Q. I think you're wrong to make your wives go hunting for wives for you, and you should just let God bring them to you as and when He does. Isn't that the right way to do it?
This question was asked my by the plural wife of another patriarch (who admittedly was venting her spleen at the time over another issue) and reflects an opinion held by many. I should add that the lady in question believes that she has the final veto on which women enter their family and regards herself as the 'first wife'.
To begin with, it has to be said that there is no such thing as a 'first wife' in anything except chronology. This ought to be obvious if we are closely adhering to the paradigm which is revealed in both the writings of Paul and in the Book of Revelation. In Christ there is complete and utter equality between the saints in the mystical marriage of Christ to His Church (Messianic Community), Paul reminding us that there is no male or female, no bond or free, and no racial differences (no Greek or Jew). The mystical Bride of Christ demonstrates such total equality and unity that in the allegory they are, to all intents and purposes, one symbolic woman.
Secondly, Christ Himself teaches, in the parable of the labourers, that it doesn't matter at what time of the 'day' you become a believer because you will, when it comes to your reward, receive the same salary unless you have chosen a lesser path. This deserves careful study because it shows that there are two ways in which we can enter plural marriage - one based on Mosaic concepts and the other on the freedom of the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant Law of Moses is based on fixed and agreed salaries. If you do this, you will get this, that, or the other. The modern Jewish attitides to marriage, with their contracts and pentalties, very much reflects this mindframe. Everything is based on hierarchies and negociated contracts. If a new wife enters the family, the material and sexual 'rights' of the first wife shall not be decreased. Sadly, the vast majority of Christian/Messianic Polygamists are living after the Mosaic pattern.
""For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.' So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the labourers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen'" (Matthew 20:1-16, NKJV)
But look carefully at Yah'shua's (Jesus') teaching about wages. He says that there are two kinds of contract that we can negociate with our Lord. We can agree to a fixed-wage system ('one denarius a day') OR we can simply trust the Master to see us right without negociating any kind of salary at all.
It is vital we do not miss this lesson. The first labourers entered an agreement based on fear and mistrust. Basically they were saying: "We don't trust you to see us right, so we insist on a verbal contract with an agreed salary at the end of the day". The second set of labourers, knowing they were late, threw their whole trust upon the landlord's good graces to pay them fairly. When the end of the day came and the wages were paid, the landowner paid them equally, much to the dismay of the first set of labourers who had worked far longer than the second and also during the hottest part of the day. Now had you been of the spirit of the Law of Moses you would probably have accused the landowner of gross unfairness. But that isn't the point. The first labourers got what they asked for based on their carnal mistrust. The second labourers got what Christ, in His undeserved loving kindness, chose to give of what was his when they asked only that He be fair to them. These based their 'contract', not on temporal and carnal things, but on spiritual.
Once a woman starts saying that she is the No.1 in the hierarchy of wives, or that she has a veto, or that she has any sort of control, she is demonstrating that she belongs to the temporal, carnal law of works after the Mosaic pattern which seeks to preserve private property and rights. She demonstrates territorialism and a complete lack of understanding of just what plural marriage in the New Covenant is. Substitute the landowner for a patriarch (who is a shadow of Christ) and the labourers for his wives (who are a shadow of the Bride of Christ) and you can see the picture clearly. The first wife/wives (labourers) do not have presidential rights simply because they came to the family (harvest fields) first, any more than a Christian/Messianic who has been saved earlier than another can say he is 'more saved', 'more sanctified' or has 'more rights' in the local church/assembly that one who was saved later. Such people reflect carnal, unsanctified thinking. They have entirely missed the point. Hence Christ's concluding words:
The bottom line of this truth is that carnally-minded wives who try to 'lord' it over wives are going to find themselves, at best, last in the list of blessings they receive from the Spirit, and at worst, excluded (not chosen) in the eternal marriage bond altogether. What we learn is that marriage between spouses in Christ is based on complete and utter equality, and devoid of rights, pecking orders, and hierarchies amongst the wives. In short, it is based on ONE WORD, grace.
"So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen" (v.16).
Such a system rests uncomfortably on all but those who are truly moved by the Spirit of Christ because it is an affront to their unredeemed nature which seeks, as ever, hegemony (dominance, rulership). Any wife who has such an attitude in a plural marriage will, if she does not repent, may well find herself single and alone in the eternal worlds where only Christ's Law obtains. For (s)he who seeks to be first will always be last.
When a new wife comes into a family whatever arrangements may have existed between the wives becomes modified and a new order of marriage begins. When a new believer enters the Body of Christ (Messianic Community), bringing with him his giftedness as his acceptable offering to Yahweh in service, the local congregation adapts to include him to allow him the full expression of his calling and giftedness. The family widens its circle of love to embrace and share.
I find this tendency for hierarchies amongst wives usually has one of two roots (or both): false teachings about Christ and the Gospel (the fundamentalist Mormons, for instance, have this pecking order system) or isolation from other Christians/Messianics where the family is not challenged to share with other families in community. Inward-lookingness is always a danger which is why the Gospel is always reaching out to include new souls into the Family of Christ.
The thought which the woman wrote to me had that I 'send' my wives to 'recruit' others is based in a total misperception of the spirit which operates in my household. And the parallel thought that somehow their family simply 'lets' Yahweh bring other women into their lives which the No.1 wife then makes a leadership decision on is also based on a similar misperception of just what the Kingdom of Heaven is. I do not send my wives scouring the internet, churches (assemblies) or local community for 'more wives', never have done, and never will. This woman has completely misunderstood our focus. Neither am I so naïve as to believe that Yahweh just 'sends' women into my family like snow dropping out of the clouds into my garden.
In practice, what happens is that we evangelise for Christ and his Gospel. We are recruiting allegorical brides for our Lord Yah'shua (Jesus), both men and women, by sharing the Gospel of salvation. We are, as a family, community builders both locally (our own assembly) and internationally (those of other assemblies). Almost every single person we recruit for Christ we send to other congregations. And almost all we never meet in the flesh.
If they are honest, most of the men and women seeking for wives or sister-wives are recruiting for themselves, just as many denominations and 'one-and-only-true-churches' are recruiting for their own denominations. Their eyes are on the temporal more than on the spiritual ... instead of on the invisible Body of Christ (Messianic Community) with respects no denominational boundaries. Their spirit is one of 'hoarding' wives instead of thinking how they can bless other families or singles. It has become a 'polygamy safari' where everyone tries to bag what they can. And its stinks.
A large segment of the 'Christian' polygamy
communmity has degenerated into a meatmarket
As a minister I am am approached by large numbers of women on the internet asking about polygamy. I point them to churches (assemblies), ministries, chat rooms and patriarchs whom I feel may be best suited to their needs, as I discern the Spirit leading me. Many of them I do not recommend for polygamy at all. Most of the men I tell to get packing for they are unfit. And whilst it is true I am always keeping an eye open for someone called to my family, it is so low on my priority scale that I am virtually unconscious of it. And that goes for my wives too. To be truthful, I am more concerned about some of my single brothers in this movement who are fine men and in need of good wives. My thoughts often are: 'I wonder if this lady might be right for Brother so-and-so'. I invite ladies and these men into our chat rooms and let the Spirit do the rest, often 'disappearing' to let them socialise and interact.
I do believe, however, that wives should be the principal evangelists of polygamy, not because I believe that I should be passive about the matter, but because this is so very clearly the model we are to be imitating in the way Christ builds up His Church/Assembly. It is, of course, Christ who on the primary level reaches out, attracts, knocks on the doors of our hearts, and invites; but it is His allegorical Wife, the Church (Messianic Community), who must do the footwork of preaching, fellowshipping, discipling, and integrating. There is a dynamic here. The idea, implied by this lady, that I sit on my 'throne' and 'send out' my wives is based on a complete carnal misconception of how I operate. Indeed, on the human level, there is a human dynamic in operation: Yahweh sends, I attract (unconsciously by living a life in Christ), and my wives do the footwork of checking them out - not because my wives are my 'slaves' but because this is the divine pattern. This is always how it works for the best, and in the Spirit, it operates freely and naturally.
None of my wives has any veto or primacy in a new relationship. I seek their counsel and encourage them to friendship and bond with other women as the Spirit leads them. My chronological first wife has no veto whatsoever. The only one with vetoing responsibilities in our family is me. And I always go Yahweh for His veto.
Yahweh brings, we search and my wives socialise but always first and foremost in the context of witnessing and discipling for Christ. The family does not exist for itself. Polygamy does not exist for the family. The family and polygamy exist only for Kingdom-building and the creation of the Family of families, the Bride of Christ, for the Marriage of marriages, the mystical union of Christ to His redeemed Bride.
This woman is not only seriously out of order spiritually but has a wrong, semi-Mosaic-like grasp of what polygamy is. She is usurping both the headship of Christ and of her husband, but making out that Yahweh is in control by 'sending' women into her matriarchal nest. The fact of the matter is that Yahweh will never send anyone into such a world, because the spirit of that carnal world has been entirely replaced by a new one - a new marriage world with a new Spirit - the New Covenant Spirit, where all the wives are equal, where there are no temporal contracts, where the Master of the household is trusted to be impartial and fair.
Early on my household abandoned the 'fixed system' way of doing things - rotation visiting 'rights' of the wives, hierarchies, vetoes, and the like, and my wives voluntarily yielded all these things to my judgment, fairness, and grace. It took a leap of faith - a faith equivalent to the leap between the Old Covenant mentality and the New - and it has paid handsome spiritual dividends. (For various practical reasons, we have since reinstituted the visiting rotation system, though in all other respects we operate as we did before).
Sometimes we look around at other believers and see how Yahweh is prospering them whereas we, or others, are apparently undergoing such terrible difficulties, and it seems that Yahweh is partial. Yet we know there are purposes for such things. And whilst a patriarch is a mortal man and therefore imperfect, he must be about a similar régime when it comes to the management and blessing of his wives. He must learn to think and act as Christ does to His spiritual Bride, the Church/Assembly. You can never get the love that everyone wants until the wives have totally cast their faith onto their husband and have released any 'rulership rights' they may have imagined they have for they have none, and the husband, by the same token, must regard his relationship with Christ in the same way.
If the husband does not do that, then, understandably, the wives react to injustice and partiality. It is at this point - when a man is out of harmony with the Spirit - that Mosaic-like rules, regulations, and hierarchies come into place, because by now the marriage has become carnal, and in order to survive the destructive forces of carnal bridegroom and brides, divisions and regulations have to be formalised, as in the marriage statutes of Torah. An Old Covenant-type of marriage is thus born.
In the Patriarchal Community we have both these types of marriage, with large numbers of families stumbling in the middle, trapped in a kind of grey, hazy purgatory-like zone where Old and New Covenants overlap and confuse one another. The Mormon Church is a very good example of this, along with others. I sense the great struggles that Christian/Messianic polygamous families have in discerning where the boundaries of Old and New lie.
The Old will actually always be with us, but its existence will be dependent on our choice - whether we subject ourselves to the carnal (in whole or in part) or whether we crucify self and retune our spirits to the wavelength of the mystical marriage of Christ. The lady who asked this question has still not understood, and indeed her marriage is seriously out of order, which is why, I believe, Yahweh has chosen to shake it up at this time so that the husband can make things right. Though she doesn't know it yet, she is herself actually standing on the edge of a precipice as far as the cohesiveness of her family is concerned. And though she is, at this time, blaming and pointing fingers at all the wrong people, she will, if she repents, realise the destruction she is wrecking on her own family. And if she doesn't repent, then she will open the door to a destructive spirit that will smash her fondest hopes and dreams in a way that she could never begin to imagine.
As I have said, those called into this way of life are required by Yahweh our Father in Heaven to live an exemplary standard. Great responsibilities devolve upon us. It is a high and holy calling with tremendous blessings if we are faithful but with a fearful judgment if we are not. That is why right now some families are being propelled into the seventh heaven and others are experiencing the most terrifying of upheavals. There is a separation going on within our community of the sheep from the goats.
The question is, what will you do? Will you rant and rave, or fall upon your knees in the depths of humility, confess your sins, and invite Yahweh to change you? For if you will not to the latter, the end has already come ... in more ways than one.