It’s an easy mistake for a husband to make. He reads in the bible that he is the head of the wife and then begins to fill this language with ideas from elsewhere: From his stint in the Army, the shift manager at work, or from leadership tips picked up at the pub.
In short, such a husband thinks that headship means boss, end of discussion, where’s my supper, or my sex, as the case may be.
But the marriage we see in scripture is more along the lines of a beautiful Celtic knot with each party having true authority in the realm assigned to them by God.
Those who have a responsibility in one area have an obligation to fulfill that responsibility. And those at the receiving end have a right to ask for it.
This is why any husband who thinks that his authority places him above the questioning of his wife is wrong. She has every right to ask him to fulfil his responsibilities and he has every right to ask her to do the same.
This is also why husbands who believe that their wives have no court of appeal outside the marriage are wrong (Consider Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:24-25).
The issue is who gets to delegate the responsibilities.
A husband has an obligation to fulfil all of those things which God requires of him as a husband. The same holds true for wives. Both are bound by scripture.
The husband may delegate responsibilities to his wife, but he does so according to an already established scriptural constitution of the home. In other words, he must delegate to her what the Scripture requires of her. He may not delegate to her a responsibility which scripture assigned to him.
For example, a husband may delegate the responsibility for managing the home to his wife. But he does not have permission from God to abdicate his responsibility in times of war by sending her off instead.
The apostle Paul taught this principle clearly.
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Timothy 5:14)
The phrase “guide the house” is a translation of one Greek word which literally rendered would be house-despot. The wife is the mistress of the domain; this is assigned to her by God.
The husband can (and must) delegate this complex web of responsibilities to her. He has no right to withhold such a delegation.
Paul says something similar elsewhere.
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. (Titus 2:45)
“Keepers at home” renders one word which would literally be house-guard.
Obedience and Honour
Your wife has real and legitimate authority over her own household and no one, husbands included, can take that away from her.
A wife must be obedient to her husband, as this verse states. But the length and breadth of the requests he makes of his wife are determined by scripture, not his whim.
In a certain sense, a husband (as the head of his wife) is an honoured and welcomed guest, and he should learn to see himself as a guest.
He wipes his feet at the door, he eats what is served to him, he aims to conform to the pattern established by her. She, in turn, seeks to honour him.
He leads by endorsing the standards for each of them as laid down by God, not the standards laid down by the current tofu-eating hipster crowd.
He has authority, where Scripture gives it. She has authority where Scripture gives it.
As in all things, Christ is the Lord. Not only of heaven and earth but of every micro-realm too.
As Lord, He has assigned these realms of authority to each. Relating these authorities to one another is a complicated dance requiring grace, humility, and love from all the dancers.
This means that in certain areas in the life of the home a godly husband is active and engaged. In others, he is to delegate and get out of the way.
A wife has authority regarding her husband’s sex life (1 Corinthians. 7:4). She has authority regarding his food (Proverbs. 31:14). She is also responsible for his clothing (Proverbs. 31:21).
But she should probably stay out of his fishing gear.
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