Love is a sacrifice. We should treat our spouse as someone of great value and care for their needs. But sacrifice should be motivated by love, not fear.

I keep a file of old news articles — it’s my “I’ll get around to it” file. The coronavirus quarantine has given me the chance to finally get around to it, and I’ve started re-reading those stories and ideas. One article is about celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. As I scanned through the article, I remembered why I’d saved it and why it matters this Easter season: It reminds me that love is a sacrifice.

Redbook magazine interviewed Chef De Laurentiis about her life and her then-husband Todd Thompson. De Laurentiis said, “All men want to be treated like kings in a relationship, and I think if women don’t indulge that sometimes, their men are likely to stray and look for someone who can give that to them.”

Her quote troubles me today as much as it did when I first read it. I had to re-read it, shake my head in disbelief and ask myself, Is this really what women think about men? And if so, are guys OK with this belief?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking the idea of being treated like a king. (The image of my wife, Erin, feeding me grapes and fanning me with a gigantic palm branch has a certain appeal!) But seriously, what troubles me is the idea that if Erin doesn’t pamper me and treat me like a king, I’m likely to look for someone who will. It’s heartbreaking if wives really think this about their husbands. Giada De Laurentiis’ quote is about fear — fear that her husband will stray if she doesn’t treat him like a king.

Love versus fear

I tell couples to make it their goal to out-serve their spouse. Love is a sacrifice and if we love our spouse, it should motivate us to give them our very best. Imagine the health of marriages in our country if couples served each other. But — this is very important — the motivation for our service matters. I shouldn’t serve Erin out of fear. I should serve her because I want to be like Christ. Jesus came to earth to serve, not to be served.

As we revisit the Easter story, we’re reminded of Christ’s sacrificial death and His great love for us. He willingly gave His life so we could find forgiveness and hope. Jesus knew that love is a sacrifice. And if Jesus counted it a privilege to sacrifice for us, then — as I follow His example — I should count it a great privilege to serve my wife. If I’m serving her, that means I don’t want to be indulged like a king… instead, I want to treat Erin like a queen. First Peter 3:7 describes it like this: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman…” I love how Chris Mueller, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Murietta, California, explains this verse:

The Greek word, “show,” translated means to assign — to assign her honour. … In fact, the Greek word show also has the idea of payment, to pay her honour. You husbands owe this to your bride. You men are in debt, and Peter is not talking about a loan or credit card. Husbands have a debt to pay to your wife. You are to grant to your wife that which is appropriate in a marriage relationship.

What do you owe her? Honour!

“Show her honour” is a present tense participle, which means you show her honour all the time, ongoing, continually paying her honour. The phrase “and show her honour” should be translated “and paying her honour continually” or “constantly pay her honour.”

Love and honour

One of the greatest ways to honour your wife is to serve her. To be a servant. And the word “servant” comes from the mid-14th century. It means, “professed lover, one devoted to the service of a lady.” I love that image — treating my wife the way a knight would treat a lady of the court. This definition brings me back to Jesus Christ. He took the idea of being a “professed lover” to a whole new level when He sacrificed His life in the service of you and me. Again, love is a sacrifice. So, if I want to follow Christ’s example, my role as a husband is to not just serve Erin but to sacrifice. I need to follow the Bible’s instructions: For husbands, this means “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

To me, “serving” means doing something for my wife, while “sacrificing” means giving up something highly valued for the sake of someone else considered to have great value. It’s easy to serve — to help or assist — but it’s a whole different story when serving my wife costs me something.

Love in action

I once asked my wife which household chore she hates the most. “Loading and unloading the dishwasher,” she replied without hesitation. That didn’t surprise me; I loathe doing the dishes as well.

Loading and unloading the dishwasher may not seem like a big sacrifice but think again about the definition of sacrifice: giving up something that we highly value for the sake of someone we consider having great value. I value my time at home in the evening, but I value Erin even more. Love is a sacrifice … for something — someone — I consider having great value. It’s yet another way to be like Christ — “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

I want to serve my wife sacrificially — not because I’m afraid she’ll wander into the arms of another man if I don’t spoil her — but because I consider her to be of immeasurable value. King Solomon was right on the money when he said, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.” So, because I highly value Erin, I told her that doing the dishes is now my job. To be honest, I’m far from being a perfect husband and I still hate doing dishes … but I love sacrificing for my wife! And while my sacrifice for Erin pales in comparison to Christ’s great sacrifice, it’s one small way that I can follow His example.

Since love is a sacrifice — a way to show our spouse how much we value him or her — a good marriage is made up of two servants looking for ways to out-serve each other, not out of fear, but out of a deep awareness of the other’s incredible value. Romans 12:10 says it perfectly: “Outdo one another in showing honour.”

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Originally published on

Dr Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family.

Tell your friends