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Role of the Husband in the Bible
There is a story of a man who died and went to heaven to find two signs above two different lines. One sign said: “ALL THOSE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” That line of men seemed to stretch off through the clouds into infinity.
The second sign read: “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” Underneath the sign stood one man.
He went over to the man, grabbed his arm and said, “What’s the secret, how did you do it? That other line has millions of men and you are the only one standing in this line.”
The man looked around with a puzzled expression and said, “Why, I am not sure I know. My wife just told me to stand here.”
We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. During the last few decades our culture has redefined the meaning and responsibilities of men and women in society and in the home. Many men are confused and insecure. Many do not know how to act in the home. Growing up, they lacked a good model for leadership at home and have no mental picture of what it means to lead a family. Consequently, they do not lead effectively, or they do not even try.
Increasingly, many men are becoming passive in the home. They’ve decided that the easiest thing to do is nothing. The simplest thing—with the smallest risk—is to stay on the fence with both feet firmly planted in mid-air and let the wife do it. When a man is married to a strong wife who will take over, he often lets her do just that.
Fortunately, there is an answer. The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and a father. I call that model the “servant/leader.”
I hope that the concepts I share will help you understand the biblical role of a husband more clearly than ever before. When correctly interpreted and applied, these concepts not only result in freedom for the husband and wife, but will also help you work better as a team to combat isolation and conflict in your marriage.
#1: Be a leader. The Scriptures provide a clear organizational structure for a marriage. For example:
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So, husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. —Ephesians 5:22-30
In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God “… placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband . . . The Lord has assigned the wife the duty of obeying her husband yet … this obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man.”
“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.
Are you a leader? Men who are natural leaders have no trouble answering the question “yes.” They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or are not natural leaders. How can they lead in the home?
Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. I believe our wives want us and need us to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You will not lead her perfectly, but you must care for you wife and family by serving them with perseverance.
Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband, however. Those same passages you just read also provide a model for that leadership. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. “This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife’s ‘head.'” Hendriksen writes, “He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ, who, as head of the church, is its Savior!”
Let’s look more closely at two responsibilities that flow out of proper leadership.
#2: Love your wife unconditionally. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. I have discovered that I simply cannot do that enough.
There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.
#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).
One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife’s top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures.
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One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them.
What do you know about your wife’s hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?
Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God’s Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.
Role of the Wife in the Bible
Role of the Wife in the Bible – God’s Plan for the Wife
The role of the wife is clearly described in the Bible. Although males and females are equal in relationship to Christ, the Bible gives specific roles to both the husband and the wife in marriage.
As wives, we are given these roles, among others:
Mentors – Titus 2:4-5 says, “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Witnesses – 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”
Examples – 1 Timothy 3:11 says, “In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”
Role of the Wife in the Bible – The Design Order of the Family Unit
When studying the role of the wife in the Bible, it is important to understand how God designed the family unit. There are ranks described—Christ, the husband, the wife, and then the children. You would not expect to walk into a doctor’s office and be greeted by the doctor, measured and weighed by the receptionist, and then treated by the nurse. Right? There are certain orders to things because that’s what works. It’s the same way with God’s design in the family unit. It works smoothly, when done His way.
God designed the husband as the leader of the home (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23). The Bible describes this leadership as loving—not dictatorial, condescending, or patronizing of his wife or children. In fact, a husband’s leadership is compared to Jesus’ love for the church. This love is one of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and selflessness. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Ephesians 5 also speaks of the wife’s role in the marriage. Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Colossians 3:18-19 reiterates this concept. It says, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” From these verses we see that love and respect characterize the roles of both husbands and wives. If these are present, then authority, headship, love, and submission will be no problem for either spouse.
Beth, a wife, explains it this way,
“The role we have as wives is that of encouraging and helping our husbands. When we try to make it any more, or any less, that’s when we run into trouble. My mom used to teach a young married couples class, and I will never forget her most ‘valuable nugget’ of truth. She always told them that the husband is the head of the home, and the wife is the neck. The neck supports the head, and helps the head to fulfill its duties.”
Role of the Wife in the Bible – The Wife of Noble Character
Proverbs 31 also speaks of the role of the wife in the Bible. We learn of her worth to her husband and family, how she cares for those who need her, how she provides for her family, protects them, and shares her strength with others. She fulfills her responsibilities with grace and strength. We also learn that a wife is a blessing to her husband. She is worth more than rubies! Wives can follow her example by living in the wisdom of God.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:10-31).
WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?