Every so often I read an absolutely dreadful book that strips my will to continue reading as a regular practice of mine. This book did that to me. If I hadn’t been reading this for a church group, I would have set it aside and never looked back.
Gary Thomas’s writing in this book is simply terrible. He’s overly repetitive and says nothing while being so. He finds a way to work the word “cherish” into every few paragraphs (or more!). He even makes up his own definition for the word without ever letting you know that’s what he did.
He bases the entire book on the idea that you should cherish your spouse. No attempt for synonyms and no attempt to show where in Scripture it says you ought to cherish your spouse.
“Cherish” is primarily used once in Scripture to describe sinful attachments. Nearly every time the word “cherish” is used it is used in a negative context in general:
The godless in heart cherish anger; they do not cry for help when he binds them. ~Job 36:13
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. ~Psalm 66:18
Because you cherished perpetual enmity and gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of their final punishment… ~Ezekiel 35:5
They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the Lord to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding. ~Hosea 4:10-11BibleGateway
Each of these passages uses “cherish” to describe a love or cultivation of sin. There is nothing in these verses that makes you want to be the one that cherishes anything. That brings us to the one verse that uses cherish in regards to marriage:
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.Ephesians 5:28-30
Here is the only time it’s used positively, but there’s still a backhandedness to it. It’s almost like saying, “If you can’t love your wife as you ought, at least love like you love yourself.”
The deeper issue is, Thomas doesn’t even cite this verse. He cites 18 verses in the first chapter to back up his idea of what it means to cherish and each one of them uses the word “love” instead. All of the verses used to “define” cherish are ripped from Song of Solomon – which mostly deals with sexual desire – and 1 Corinthians 13 – which mostly deals with godly love. Neither of these passages refers to the kind of “cherishing” he defines.
Thomas further reduces a woman’s worth to her physical beauty throughout the book. This should be repudiated in any Christian writing. A woman’s value is found in the same place as a man’s, not by how well we can transform our physical bodies, but by how well we transform our internal selves to mirror and reflect Jesus.
There are multiple times in the book where he lets a husband’s sin slide and informs us that the wife is the one that needs to change.
My wife and I both read this book and she was so frustrated with it, she took a page and a half of single-spaced notes on all the things that are a bit weird in this book. She’s spent some time counseling abused women and this book reinforces many of the principles that tend to lead men and women into just such painful situations. As such, this book is not one I’d recommend.
The Most Terrible Quote
The first thing Carlos said when he walked into my office was, “I just want you to know I was here six minutes early. Rosa was late. I’m sorry.”Gary Thomas, page 79-80
Rosa looked at her husband and said, “Thanks for throwing me under the bus.”
“Rosa, you know how you felt when Carlos threw you under the bus?”
“That’s how he feels every time you make him late to a meeting. He can’t not feel that way. He respects being on time. He hates–literally hates–being late. So when you make him late, he’s going to feel terrible. He can forgive you. He can learn to not throw you under the bus. But he can’t stop caring about being late. He just can’t. You honor and protect him by working hard to be somewhere on time.”
Look at how he counseled Rosa in this story. He told her that Carlos can’t change how he feels about being on time. Being on time is a cultural standard, not a universal one. We literally do train ourselves to hate being late in our culture, so to say otherwise is to ignore centuries of other countries proving it false. To say he can’t change is to say, “Rosa, all of this is your fault.”
Now to be totally fair to the quote posted above, the ellipses do clip out the part where he calls out Carlos for throwing Rosa under the bus. That’s good, Carlos needs to be called out for that slander, gossip, and lack of protecting his wife. At the same time though, Carlos needs to be called out on his unbiblical view that being timely is more important than his wife or marriage.
This kind of attack on the wife is common throughout the book, and makes it a very hard book to recommend. Gary Thomas walks a line in this book that will make most women extremely uncomfortable while making men feel like they’re really learning something about how to be good husbands. This tension is not healthy as it puts a greater burden on the wife than it does the husband.
Overall I give this book 2 stars. If for some reason you have to read it, stick to just the last chapter, it’s the only one worth reading.
Up Next: Seven Days That Divide The World: The Beginning According To Genesis & Science by John C. Lennox