Boundaries in Marriage: How to Be a Joseph, Not a David

boundaries in marriage

David and Joseph. Two prominent people in the Bible. Both were godly men who faced sexual temptation. One yielded and paid a dear price for it. The other ran from temptation and was rewarded by God, even though he was falsely accused of sexual assault by the spurned temptress. We are talking, of course, about King David’s affair with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) and Joseph’s temptation at the hands of Potiphar’s wife (see Genesis 39). What does it look like to have boundaries in marriage like Joseph and not like David?

The contrast between how these two men responded to sexual temptation is striking.  King David spied Bathsheba bathing. Instead of curbing his misdirected sexual desire, he sought the woman out, took her to bed, got her pregnant, and eventually murdered her husband in an attempt to cover his sin. Their child died as part of God’s judgment.

If anything, Joseph’s temptation was even more intense than David’s. Joseph wasn’t searching the rooftops looking for trouble as David was. Joseph was going about his business as Potiphar’s trusted servant when his boss’s wife threw herself at him and invited him to her bed. What pressure! Yet Joseph did not hesitate or waver. He ran from temptation, even though he ended up in prison on a trumped-up charge.

One of the most subtle and potentially destructive threats to your marriage comes in the form of sexual temptation. We use the word subtle because it is rare to hear of someone like Joseph being overtly and purposely seduced by a person other than his or her spouse. The enemy of your heart and home doesn’t really need a gaping opening like that to ignite temptation. All he needs is a moment of unguarded fascination or attraction, a second glance at an attractive person, a sharing of marital problems with a “concerned friend,” or a few unbridled thoughts about “what if?” Like a cancer, small impure thoughts can grow into a disease that will threaten the life of your marriage.

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How can you respond like Joseph instead of David in the face of sexual temptation? Guarding love sets guardrails into place long before the temptation hits. Like the guardrails on a steep, winding mountain road, these relational guardrails will protect you from plunging over the edge.

Let’s look at four important guardrails against the dangers of sexual temptation:

Boundaries in Marriage: A strong relationship with the Father. A vital, growing relationship with God is your strongest guardrail. He knows how you are wired emotionally and sexually. The closer you stay to him, the greater will be your access to his wisdom and counsel for resisting sexual temptation.

Boundaries in Marriage: A cautious relationship with people of the opposite sex. We’re not suggesting that you cut off all contact with the opposite sex. We’re talking about being cautious and alert to temptation and maintaining a margin of physical and emotional distance that will help you resist those temptations.

Boundaries in Marriage: An open relationship with other Christians. You need a small group of trusted friends to encourage you to remain pure, to edify you when you are struggling, and to help restore you if you step over the line in some way.

Boundaries in Marriage: A fulfilling relationship with your spouse. When you are emotionally or sexually thirsty, quench your thirst with your own spouse. When you are fully satisfied in your relationship with your spouse, neither of you will need to look elsewhere for gratification.

*Our book, Guard Your Heart, can help equip you and your spouse with the tools to protect your marriage. It’s available in our online bookstore!