Families everywhere in our society seem to be breaking up and falling apart. A strong family unit will have a dynamic leader for a father, a firm but warm-hearted mother, and cooperative children who respect both parents. Each member of the family has a part to play in making the home beautiful. Each has a God-given role (function) to perform. In God’s order of things, the masculine role is that of being the breadwinner, and the feminine role is that of being a homemaker.
Preparation for the proper roles in the home usually begins in early childhood. A little girl is given dolls and dishes to play with in preparation for homemaking. A little boy receives toy trucks and tools in preparation for his role as breadwinner. If a child adopts the role of the opposite sex, he is termed a “sissy” and she becomes known as a “tomboy.” There is great confusion about proper roles in the home today—largely because of the efforts of the women’s liberation movement, the influence of radical college professors, and the propaganda of the mass media. One state board of education, for example, forbids including pictures depicting women with aprons and vacuum cleaners in school textbooks. To have a strong family unit however, the biblical roles need to be observed. The husband is to exercise loving leadership and the wife is to manifest quiet submission.
1. The Husband Exercises Loving Leadership
The husband is to be a leader in the home. When a couple marries, the husband becomes the head of a new decision-making unit which we call “the family.” The husband should set godly standards and lead the way by living up to those standards himself.
- He should lead off in family worship, prayer at mealtimes, and seeing that the family gets to church services at the proper times.
- The husband should enforce discipline in the home.
- He should try and make his wife’s duties easier—by hanging up his clothes, coming for meals on time, and cleaning out his pockets before putting clothes in the wash hamper. The word “husband” means “house-band” and this implies that he is the one who should tie things together.
To perform the loving leadership role well, the husband should be diligent about cultivating at least three very important qualities.
a) He should be a faithful partner.
All surveys indicate that many husbands have at some time or another been unfaithful to their wives. Satan has always tried to get people to believe that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”—and in the realm of human relationships—the devil promotes the lie that perhaps life with another woman would be a kind of paradise.
From God’s point of view it is an exceedingly wicked sin to be guilty of unfaithfulness to one’s married partner—in any way, shape, or form. The sexual appetites within the human body have a powerful potential for misuse; our bodies can easily be aroused to lust. This is especially true for the male. The husband can guard the tendency toward illicit lust by avoiding stimulating literature, by refusing to get caught up with immoral images on TV and the Internet, and by concentrating on his wife’s good points. (We tend to see the faults of those close to us, and the virtues of those who are farther removed.) We can be faithful husbands by resolving to live each day as if it were our last, and by determining to be loyal to the marriage vows. In Proverbs 5:20-21, God asks, “And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.”
Don’t play with fire. Stay away from what is not yours. Guard against situations that might become a snare—such as spending lots of time alone (at work) with a woman who is not your wife. At the marriage ceremony we men make some sobering promises. “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wife? Do you solemnly promise (before God and these witnesses) that you will forsake all others, and love and honor and cherish this woman until death shall separate you?” And we said, “I do.” The Bible says that it is better not to vow than to vow and not pay (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
b) He should be a diligent provider.
In Proverbs 6:6-8, God reminds us of the tiny ant, and says, “Go to the ant, . . . consider her ways and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer and gathereth her food in the harvest.” Like the ant, the husband is to be a provider. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
No matter how pious a man might appear to be on Sunday morning, if he does not seek to provide for the basic needs of his wife and family, he puts a bad light on the Christian faith. And so it is the husband’s duty to work hard, to get to his place of employment on time, and to keep in mind the words of Scripture, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
When God saves a man, He gives him a new love for his family, and he finds joy in providing for their needs even though every job has duties that are hard and routine and boring.
c) He should be a considerate companion.
The husband’s leadership role does not give him a license to become rude and to act like a selfish dictator. If we teach that a husband is to be “the head” of the wife, we must equally stress that the husband is to love his wife even as his own body, and as Christ loved the church. Colossians 3:19 says it clearly: “Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them” (or as some translations say, “Don’t be harsh with them”).
After all, the girl who is now your wife took your name; she left the love and security of her home to come and live with you; she pledged to share the joys and sorrows of life together with you. It is the height of cruelty to treat her harshly; to respond to her requests with cold indifference; to answer her with even the slightest tone of sarcasm in your voice.
The husband is to honor and respect his wife. He must seek to understand her. He must attempt to avoid those things that disturb her. He should hear the concerns of his wife, and listen to her advice, and be considerate of her feelings, and profit from her suggestions. It is only a matter of courtesy to appreciate her efforts and to be considerate of her feelings. Express appreciation for her cooking, her neatness of dress, her manner with the children, her gracious attitude toward guests, etc.
Marriage is a precious relationship that needs much tender, self-sacrificing care. The Apostle Paul devotes twice as many words to telling husbands to love their wives, as he does to telling wives to submit to their husbands. A wife needs to be told by her husband that he loves her. Husbands—you can say it with flowers; you can say it with small gifts; you can say it by remembering anniversaries and birthdays; you can say it with the squeeze of a hand; you can say it with a dish rag; but above all say it with words!
Males and females are not identical physically and emotionally, in spite of all the attempts to equalize their roles today. The woman, in particular, needs to feel loved, needed, respected, and important to her husband. We husbands must be sensitive, understanding, and considerate; we must tell our wives that we love and appreciate them, and show them that we love them by doing the kinds of things mentioned above.
Some husbands seem to enjoy making life hard and miserable for their partner. They become a kind of dictator who barks out the orders, and his wife is expected to come running whenever he blows the whistle. Husbands, if you have been neglecting the duty to show love and appreciation and consideration to your spouse, go to your wife; apologize for your neglect; take out the family Bible; look over the record of your marriage; look at some of your early pictures; bring home a box of candy to mark a special occasion; go along with her to buy some of the groceries; take time out for a meal at a restaurant so that she is free from the chores of cooking the food and cleaning up the dishes.
The husband and wife both need to continue in the spirit of courtship all their married days. If people would work as hard to keep each other as they once did to catch each other, most domestic home problems would be solved.
2. The Wife Manifests Quiet Submission
The role of the wife is primarily that of homemaking. She is to be in a team-partnership with her husband, and the husband and wife should plan together, and discuss matters of concern together—but final decision-making on tough issues rests upon the husband’s shoulders, and he must assume the responsibility for decisions made. There are at least three qualities the Christian wife should cultivate:
a) She should show proper submission.
Just as a team needs a head coach, and a business needs a director, so the home needs someone to be in charge. God says that the leader in the family situation is to be the man, and the wife should be submissive to her husband. Ephesians 5:22 says in essence, “You wives must submit to your husband’s leadership in the same way that you submit to the Lord.”
The editor of a conservative church magazine prepared a column each month in which he responded to readers’ questions. He had been asked so often the question, “But why should males always be the leaders?”—that his reply in one edition of the magazine was this: “Husbands are to be the leaders in the home simply because God decided that they should be! So stop asking!”
The husband’s role is no greater than the wife’s. His role is not superior to hers; it is just different from hers. The husband’s leadership role relieves the wife of final decision-making. For example, an angry neighbor knocks on the front door and complains about damage the children did to his fence. The husband isn’t home; the wife says, “I’ll speak to my husband about it, and we’ll take care of it.” That is a proper response for the wife. She puts the responsibility on her husband. She doesn’t need to make the decision. She is set free from the emotional burden of making final decisions, and taking the responsibility for them. The wife should rejoice in her husband’s authority over her. It is the wife’s special privilege to move day after day under the protection of his authority. This is women’s liberation in a very real sense.
The principle of submission does not mean that the wife should engage in sin because her husband demands it. All interpersonal relationships are to be governed by Acts 5:29 which says that we ought to obey God rather than human authorities. If a husband demands that his wife engage in prostitution to help supplement the family income, or that a wife lie about his whereabouts to protect him from state authorities—she need not obey. But the Christian wife should seek to comply with her husband’s directives, even if his demands seem unreasonable, unless such submission requires her to sin against God.
b) She should demonstrate kindly respect.
The instruction from God’s Word is found in Ephesians 5:33. It says, “Let the wife see that she reverence her husband.” The Amplified Bible says, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband, notices him, regards him, honors him, venerates him, esteems him, and that she admires him exceedingly.” The Christian wife must be careful not to say things that tend to injure him. She must not use sarcasm, bitterness, and verbal attacks. She must maintain a home that guards his respect and supports him.
Titus 2:4 says that the older women are to teach the younger women “to love their husbands.” This means more than kissing him when he leaves for work in the morning. A wife can show love by acknowledging his headship in the home, by living within financial means, by apologizing promptly when there is a conflict, by being supportive of him when things go wrong, by paying attention to personal appearance, by keeping an orderly home, and by making no major decisions without his advice.
And remember that nothing breaks the spirit of a man more than a nagging wife. Instead of nagging, try putting a love-note in your husband’s coat pocket or his lunch bag. Find some way to tell him that you love him and that he is the most important human being in your life.
Some years ago I was sent on a fact-finding mission to the country of India. I left New York City; stopped in Saudi Arabia; and finally landed (in the evening) at Bombay on the west coast of India. The ride from the airport to downtown Bombay was depressing indeed. People were everywhere. The noise of blowing horns; the screaming of religious Hindus trying to appease their gods; the sight of hundreds of people sleeping on the sidewalks; the smell of open sewage was nauseating. I was discouraged and lonely and sad.
I went to my room, tried to protect myself from the mosquitos, opened my suitcase, pulled out my pajamas—and out fell a note from my wife. There was a quote from Matthew 28, “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world,’ from one who never ceases to love you—Priscilla.”
Let your husband know that he is the most important human being in your life. Don’t wait until his heart is still in death, and then wish you had told him you love him!
The wife must never compare her husband’s achievements with the accomplishments of another man. Wives—you should never say to your husband, “Look how nice Joe keeps his yard,” or, “Dave often brings a gift home for his wife; why don’t you do that?” Make it a point to try and express appreciation to your husband for whatever you can honestly compliment. Perhaps you can mention his faithfulness on the job, or his ability to fix a leaking faucet, or his time spent reading stories to the family. Your home should be a place “where seldom is heard a discouraging word.”
c) She should major on tidy housekeeping.
Many today are saying that housework and homemaking and motherhood are paths to misery. One feminist group says that “A housewife is an inhabitant of a domestic concentration camp.”
The second chapter of Titus instructs the older women to teach the younger women how to conduct the affairs of home life. The older women are to “teach the young women to . . . love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5).
The phrase “keepers at home” means literally “workers at home.” Christian women should try to be good housekeepers, not seeking to be lavish, but tidy and neat. The wife should work diligently at the task of trying to keep the house attractive and clean, and the meals tasty and well prepared.
The phrase “keepers at home” means also that the Christian wife should see that the home is her primary sphere of activity. It is best for younger women (mothers of small children) not to be working at some job outside the home. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, the father should be the breadwinner and the mother should be the homemaker.
Some of the disadvantages of a mother’s working outside the home when there are small children, are these:
- a) Children will be raised largely by baby-sitters.
- b) There will be a tendency to alleviate guilt feelings by giving gifts to children to compensate for not giving them as much time.
- c) There is sometimes the temptation to become too intimately involved with another man at the place of employment.
- d) It becomes easy to neglect personal devotions—Bible reading, meditation, and prayer.
- e) Some develop an independent spirit, leading them to believe they can make it financially on their own, especially if there is a bad marriage.
- f) The mother who works at a regular job outside the home gives her best hours and her best disposition to someone other than her husband and her children.
- g) There are many more additional expenses—extra clothes, baby-sitting services, car and gasoline, higher income tax bracket, greater tension and thus medical bills, and the tendency to buy more than is really needed.
A child doesn’t need wall-to-wall carpeting and beautiful drapes and the latest computer games. Children need their mother’s time and affection. Mothers should see their children off to school in the morning and see them home again in the afternoon. When children come home from school in the afternoon, bubbling over with concerns about things that have happened during the day, it is a tragedy if they must come home to the walls of an empty house.
The mother’s primary ministry is to create a home which becomes a refuge for family members—a place to which they can come—away from the stress and turmoil of daily life. Each member of the family will go out to face the responsibilities of a new day better prepared because mother was there to organize, prepare, encourage, and pray.
When a man chooses from all the women in the world, one woman to be his companion for life—and solemnly promises to love her with an affectionate love—that love should be as genuine and as real after they’ve been married 20 or 25 years—as it was during the time of courtship. I hope that is the experience of every reader of this article.