There are Husbands and then there are Husbands
I do not have a perfect marriage. I am not an expert; I am not a perfect husband. However, I have been married happily for 46 years and I have observed a great deal about marriage in our 43 years of ministry. However, the reason I have something to say because God has something to say.
This is not a management or leadership paper typical of the business world – focus on God’s expectations. I want to make this practical and personal. Therefore, I will assume some exegetical detail rather than spending extensive time unpacking it for you. In the interest of simplicity and brevity, I note four major descriptions of what the husband’s relationship to his wife should look like. This discussion is not exhaustive; I will not cover everything in one session; I will not say everything that needs to be said about these four items; I will not even mention other descriptions.
A. The godly husband leads his wife
1. The Bible cites reasons for the leadership of the husband in marriage.
a. Because of creation. NAU1 Corinthians 11:3 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.
b. Because of the fall. NAU Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."
c. Because of Christ and the church. NAU Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
d. Because of church leaders. NAU 1 Timothy 3:4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)… 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
2. Areas in which the husband must lead in marriage
The general area of leadership: in everything.
Experience dictates that somebody must lead any institution. History demonstrates that somebody will lead. In the home, that somebody is the husband. God holds the husband accountable for every thing that goes on in the marriage/home.
Specific areas of leadership: here are some significant ones. Child training, Family plans and activities, Family worship, Finances, Communication, Ministry and worship in a local church, Providing a home, Empty nest and retirement plans, Recreation and vacation plans, Children’s education, Daily schedule, and Sex.
3. Hallmarks of the husband’s leadership in marriage
a. A husband leads authoritatively
The requirement for church leaders to “manage” their homes as laid out in1 Timothy 3:4,5,12 is a transferable trait. That is, even though these qualities must be evident in the lives of church leaders, they are really marks of maturity toward which all believing men, especially husbands should strive. (Note that elsewhere in Scripture believers in general are admonished to incorporate these characteristics into their life; for instance re hospitality – 1 Pet 4:9; re temperate – Tit 2:2; re prudent – Tit 2:5; re gentle – Phil 4:5; re free from the love of money – Heb 13:5; and etc).
“Managing” gives the visual picture of presiding over as a governor (προΐστημι meaning to place or stand before; also used to mean appoint or establish). A manager thus is one who has visible authority as he assumes the lead. The word is used eight times in the New Testament (Rom 12:8; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 3:4,5,12; 5:17; Tit 3:8, 14). Notable is the reference to the elder who “rules” the church (1 Tim 5:17; 1 Thess 5:12-13).
This presiding concept is tempered somewhat by the extra-biblical use of the term that conveyed protection and care (Kittel VI 701). This is also seen in 1 Tim 3:5 where the word changes in the last phrase from managing to caring - (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care [ἐπιμελέομαι] of the church of God?). So, the combination of these two ideas yields the notion that those who lead are obliged to care.
Here are some observations about a husband who manages well:
1) The husband who manages well knows how to utilize his wife as his “helper” (Gen 2:18). He capitalizes rather than crushes his wife’s talents and interests. Let her help; encourage her in her skills. To do otherwise is stupid and short sighted. She is your God provided “assistant.” She completes you and makes up for your defects. Why would you not use her as God intended?
2) The husband who manages well is sensitive to his wife’s capacities, interests. He learns what brings her joy in contributing to the family welfare and what she loathes.
3) The husband who manages well keeps an eye on everything but does not do everything nor does he insist that his wife does everything.
4) The husband who manages well is a skilled administrator of both his time and his wife’s. Organization is a strong suit or at least an area he deems significant enough to grow.
The husband who manages well learns how to plan and budget.
b. A husband leads spiritually
This assumes that the husband has a genuine personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus, Leadership is primarily a matter of character rather than method. I can’t emphasize this enough. Other factors are certainly significant – conduct (but this flows from character) or wisdom (but this flows from God). So, avoid the tendency to implement mechanically a variety of suggestions for attaining spiritual leadership. Doing acts of spiritual leadership must flow from a heart committed to Christ.
The wife has several kinds of needs: physical, social, leisure, material, emotional, intellectual, vocational, or spiritual. Which one gives you the most difficulty? Chances are it might be spiritual. The husband must work at being the spiritual leader in his home. It does not come naturally. It is easy to overlook. If we fail in this area, we make a huge statement to both our wife and children.
c. A husband leads humbly
The wise husband understands that God has not directed that he lead his wife because he is superior to her. He knows that it is only a matter of differing function.
For instance, he knows that because Christ submitted to the Father submission does not imply inferiority. He is also aware of the principle of spiritual equality between he and his wife, NAU Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, he gladly embraces the concept that he is obligated to submit to his wife as appropriate, NAU Ephesians 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
d. A husband leads Christianly
What I mean is that the husband should follow Christ’s model of leading:
1) Christ served his disciples – John 13:1-5.
2) Christ was constantly with his disciples – he spent great amounts of time with them. Phone calls, letters, emails, cards, occasional visits will not do. The mantra, “I spend quality time not quantity time with my family” is generally flawed. Would you apply this same logic to other responsibilities such as work? In light of the fact that most men are extremely busy, here are some tips for harvesting quantity time with your family:
a) When home, always be interruptible
b) Use all available hours at work to do work so that you minimize bring home work
c) Learn to say no to requests for your time
d) Limit outside leisure activates that don’t include your family
e) Think long term – 10 years from now, will you regret not spending enough time at work or not enough time with your family
f) Work smarter – multi-task, plan ahead, reuse materials, etc
g) Delegate work responsibilities – will the world end if it is not quite up to your standards?
h) Put family time on your work calendar and keep it
i) Treat evenings and Saturdays as (no golf)
j) Ask this question about work projects, events, trips, appointments, “Is it really necessary”
k) Be willing to forgo career advancement
l) Live within your income so that you are not pressured to do more
m) Invest as much energy in “getting it right” in your home responsibilities as in your work responsibilities
n) Change vocations if necessary
3) Christ actively taught his disciples – formally and informally; theologically and practically (budgets, repairs, computers, etc)
4) Christ modeled for his disciples – he lived what he taught and thus gained their respect and desire to follow.
e. A husband leads compassionately
He is not a drill sergeant. He is not an autocratic decision maker. He is not a dictator. Consider these thoughts…
It is foolish for me to make solo decisions in areas where I am incompetent A wise leader makes decisions based on full data. He utilizes the resources and counsel of trusted associates (does this describe your wife? Maybe yes maybe no. He allows ample time for mutual discussion with his wife. His goal is to make mutual decisions. He only makes unilateral decisions when a mutual decision is impossible to reach. He always makes decisions in the best interest of his family rather than in his own interests. He knows what decisions he must make and what he can delegate. When to delegate authority and decision making to his wife, he then supports her in her decisions.
f. A husband leads imperfectly
Leaders are not perfect. This is clear in the pastoral leadership traits discussed above. Successful leaders, in God’s view, are those who exhibit the qualities laid out in our texts. “Must be” (dei/) leaves little wiggle room. However, both verbs in 1 Tim 3:2 are present tenses (dei/ verb indicative present active 3rd person singular from dei and ei=nai verb infinitive present active from eivmi,) – thus the focus is on present circumstances, not on the past. The question is not whether or not he was or was not this or that in the past. Nor does this mean perfection or exact conformity to the stated characteristics (or Paul himself is excluded). It does mean that a person’s life must be free of glaring deficits when compared to these qualities. This gives us hope.
This means that the husband will not always be right. The key is that when he is wrong he must be willing to admit it and change.
B. The godly husband loves his wife
The Bible establishes that husband is responsible for love in his marriage
NAU Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
Clearly, this is not optional. This is a direct imperative given to all husbands. It is thus true that loving our wives is a spiritual exercise.
1. The master plan for love – Christ’s love for the church 25b-27
a. He loved the church subjectively 25b – “loved” (ἀγαπάω)
Subjective love is given irrespective of the object. The issue is never your wife – they are sometimes not lovable. But that is a moot point! Remember NAU Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We can not fully comprehend this kind of love – it “surpasses knowledge” Eph 3:19
b. He loved the church sacrificially 25b
The term “for” is the term for substitution; thus on our behalf – NAU 1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
c. He loved the church intentionally 26-27
1) His love “sanctifies” the church 26.
This is to make it holy or separated unto the Father for His special use.
Can we say that our relationship to our wife promotes her holiness? Do we have a sanctifying effect?
In light of NAU John 17:17 "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth, do we expose our wife to the Word? Do we encourage her to find time for personal study? Do we facilitate her in that exercise?
2) His love prepares the church for eternity with Him 27.
Based on the OT betrothal practice - except that Christ is preparing the brides for himself (the groom) rather that the bride preparing herself for the groom.
When Christ finishes with us, we will be glorious, spotless, wrinkle free, without blemish, holy, faultless. It is hard to find one term that completely summarizes the total package; it might be that we will be as nearly perfect as possible!
This leads to some sobering questions. What will your wife “look like” after being married to you for 10, 20, 45, 60 years? Will she be a better person? Is your life all about you or her? Is she haggard or radiant? Does she have a guilty conscience or a clear one? Is she spiritually maturing or stagnant?
d. The manner of love - we love our wife as we love ourselves 28-31
There are three simple thoughts here. First in 28a, we are obligated to love our wives. This should not shock us! The reference point of this love is not only Christ’s love for the church but also our love for our own bodies.
Second in 28b-30, this reasoning makes perfect sense. This is seen by a simple equation – the one who loves his wife = the one who loves himself (28b); and by two obvious statements – no one hates his own flesh and everyone takes care of his flesh (29). In other words, it is unnatural to be obese, dirty, foul, always exhausted, etc. God expects and nature attests that we take care of ourselves. This has some shocking implications, one of which is that a slovenly husband may not do a good job of taking care of his wife either!
Third in 31, we learn that if (“because of this”) we love our wife as ourselves we will put her first. A litmus test for this is whether we leave our parents. “Leave” does not imply abandoning them or failing to honor them. It does mean that our first commitment is to our wife (joined to her and one flesh with her) not to our parents. This means you must work hard at building your relationship with your wife. It does not happen by osmosis. You might ask your wife if she believes she securely occupies first place in your life.
e. The mystery of love – transferring divine love to the human dimension 32-33
The bottom line is that this is a monster task. It is difficult to comprehend and it is difficult to accomplish. “Nevertheless” (33) we must do it regardless of how we feel or what the obstacles. In other words, there are no legitimate excuses. And, there is no magic formula; no simple five steps. Loving our wives as God demands requires reliance on His strengthening grace. So start by nurturing your own personal relationship with the Lord.
The Bible helps husbands know what this kind of love looks like. NAU 1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The Bible reminds husbands that they must always look in the mirror when there is a lack of love in their marriage. NAU 1 John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us (see also context). The idea is straightforward. As our love to Christ is one of reciprocity, so our wife’s love to us is reciprocal. In other words, Christ initiated the love relationship with us; thus we, as husbands who are responsible to love like Christ, are to initiate love to our wife; she, like the church, responds. Therefore, if she does not love us, we should first question whether our love for her is defective.
It is possible that the problem is hers; however, the husband must always check out his own love first.
C. The godly husband learns about his wife
The Bible expects the husband to understand his wife. NAU 1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
1. This means the husband will build a life with his wife
This is an assumption (present participle). There are no imperatives in this verse. Here is the deal – it is possible to reside under the same roof with your wife but not build a life with her. It is possible to have the same address but live separate lives. Peter assumes we know this.
a. The pattern for building a life with wife is knowledge
1) It is “according to knowledge” (κατὰ γνῶσιν). This knowledge comes from personal experience, not mere intellect (that would be oida). Issue – the object is not stated; knowledge of what?
First, knowledge of Biblical teachings regarding husbands, wives, marriage and the home. This means the husband who does not read the Bible is in trouble.
Second, knowledge of the wife. This prompts two questions.
- What about my wife should I know? Answer: everything. You should know her family, childhood experiences, friends, hobbies, interest, tastes, sexual preferences, health, spiritual status, what makes her cry and laugh, view of children, her insecurities, her moods, her career, when she doesn’t want to cook, what makes her tired, her emotional needs, how to show her love, her love for the kids, and fill in the blank.
- How can I gain this knowledge of her?
- By living with her.
- By observation. For example, I picked up on the fact that Judy liked sugar cookies at Penguin Point in Warsaw.
- By inquiry. Ask questions. Talk. If it is true that women value talking more than men, then we have our work cut out for us.
- By sharing yourself with her. Open up. Your wife will tend to respond in kind. This may be a tall order for most men.
- By having a daily “how was your day” or “what happened in your life today” conversation; a time when you listen to each other. This should be intentional. Perhaps after kids have gone to bed.
2)As a result of this knowledge, the husband recognizes his wife’s delicate character
When she referred to as the weaker vessel the connotation is not inferiority nor is it physical weakness. Both husband and wife are weak vessels. This is a comparative term. The term is used of pottery that God is making (Romans 9:21-23). Perhaps the picture is of a fragile and valuable item. This should frame how we treat her. Though she is your helper, you must be willing to help her. To shield her. To protect her. When you drop a piece of fine china, it breaks!
3) As a result of this knowledge, the husband treats her as a woman
Never treat her as one of the guys. Yes, the Bible teaches a fundamental difference between men and women.
a) This means the husband will assign honor to his wife. Though money is often involved in the term, we are not talking about wifely wages. We are talking assign worth or value or esteem or respect.
b) This means the husband will treat his wife as his spiritual equal. “Fellow heirs” of the grace of life. Absolute equal; not your possession. Do you see how this is impossible if you are not married to a believer?
c) This result of this kind of a relationship with his wife is spiritual health. You do not want to find yourself in the state of your prayers not being short-circuited. There is a corollary between your relationship with your wife and your relationship with God.
D. The godly husband likes his wife
NAU Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. We have covered the first imperative, love your wife. What about this second one, do not be embittered toward your wife?
First, we must note that this is a passive imperative. In other words, this is something that happens to a husband. Could it be that we are prone to bitterness; hence this warning. Be alert that you do not become embittered toward your wife – it can easily happen.
Second, the implication may be that this embitterment gives way to severe, hostile, or resentful treatment of her (see the NIV and ESV “harsh”).
Third, we need to ask how we might become embittered with our wife or what might be signals that we are treating her harshly. Suggestions:
- By treating her as an inferior because she is to submit to you
- By purposely provoking her to anger
- By failing to treat her as a wife
- By forgetting that she is God’s gift to you
- By being jealous of her successes, talents, or friends
- By always answering “no”
- By failing to defer to her as a special woman
- By treating her as an employee – if she does not perform there will be consequences
- By being impatient
- By displaying a stern demeanor
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2015. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source