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Christian Men Being The Head Means Listening To Your Wife

Posted by Job on July 7, 2009

First for those who haven’t, I encourage you to listen to Paul Washer: Biblical Headship as it is a great and challenging teaching.

Second, I want to point out something to help Christian men who are trying to work through being Godly husbands and the heads of the marriage and the family. Many men have a problem with the authority that comes with being the head, but this is primarily due to having a corrupt view of what authority, or headship means. Because of our exposure to fallen sinful worldly culture, we see authority in the terms negatively described by Jesus Christ in Matthew 20:25 and Mark 10:42, where the Gentile rulers “lord it over” their subjects, meaning that they exercised their authority in a manner that does not reflect God’s plan or nature. It can be said that Gentile – or sinful and fallen – lordship is authority exercised for the sole benefit of the people in power and not for mutual benefit or the common good. The person under authority exists only to fulfill the whims and prerogatives of the person in power, and as such the person under authority has no rights, a status lower than that of a slave under the Jewish law. Sadly, this is precisely the status that women have had in marriage in many times and cultures throughout history.

However, let us revisit what Jesus Christ said about authority illegitimately exercised in Matthew 20:25-28.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

To this let us add that just as the man is the head of the marriage and the household, Jesus Christ is the head of the church. (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:23). Also, the husband is to love His wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25) Therefore the authority that man exercises over his wife should be described by Matthew 20:25-28, not the sinful ways of the world that Romans 12:1-2 tells us to renew our minds from by being transformed by the Word of God.

An example of this: husbands should listen to their wives and be responsive to their input. A lot of men mistake “being the head” and “being in authority” with being an autocrat. The truth is that human authority as described in Biblical terms does not mean knowing everything and refusing to listen. Instead, authority, headship consists of being the one who makes the final ruling and being accountable for it. Refusing to listen to the opinions of the wife, who is his help-meet and his equal and is made in the image of God, indwelt with the Holy Spirit and is a recipient and beneficiary of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, gifts and fruits, is not a legitimate Biblical exercise of the authority given to a husband. Instead, it is sinful foolishness.

Consider the example of kings in Old Testament Israel. Of course, the king was the human sovereign ruler of the land, free to do as he pleased. But there were also prophets and also the priests. Now it was the prophets who received the Word from God directly. Further, the priests also knew God’s Word from their study of the law and scriptures. Consider the case of a king who simply did everything that the legitimate prophets and Godly priests told him to do. Would that have made him a puppet ruler, a weak king? Of course not. We know this from 2 Kings 22 (and also 2 Chronicles 34), as this was precisely the case of King Josiah, who took the throne at the age of 8, did exactly what Hilkiah, Huldah and the other priests and prophets told him to do, and was regarded as a great and wise king for doing so.

It is not solely because listening to God (as in the case of Josiah) is wisdom, though it clearly is. Rather, it is that even though one in authority is following the advice of others, the decisions are still his. Because consider this: the prophets had the ability to hear from God, the priests knew and had the ability to interpret and apply scripture. That was their office and their job. But the prophets and priests did not have the power or authority to make decisions. They could only give advice. It was the prerogative of the king, based on the virtue of his office and the power and authority vested in it, to make the decision. The exercise of authority is not in the origination of an idea or opinion, it is in making the decision. So just as a prophet or priest was not a threat to the authority or headship of a king, a wife who is wise, Godly talented and capable is no threat to the authority of a husband. The husband is still free to use his authority to make his own decision. The only question is whether the husband will make his decision wisely. If the husband defers to his wife on a matter where she exhibits more knowledge, more experience, more maturity, or has a Word from the Lord, he is exercising his God given authority wisely and thereby pleasing God. But if he for whatever reason forbears, then He is misusing his God given authority is thereby sinning against God.

After all, what is decision-making authority? According to the Bible, accountability for the decision is almost as important as the decision itself. Consider the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s decision, his exercise of authority was passive, but God was active in holding Adam fully accountable, and refused to allow God to shift the blame to Eve or to Himself (as Adam, in a scurrilous manner that revealed his sin nature, attempted to do both). Again, remember what Jesus Christ said: Biblical leadership is not a lordship role but a servant role. The man in his headship is a servant, and the way that he serves is by being accountable before God for his house. This is not the way that it is in the sinful world where truthfully there is no practical accountability for the ruler before anyone. The ruler does as he pleases with no consequences.

That is not the way that anyone in Biblical authority, whether it be a husband or a pastor (and yes church pastors are to be male only) should be. Instead of thinking about “the benefits of being in charge”, the minds given Biblical headship should be renewed with the idea “service through accountability.” This means that before God, whether the decision that I made was the result of an idea that came from me or my wife (or another) the biblical head (in a marriage the husband) takes full responsibility for the decision and its consequences. The person who has this mentality, of course, will be more than glad to take any good idea wherever he can get it with no concerns about ego or “being my own man” or “doing it my way” because such a person is going to be primarily concerned with avoiding the negative consequences of bad decisions before God. Such a person will not be motivated by fear, mind you, but wisdom, and what is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of God (Proverb 15:33, Proverb 1:7, Proverb 9:10, Psalm 111:10)? The hard headed stiff necked male who insists on being his own man and doing it his way is merely someone who is not accountable for the consequences of his bad decisions. He might think that he is accountable, but truthfully it is only in an earthly sense. In a spiritual sense before God, such a man is merely writing checks that his heart cannot cash!

The wise Biblical head knows that all good things, including good ideas, come from God (James 1:17 and also see James 3:17). So if an idea comes to him from his wife and he acts on it and it succeeds, the man in his authority gives the credit first to God for giving the idea to his wife and then his wife for having the wisdom to share the idea with him. And if the husband himself is the origin of the idea, the man in authority gives the credit first to God for the idea, second to God for prospering the idea and leaves it right there.

And if the idea is from the husband and it fails? The husband takes the blame acting outside of God’s will and accepts the consequences before God and in his marriage. If the idea is from the wife and fails? The same. In either case, the husband is the one who makes the final decision. That is what being in authority given by God means. God gets all the credit and glory for things that succeed. The person in authority – the husband in a marriage – gets the responsibility for not fervently effectively seeking God and then obeying Him in the case of failure.

So how can the husband, the pastor, or any other man in spiritual authority get glory? Well that is the rub, and the very meaning of Biblical servant authority. In sinful pagan lordship authority, the purpose of being in power is getting glory and other human benefits, the likes of which James 3:15 calls earthly, sensual, devilish. But in Biblical servant authority, the purpose of said authority is giving God the glory and getting God the glory! That is the beginning, the ending and the sum total of man’s duty. In contrast with, say, the word-faith movement and with dominionism theology where the purpose of man’s dominion is to empower, enrich and glorify himself, the true purpose of the Biblical dominion given to man was to use this dominion obey and glorify God. Consider, for instance, that no less than Jesus Christ, Himself being fully God and by Him were all things made, used His dominion over creation to glorify God the Father! So how much more should us as mere men, husbands, use our authority over our wives and children (not to mention the stewardship over our possessions) to do the same? And yes, the same is true of pastors as well.

So how does man benefit from his servant authority?

1) Obedience to God is benefit enough. Fearing God and keeping  His commands are the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Any other attitude is not of God, but of fallen rebellion against God similar to that of Satan who desiring to receive the glory and praise of God decided that he could be like the most high. In that day was iniquity found in him and there was no place for him in heaven any more. 2) Your reward will come in heaven. Your servant authority on earth is a spiritual thing, and by sowing it in this life, you will reap a bountiful harvest for eternity in the world to come. This is in contrast with the sinful lordship authority where the harvest is not only meager but does not go from this world to the next, and is instead consumed like straw in a fire. 3) I am not an adherent of the prosperity doctrine, but there is ample New Testament new covenant scriptural support for the idea that the man who behaves this way will receive the benefits of grace and blessings by the sovereign God upon his house and marriage as a reward for his obedience. How is this not the prosperity doctrine? Because God will determine the manner of the grace and blessings! It will be prosperity, but prosperity according to God’s eyes and not man’s.

So Christian men, do not fear, do not forbear, do not halt or falter. Go forth and fulfill the charge that you have been given to keep concerning your Biblical headship. It will not be easy, but be encouraged: you have none other than Jesus Christ present with you in the form of His emissary the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) to guide and carry you along the way. May the blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you always. Praise be to the one and only true God whose Son is Jesus Christ. Enter into His courts with thanksgiving and praise for He is worthy. Our God is holy and righteous, and His love, power and grace endure from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and amen!

5 Responses to “Christian Men Being The Head Means Listening To Your Wife”

  1. Remnant said

    At the same time men, please be careful you do not go into the opposite extreme and become a doormat. Heaven knows we have enough passive “men” in the churches. Women have no real respect for the passive male or doormat. So please, keep your backbone! You are to be a servant, but you are also to be a leader.

    • Broken said

      This is a great point and honestly why I was lead to this article. I am the doormat for a controlling, dominating wife. I have not gotten this way because I have no backbone, I have gotten this way because at first I thought I was just putting her first by going along with what ever she wanted to do, then I realized that disagreeing resulted in arguments, flaring temper and anger from her that would burn for days… it soon was not worth it and before long I realized I had become this “door mat”. Well, I finally had enough and stood up and now my marriage hangs in the balance. I’m not talking about “laying down the law” so to speak, just simply put, I will no longer be controlled by her and she will no longer bully myself or my kids.

      I am a Christian… my wife professes to be, I’ll leave it at that.

      One example of something that will be changing is our kids getting to see their grandparents (my parents). They see hers all the time, she won’t let them seem mine but very rarely. It’s nearly July now, they have not spent time over there with them since before Christmas…. they live 10 miles away. Her parents live over 300 miles away and have seen them dozens of times. It hurts my parents feelings so much and I just let it happen in the name of “peace” and “putting my wife before my mom”. We talk about when they can, but she never lets them. There’s no reason for it other than she doesn’t like my mom because she thinks she tries to be her mom, not her grandma… which is completely insane, I believe it’s jealousy because my mom shows my daughter affection and my wife has never so much as hugged her and kissed her good night and told her she loves her before she goes to bed. See any red flags there? So anyway, the result… they are robbed of time with their grandkids, the kids are robbed of time with their grandparents, I am robbed of time with my parents and she gets her way controlling everything with her emotionally abusive temper.

      Does anyone have any practical advice on how to deal with this without being in sin? How to be a servant and a leader in this situation without being a spineless, passive doormat?

      I am in fervent prayer over all of this.

      – Broken

  2. theoldadam said

    Good advice!

  3. Or as I have heard it when discussing how moronic men are who want to keep it old school and leave the women in the dark, “It’s kinda hard to be the head of a family without a brain.”

    Nice post, Job

  4. N'Catina said

    This is an EXCELLENT article (I posted a link from my Facebook page). I actually heard of Paul Washer a couple of months ago, and took the opportunity to partake in his teachings, particularly this one.

    I really appreciated the accuracy of what distinguishes LEADING from DOMINATION. Far too many people do not know the difference between the two, and I (although I’m single) believe that the vast majority of marital trouble centers around the very idea of the lack of mutual respect for both parties. To that end, I am very keen in my awareness in relationships whether the potential of dominating behavior would be imminent so as not to find myself in a needless power struggle with a spouse.

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