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Bride price and marriage guidelines


Bride price is a practice institutionalized in our holy scriptures. It is a marriage present meant for a daughter’s parents in appreciation for their role in her upbringing. It is priced to induce the parents to give their blessings for the would-be husband to take their daughter’s hand in marriage. Parents are the custodians of all children, boys and girls, until they leave the home to begin life on their own. In the scriptures, virginity plays a bit part in the payment of the marriage present. The Ndebele dialect refers to bride price as lobola, and the equivalent Shona term is roora.

The Lord had to place some controlling factor to guard against men’s sometimes unprincipled sexual behaviours. Animalistic sexual activities know no bounds.

They are performed anywhere with any female of its kind, young or old. God had to put some screws to separate the human behaviour from that of animals. There has to be some guided respect towards the young ladies who are still in the custody of their parents. Any man who seeks to take someone’s daughter as wife has to first make an approach to the parents for approval, and bring with his proposal a marriage present to show seriousness and commitment. Even those men who cannot control their passions beforehand and breach that standing rule should be equally liable to pay the marriage present to the parents. At Mount Sinai, same place and period that the 1st Ten Commandments where given, the Lord spoke, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed (i.e. unattached), he shall give the marriage present for her, and make her his wife” (Exodus 22:16).

For the young ladies, the most important factor for God is to maintain their virginity. He views it as sacredness. He moulds His calling for the payment of the bride price around it. It is of core value to the lobola payment and is the basis for its introduction. It signifies the sanctity of the female body, the one in which all life begins. Any deflowering of it carries a price. In our culture, there is a penalty for doing it before marriage, referred to as ‘damages’ as a borrowed English term in the roora circles. As a statute from the Lord our God, Deuteronomy 22:28-29; He speaks, “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her, he may not put her away all his days”.

A woman’s moral value is reduced once she loses her virginity before marriage. On the other hand a man who marries a woman who has kept her virginity intact is more inclined to give her added respect in the home. As the initial custodians, the parents of the virgin woman are also most likely to also receive equal added respect for their role in the maintenance of their daughter’s virginity before marriage. Teaching our children to abstain from sex before marriage will be beneficial in moulding mindsets that give respect to both the sanctity of the human body and of the marriage institution. Co-habitating without the parent’s approval is starting a union on a wrong footing, and can attract some misfortunes along the way.

Weddings, whether in church or at the courts are meant to solemnize and celebrate the cherished value of the marriage, after the parent’s approvals have been obtained, even in the absence of payment of the bride price as it the practice in some cultures. The parent’s approval alone is sufficient to validate a marriage, thus also making all customary marriages valid in the eyes of God. Lavish weddings are just a human addition to celebrate the Lord’s requirement to certify a union of two people of the opposite sex. I will not speak about same-sex marriages because those are not part of God’s domain, neither are they part of my vocabulary.

Nowadays the lobola establishment is being misused and misapplied for human gain. The Lord put it as a value of about ‘fifty shekels of silver’ or whatever the equivalent value of it in the many other currencies of today. Many additions have been coined and attached to the processes to inflict a heavy burden on the husband, sometimes taking a lifetime to pay off. Parents now charge bride prices for daughters who remarry after divorces or after deaths of husbands.

Initially, the Lord meant only for the lobola to be for the payment of deflowerement of virginity. I however feel there would be nothing wrong if parents were to receive limited amounts as marriage presents as ‘tokens’ for repeat marriages for their daughters. Whatever the case, it should be within reasonable limits.

Marriage has its own trials and tribulations. Most infatuated people tend to rush into a marriage prematurely. Infatuation is more of a lust for someone rather than of love. Lust and love are entirely different things. Lust is of a physical nature while real love is spiritual. More often, when a man has exhausted his lust for a woman both the attraction and love for the women tends to diminish and his eyes then start to wander elsewhere. People should not rush to the altar, or to formalize the roora, before gaining adequate knowledge of each other. Take time to understand each other’s habits, strengths, weaknesses and even to dig deep into each other’s backgrounds. Finding each other’s bad traits when already living together is a big cause of some of today’s divorces. Compatibility is always an important factor to be considered before two people rush into a marriage.

Finances also plays a big part in a marriage. Different couples usually come up with different routes on the handling of finances. In situations where both spouses bring in an income, the most logical thing would be to combine both incomes and make all monetary decisions from one pot. Regrettably, lots of couples don’t operate this way, resulting in cracks and divisions within other arrangements.

Communication is another very important factor in any marriage. Guiding each other in areas of interest is crucial, but avoid enforcing your own views on your partner should disagreements occur. Take time to understand your spouse’s point of view. Couples should enable one another to express themselves in situations where they feel aggrieved. Bottling up grievances is unhealthy and adds to some diseases. Being truthful with each other is a crucial element because once the other discovers a lie, all trust can be lost resulting in quarrels or a breakdown of communication altogether.

Even after waiting long enough and gaining enough knowledge about your partner’s habits before marriage, avoid entering into the marriage with a view of changing your partner’s entrenched or unliked character. Failure to change it will result in frustration and disappointment plus a change in attitude. Accept the other’s weaknesses and learn to live with them even if they can’t be altered. When you do wrong, it is always important to apologise for the sake of bringing back peace. Seeking professional counseling or resolving disputes through relatives should be the last port of call.

Love is the most important aspect that binds people together. Expressions of love towards each other help to sustain a union in the most difficult of times. Telling your partner of your love as often as possible acts like the mature that fertilizes the fields.

The people you surround yourself with have a lot of influence on your marriage. While you can make some friends outside your marriage, your best friend in your life should be your spouse. Spend most of your spare time together. Friends and relatives can build or break your marriage, so choose who to associate with very wisely. Advice from friends and relatives may be very sincere, but if that advice is merely theoretical and not based on real life experiences, it might bring disastrous results. There is nothing wrong on seeking advice from people, but it is important to seek the right people for each of your problem.

Avoid comparing your marriage with that of others. People fair differently in life, so do marriages. There is no perfect marriage. Marriage is hard work and perseverance. It is a delicate matter, so it should be handled with care. Nobody can predict what will happen after marriage as situations can change such that adjustments are then required and some hoped for dreams put on hold. Thinking that you can do it better alone destroys marriages.

There are times when all hope is lost in trying to keep a marriage alive. Rather than throwing down the gauntlet and quitting, please seek guidance in prayer to the last port of call and the solid line of defence i.e. from the Lord our God. Place your marriage in His hands for protection and success.

l Prosper Tingini is the President of the Children of God Missionary Assembly. Registration in progress for those who wish to undertake Bible Studies or train as Ministers of Religion. Contact 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com

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