The Christian marriage blog-o-sphere is buzzing the last few months about submission, household leadership and respect within the family, and it generally revolves around these verses:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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.Ephesians 5:22-24
Particularly, what are the roles of husbands and wives? Not so much who-does-the-dishes, but more who is in charge, who is helping, who is following and who is leading. Most of the bloggers on the side of husbands lead and wives submit and before anyone gets upset, the bulk of these bloggers are women, and their biggest concern is that the men are not willing to fill the role of leader.
Now, why would they not want to step up to be a leader with a submissive wife? I mean, you can get everything you want right?
You decide what job you want, if your going to work, if your wife is going to work.
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8
You are the spiritual leader of the family, so you get to decide where to go to church, if you’re going to go to church, when you pray, what you do on Sabbath.
But whoever shall occasion the fall of one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.Matthew 18:6
You have control of the assets of the family, you can decide what to do with it, where to spend it, what to buy.
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.Malachi 3:8
You get to pick what’s for supper, lunch, snacks, eat what you want, when you want!
Put a knife to your own throat, if you have a big appetite.Proverbs 23:2
Hmm, it seems household leadership might be less about privilege and more about responsibility. There are more guts here than glory. Yeah, perhaps it seems nice and shiny, the men get the run of things, we get to make the decisions, we get the final say, but do you realize what that means? If something goes wrong, it is our responsibility.
Now, as a stay-at-home-mom, my wife does a lot in our marriage. She agrees that I am the head of the household, but I’m not interested in having a mindless drone as a wife who is there for my beck and call. I don’t have time to orchestrate her every move and decision. I delegate as much as I can to her to attain more productivity for the household. She home schools the kids because she’s home all day, we want them to have a Christian education, without having someone else raise our children for 6 hours a day. I help out when I can, but it’s mainly her responsibility. I bring in the paycheque for the family. The fact is, my skill sets allow me to make many times what my wife could in the workplace. This works out well, because she is far more nurturing than I am, so it’s better that she be with the children. Not that I’d harm them, but she’s better at providing love. Likewise, I am not a good cook or baker. I don’t understand how the ingredients work together, I don’t understand how she knows when you can substitute this or that, but other times you can’t. To me, it’s all black magic. So, I make almost no decisions about cooking or baking without her input. It would be a waste of time. Instead, I delegate nearly the entire thing to her. That said, once a week we sit down together and hammer out a meal plan. Why? Because she hates doing that, and if I left it to her, half the time it wouldn’t happen. She hates it that much. It’s not that she would refuse to do it, but it just doesn’t register on her radar. But I don’t know enough to make an informed decision about meals on my own. So we do it together to be more productive. I decide, and she advises on whether or not it’s possible or advisable. This is the way she likes it. The fact is, she WANTS me to make decisions. She doesn’t want that responsibility, but she does want her opinion to be heard.
Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end, you will be wise.Proverbs 19:20
One of the most important ways my wife helps me as the household leader is in her ability to advise me. I cherish her mind, her wisdom and her understanding. She sees angles of events and circumstances I never would, particularly when dealing with relationships and anything that smacks of “common sense”, of which I seem to have none (which by my definition, means it’s not so “common”). Together we tackle any issue much more efficiently than alone. Sometimes being a leader means being humble and accepting that you don’t know enough to make a decision.
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.Proverbs 12:15
Take a look at this article. This CEO listed his wife as his most valuable adviser. And I’ve seen many articles along the same lines. In fact, compared to single men, married men:
- Get paid more
- Get promoted faster
- Are victims of fewer crimes
- Have more sex
- Are less likely to get cancer
- Live longer
If you are not treating your wife like the asset that she is, you are misunderstanding her role, and not fulfilling yours to its potential. Yes, we are the decision-makers, but we don’t make decisions as an island, and if you are, you are a fool.
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7
I think this is why we are told to be considerate of our wives (1 for each man). Because a wife that is acting like a helper, an adviser and a support system to her husband.
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.Proverbs 31:10
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.Proverbs 12:4
However, if you are not considerate, if you are at odds with your wife, if you are not treating her well and appreciating what and who she is, the consequences are fairly dire:
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.Proverbs 21:9
A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;Proverbs 27:15
It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.Proverbs 21:19
Why are some men not be willing to be household leaders?
So, back to my original question. Why is it some men might not be willing to step up?
Well, I think some don’t know what that means, because they were never modeled it. I wasn’t. My mother ran the family I grew up with, and my parents were always at odds, they are to this day despite being still married. The only grandparents I knew were even worse: they hated each other (my mother’s words). And so, when I got married, I’m afraid I probably made quite a mess of it to start. I didn’t lead at all in any way what-so-ever. Slowly, I am learning, and the more I read the Bible, the more I see what God intended for marriages, for the roles of men and women. I can only hope I leave a better legacy for my children.
Other men might know, but might not be willing to take on the responsibility. I mean, if your actually leading, then your the first one into battle.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
This isn’t a cushy ride, you’re in the thick of it, leading means being there first, willing to take the brunt of it, and being responsible for everyone who comes after you. Yeah, if you come through you get to say “I led this time to victory!”, but if you don’t, everyone will know, you were leading when the team failed. There is a risk. No one said life was without risk!
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Our job is to do our best! To fight, to try and win! Nothing is guaranteed but your effort. That is our job, that is our role, our task; to lead, to take the responsibility and to be willing to die trying to save those whom we are responsible for, and if you can’t manage the courage to do it…don’t get married, don’t have children, don’t have sex. The risk is too great for you. You might become a father, a husband, and you’ll be forced to lead. You have no choice in whether or not you will lead. Either you will lead with courage, or you will lead your family by cowering in a corner.
Either way, they will follow you.
Which example would you rather they had?
32 thoughts on “What does household leadership mean for the husband?”
My wife isn’t an “asset”, my bank-account and house are “assets”
My wife is a person. Not just any person either, she’s the most important person in my life.
Is there anything in your post that the Taliban would disagree with ? I think not.
Well, I have to say I disagree with your comment. As per the dictionary:
1) A useful or valuable thing, person, or quality: “quick reflexes were his chief asset”.
2) Property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.
So, yes, if you ignore the first definition of the word, then it would be insulting, but to me, being called an asset is a great compliment. I’ve been called an asset to the company I work for, an asset by my friends, and I hope I am an asset within my family. There is no disrespect or belittling involved in this term. Either your an asset, or you’re a liability, or worse, you have no impact on the world at all.
So, yes, my wife is the most important person in my life, as such, she is the highest asset in my life. My kids are also assets, they are more valuable to me than anything else in my household. That’s why we lock the doors when we are home and leave them open when we are gone. I don’t care what they take, so long as my family is safe.
Likewise, the Bible constantly compares women to precious jewels and gold. So, if you have an issue with women being considered “assets”, you should take it up with David, Solomon and God.
If you don’t like the word, substitute it for something more appropriate to your vocabulary, but read it again, I think perhaps you missed my message.
I disagree with the comment too. There’s a difference between leading your wife and family, like the author explains, and suppressing and controlling your family, like the Taliban. Taliban wouldn’t want the wife to voice her opinions. Nor do they cherish her mind, wisdom, and perspective.
Great post and I agree with much of what you say with the exception of, “Either way, they will follow you.”
Before I understood what submission was and what it meant and how to live it, there was no way I would have followed my husband. I wasn’t raised in that mindset but rather with subtle underpinnings from the feminist mindset. My husband couldn’t lead for the simple reason that I didn’t follow. It wouldn’t have mattered what he did because it was a heart issue for me – and only God deals with change in the heart. The power for a husband to lead really lies within the the wife who yields it to him – by following.
I probably should be more clear there. I had meant to say that whatever role you take, you will influence your family. Intentionally following or not, his behavior must have impacted you on some level. Now, I’d argue that if your husband was not ready to be a leader, it would have been more difficult for you to have a heart change.
As for the power, I think it’s an even balance. The husband must lead, the wife must follow, and both have to do so of their own accord. You cannot force a man to lead or a wife to follow. Either one has the power to ruin the entire arrangement, and either one has the power to influence the other for change.
You were clear Jay; you and I see the words ‘balance’ and ‘power’ differently, thats all. As far as being called an ‘asset’ – I take zero offence to this and classify the wording as a compliment of the highest! Just recently as I was getting into the car I slipped and my husband being a quick protector grabbed me and stopped me from falling, he said, “Please be careful you’ll hurt yourself and I don’t want you damaging MY merchandise.”
Thanks for the support! Loved that story about you and your husband, it made my wife laugh as well.
Great article! I believe many husbands are unwilling due to the exhaustion of trying to lead and being deterred by well-meaning but misguided spouses.
We all want what we want. Our wives are no exception. as Christian husbands we are commanded to love our wives with sacrificial, Christ-like love. So when we lead and our wives say “no,” it is our natural tendency to sacrifice our desires to give them what they need/want.
As a result, over time we end up sacrificing ourselves out of the leadership position in our own marriages.
What if your husband will not lead. What if he is weak? What if he leaves everything up to the wife and only concentrates on his job and there’s nothing left of him when he gets home? I have such a husband. He has no time for me, our kids, any discussions or activities with the family. When his work day or work week is done. He has never been a spiritual leader in our home even tho I have asked for it constantly. You’d think he’d be flattered by a wife asking for him to lead? But no.
Well, I was going to write a reply tonight, but instead wrote an entire post.
I’m not saying this is THE answer, but y’all might consider getting all his hormone levels checked. My DH’s were “in the cellar” & now that they’re monitored & balanced, he’s making leaps & bounds in more positive directions. (mentally, physically & spiritually). BTW, he’s 43,
but imbalances can (& did for him) start way earlier in life.
Yes, testosterone can play a huge role in not only sexuality, but also those traits stereo-typically associated with males (stronger leadership, more ambitious, need to thrive/succeed, etc.). Hormone imbalances can be very problematic. I’m hoping soon to start a small research project on this topic so I can be more knowledgeable about that area in the future.
Thanks for the reminders MommyM!
MommyM: the hormones have been checked. He is low T & been on meds for it for about 5 years. Still didn’t help. The more I asked the angrier he got. And he just recently had an affair after 28 years of marriage. Now I have a broken heart & a husband who won’t lead.
I’ve seen this sort of setup before.
Guy has low T, or ED, or something else can be misconstrued as him no longer being completely “a man”. So, off he goes to prove himself, and sadly, for men, most of us are pretty predicable in the way we want to prove ourselves: we need to conquer something.
Get to the top of the company
Make a bunch of money
Win a fight
“Conquer” as new lover
I am in no way letting him off the hook or explaining away his actions, I’m merely stating that it is a pattern we see. But people have their own choices to make.
If I had to guess, at the moment, what he needs most, is to be respected. To feel like a man. Of course, going and having an affairs makes that pretty hard to do, and he may not even believe or accept respect at this point, because he may not believe he deserves any (rightly or wrongly).
If you want to help him, try giving him respect. Small things at first. Something obvious, something he can claim and believe. Maybe he provides a bulk of the income for the family, or he manages the finances well, or if he’s home, he takes care of the house and/or kids. He’s a good father. Things like that.
But I’d stay away from trying to tie respect for him to his role as a husband, or a lover, because he’s just going to be reminded of what he did and be unable to accept it.
Now, that’s just my uneducated, non-doctoral, “some guy who writes about marriage and sex”‘s opinion. You know your husband better than anyone. You can get through this. There are many Christian counselors, pastors, elders, friends to help. Align yourself with those that treat marriage as sacred and are inline with your goals.
Check out the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association, there are a few bloggers there who deal specifically in affairs and recovering from them for both of you.
I meant to say at thank you for posting about this. I had it there, buy somehow it didn’t go thru wi my signature. I appreciate your blog & asked my husband to follow. I doubt he does, but I forward things to him occasionally. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & feelings here… from a happily learning wife – waning to learn to be more loving, caring, serving, attractive, feminine “asset” for my DH… who learning to be a better man & benevolent leader for me & our children. Your blog is helpful!
It’s wonderful to hear comments like these from all those spouses striving to improve their marriages.
My wife was very reluctant to read marriage blogs as well, it’s taken years for her to come around. Now’s she’s subscribed to a few…she even mentioned maybe subscribing to mine
. Just kidding, she reads most of what I write. But it’s taken a while to get there.
Why lead when you sense there won’t be any submission or following?
A couples reasons:
1) It is the husbands role to lead. They (wife, kids) don’t follow, that doesn’t mean he gets suddenly released from his role. His leading is an act of service to God and his family, regardless of whether or not they appreciate/acknowledge/follow it.
2) If his wife suddenly decides to have a change of heart, but he’s stopped leading…well, then she can’t really submit and follow, can she? I mean, you can lead, but end up leading no one, but you can’t follow someone who isn’t leading.
Well then if anyone could point me in the direction of any articles about “leadership in Christian marriage” I’d be appreciative. Leadership may be a spiritual gift but it is certainly not in my repertoire of gifting or nature at all. Thanks for any help.
The reverse is also true. My husband was an unbeliever who didn’t lead in our marriage. I was still commanded to submit. Authority and submission don’t depend on spouse your are married to; it’s a matter of the office you fill. It didn’t matter what kind of husband I had, God doesn’t give a special dispensations depending on circumstances.
Hi there, I would suggest continue reading JD’s blog. As well as reading blogs by the following authors:
-Masculine by design
-Mmsl – altho not a believer, Athol Kay does a have a good handle on what masculinity is. I believe truth is truth, regardless of who presents it. In my opinion he does a great job of doing just that.
Be careful when reading some of these, there are some good points, no doubt, but in the pursuit of sex, some sacrifice their relationship, and even in the ideal scenario, some of the methodologies employed lower the potential ceiling at a marriage can have. In many, there is no room for unconditional love, or total trust, and so, by their nature, they cannot have a marriage as God intended.
I find this mentality 100% within the marriage blogs that are decidedly atheistic in their beliefs; (logically, when you don’t factor God in, at the end of the day, it can only be about “I” – people are the center of their own worlds) But not so much with the bloggers that are coming from a heart that is truly trying to minister to men.
As a daughter of God, my spirit can discern the difference within reading 3-5 posts. So, I would think that it would be the same for any son of God, truly looking for learning in godly leadership; they would have the wisdom to also discern the same.
I have 3 failed careers. after being fired from my last job in 2009, I am on welfare to care for a special needs child, yet its like a paycheck, but still welfare. There are more than 4 kids here. I am the stay-at-home dad since I failed to get another job after two years of trying (yet she says I did it all wrong). She retains all authority and decisions in everything. My first failed career was a police officer after one year. When that happened, 24 years ago, it was the start of her distrust in my leadership. She gets angry whenever I try to lead. I said “no” to all three of our dogs. I say “no” to a lot of stupid purchases that cost us hundreds of wasted dollars including expensive gifts to people who already have lots of money. to my knowledge, I am the most disrespected husband there is. Sex is so boring… yet she is entitled to play the “I’m sick card” and therefore sidestep out of the “poor sexual performance” thing. Today I asserted my request to clean up our room and she put all the junk back out and told me she would get to it when she felt better. Translation: “nothing gets done while my husband is not working.” in other words; I am a poor provider, poor husband and poor father. “since you lack the authority and ability to lead this family, suck it up and live with the mess.”
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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.
Lots of men see this verse and think that their wives have to “SUBMIT” to them because they are the “THE HUSBAND”. They think that they have total control, that their wife and kids should do everything they say. There are many instances in which a man particularly has tried to dominate and exercise dominion simply because he has convinced himself that it is his male role. Some mistakenly declare that it is right because they are the man. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is called unrighteous dominion.
The verse also has the sentence, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” I think husband can be substituted for Church in this sentence so it reads: Now as the husband submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. This being said if the husband is not submitting to Christ (living with a Christ like attitude, seeking the Lords council in all things) the wife no longer needs to submit to the husband. Just as if your pastor stood at the pulpit on Sunday ad declared that such and such a group or person should he distained or reviled because he said so, you no longer need to submit to his leadership. Last time I checked Christ always taught love and forgiveness.
Now for this quote:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the (being the husband), only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
“That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death” (italics added).
“In contrast, a thoughtless and domineering man may mock the phrase “reproving betimes with sharpness.” Indeed he may reprove sharply, often with raised voice, mouthing vulgar words and phrases, even punctuated with vile physical acts or other kinds of abuse. Forgotten is the qualifier: “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” No abusive act would have the sanction of heaven, much less take origin from there. Such a man also seems to have forgotten that not long ago he knelt at a sacred altar and covenanted with his sweet companion and with God to keep all of the Lord’s commandments. No man-has the right to treat any woman unkindly, especially his wife, with whom he would hope to share eternal joy. Certainly unrighteous dominion cannot be excused upon the mistaken notion that permission comes by being the husband, head of the family, and particularly under the umbrella or authority of (being the head of the family). It is clear that when sacred authority is abused, the authority of (being head of the family) is withdrawn.” (Italics added).
I took that last bit from a talk given by Albert Choules, Jr. given in 1994. I did substitute some words where the italics are added.
In my home things are bit different my wife literally makes 8 times what I do. To me that is no big deal. So our division of labor is a bit different than most. However, I am still the head of the house, my wife recognizes this and things run fairly well (we’re not perfect, not even close). I like to say that I preside and my wife conducts. We talk most things over and run by committee. No kids in the house just us and the dogs. But I can tell when she’s had a rough day at work and I “take charge” for the evening. All-in-all the system we have works for us.
Sorry, I have to disagree on this one point:
“This being said if the husband is not submitting to Christ (living with a Christ like attitude, seeking the Lords council in all things) the wife no longer needs to submit to the husband.”
I’m afraid this isn’t Biblical. As 1 Peter 3:1 states “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own 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”
Wives are to submit to their husbands, even if they aren’t believers! Now, there is the caveat: if your husband asks you to do something that goes against God’s commandments, then of course, one must follow God first. But, baring that, the husband’s not being perfect, or even Christian, does not allow a wife to break God’s commandment to submit to him.
I agree that even if a woman’s husband is not a believer she should submit, if he presides over the house with love and understanding and only reproving when necessary. However, if he uses anger, fear, and violence to control the household, I would argue that after patience and long suffering long suffering of the wife and trying to help, encourage, and change her husband, she should cease to submit and leave. I say this a former child of a household run in such a manner. I would just hope that the wife would have the strength to remove herself and any children from such a “husband”. Unfortunately there a far too many that don’t know anything but that type of household.
There are plenty of non-believers who live very Christ like lives even if they don’t realize it, my brother being one of them. It’s amazing we turned out as well as we did.
Abuse is a very separate matter. The Bible is clear that our body is a temple and we should keep it safe. However, that doesn’t justify a blanket clause of allowing wives a justification for abandoning their husband if he isn’t perfect. All I’m saying is be careful when creating doctrines like that. You’ll find a lot of wives walking out because their husband wasn’t nice enough to them and claiming it’s because hes not Christ-like enough.
I very much enjoy that you decided to tackle this topic.
A point that may have been missed is that of leadership or management style.
When I quickly look it up, I seen articles listing between 6 and 10 different styles. I’m sure there can be many more.
From the list I quickly chose, they listed 7.
1) Authoritarian – usually total decision making power
2) Visionary – conveying a vision
3) Transactional – Motivate through extrinsic rewards
4) Servant Leadership – coaching, training, mentoring
5) Pacesetting – Provide instruction then set a (the) pace
6) Democratic – everyone has a say – time consuming (pretty passive)
7) Laissez-Faire – “let do” what they will – no oversight (very passive)
While one of these styles may seem most appropriate to the reader; the article pointed out pros and cons to EACH style.
May I point out that each husband is an individual. The author of this article put forth a style he favored. It sounded wonderful but it would not be the style of each husband.
I submit that any wife who wants something different from her husband is likely and simply REBELLING against his style.
It is not the husband’s job to comport to the wife’s style and wishes – but the wife who is supposed to adapt to him.
Certainly every situation might benefit from a different style but much would depend on each husband’s personality.
I believe that if we think carefully we can find where God has used EACH of these various styles.
I have noticed in my many years, that each time a church got a new pastor the personality of the congregation began to change. Hopefully most wives will have only one husband.
I had read an historical article about a very successful church — because of a very successful elder. Everyone absolutely marveled because the elder was of a quiet personality who hardly spoke at all.
Thanks for letting me contribute to the discussion