THE DUTY OF WIVES TO THEIR HUSBANDS
by Bob Wheeler
America has a marriage problem. One out of every two marriages ends in divorce. 40% of all children are born out of wedlock. The American family has clearly become dysfunctional.
Why can’t we make marriage work? Part of the answer lies in feminism. Radical feminists have attacked gender roles and put careers ahead of childbearing. No-fault divorce fundamentally altered the character of marriage and destabilized the family. But these are all symptoms of an underlying disease. Our problem as Americans is that we are too narcissistic. It is “me first” at the expense of everyone else. And that mentality is a sure prescription for disaster in marriage. Very few Americans, it seems, are willing to think in terms of the duties and responsibilities of marriage.
In Ephesians chapter 5 the apostle Paul address the subject of marriage. In verses 22 through 24 he addresses the wives and in verses 25 through 32 he goes on to discuss the role and responsibilities of husbands. He then concludes by saying “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband” (v. 33; NKJV).
Paul compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church, and interestingly, in this passage, he spends nearly as much space talking about Christ and the church as he does about husbands and wives. And so Paul begins by telling the wives, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (v. 22), and then goes on to explain why: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (vv. 23,24).
Here, of course, Paul is referring back to what he had said earlier about Christ and the church. In chapter 1 he had explained that God the Father had placed Christ in a position of authority over the all things, “and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (1:22,23). Here the relationship between Christ and the church is compared to the relationship between a head and the rest of the physical body. The head contains the brain – it is the head that gives direction to the rest of the body. But the head is also vitally connected with the body; it does not function apart from it.
The role of the church, then, is to be subject to Christ. He is the church’s Lord and Savior. It is not for the church to decide for itself what it wants to do. Our conscious aim must always be to please Christ – to do whatever He wants us to do. The church is not a social club, and its aim should not be to pursue its own denominational distinctives. Nor does it exist to make the pastor rich and famous. Rather Christ himself should be at the center of everything that the church does. We need to feel our dependence on Christ, to worship and adore Christ, to be subject to the will of Christ. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15) – not His suggestions, not His helpful advice, but His commandments. If we refuse to do so, it is because we don’t really love Him.
Wives, then, are to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). The husband, we are told, is the wife’s “head . . .as Christ also is the head of the church” (v. 23). Marriage is an intimate, hopefully loving, relationship. The husband is supposed to be the leader, the wife the follower. She works under his direction. She was created to be “a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18), not his dictator or boss.
Paul concludes this section by saying, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33). The wife is to honor her husband as one who is in authority over her.
A loving husband will appreciate his wife’s opinions on various matters. But ultimately it is he who must make the final decision. And if a husband and wife are still arguing and fighting over the matter the wife is simply not submitting to her husband as Scripture has commanded her to do. And is this not why so many marriages fail? Wives will fuss and nag over this and the other thing (“When momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”), and fight to get their own way; but in the end they wind up destroying their marriages. And then what have they gained? Isn’t God’s way better?