One of the things I do with my boys that I would cherish as long as I live is taking them to Bible study fellowship every Monday (bsfinternational.org). In one of the past years, we studied the book of Genesis and for a couple of weeks the study was focused on Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. While studying, the story of Adam and Eve also came to mind, and this question kept creeping into my mind – should men really listen to their wives, if it brings this much trouble?
Before my wife, my mother, my sisters and other women think I’m nuts and men say “hoorah” because of the title of this article let’s look at this together.
Genesis 3: 6, 12 “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he also ate it.
“The man said, the woman you put here with me she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it”
Genesis 16: 1-2,5 “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar, so she said to Abram, the Lord has kept me from having children, go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agree to what Sara said”
“Then Sarai said to Abram, you are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me?”
For many readers not familiar with both stories above, I’ll give a brief explanation. In the first story, God has specifically told Adam and Eve to eat of every tree in the garden but MUST NOT eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The devil came disguised as a serpent (snake) and deceived Eve, who in turn gave her husband the fruit. The question is if Adam had said NO to Eve what would happen?
In the second story, God had promised Abram a son when he was 75 years (Sarai was about 65 – 66 years) and it is now 11 years later and the child was yet to show up. Sarai decided to follow customs and tradition rather than stick to God’s promise, she offered her maidservant, Hagar to her husband, so she’ll be a surrogate mother (history shows that this custom was common in those days).
In both cases above the men listened to the women and in both cases humanity is still paying for the consequences. Now back to my earlier question, should men listen to their wives? My answer is YES, but…
Reasons why men should listen!
In the Genesis account of creation, God saw that the man was alone (there was none of his kind) so He decided to make a woman for the man and God said she would be his helpmate, not an inferior being. Another important fact for us to remember as we discuss this issue is God’s statement that all He made were “very good” no mistakes.
Then we had the fall and God judged the man and woman, let us read His judgment to the woman “To the woman He said, I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing, with pain you will give birth to Children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). While I’m personally not so sure, I’ve read and heard scholars I respect say “your desire for your husband” meant desiring to usurp his authority.
For many centuries and even today, men of all race and cultures of the world have translated “your husband will rule over you” to mean the woman is an inferior creation, whose opinion is not needed and she is nothing more than another property in the household (if you think I’m exaggerating just look around you). The man is the Lord and Master. As one studies the Bible it quickly become obvious that the interpretation given to what God said in the book of Genesis was men’s interpretation and not God’s intent.
What was God’s intent? Knowing that two masters in the same boat would sink the ship, He made men the leader of the marriage institution, the leadership position does not make man a superior creation or a better creation. It simply is headship, in that the man is first amongst equals. Speaking through Prophet Joel, God said “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…” Somehow He also allowed Deborah to be a leader/Judge in Israel. God knowingly made men and women different in many areas (that science is now discovering) so that we can complement each other.
The abuse of women (such as not educating them, denying voting rights and driving rights etc) over many centuries has triggered women liberation movements. The subsequent fight to liberate women in western countries and now many countries worldwide, have gone overboard and it is likened to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Women liberation organizations worldwide are now challenging the man’s leadership role and women are now told not to submit to their husbands. In-fact the culturally acceptable norm now as portrayed on TV is that the man is a fool, and not responsible, lacking the intellectual and character capabilities to lead his family. Don’t take my word for it watch any of the family sitcom now running or re-runs of old sitcoms, better still pre-view commercials and you’ll see what I mean.
What does the Bible say?
There is a lot in the Bible for the church about the equality of men and women but the leadership of men.
In Acts 2, Apostle Peter told the crowd that what God said through Prophet Joel in being fulfilled in their own time, the Spirit of God is being poured on all flesh without restriction. In Galatians 3: 28 Apostle Paul said these words “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. While Martha and Mary were not called disciples, they really were by definition, because they followed Christ and listened to His teachings. Women like Lydia and Priscilla were very useful to the Apostles not just logistically but even in teaching (Priscilla tutored Apollo).
Apostle Paul said the most when it comes to the equality and roles of men and women.
Ephesians 5: 21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”
When you see your wife as a property or an inferior being, it becomes difficult to submit to her, which is what Paul recommends in Ephesians 5: 21. Many months ago, we took precious (our dog) to obedience school, and one thing the instructor said repeatedly when teaching us how to walk her was “she has to know who is in charge”. Many of us treat our wives like a dog in training; she’s got to know who is in charge.
Submitting to one another is deferring to each other. There are many decisions that are made in any household on a daily basis, being a micro manager would only bring trouble. I recognize my wife’s strength and let her make decisions in those areas (I would be an ego maniac, to make health decisions in my house when I’m married to a physician); she recognizes my strength and would not argue or debate with me in those areas as well. In our relationship, somehow I determine the price range of what we want and leave the details of what, where, and how to my wife (I honestly could not be bothered by the details). My submitting to God, taught me humility and Ola has been a beneficiary of that, and I can tell that since I carry her along on issues, submission became easy and natural for her.
Ephesians 5: 22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…”
The above verse is the favorite for men with pride who do not understand what leadership is. At the same time the verse is seen as chauvinistic by women who has problem with obedience.
Paul said you should submit as unto the Lord, meaning submit to God and it will be easy to submit to your husband. Submission to him does not make you a second-class citizen nor does it make your opinion meaningless, it means you recognize that he is the leader among equal. Now it is important for you as a woman to know and understand the responsibility of a leader.
A good leader in any institution, listens to people around him/her, a good leader surrounds him/her self with people in areas that he/she is lacking, and a good leader takes responsibility for the faults of those under him when things go wrong. Remember the phrase “the buck stops here”
Your role as a helpmate is to give your opinion and pray that your husband will make the best choice in the situation. When you start to force your opinion or manipulate your husband, then you are going against the will of God. The only time I know that we (anyone) can disobey leadership is when the leader is asking us to do what is against the “written word” of God. For example, doing credit card fraud or immigration fraud because your husband said you should is not right and you should not do it (read Exodus 1: 15-20, Esther 3: 1-6). As long as your husband is not asking you to renounce Christ or ask you to go to a cultic church, I believe you should go to the church he chooses (I hope he takes your opinion into consideration).
The biggest question I get is what if he is making the wrong choices? And my answer is, lovingly give your suggestion and pray that he is led by God in the choices he makes. From many hours of lay counseling, I have discovered that men don’t usually kick against their wife’s core suggestion but against how she gave the suggestion. I hear statements like “don’t talk to me like your son”, “if you keep yelling when talking to me then I won’t listen to you”.
Ephesians 5: 25-28
- Love wife as Christ love the church
- Wash her with water through the word
- Nourish and Cherish her
- Love her as own body
- Protect her
Christ loved the church by choosing to do the will of His Father, which is to die and save mankind. The Bible tells us that Christ was obedient unto death, meaning for us men loving our wives is not so much about them but about Him who said we should love them. In John 13, Christ showed us that our leadership style should be that of a servant-leader, which is leading by example. You want your kids to respect their mom and others, then demonstrate it at home by doing stuff at home, not just become a couch potato and say that is a woman’s job.
I believe very strongly that the man gets to make the final decision on any logjam situation at home. However, like good leaders it is my hope and prayer that men do not take that responsibility lightly. It is important to listen to your wife’s opinion as God made her differently (see my article “men from Aba and women from Ikot-Ekpene”) from you, not only does she see life differently, she is also endowed with more “intuition” (ability to perceive) than you. Smart men listen to their spouse, ask for their mentor’s opinion and then make such decisions prayerfully. When a man wants to make small decisions like what type of cooking pot to buy, or sewing machine to buy, or what accessory the bathroom should have, then you are asking for trouble.
Jesus once told His disciples that they are clean by the words He has spoken to them, in the same way I believe, every man should speak living words over the wife and children, so that they are made clean through the word. It is the duty of every leader to spend some time daily before God for the people He gave you the privilege of leading.
For the sake of clarity let me highlight the reasons why we should listen to our wives
- They are helpmates not inferior creation
- Men and women have the same gifts from God through the Holy Spirit (typically husband and wife have different talents that complement each other)
- God created the woman to complete the man (companionship)
- Our physiological make-up is different and this makes us see things differently. Most men usually are analytical, while most women are emotional. Both viewpoints are needed for good decision making.
- Women are blessed with intuitive spirit much more than men, so it makes sense to at least hear your wife’s opinion about that your friend or business partner.
When we are faced with a major decision like the kids school, the church to attend, family staying with you and other life issues, it is advisable to list on paper the pros and cons against the issue, listen to your wife’s opinion, seek expert opinion (friends in such fields) and then prayerfully decide. You can never go wrong when you follow this procedure, even if your choice is wrong when implemented, you conscience would be clear.
As a man, having recommended that we should listen to our wives opinion, the final decision however lies with us, this is where Adam and Abraham missed it. God had given specific instructions, and as the husband, it is our responsibility to enforce the God mandate in the family.
Never make decisions just because you are the head and your wife need to know who the boss is.