Why is Dowry Wrong?- A Biblical Perspective
Most of us pay lip service to condemn dowry as a contemporary social evil, however, this some customs continues to destroy families in our present age as well. Before bringing up this issue to the whole world, I believe that this must first be addressed to the professed people of God who are called to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). It is for Christians to confront this issue and explore fully to know whether dowry is acceptable or despicable.
Let us reason, examine and find out – Is demanding dowry a perverted practice? Do we have any biblical proofs in order to come to this conclusion? Is requiring dowry in marriage unbiblical, or to say further, an anti-biblical practice? This message might be offensive and discomforting to many money-loving readers. However, the fact remains – truth is bitter but makes our lives better. Therefore, I encourage you to read this message with an open mind and a humble attitude.
What is Dowry?
Dowry is a kind of gift given by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family along with the giving away of the bride. The terms and conditions of dowry often match those of a regular business or a financial agreement. Dowry negotiations are an essential prerequisite to marital bond. It can range from furniture, land, cash and consumer goods, to paying the husband’s study fees and the expenses of the marriage. It soon became an outlet of greed while masking itself as a privilege of the strictly patriarchal society. These days, a dowry is no more a deliberate gift given by the bride’s family – it has become a mandatory act. And shamefully, it is rampant even among Christians.
The Consequences of Dowry
- i) The practice of dowry has demeaned the value of a women in our society. To have a daughter means to lose money and material goods, but to have a son translates to gaining more. Since the world weighs everything materially, women have come to be considered less valuable to the parents than sons. The joy of the birth of a girl child is lost by the immediate realization of added responsibility of the father to start storing up wealth for her dowry.
- ii) Most families prefer a male child either because they can capitalize on him to bring in dowry or to prevent the giving of it. The wife is held accountable and faces a lot of disgrace and mistreatment by her husband and in-laws, if the baby conceived is not male (though the XY chromosome that determines the baby’s sex comes from the husband and he is to be held accountable, if at all).
iii) Probably the most depraved consequences are feticide (abortion of female babies in the mother’s womb) and infanticide (killing an infant). Research points out that dowry is a direct cause for these horrible crimes.Though the law prevents pre-natal sex determination, greed and fear make people ignore it and deny life.
- iv) Broken marriages and families are the saddest thing in our society today. The wretched illegal practice of dowry is responsible for this plight.
- v) Many men’s marriages have been delayed because their parents could not afford sufficient dowry and even worse, many men have remained unmarried just because they are unable to pay their dowry! The huge debts that a bride’s family undertakes in order to pay for the dowry puts them into severe financial crisis and depression.
- vi) A number of marriage negotiations break down if there is no consensus between the families on dowry. Groom’s families are even known to seek alliances that offers a better bargain. (I came to know of a failed marriage alliance because the dowry negotiation was not up to the expectations. Ironically, these were Christian parties and the mediator was none other than pastor himself)
Secular Opponents of Dowry
Though dowry is a paganistic practice of religion, fortunately, there are those of the same religion who stand against the evil practice. I commend them for taking a stand against this deplorable practice and am equally ashamed at those so-called Christians who still love to require dowry in marriage. The newspaper quotes a secular Industrialist – “We are more concerned about the evils of society like dowry.
Moreover, he stated, that his company undertakes young men with an agreement that they will not accept dowry, from the prospective bride’s parents. A similar undertaking is given by women employees that they will not pay dowry.” I also remember reading that a famous film actor had turned down an offer to star in a torch advertisement which sought to glorify the product as a dowry gift.
Secular researchers have found a surprising fact: “A major new survey involving 10,000 respondents reports that the practice of dowry is becoming prevalent, backward caste, Muslim and Christian communities, which never had a tradition of dowry in the past.”Are you getting this? Dowry which was unheard of in the church before has become widely prevalent among Christians these days.
How sad it is to witness Christians becoming equal with the world! Dear reader, where is your saltiness (good testimony before the world) today? Do you remember hearing these words of someone called Jesus, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt. 5:12)? Jesus wanted those that partake of His blood and body to maintain such a moral standard so that the world would be influenced through their godliness and praise our Father in heaven. Are we Christians truly shining in darkness or have we allowed the darkness (the evil systems of the world) to creep in? “This is what the LORD Almighty says, ‘Turn from your evil ways and from your evil practices’” (Zec. 1:4).
Separation“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18). God has called His people to stay separate from the worldly systems to live a different life. (This is not to say that we should not relate with or despise the people of the world but that we should live a holy life uncompromisingly separated unto God.) But have we Christians separated from the evil social system of dowry, thereby reflecting true godliness to the world
Maybe I am not talking about you, or maybe I am, but there are many so-called Christians who strongly claim of not compromising with the other religious practices but when it comes to issues like dowry (which actually originated from the Hindu social system) they cherish to indulge in it. Money indeed blinds eyes from the Truth. May we repent and turn to the Lord with brokenness and allow Him to represent Himself through us to the hopeless world! “O Lord, forgive us for bringing disgrace to your Name and for the worldliness in the church.” As one of your servants prayed, “Bend the church and bless the world.”
Is Dowry Anti-Biblical?
“Where in the Bible is it specifically written that we should not take dowry?”, some Christians ask ignorantly, or to justify their love of dowry. It is interesting to notice that, in the Biblical times, it was the bridegroom’s family who used to offer gifts to the bride and to her family! Abraham sent gifts to Rebekah and to her family as a token of acceptance for his son Isaac (Gen. 24:53). Jacob served his father-in-law for seven years to get Rachel (Gen. 29:18-20). Ah, the bride is highly valued in the Holy Bible! Daughters were a great assets to their parents, not a liability. So, what exactly should the Biblical tradition be, if at all (again provided that it is done under no obligation)?
Let us not forget that there is a world of difference between the deliberate offering of gifts from the bridegroom’s side in the Biblical times and the demand of dowry from the bridegroom’s side in our nation now. The Holy Bible sternly condemns the pagan Hindu practice of the bride’s parents being compelled to pay the bridegroom to marry their daughter. The following are some of the reasons regarding how the lust for dowry violates God’s word.
- i) Dowry desecrates the sacred institution of God in marriage. It violates the glorious purpose of God for marriage. Biblically, marriage is a holy institution of God where holy vows of love, faithfulness and commitment are exchanged unconditionally. Unfortunately, because of dowry, money has become a primary issue in marriage instead of God’s will and His sacred union. Even before printing Holy Matrimony on the marriage cards, dowry has become the unholy practice behind the screen.
- ii) The requirement of dowry violates the very first commandment given by God, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:33). What is love? Though the term ‘love’ has many descriptions, the apparent description of love given by most biblical teachers is that it is a selfless act of giving and helping others. Jesus taught us to be generous givers out of love and not greedy seekers for money (Matt. 6:3; 6:19-24; Lu. 10:25-37). Is this loving principle practised in Christian marriages? Answer for yourself.
iii) Seeking dowry evidently proves lust for money. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,” is a truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures (1 Tim. 6:10).
The requirement of dowry by bridegroom’s family does in no way prove love for their neighbor but lust for their possessions