One thing Christianity has come under fire for is the different roles of men and women. Today’s society tells us that women are every bit as capable at leadership as men and we’ve all seen sitcoms lampooning fathers as stupid or conniving while their wives are completely competent and usually right. Yet the Bible tells us something different: that men are to lead and women are to submit.
I’ve noticed two basic responses to this command. The first is to think this means women are secondary in importance, that the chief part of leadership is authority. This leads to a male-dominated marriage, often one where the wife’s needs go unmet and her concerns dismissed. She may have the basics – food, shelter, kids, security, etc. – but she doesn’t get a voice in the marriage. In such a view of leadership, she’s often looked down on, even if that’s sometimes unintentional. She also won’t grow very much because she’s not being lifted up and he won’t grow very much because he’s not being challenged.
The second common response is to simply ignore the advice. In some couples, husband and wife are equal in authority; in others, she leads the household. In the former, it may sound nice in theory, but what happens when there’s a stalemate, a situation in which it’s either A or B, not some combination of the two? What happens when there’s a disagreement and neither party has the authority to end it? Who leads when both are equal?
For the latter, leadership is a role that God gave to men. I don’t say this to put women down in any way. The wife is every bit as valuable as her husband. This role, done right, is not a privilege, but a burden.
Leadership means having the final say, yes, but it also means an imperative to service. Leadership has at least as much submission in it as the role of submission does, for a husband must choose to subordinate his needs to the needs of his wife and his children and his wants to their wants. For a husband to be the leader, he must be the servant of his family.
Consider Jesus for a moment. He washed the disciples’ feet, yet He always knew His authority. He commanded them, chided them, and taught them, yet in all of these things, it was for their own benefit, not for His. He was obedient unto death. We men are told to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” -Ephesians 5:25.
Some men have shied away from their role either from fear that they won’t be good at it or their wives will reject their authority. Others have allowed their wives to take the lead because it is easier to sit back and watch TV than to lead a family.
Leadership is not meant to be easy; it’s meant to show love through service. Don’t worry about not being good at it; your wife is perfectly aware of how human you are. Submit to God and ask for His wisdom. Then put her and your kids’ needs in front of your own. Be willing to give your family what they need, even if that means denying them what they want. Finally, guide your family closer to God. If you do those four things, you’ll grow into a fine leader.
Your wife may reject your authority at first, but that’s between her and God more than between you and her. Also, if you have been ignoring your duties or making selfish decisions, you will have to earn her respect and trust again. Do the same steps as above and show her you care; she will learn to respect you and submit to you.
And if you’ve been taking the easy way, you haven’t been loving your wife as you should. Because leadership is a burden, not a benefit, you should be taking that stress and pressure off of her and bearing it yourself. The direction of the family should not be her decision; her decision should only be whether to support you in your decisions.
There are several reasons men should embrace this role, difficult though it is:
1. It is a way to show love to your wife and children. People need direction. They feel much more secure when there is a plan, even if they don’t understand all aspects of that plan. Have that plan mapped out for your family rather than giving that burden to your wife or letting your family muddle through uncertainty, which will invariably give rise to fear.
2. As a man, you’re particularly suited for leadership. Part of your role is remaining calm in a crisis. That’s something you’re likely better at than your wife and certainly better at than your children. They will look to someone who doesn’t seem to be falling apart when their world is for the strength they need. Your ability to compartmentalize and stay calm will be an invaluable asset to them when things go badly.
3. You not only can, but are meant to, use your position to raise your kids the right way. This doesn’t mean that you subtly mold them into what you want them to be, but that you guide them into being what God wants. Your children will learn more from you and your wife than from anyone else. What you say and do, especially if they recognize you as the leader, will carry extra authority and weight. Yes, it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also an unparalleled chance to teach your children all the life lessons and traits you wish you’d been taught.
4. You can help your wife become a strong woman of God. Her growth in her faith won’t obviate you or your position. In fact, it will make it easier for her to submit to you because she will have faith in God to see you through, rather than faith in the efforts of the fallen people you both are. She will also be able to support you when times are hard and you’re discouraged, challenge you when you go astray, and provide insight and advice that you wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
5. You grow in your faith. Leadership is too big a burden to take on by yourself. The more you love your wife and kids, the more you’ll want what is best for them, the stronger you’ll be for them, and the more eager you’ll be for their growth. There are many stresses and uncertainties you’ll encounter. Times will be hard, bad things will happen. You have to turn to a power greater than yourself for guidance, emotional strength, and the love to always put your family’s needs ahead of your own. Nothing will test your faith like embracing your role as a leader, but no role is more rewarding when you see your wife and children well cared for and growing closer to God.