2011 at 2:38 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
A wife’s initiative should always support and strengthen her husband’s leadership; and to that end, she should take lots of initiative!
Our job is to help our husband, care for our children, and manage our home. We must not think it is “unsubmissive” to use our skills, wisdom, and insight for the good of our family. In fact, it would be wrong to neglect them. Scripture and the godly women of church history bear this out.
For example, in 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul urges the young widows to “marry, bear children, [and] manage their households” (emphasis mine). This is a strong phrase, meaning to be the ruler, despot, or master of the house. Clearly Paul expects women to bear significant responsibility for home life.
Katie Luther was a woman who took some serious initiative in her marriage. Her husband Martin famously quipped: “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led by the Holy Ghost.”
The Proverbs 31 woman presided over the entire range of responsibilities in her home. She advised her husband, cared for her children, supervised servants, oversaw land, invested money, bought, sold, and traded goods (just to name a few duties!). No one could accuse her of lacking initiative.
And Sarah Edwards took initiative to create a world where her husband could fulfill his God-given duties without being concerned about domestic tasks. As the story goes, Dr. Edwards emerged from his studies one day and asked his wife: “Isn’t it about time for the hay to be cut?” To which Sarah replied, “It’s been in the barn for two weeks.”
Inspired by these godly ladies, what initiative can you take for the good of your family today?
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 2:11 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Q. Do you have any thoughts on how submission works on a day-to-day basis? For example, most of the women I know are more administrative than their husbands, and are more aware of the needs and deficiencies of their families and usually can make more informed decisions on a day to day basis. Even if a woman is bringing things up to her husband in a way that lets the husband make the ultimate decision, if she is the one initiating, then is she the one actually leading (but just in a way that “sounds” submissive)?
A. This is an important question because another way we can misapply submission is by assuming that it means we must wait for our husband to take all the initiative. But in order to understand what submission is (and is not), we must also understand what leadership is.
In an effort to flesh out a biblical definition of leadership, John Piper explains that “Mature masculinity does not have to initiate every action, but feels the responsibility to provide a general pattern of initiative.” He elaborates:
In a family the husband does not do all the thinking and planning. His leadership is to take responsibility in general to initiate and carry through the spiritual and moral planning for family life. I say “in general” because “in specifics” there will be many times and many areas of daily life where the wife will do all kinds of planning and initiating. But there is a general tone and pattern of initiative that should develop which is sustained by the husband.
For example, the leadership pattern would be less than Biblical if the wife in general was having to take the initiative in prayer at mealtime, and get the family out of bed for worship on Sunday morning, and gather the family for devotions, and discuss what moral standards will be required of the children, and confer about financial priorities, and talk over some neighborhood ministry possibilities, etc. A wife may initiate the discussion and planning of any one of these, but if she becomes the one who senses the general responsibility for this pattern of initiative while her husband is passive, something contrary to Biblical masculinity and femininity is in the offing.
Before we consider the “many times and many areas” where the wife will do the initiating we must first ask: Does my manner of relating to my husband encourage him to “provide the general pattern of initiative” or does my initiative taking undermine or usurp his leadership?
If you’re not sure, ask your husband. And if you’re really brave, take this question to a godly friend who will give you an honest answer.
2011 at 5:32 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
One way we can misapply submission is by waiting on our husband to lead before pursuing spiritual growth.
Hopefully our husband does encourage us to pursue a deeper knowledge of God, but we are not dependent on our husband to grow spiritually. We are accountable before God to seek His face and obey His Word. Remember, when it comes to the grace of life, we are heirs with—and not under—our husband (1 Pet. 3:7).
In order to be a gospel wife, we must be rooted in God’s Word.
This means we must be avid students of Scripture, regardless of our husband’s spiritual pursuit. We should daily dig into the Bible, regularly read good books, and eagerly absorb and apply our pastor’s teaching. We shouldn’t assume that deep theological study is only for the men. Neither should we try to hide our own lack of spiritual growth behind our husband’s lack of leadership.
And here’s a self check: If we are truly growing spiritually, our lives will be characterized by humility toward our husband—not self-righteousness or superiority. True knowledge leads to love, not bitterness over our husband’s lack of growth or impatience with his slow growth. Proud “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).
Consider how you can encourage your husband to grow in his knowledge of the Word—whether he is lagging behind or way out in front. Inspire him by your example, graciously sharpen him with your questions, and above all, encourage Him for the many evidences of God’s grace you see in his life.
2011 at 4:15 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
If we want to have an ideal marriage by God’s standard, then we will strive in God’s strength to be a gospel wife. As our husband’s bride we will be submissive; but no less important, we must also remember that we are our husband’s equal. We must not allow godly submission to slide into subservience.
Let’s look at Genesis 1:27, reading it carefully: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
What do we learn from this verse? Here we find that both male and female are created in the image of God. In this first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God establishes that man and woman are equal in value and dignity in His sight. A conviction of our equal worth is essential to understanding submission in the context of the marriage relationship.
Scripture makes no allowance for male dominance or male superiority. For this reason, theologian Wayne Grudem appeals, ‘To all societies and cultures where these abuses occur, we must proclaim that the very first page of God’s Word bears a fundamental and irrefutable witness against the evil of thinking of men as better than women.”
Neither is submission a position of inferiority or demeaning in its application. For although God has designed men and women to fulfill differing roles, He unequivocally affirms they are equal in worth and importance. As it says in 1 Peter 3:7, husbands and wives are heirs together in the grace of life.
Our equality before God should underpin our thoughts and actions as a gospel wife. If we don’t start here, we’ll quickly get off course. What problems can this cause exactly? More on that question when our series continues.
—adapted from Feminine Appeal
2011 at 3:53 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Submission is not a static character quality. It is a powerful, dynamic force that can actually influence an unbelieving husband. Look at 1 Peter 5:1 “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (emphasis mine)
And if submission can have such profound sway over an unbelieving husband, imagine the influence it can exert upon a Christian husband who may not be obeying God’s Word. Our submissive conduct actually provokes our husbands to be the leaders God intends for them to be.
For instance, have you ever had someone lean on you with his or her full body weight? What happened? Of course, your natural reaction was to exert the counter-pressure necessary to hold that person (and yourself) up. This is a picture of the effect of submission on our husbands. It places godly pressure on them. It allows them to feel the full weight of their responsibility. More often than not, they rise to the challenge.
As Elizabeth George eloquently expresses it: “Our submission to our husband—whether or not he is a Christian, whether or not he is obeying God—preaches a lovelier and more powerful sermon than our mouth every could!”
That’s what it means to be a gospel wife.
—adapted from Feminine Appeal
2011 at 4:51 pm | by Kristin Chesemore
If there is one area in which it is both easy and hard for me to help my husband, it’s with our finances. I’ve always had an interest in all things related to math and accounting. I took accounting courses in college and most of the jobs I’ve had have been in bookkeeping. So it is a joy for me to serve Brian by sticking to a budget, frugally managing household resources, and keeping him informed so that he can intelligently oversee our finances. However, at the point where my helping and his leadership intersect, I am sometimes tempted to respond in an unhelpful way.
Several nights ago, Brian suggested allocating some of our resources to do something special for me. As grateful as I was for his thoughtfulness, it wasn’t my preference to use our money in this way. I already had other plans for these particular funds. I informed Brian about the money we currently had available, and explained that I thought it would be better to hold off on this expenditure for now.
Brian listened and considered, but after hearing the facts, he still thought that this was the best way to go. So I have an opportunity this week to help Brian—not just by serving him with the administration of the finances, but also by making it easy for him to lead in decisions about our finances.
I am learning that as helpful as I might be to my husband with my aptitude in financial matters, I can help Brian best by trusting God for his leadership. I must trust God that He is the one who has ordained for Brian to lead and me to follow. I must believe that He will work all decisions—even (and often especially) the ones I disagree with—for my good and His glory.
If I exercise faith toward God for Brian’s decisions, I will radiate peace and joy and make it easy for Brian to fulfill his God given role. I am still growing and learning, but I pray that God will continue to give me grace to be a truly helpful helper to my husband!
—from the archives
2011 at 3:36 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
What does biblical submission look like in decision making—especially if you and your husband disagree? Of course, a wife must never follow her husband into sin; but what about when it isn’t that simple? And let’s face it, there are a lot of times when it isn’t that simple!
The most helpful answer I’ve found on this question comes from Heath Lambert in an excellent article on the CBMW website. Using a real couple as a case study, he offers five helpful guidelines from Scripture.
Particularly helpful is Lambert’s second guideline, where he provides a model for biblical, loving authority and submission in every day decisions. Lambert encourages couples to “distinguish between ‘during the day’ and ‘at the end of the day’”:
My wife and I are committed to a complementarian vision for our home. I want to lovingly lead our home, and Lauren wants to submit to my authority. We believe that my loving leadership involves listening to the thoughts, ideas, and suggestions of my wife. I trust my wife. She is one of the brightest and most insightful people I have ever met in my life. One of the reasons I married her is because of the profound gift of wisdom she has received from the Lord. But sometimes we disagree. Because this is true, we need to talk about those things that we see differently. “During the day” is the phrase we use to refer to the decision making process.“During the day"we talk and listen to one another. We ask questions, express concerns,and push-back on what the other one is thinking.“During the day” is the time when a husband listens to his wife (Jas 1:19), seeks to lovingly serve her (1 Cor 13:5), and live understandably with her (1 Pet 3:7).
“The end of the day” is the phrase we use to refer to the actual decision as it is made. At “the end of the day” I am the one responsible before God to make a decision that suits the best interests of our family. I know that, and Lauren knows that. At “the end of the day” there have been times when Lauren and I have disagreed regardless of what happened “during the day.” At that point, with great sobriety, I exercise authority, and Lauren engages in the act of submission saying, “Honey, the Lord has made you responsible for our home. I think you have listened to me, and understood me. I would make a different choice, but I am happy to support your decision on this matter.”
If things don’t go well ‘during the day’ or ‘at the end of the day’, Lambert encourages a couple to pursue help from their pastor. For more on what this looks like, you can read the entire article here.
2011 at 1:07 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Recently, at a book club with some of Janelle’s friends, a young woman asked me: “What does submission look like in every day life?”
That’s a great question, because submission is an every day thing. It’s not an occasional quality, only useful when there’s a big decision to be made. And it isn’t passive either, something we mindlessly acquiesce to, if we must. Biblical submission is active, intelligent, and consistent.
John Piper describes a wife’s submission as “the divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” That’s a full-time job!
First, we are to honor and affirm our husband’s leadership (even if it leaves something to be desired). This requires heart work—cultivating humility and trust in God which sees our own shortcomings before our husband’s, and sees past our husband’s shortcomings to God’s faithfulness.
But we must not only honor his leadership, we must help carry it through. This means that in every day life we must contribute our suggestions, offer wisdom and insight, pray and encourage, as well as correct. When we serve our husband in humility, we strengthen his leadership.
And we must do this according to our gifts. God has graced us as women generally, and as our husband’s wife particularly, to help support our husband’s leadership. We must determine how we can best use our gifts in service of our marriage to the glory of God instead of for our own selfish agenda.
So, biblical submission in every day life is a tall order. But it is also exciting and fulfilling. Consider, how can you honor, affirm, and help carry through your husband’s leadership today?
2011 at 3:33 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Some of you might be asking, “I want to be a gospel wife. I agree with what Scripture says about the responsibility of a bride—for other women. But what about my case? Does God really expect me to submit to my husband?”
“My husband is lazy and inconsiderate.”
“My husband spends all his free time watching ESPN.”
“My husband is irresponsible with the finances.”
“My husband never helps with the children.”
“My husband doesn’t lead our family well.”
“My husband isn’t a Christian.”
Not surprisingly, Scripture anticipates that question. While it does not fail to offer hope to women in difficult marriages, 1 Peter 3:1 clearly stipulates that wives are to submit to their husbands “even if some do not obey the word.” Unless a moral issue is at stake, we are obliged by Scripture to submit to our husbands. As Elisabeth Elliot bluntly puts it, God’s Word does not “give us any footnotes.”
Of course, we must never follow our husbands’ leadership into sin. For while their leadership is genuine, it is by no means absolute. Our preeminent authority is God Himself, and a no time should our submission violate any of His expressed commands (Acts 5:29).
And neither do we ignore our husbands’ sin or its potential consequences for our families. We’ll talk more about what a gospel wife’s submission looks like in every day life when we continue our series.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 3:39 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
So we see that the submissive wife—far from being the weak-willed woman our culture portrays—is actually a model of inner strength. By God’s grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn’t take any effort at all.
This truth eventually dawned upon my friend Marianne. When she realized that her adversary was not her husband, Kevin, but the sin in her heart, she began fighting back—by submitting to his leadership. The result was peace and joy for Marianne and a newfound harmony in her relationship with her husband.
Now, some twenty years later, Marianne freely admits that submission is still a struggle at times. However, her thriving marriage testifies of her persistent efforts to resist sin and follow her husband’s leadership.
May the same be said of you and me
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 3:30 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
The source of our submission trouble is our very own hearts.
Does that surprise you? It surprised my good friend, Marianne, soon after she got married. See if you can relate:
“The whole idea of submission was a real challenge for me. I knew what Scripture said in Titus, Ephesians, and 1 Peter—I just didn’t like those parts very much! You see, I was raised to be very independent. I was strong and self-sufficient. I thought I was capable of taking care of myself and doing a pretty good job of it. I didn’t like being led. I liked leading. This was especially true when it came to my schedule and how I spent money. And because I wanted to make decisions about these things on my own, Kevin and I had some heated conflicts! It made it very difficult for my husband to lead.”
Scripture sheds light on this struggle to submit—for Marianne and for the rest of us. One of the consequences of the Fall for women, it says in Genesis 3:16 is that their “desires shall be for [their] husband[s].”
The form and context of the word desire actually has a negative connotation—an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over. Because of the curse, we now have a sinful tendency to want our own way and to resist our husbands’ authority. This evil desire is what poses the greatest opposition to our submission.
That’s why we need the gospel in order to become gospel wives.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 4:17 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
“As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Eph. 5:22)
“Many are the discussions I’ve heard on this one, almost all of them directed to what it ‘can’t possibly mean,’ rather than to the plain word of the Lord. The statement is simple. Not easy for women like me, but simple, that is, I understand it only too well. (As Mark Twain said, ‘I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don’t understand.’)” Elisabeth Elliot
Why do we have trouble with the practice of submission? What is it about this command that can make us bristle? Even though we may accept, as Elisabeth Elliot does, the clarity of Scripture on the issue, we also can agree that submitting to our husbands is not always easy.
Certainly our culture presents us with a formidable challenge. It treats the submissive wife with a noxious mixture of scorn and pity. And it doesn’t help that many in the church are trying to explain away this command, thus cutting off a vital source of our encouragement.
But the real threat to submission comes from a place we may not initially expect. More on the source of our submission troubles tomorrow.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 8:36 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
“Marriage was designed by God most deeply, most importantly, to be a parable or a drama of the way Christ loves his church and the way the church loves and follows Christ.” John Piper
Being a bride means—above all—that we imitate THE bride, the church. We are to respect, follow, love, and submit to our husband as the church does to Christ. “As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Eph. 5.22).” That’s a pretty tall order, for sure.
We have to admit, though, that our husbands might have the tougher assignment: they are to imitate Christ who “gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5.25). We have to follow, but they have to die! This series is not about the husbands, though. We want to focus on God’s calling for us as wives.
Submission (Eph 5.22) and respect (Eph. 5.33) comprise the primary role of a bride, and that’s who the command is addressed to. Submission was not our husbands’ idea, and neither are they responsible to enforce it. This command is not divine permission for husbands to assert authoritarian leadership. Nowhere in Scripture does it say, ‘Husbands, see to it that your wives submit.’ That’s our job.
The requirement to submit to our husbands comes straight from God to us as wives. And we are answerable to Him for our obedience. We cannot blame our husbands for our lack of submission. The responsibility is entirely ours!
And notice to whom we are to submit. As married women, we are not called to submit to all men (and neither are single women, for that matter), but rather to our husbands. Conversely, we should not seek leadership from other men, apart from our husbands, no matter how worthy they are of honor or respect. We are to follow our husbands.
But as I said, this isn’t always easy. We’ll talk about why, next time. Stay tuned.
(adapted from Feminine Appeal)
2011 at 5:13 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
The gospel makes it possible for us to be gospel wives. But what does this look like exactly? Over the next few weeks we’re going to talk about who we are called to be:
I am his bride…
I am his lover…
I am his best friend…
I am his equal…
I am his helper…
I am his glory…
We need to be reminded of God’s ideal for marriage, because so often our own ideal gets in the way. We don’t naturally want to be a gospel wife. Our natural drift is toward the selfish ideal of marriage idolized by our culture. And so without realizing it, we can often struggle, strive, long, and even pray for a marriage that fits our selfish, worldly ideal (and usually includes our husband changing big-time!).
If we don’t keep God’s ideal for marriage front and center, we’re going to be headed in the wrong direction. That’s why we must be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s Word, and we must ask God to give us hearts that long to be gospel wives.
2011 at 3:02 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
“God works in the faithful to restore them to their ‘gospel’ relationship.” Bruce Waltke
Your hopes and dreams for an “ideal marriage” were preceded by the purposes of another. From the beginning of time, God had a purpose for your marriage: to forge a gospel relationship.
“Remember this and stand firm…” God encourages his people, “‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:8-10, emphasis mine). As the ESV Study Bible comments, “The only true God will succeed in his glorious purpose for his stubborn people.”
Marriage is the union of two stubborn sinners. Yet God will succeed in his glorious purpose to restore an ideal gospel relationship.
You may think your problems are too high or your rut too deep. But do you really imagine that the Creator and Restorer of marriage throughout all generations is going to throw in the towel when he gets to you? To put it another way: Do you really think you are the exception to the rule of God’s faithful purposes?
In the days ahead we will talk about how to be a gospel wife. But we must start—and return often—to the truth that our work is effective only because He works. Our faith is possible only because He has redeemed us. Our hope is realistic only because He has promised to accomplish His purposes.
God will succeed in His glorious purpose for marriage. In fact, whether we see it or not, whether it feels like it or not, He is succeeding right now.