What Couples Preparing for Marriage can Learn from  Tobias and Sarah

Maria Troutman

What Couples Preparing for Marriage can Learn from Tobias and Sarah

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has given us a gift of inestimable worth in the inclusion of the Book of Tobit in the biblical canon. It is a short book, but it presents so beautifully the plan of God for marriage and the joys of a vocation lived out in fear of the Lord. In the Gospels, we encounter Our Lord alongside His Blessed Mother in Cana, and here, deep in the Old Testament, we glimpse Him in his messenger, St. Raphael; in both accounts, we can see how Our Lord blesses His children through marriage when they seek to serve Him with their hearts, minds, and bodies. Even now, millennia later, the truth of what marriage is remains unchanged; when read with a desire to know, love, and serve the Lord, this precious gem in the Sacred Scriptures can help prepare the hearts of those who are seeking to enter into the vocation of Holy Matrimony.  

The Book of Tobit outlines very clearly what a holy marriage looks like in the sight of God. In the sixth chapter, the angel  Raphael, disguised as a man, tells Tobias that “they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power” (Tobit 6:17). He then entreats Tobias to take Sarah, his new wife, and spend three days with her in prayer—begging the Lord to bestow His mercy upon them. After the third day, St. Raphael continues, “thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children” (Tobit 6:22). In the first verse, the angel speaks to the dignity of the spouses and of the marital embrace that joins them together; the husband and wife are not like animals, invested only in their own physical pleasure, but they must always keep in mind that they are—each of them—made in the image and likeness of God, and that from the beginning, it was God Who instituted marriage and gave the command that Adam and Eve should be fruitful and multiply. In the second verse, he links the marital embrace to the begetting of children, exhorting Tobias to be with his wife not out of lust—that is, the selfish and self-serving desire for his own pleasure—but out of the “love of children”; Tobias, and by extension, every Christian husband, should love his wife and encounter her freely, without fear and open to the gift of a child. 

Some might read these verses from Tobit and find them stifling and oppressive, but the Scriptures assure us that marriage lived in the sight of God is beautiful, joyful, and freeing. After the marriage between Tobias and Sarah is contracted, we are told that “they made merry, blessing God” (Tobias 7:17). Furthermore, the fruits of a holy marriage extend beyond the couple to their descendants and extended family. Whenever blessings are bestowed onto Tobias throughout the course of the narrative, it is always generational. Blessings are called down not only onto him, but onto his wife and parents (Tobit 9:10) and his descendants: “And may you see your children, and your children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation; and May your seed be blessed by the God of Israel, who reigneth forever and ever” (Tobit 9:11). And this blessing comes to fruition in the life of Tobias, but because God cannot be outdone in generosity, Tobias instead “saw his children’s children to the fifth generation” (Tobit 9:15). When he died at ninety-nine years of age, having lived all the days of his life “in the fear of the Lord,” his children buried him “with joy,” and “all his kindred, and all his generation continued in good life, and in holy conversation, so that they were acceptable both to God, and to men, and to all that dwelt in the land” (Tobit 9:16; 9-17). That is, through the marriage between Tobias and Sarah, the Lord bestowed innumerable graces onto their family, so that they were able to live well and please the Lord.  

For a young couple soon entering into marriage, it can be frightening to consider the possibilities that await on the other side of the altar; married life is full of difficulties and struggles—naturally, because it is the cross Our Lord asks spouses to embrace, as He embraced His own. But for married couples who approach the altar like Tobias and Sarah, free from lust and open to the gift of new life, graces will rain down from Heaven, and the blessings they will call down upon themselves from God will be seen by their children, and their children’s children, even to the fifth generation.