comes to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, is that really true?

We’d like you to consider a few points, hoping you will see that this “piece of paper” and your hesitation to sign it, really isn’t as “right” as you might have thought previously.

The Value of a Marriage License

One point to consider is its value:

“‘It’s just a piece of paper’ they say. The deed to your house is ‘just a piece of paper.’ Your apartment lease agreement, your car registration, your check on payday, your driver’s license and so many more things qualify under the title of ‘just a piece of paper.’ But you make sure that you have these in place, and you are very protective of them. High school diplomas, certificates of completion, college degrees are all ‘pieces of paper.’ But, they are highly valued. Shouldn’t you value the most important relationship in your life at least as much as you do your house, car, or level of education?” (Charles Perkins, from article “It’s Just a Piece of Paper”)

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the marriage license and its importance. Michael A Covington made the following points concerning this, in his article, Explaining Christian Sexual Morality to a Non-Believing World:

Misconception: ‘A marriage certificate is just a piece of paper.’

Then why are you afraid of it? Every time I’ve seen a couple living together out of wedlock, it has been one of two things:

(a) It is a one-night stand that persisted. That is, they really have made no commitment at all.

– OR –

(b) It’s a situation where one of the pair thinks they are practically married. And the other thinks they have not actually made any commitment to marry. (I.e., it’s a trick!)

Let’s distinguish marriage from wedding. If you’re ready to marry, but you’re putting it off because of some difficulty arranging a big fancy ceremony — please re-think where you stand. Either make the commitment, and get it publicly registered, or admit that you are not yet married.'”

Hannah, in another article brought up a few additional points that it might be good for you to consider.

She wrote:

I must have heard that old saying about marriage just being a piece of paper a million times from people who were saying, why bother getting married? However, there really is more to marriage than a piece of paper. That is because if a couple is married it gives couples many more options legally in a number of various areas.

Couples that believe marriage is just a piece of paper are not only short changing themselves, but their partner as well.

Couples who think it’s just a piece of paper have a lot to learn, including trust.

Just a Piece of Paper?

What stimulated me to write this article is that I finally realized what was going on. In one sense some couples are saying it’s just a piece of paper. But then I got to thinking, if it’s just a piece of paper why are you so afraid of it?

In that respect, what they’re saying does not make any sense. Those who have been married and had enough courage to put their love on the line for the one they love, and to commit for a lifetime to love, honor, and cherish are way ahead of those whose say, no promises here, let’s just see how it all goes!” (From an article titled, “Marriage vs. the Piece of Paper Syndrome,” which was formerly posted on the Internet)

Living Together

We understand that many who live together are either not ready to make the type of commitment it would take to sign this “piece of paper.” It’s either that, or they don’t see this step of commitment as one that is necessary. But for those who claim to be Christians, we hope you will consider the following:

Commitment is just the beginning. It is the foundation on which everything else is built. A wedding makes the statement to God that I want to have His very best for my family. The Bible tells us that God’s best for couples is one man and one woman together for life within the covenant of marriage. (See Genesis 2:22-25; Matthew 19:4-6.)

Sexual love and the new life that can issue from it, are precious gifts from our Creator. It’s so precious in fact that they need to be reserved for one person with whom a binding life-covenant has been made. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.) Sharing these God-given gifts with that special person is one of the things that makes marriage sacred.” (See Proverbs 5:15-20.) (Earl Creps Phd. from the article, It’s Just a Piece of Paper)

Your Attitude

As its been said, “It’s not just a piece of paper unless you treat it as such.” But for those of us who are “Christ followers.” we need to consider it to be more. It’s especially important what the Lord thinks about the “piece of paper” called a Marriage License.

To learn more by reading what author Lakita Garth writes concerning this issue, in a series of Crosswalk.com, please click onto the following links to read:

MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 1)

MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 2)

AND:

MARRIAGE IS JUST A PIECE OF PAPER (Part 3)

Below are a couple of myths concerning living together and marrying with the “piece of paper”:

MYTH:

The Bible Doesn’t Teach That a Civil or Religious Ceremony Must Be Performed For Marriage to Be Valid In God’s Eye, So Why Have One?

TRUTH:

The institution of marriage was first created and ordained of God (Genesis 2). All marriages are still blessings ordained by Him in order that two may become one. It is evident that in biblical times there was a contractual agreement, perhaps verbal, signifying marriage. The parables of “The Wedding Garment” (Matthew 22:11-14) and The Ten Virgins” (Matthew 25:1-13) indicate that marriage took place at a given time and place.

“The scripture says ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s‘ (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). The government (the ‘Caesar’ of our day) requires that we must have a marriage license to be legally recognized. Since a marriage ceremony is a civil requirement, we are obligated as law abiding citizens and Christians to observe it.

MYTH:

‘The Marriage License Is Only a Piece of Paper, and it Doesn’t Automatically Make Two People Committed to Each Other.’ ‘It won’t make me love you more.’ ‘We are already committed to each other, we don’t need a piece of paper to prove it.’

TRUTH:

Dunagan (1993) presents the other side of the argument: ‘If there’s no difference in your relationship, what’s wrong with adding one more symbol to your total commitment?’ Evidently, marriage consists of more than just a piece of paper.

“After all, Dunagan says, who raises strong objections over ‘just a piece of paper’? Who has ever objected to buying a ring (or anything nice) just to prove their love?

‘We’re committed to each other. We love each other; we don’t need to sleep together to prove that we love each other,’. OR, ‘I love you. I am really committed to you, but not for a lifetime.’ OR, ‘I love you, but not enough to want you to be my wife.’ OR, ‘ I love you, but not enough to want to wear your last name.’ ‘I love you, but not enough to vow such love before God, family and friends.’ OR, ‘I love you, but not enough to enter into a relationship that brings you honor, respect and preserves your dignity.'” (From the article Myths About cohabitation)

What Getting Married Means

Here’s another quote on this issue that we’d like you to consider:

Getting married means for a woman that I am now your wife, not your live-in play thing and housekeeper. For a man, I am now your husband, not your handyman. I’m not a guy who completes your honey-do-lists. It means that we get to have a wedding where, before virtually every person alive who means anything to us, we commit ourselves to each other. It means that we have determined to bring all those people we love into our lives. Furthermore, it means the families of our spouse are now our family too. It means we have legal obligations to one another.

When we realize all that is achievable by marrying and unachievable by living together without marrying, one must wonder why anyone would voluntarily choose not to marry the person he or she wants to live with forever. Unless, of course, one of them really isn’t planning on forever.” (Doug Billings, from article “Marriage vs Living Together” posted on Examiner.com)

Forever Type of Love

Concerning “forever” type of love and commitment, Charles Perkins wrote:

We thought we loved each other and we did. But, once we took the marriage vows and got the ‘piece of paper,’ we found that the old love was but a mere shadow of the love that developed once we were married. There is no comparison.

My marriage license is a symbol of the love and life that I will share with my wife until the day I die. It is a piece of paper that declares to the world that I am my beloved’s and she is mine. It’s a piece of paper that is a symbol of a relationship that means so much more to me than the wood and plaster of a house or the tin, plastic and rubber of a car.

Plus, it’s just a piece of paper that reminds us of why we are together when we want to go. So we stay, and build, and grow. It’s a piece of paper that gives her access to a place and space of peace and rest in me. She has access to a place where only she can come.

“It is a piece of paper that says I will live up to the commitment to love my wife no matter what happens in my life. It’s a piece of paper that I take seriously. Because of that piece of paper, I have joy. It IS just a piece of paper. But, it is the most important piece of paper that I have.” (Charles Perkins, from article It’s Just a Piece of Paper)

What God Says

But the best reason to consider the marriage license more than just a “piece of paper” and to get married, is because of what God tells us in the Bible. It’s important to follow HIS ways of doing things, not ours. As one (unknown) author stated:

The Bible gives the best reason for couples not to live together without marriage. Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers,’ states Hebrews 13:4. The Bible plainly and simply says that living together outside of marriage is fornication. Just what is meant by ‘fornication’? One dictionary describes it as ‘human sexual intercourse other than between a man and his wife.’ For us to have a good conscience, this Bible counsel must be followed: God wills that you abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

What IS Marriage?

With that said, just what IS marriage, as brought out in God’s Word? The web site GotQuestions.org has an article posted that addresses this very issue. But upon reading it, we also recommend that you read the articles linked below it as well. We believe as you read them, you will get a fuller picture of the difference between marriage and just living together as if you were husband and wife without getting that “piece of paper.”

WHAT CONSTITUTES MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE?

Keep in mind that Jesus told us (as recorded in Matthew 5:14-16):

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Poking Holes in the Darkness

When you live together without being married, do you truly believe that living together without a marriage license will cause others to see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven? Are you poking holes in the darkness so the light of Christ is seen through how you live? Or are you contributing to the darkness by going along with the standards that the world considers to be OK? Are you being a stumbling block to those who are weaker in faith? (See: Romans 14 and Romans 15.)

We’re told in the Bible:

Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God —this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this wold, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —His good and pleasing and perfect will(Romans 12:1-2).

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Preparing for Marriage Sex Before Marriage

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Comments

37 responses to “Is the Marriage License Just a Piece of Paper?

  1. I have been richly blessed by your teachings. God will continue to keep you flourishing. Please what’s ur take on Christians f& involvements in arranged marriage as a means of retaining their stay/survival in European countries especially the UK after which they would still need to be really married from their country of origin even though the arranged/contract is without marital obligations such as living& sleeping together, dating, visits & with the contract yet to expire due to legal reasons. How should one as a Christian handle remarriage (the person proposing & the one being proposed to) under these conditions.

  2. Hi. I just wanted to say that sometimes it’s not so cut and dry. Everyone’s situation is different. While my husband and I (made vows to God and each other, were also married in our 20’s but divorced) would love to “legally” marry, at this time we are jobless, he is without insurance, anything. No job prospects for months… I have 2 degrees and a very young child whose father died early last year. Since then the ex has really stepped up and been wonderful to us. Would not have made it without him.

    If we were to get legally married again every benefit I have for myself and my child would disappear. The state knows we live together; it’s all reported, not a welfare queen. Just lost my job after son’s father died and haven’t worked in 8 months. No one wants to hire someone out of work it seems. My hunny has health probs that make it tough to keep full time work. The government seems to detest marriage… Not sure what the protocol would be for this.

  3. Hello, My husband, who I have been calling my husband for years now, has not given me a marriage license or wedding. He feels it’s not necessary to have the government involved in our marriage because he did with his first wife, and she used it against him, divorcing him and taking his child from him. And regarding the wedding, he says none of our family will go, which I have to agree with because out of my own mothers mouth she said “you can have a ceremony, but none of us will go”.

    I’m starting to be a bit convicted or something though. I have some family that say that I don’t belong with my husband- they think I deserve better and because we don’t have a license he doesn’t believe we are married. But he too has had issues against my husband about this beliefs and I think it’s just his wicked pride that doesn’t want me with him either.

    I’m really not sure why my family behaves so badly, but I’m tired of living to please them. And I don’t really want to trouble my husband with getting this certificate, but I still feel maybe God wants me to get one. I love my husband and I belong to him… I really don’t think a certificate issued by a state that also thinks gays are married justifies us. Still I’m willing to listen to others.

  4. So I have a question. A friend of mine recently got married. Her and her husband signed the marriage certificate but the person who married her and her husband did not sign their wedding certificate. Someone else did. But my friend did not realise this and just found out. Are her and her husband technically married because of this? This is really upsetting her.

    1. I don’t see why the different signatures are problematic, but this is something they would have to ask their county clerk’s office. And even if they did tell them that the certificate has to be signed by the person who married them, then they could take one and have it signed legally, as needed. She/they did nothing wrong. This is a legal thing that was done innocently on their part. God gives grace for this, no doubt. So if resigning the certificate is required (though I’m not sure it will be required) then they should do it. They can make it a special day of celebration ASAP with just them and the witnesses and go out for a nice dinner afterward. They would then have two days of celebration each year. When handed lemons… make lemonade, as the old saying goes… extra days of celebrating covenant love… YAY!!!

  5. The author is seriously misinformed. A marriage certificate is an invitation for the state to provide incentives to destroy the marriage and is certainly an un-Christian artifact. Any true Christian should avoid signing a marriage license as it is just a vehicle for the state to destroy the marriage and threaten one of the parties until they pay the ruling lawyer class. Shame on the author.

    1. Tim has hit the nail on the head. The perverse State should not be given God’s place and His definition of the marriage covenant. The institution of marriage was invented by God, but the State has perverted it and attempted to take control in His place. Your covenant is not with the State, but with your spouse and your families. I pity anyone who has signed the rights of their marriage & their familial relationships over to the State – rather than to give all solely to God.

  6. When are a man and woman considered to be married according to the Bible?

    How can one compare marriage to a home deed or car title? Is not marriage more than those things? Using the apparent premise of this article that a husband and wife are not married apart from a state issued license, can one not apply that same notion that a man and woman aren’t married without rings (or any other physical thing in this earth which one could use to fill in the blank)? By your definition and value in the state issued piece of paper (that they’ll give to anyone now, regardless of sex or true covenant, by the way), were Adam & Eve (or any other husband & wife mentioned in the Bible) really married?

  7. I would love to point out that the entire premise of this article is based on a straw man argument.

    The fact is, this article should be arguing AGAINST unwed couples living together in a sexually romantic relationship.

    The fact is, marriage licenses are PERMISSION FROM THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT to be a husband and wife. Marriage licenses started out post Civil War as a means of state governments to prevent interracial marriages between blacks and whites. By 1923, states had convinced the majority of the population that marriage licenses were mandatory.

    They STILL are NOT mandatory.

    Marriage is a private contract between a man and a woman. A marriage ceremony is the swearing of oaths before God and witnesses.

    A marriage license is a PURCHASED privilege from government, just like a driver’s license or a license to carry a firearm.

    Marriage licenses being somehow similar to a title or a deed is a false analogy at best, and a reference to HUMAN OWNERSHIP / SLAVERY at worst.

    Essentially, that marriage contact you filed at the court house is a FINANCIAL AGREEMENT between YOU, YOUR SPOUSE, AND THE GOVERNMENT.

    God is no where in there.

  8. I am about to enter my second marriage. And as a loyal wife and mother, I have also said the marriage license is just a piece if paper. Not saying it doesn’t matter because it is very important. I said it in different sent terms as, in it’s not going to change me. Even before the license I was doing the things a wife is suppose to do. That’s where I messed up (Getting the milk without buying the cow, as my parents say). So I guess I don’t know what else a wife should do after you get married. I just want our relationship viewed by God eyes. That’s all I want it for.

  9. Great article, really good, definitely defines that followers of Jesus should seek to complete a marriage ceremony with witnesses recognized and a valid record of the ceremony. That said, seeking a state license of any type is a contract with the state and they are a third party involved in your marriage and anything produced as a result of said contract belongs to the state and it decides what is what and who is who once you have this contract in place, this included your children.

    If you live in California and attempt to go to court after completing a marriage ceremony with witnesses under the terms of “common law marriage” you will be told that the court doesn’t recognize “common law marriage.” In legal court terminology (legalease as it’s called) the definition of “recognize” has a completely different meaning, just like most words in the courtroom don’t have every day vernacular meanings as people incorrectly presume when they attend court. The word “recognize” in court actually is referring to jurisdiction over a particular matter and has this jurisdiction been granted by all parties involved, hence, does the current federal/state/county court system today have jurisdiction over a marriage ceremony that has not applied for the state to be a third party to, of course the answer is no. The state doesn’t have jurisdiction over a common law marriage, because it’s not a constitutional court, it’s a maritime & military court of admiralty, this is why you see a gold bordered flag every time you go to court, go to a school, are in a public service type of building, this is why the police have a gold band around all of their flags, on their uniforms, on their squad cars, etc. The same goes for the military in dress uniforms that display the flag. (the backwards flying flag actually represents the troops are under the military jurisdiction and authority of another country or organization, such as the UNITED NATONS.

    Try to find any backwards flags on anything military or federal or state government before the middle of the 1990’s. You will not be able to, that is because Bill Clinton, who was the last ‘united states’ (not UNITED STATES, there is a vast difference) signed over control of the democracy of the “UNITED STATES” back to the “City of London” and the English Crown, effectively controlled by the UNITED NATIONS. But that is another long story. In effect, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over common law marriage and therefore won’t(can’t) recognize it (see it as an area they have jurisdiction to make judgment calls and legal determinations against.) All law in these UNITED STATES is statutory with codes in nature, that is commercial law, it mean’s all of these institutions are running under the statues and codes of commercial transactions, which means EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING, is by contract, and only contract(with the state acting as trustee over the contract{s} for the executors of said agreement) between all parties involved. Marriage, driver’s license, car registration, school registration, mortgages registered with the local county, etc, etc, etc. This is a very hard concept for people to understand, because social engineering has been done through out their entire life to teach them otherwise. The UNITES STATES is a corporation, the STATE OF CALIFORNIA is a corporation, along with the other 49 STATES. The DMV is a corporation, the SUPERIOR COURT of (pick a STATE COUNTY)is a corporation, so is the COUNTY it resides and administers over.

    “Driver” in court actually refers to a commercially employed operator of a motor vehicle who is hired for wages (payment, etc) to conduct business for a profit. A taxi cab driver, a delivery truck driver, a bus driver, a heavy equipment operator, etc. It does not however, refer to an every day traveler in their automobile( in the United States Americans have a God given right to travel and move unhindered and without papers anywhere in the United States, this is a right, not a privilege, which a Driver’s License is; a license is given to allow a party to operate legally in an area that is normally illegal) This is the same with any other license.

    Sorry for the long comment, but we as followers of Jesus should know and be aware of this more than everyone so we can explain it and be better witnesses to the truth.

    God bless.