God prohibits newly married men from “being sent to war” by Israel; moreover, He exempts a man from “any other duty” during the first year of his marriage (Deuteronomy 24:5). Certainly, Israelite men would have done normal work around the home, shielding their family from ruin during this time. This command doesn’t permit men to become massive couch potatoes but gives space for flourishing in early marriage. Contrary to this practice, we take little time to focus on our new marriages. I can remember thinking it strange when someone suggested I take a two-week honeymoon; after all, there are bills to pay!
But God is obviously wiser than we are. Americans spend around $150 billion each year on divorces, mostly in attorney fees. Additionally, U.S. taxpayers contribute an estimated $30 billion to support our colossal divorce litigation machine. Our government would do well to consider laws which could strengthen and empower marriages, like paid marital leave. More immediate to our purposes as believers, we should at every opportunity call into question the idea that work plus money will bring happiness to our marriages. Israelite men would eventually return to more strenuous work, but God intended the first year of marriage to establish a couple for lifelong matrimony. No custom or practice can completely offset human sin and selfishness, but a number of marriages experience their greatest difficulty at the beginning, and so they need utmost care at this fragile state. Thus, let us consider how the principles of this passage would apply to us. Without a doubt, we are to focus our first year of marriage on increasing harmony rather than multiplying our wealth. God is giving Israel a basic principle, and even outside of the obligation of this law, we do well to heed it.