By Andy Constable
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:23-24: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.” Paul is very clear here that in the marriage, the husband is to be the head in the relationship. In other words he is to lead his wife spiritually in the home. This is not a dictatorship, where the man runs around mad on his own power, but a loving leadership where the husband lays down his life to serve his wife. In a generation that moves towards honouring the independent woman, there has been a downplaying of the man’s role in leading his family. This is compounded by lazy men who would rather watch sport than look after the spiritual welfare of their families. The marriage is, of course, completely equal and based on mutual submission. However, the man is to be the spiritual head. Here are three things that I’ve found helpful as I’ve thought through this subject.
Firstly, as men we need to be looking after our own spiritual lives carefully. In Paul’s final speech to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28 he says this: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained for his own blood.” Paul charges the elders here to first and foremost to pay attention to their souls. This is so important. No man can lead anybody if he is not firstly tending to his own soul. We need to be investing quality time in reading God’s Word and applying the gospel to our own lives. Otherwise, our hearts become hardened, we become lazy, and we lose sight of the glory of the gospel. A leader looks after his soul because he prizes his walk with Christ more than anything else. We won’t be able to lead our families if we are not first looking after ourselves.
Secondly, as men we need to be reading God’s Word with our wives and children (if we have them). Paul says, ‘pay attention to yourselves and then to all the flock’. Although he is talking specifically to the elders of Ephesus, I think this verse can be applied to every man in the church. Are we taking time to read God’s Word with our wives? Is the Bible visible in the home? Is it the thing that directs our relationships? The reality, sadly, is that in most homes the television is the guiding tool rather then God’s Holy Word. In our sin and apathy we would rather put the footie on or watch our favourite soap than read God’s Word as a family. But, the Psalmist says, in Psalm 19:7,10: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…More to be desired are they than gold…sweeter also than honey.” God’s Word is precious and to be desired. It is sweeter than honey. My wife and I have a little book called Daily Light that we read before bed each night. It is a daily reading with a collection of scriptures under a theme and although short, it can be very powerful. It’s a rhythm that we have installed from the first day we got married. Is there something that you can place in your day to make sure you are reading God’s Word? It doesn’t have to be long but it does have to be regular. Maybe you need to get up a little earlier and read the Bible together or read God’s Word while you eat dinner together. It needs to be a priority in the home. We make time for what we think is our greatest need and as Christians one of our greatest needs is to have God’s Word spoken into our lives. We need to spend time reading and feeding on it.
Thirdly, we need to be asking each other good questions. It can be easy to spend time with your wife and not talk about the deeper issues of each other lives. We will go through life and talk about work, the weather, our friends and cut out the spiritual chat. How are you doing spiritually? How is your soul? These are questions we need to be asking each other. This is more time consuming because we have to explain how you are really doing, yet it is so important in order to challenge sin and apply the gospel. Too many couples have a date night and go to the cinema, or watch a film and don’t actually communicate properly. There are always things going on in our hearts and we must endeavour to share that with each other in order to have a healthy relationship. As the man are you taking time to ask questions of your wife? Are you being honest in how you are doing spiritually? Lead this and model it in your family. Don’t cut the corners so that you can selfishly watch the sport or your favourite movie. Be diligent and ask good, penetrating, spiritual questions.
Do you love your wife? Then listen to these words from Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…” Christ died to set us free from the bondage of sin and to begin to make us pure from sin. Men are you aiding in this process or being a hindrance? The most loving thing you can do for your wife is get yourself right with the Lord and lead your family sacrificially and biblically. Let God’s Word be a treasure in the home and make sure you are taking time to communicate with each other on a deeper level. Then you will be loving your wife as Christ loved the church.