Why do I need a marriage license? Is it illegal not to have one?

Why do I need a marriage license? Why do you need a marriage license?

I discovered why I don't "need a marriage license in 2008, but let me tell you, it was not an easy journey. Check this out...

In 2008, I pondered some of the things that "belong to God."  For example, I began questioning the reason why Christian ministries apply for a "501(c)(3)" tax-exempt status corporate structure. According to the United States Constitution the people of God have the right to gather freely as a church. Why have a covenant agreement with the state or government at all?  It did not and does not make sense to me.  I thought, “If I had a ministry, then I would give that to God, not the state.”  In researching the legal ramifications of the 501(c)(3) status, several points of contention surfaced. A couple of the issues are limitations on freedom of speech and the state being head of the corporation through means of a contractual agreement. Jesus is left out entirely. Such ideas are completely unnecessary for any Bible believing church in the USA.

As I discovered the tremendous pitfalls of the 501(c)(3) pertaining to the Church's contractual agreement, I began to wonder, “Why do I need a marriage license?”  The line of thinking that took me from ministry to marriage was pondering the idea, “What else is the government involved in unnecessarily?” If we have rights and freedoms as United States citizens, under the governing authority of the Constitution, “Why do I need a ‘license’ in the context of holy matrimony? If marriage started in Eden, why the ‘marriage license’ now? Did George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson have a marriage license? If they did not have a marriage license, why do I need one?  Do I really ‘need’ one?”

Meditating further on, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God that which is God's," it is clear the state marriage license and certificate gives that which is God's to Caesar. We, as a people, are covenanting or contracting with the state, not God. What gives the state corporation, government, the "right" to license marriage? The government did not and does not create marriage. What gives it the right to license something it did not create? Only the Living God can bring man and woman together.  Could some of these issues be contributing to the breakdown of the family unit? These are the questions I began to ask, as the LORD focused my attention on the subject of marriage and family.

The purpose of this book is to explore the Word of God, the laws of the land and the past, present and future of marriage. The goal will be to gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. How are Christians to enter marriage, rightly, in the sight of God, while obeying the laws of the land? Establishing long-lasting marriages and families, is vital for the well-being of our children and our grandchildren.

"So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matthew 19:6 NKJV)

let no man separate

While investigating the “marriage license,” it became clear, that I wanted my marriage to be set apart to God alone.  I did not have all the answers back then, however, I did have enough insight to know this was a bad deal, all the way around. There had to be an alternative to the marriage license.  I did not want the state to be a part of my marriage, based on Jesus’ statements regarding Caesar. (For the record, I am in favor of a marital agreement between husband, wife and the Living God. This will be discussed another time.)

In July 2009, I found myself dating a wonderful young lady.  Her twin brother and I already had an established friendship. I had expressed my views on the state marriage license to her twin brother, which he had subsequently passed on to his sister months before our relationship began.  Even at that time, she thought not wanting a marriage license was a little odd.

Early on in our relationship I had asked, "Are you okay with not having a marriage license?"  I do not recall the exact quote, but she did affirm that she was okay entering marriage without signing a marriage license. If she had not been comfortable with this idea, I would have ended the relationship and would not have gone any further than a friendship, due to my convictions on this issue.

The legalities of marriage are simply not talked about from the pulpit or around the dinner table.  The American Church, for the most part, is completely ignorant surrounding the legalities of the state marriage license.  I was in uncharted waters, without much in the way of a life-raft, regarding this topic. My desire was simple, to give God all of my marriage, without any strings to anything or anyone else, besides my future wife of course.

I proposed to this young lady at the beginning of 2011 in front of her parents and younger brother. She accepted. In the excitement of the engagement, we began planning the wedding, taking engagement photos and looking for a venue. However, the marriage license had not yet been openly discussed with her parents.

marriage proposal

In May of that same year, the marriage license topic came up after church one Sunday, while at her parent’s home. My future mother-in-law indicated that I could not marry her daughter without signing a marriage license.  I said, "Well, at this point, I am not prepared to sign a marriage license."  It became evident there was not going to be a wedding until this issue got resolved.  At the time, I did not understand all of the legal ramifications of the license. I did know, God created the relationship of marriage, not the state.

During our relationship, I openly communicated my views on the marriage license with other family members, such as her uncle and younger brother.  The best course of action (looking back) would have been to speak directly with her parents about my desires and beliefs.  My hesitation was due to:

  1. My lack of full and comprehensive understanding regarding the legalities of the marriage license.
  2. Not knowing of any alternative solution to a marriage license or if there even was one?
  3. My assumption that her parents knew my position and did not have an issue with it.

Several Conversations with Her Father

Several conversations ensued with my fiancé’s father about the marriage license.  During one particular lunch we were dialoguing about the situation.  Her father stated, "My marriage is blessed.  The marriage license has not had an affect on my marriage.  Why didn't God tell me not to sign the license?  Why did He tell you about this and not me?"  I replied, "I don't know?" He followed up with, "While you’re out of town, take time to ask God these questions.   We'll get lunch after you get back and you can tell me what God told you." I had plans to leave town for five days.  I told her father that I would pray about his questions and give him an answer upon my return. These were good, if not great questions. Admittedly, there was a bit of concern that I would not have a valid answer for him after the trip.

Thankfully, God did speak to me. I had asked the Lord, "Why didn't You tell him about the marriage license?" God's reply was humbling, "You have not, because you ask not.  He never asked if he should or should not sign the marriage license.  You did."  Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of the book of Joshua and the story of the Gibeonites.  The Gibeonites were smart. They figured if they could pretend that they were from a faraway land that the Israelites might not kill their people.  Take a closer look at this story.

Joshua and the Gibeonites

3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, 5 old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. ...

7 Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?" 8 But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?"

9 So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, 10 "and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan--to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.

11 "Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, 'Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, "We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us." ' 12 "This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy.

13 "And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey." 14 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD. 15 So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them. ...

18 But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers.

19 Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them. ... 23 "Now therefore, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves--woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God." (Joshua 9:3-5, 7-15, 18-19, 23 NKJV)

The Lord revealed something from this story, in relation to what He had spoken previously.  "You have not, because you ask not."  So too, Joshua and the Israelites "did not ask counsel of the LORD."  Making peace with these people was not God's perfect and highest will.  Joshua made an agreement that was not according to God's will, but according to his will.  What can be learned from this example?

  • Joshua and the Israelites moved according to their will. They failed to ask for the LORD's thoughts and opinion in the matter.
  • Israel moved forward presumptuously, in covenanting with the Gibeonites.
  • Israel looked at the outward appearances.
  • Israel failed to accomplish God's perfect will. God's ideal and perfect will was to wipe these wicked people off the face of the earth.  God gave the Gibeonites over 400 years to repent and change their ways. They did not repent.
  • Israel settled for God's second best because making covenant with the Gibeonites went against God’s command to wipe out all the inhabitants of the land.

24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. ... 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you." - (Exodus 23:24, 32-33 NIV)

The LORD spoke through Moses warning not to make covenant with any people group because it would be a snare to Israel.

Were the Israelites still blessed? Absolutely.  They simply did not follow God's highest and best plan for what He had in store for them in the Promised Land.

As I write this, I hear the Holy Spirit saying, "I do not want any giants in the land of My marriages.  I want all the giants removed because they do not belong there in the first place. Joshua Paul, I promise you there is more to My goodness in the things of marriage and family.  I promise you. Follow Me.  I have more for the people of God in the things of marriage than they are currently experiencing and settling for. Do not settle."

My fiancé’s father and I reconvened on the marriage license topic after my trip. I tell you with absolute assurance, I did not enjoy sharing with him the words that the Holy Spirit had spoken to me. It was humbling. It is never an easy thing to exhort a father-figure. Who am I to point out another's shortcomings? I have "planks in my own eye" to consider.

It was my hope to communicate as graciously and humbly as possible, the words that were in my heart.  It went something like this: "The reason God never told you about the marriage license was because you never asked about it in the first place.  You have not, because you ask not.  You simply signed the piece of paper without thinking twice." I went on to say, "God showed me the example of Joshua and the Gibeonites.  God's command was to wipe out all the inhabitants of the land, which included the Gibeonites, but because they failed to inquire of the LORD, they settled for less than God's perfect will.  Were they still blessed? Absolutely.  Was this God's perfect will?  Absolutely not.”  I concluded by saying, “All I want to do is pursue God's perfect will, pertaining to the things of marriage.”

The Beginning of the End

My fiancé and I remained engaged a few more months. Shortly following her twin brother’s wedding she communicated that she wanted to be married in the next month or two. I asked, “Have your parents changed their mind regarding the marriage license?”  By her response, it was clear they had not.  My fiancé gave me the engagement ring back a day or two later, following this discussion.

It was now August and we were no longer together in an official relationship, but our lives were still very connected. Working for her parent's family business, we saw each other daily. Not to mention the fact that we attended the same church congregation and had the same friends. There was definitely some initial pain, but we continued talking with each other and chose to remain friends.

In December 2011, things came to a head.  It became apparent that our situation was unhealthy.  We were spending too much time together due to all of our mutual connections.

One day we met at the office and discussed all that was transpiring.  She told me, "I need to heal and move on. Your presence is a hindrance to me."  She stated, "I need to ask you to find work somewhere else in the next month or two.”   At one point the comment was made, “If you could just disappear from my life, that would be great." I also had a phone conversation with her Mom that same day.  She asked, "Joshua have you changed your mind regarding the marriage license?"

I replied, "No.  Have you?"  She stated, "No, and we are not going to."  That sealed the fact - I was never going to marry this girl.

I stopped working for the company immediately and communicated with her father that I needed to discontinue working at the business, for the sake of his daughter's heart.

Following Jesus' Word and His Holy Spirit is always the best choice, no matter how intense the decision.  To this day, I truly believe the outcome was God's perfect will for us.  I needed to follow my convictions.  If I compromised on this issue, it would have been disastrous for the two of us.  Never compromise your convictions as long as they are founded in Jesus Christ.  Stand firm, even if the world is against you.  "Greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world."

It was a tough time, filled with introspection, crying out to God and asking questions like, "Why me?" "Why do I have to be the guy who won't sign the marriage license?

I could identify with aspects of these Scriptures.

34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 "and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:34-38 NKJV)"

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake....

44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:11, 44 NKJV)

20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20 NKJV)

Through all of this, the Lord showed Himself strong. As I began to pray, search the scriptures and do more research, on this topic everything became clear. God was communicating this perspective is in alignment with His heart. Sometimes we need to take a stand in the face of opposition.

In March 2012, I found myself at a Vineyard Church in Southern California. Nobody knew me, I was simply enjoying the worship service on a Monday night.  After worship, the pastor pointed at me and said, "... The Lord says about you, you're a man of integrity.  You've had to make some really difficult choices lately, but those choices are choices that will pay off in the future.  Just choose Jesus every time. I believe the Lord has a wonderful anointing on your life.  I can see a sword on you. It is like the Spirit of Truth. I think you have a way with the truth and the Word of God that's been really precious to you.  I can feel that word on you.  The word of truth ... "

These words were comforting.  It was clear, I did the right thing not signing the marriage license and choosing Jesus. The pastor’s words were simply one confirmation.

Hindsight 20-20

I never imagined being in an engagement that would end under such unusual circumstances. Leaving my ex-fiancé's world, forced me to draw closer to God.  Throughout the process of seeking, knocking and asking why all of this took place, questions came to mind, "Was it all just a waste of time? What was the purpose of all this? Did I hear You clearly?”  The Holy Spirit spoke to me a few key thoughts, in the process of closing my heart to the idea of marrying this girl.  He showed me that the purpose of all this was to give my ex-fiancé, her family and myself the opportunity “to mine the depths of love."  I had to learn to forgive and continue loving them. They had to do the same. Truthfully, I believe they did a better job demonstrating love than I did. Each of us grew, in our own ways, regarding what it means to love like Jesus.

We parted ways from a place of purity. Praise God! 


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