The intent of this article is to address the biblical principles regarding the marital relationship. Those who wish to achieve a successful marriage without taking God into consideration should consult a marriage counselor or psychologist, since what will be addressed here is the Bible instruction.
Marriage is a natural union but a divine institution. It was ordained by God at Creation and is based on unchangeable, immutable laws. It does not derive its authority from civil codes of men. When man was created, God said: ” . . . It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). He then took a rib from Adam and with it created a woman-Eve. When Adam saw her he said, ” . . . This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23). The Living Bible says: “This is it!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own bone and flesh! Her name is ‘woman’ because she was taken out of a man.”
Since Eve was created from Adam, they really were one flesh. They were united as one. This was the picture God intended to be carried down in all marriage relationships from then on. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Eph. 5:31). Because man was created first, he was given the preeminence. Eve was deceived, and after Adam and Eve sinned, God said to the woman: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). The Hebrew root word for “sorrow” means both physical and emotional pain (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by Harris, Archer, and Waltke, 687-688). The word “desire” means “longing,” or “craving” (See TWOT, 913). Even though Adam too had sinned, the existing hierarchy was to remain. The man was to exercise dominion over the woman.
This biblical view flies in the face of many today. It is not popular. Many women feel oppressed and obstructed in the attainment of their goals. Because of the constant barrage of propaganda that being a homemaker is unimportant, many women have succumbed to the notion that the home is not really the honorable place God intended. She is told she would be more fulfilled by pursuing some profession. Various organizations for women, and the women’s liberation movement in general, have taken various steps to gain equality with men. It is true many men have taken advantage of women, both in the work force and at home. As women have been forced out of the home and into various careers, the financial disparity between men and women is a major source of friction. During the feudal period the wage scale for women was approximately one half of that for men. This practice has changed little over the years, although in many fields women are every bit as productive and competent. Outside of physical strength and abstract thinking, there is little difference between the sexes. But is this state of affairs within the framework of what God intended? Of course not!
In our Western world today, the normal relationship between men and women has gone askew. Due to the influence of monopoly capitalism, as well as socialism, the economic system has made it increasingly difficult for many couples to live without both husband and wife working. In third world countries, the situation is almost hopeless. This world condition is aptly described in the Psalms. “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course” (Ps. 82:5). “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6). God holds the clergy responsible for the failure to teach the truth about the marital relationship. Many people do not understand God’s Law regarding marriage and how couples should treat each other. They have never been taught the biblical model that should have been employed in the marriage relationship. The natural way God intended was for the man to exercise dominion over the woman, but not in a selfish, harsh, and demanding way.
The New Testament makes this plain. Notice what Paul tells us: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).
Paul even gives instruction regarding worship services.
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness, [that is propriety] and sobriety [that is, moderation]; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (1 Tim. 2:9-13)
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (1 Cor. 14:34-35)
The meaning of Paul’s instruction above is that women are not to teach, preach, or exercise authority in a church setting. Nor are they to speak out publicly during church services. While this view is unpopular with many women today, and with some churches, it is nevertheless inspired of God and should be respected.
While the husband has been given the dominating role, he should not be inconsiderate and demanding. In fact, the Christian instruction is the opposite. This is why Paul admonished:
For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man . . . . Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. (1 Cor. 11:8-12)
Anytime a husband browbeats his wife into submission, he has failed to understand the kind of preeminence God established. Wives sometimes say, “My husband is my lover, but not my friend.” If one had a good friend, how would he treat him? Would he be inconsiderate and abusive? Not for long. A friendship based on this approach would not last. Husbands who treat their wives in this manner need to realize the friendship that began in the marriage cannot last under these circumstances.
Many husbands are disrespectful, inconsiderate, and incredibly selfish. This is bound to bring about resentment on the part of the wife. Any husband who behaves in this manner will have no one to blame but himself in the Judgment. What does God say to husbands who mistreat their wives and often abandon them? “. . . The LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant . . . Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:14-15).
A minister once visited a young 25-year old mother who was dying of lung cancer. She was residing at the home of her parents. As she gasped and struggled for each breath, she related how her husband had treated her. He had been very inconsiderate, more than likely from a lack of understanding than deliberately. She had worked in a smoke filled environment, even though she did not smoke. She often came home exhausted and had to prepare the meals, as well as take care of the children. He would not help around the house in any manner. When she left for work in the morning, he would not help her with the bags that needed to be taken to the baby sitter. She had to carry everything by herself, including the baby. He would not lift a finger to help her in any way, yet he was accomplished in his own field and had important responsibilities. She was forced to do two jobs-her work and her home. She was virtually exhausted, and her immune system was depleted. The minister was greatly moved by this sad account, and later when he officiated at her funeral, he learned that before her death, her husband had sent her to her parent’s home because he could not bear to see her suffer. It was too painful for him. He also found it too painful to attend the funeral.
Together, Christian married couples are heirs of salvation (1 Pet. 3:7). A husband who loves his wife will certainly be concerned about her health-both physically and spiritually. They are a team. If the wife is not required to work, she is the homemaker-the ideal that God intended (Titus 2:5). If she does have to work, both of them must contribute to the homemaking. They must work together both physically and spiritually. In this society, where the wife works, husbands need to adjust to the needs of the wife, and avoid a chauvinistic attitude toward the opposite sex. The fact is: A woman’s work may not always be strictly a woman’s. Husbands need to learn to help with the workload.
A Christian husband who does not cultivate an “heir together” concept, and is inconsiderate and heavy-handed, will not have a happy wife or a happy marriage. Many husbands never think about sacrificing their desires in order to do what their wives would enjoy. The question should be asked: How do I treat my wife, as a friend or as an inferior? If there is anybody who should be a friend, it should be a wife, and visa versa. The key is communication-having a willingness to sit down and find solutions to the various marriage problems that all marriage couples experience.
Paul tells us the marriage union is a type of the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church. He instructs as follows:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (Eph. 5:25-31)
Why did the Apostle Paul give the above instruction? He knew that one of the most difficult things for many men to do is to really love their wives. The male tendency is to love one’s self far more than to love one’s wife. Many husbands fail to realize that while he may receive recognition for his accomplishments outside the home, little recognition is given the wife for her accomplishments in the home. When many husbands do not get what they want in the home or are displeased in some way, they often tend to treat their wives with animosity. The Bible charges: “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:19). This instruction is given because it is not always easy for many husbands to love their wives and to always treat them kindly.
God did not create the woman to be some inferior maid. She is an heir along with him in the quest for salvation. She is called the weaker vessel, a fact that should always be taken into consideration. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to [wise consideration], giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). It is important for any loving husband to build up and support his wife. The fact is: Being a successful homemaker, a woman who raises her children to be a success in life, is far more important in the long run than any career. While not recognized for its value by the world, being a successful homemaker is certainly recognized by God. Often husbands do not appreciate their wives enough. They tend to take them for granted. A good wife should be highly prized and esteemed. “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (Prov. 31:28). “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD” (Prov. 18:22).
The problem with many men is they do not marry for the right reasons. They marry because of physical attraction, or for her figure, or because she’s “cute.” They never ask themselves if she will be a good mother and homemaker. Physical attraction is necessary, but if that is the driving force behind marriage, it is a very shallow reason. Also, a woman needs to evaluate a man and ask herself if he will be faithful, loving, supportive, and able to provide for her. Marriage is an honorable institution; it is not to be slighted. “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun” (Eccl. 9:9).
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. (Prov. 5:18-21)
But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. (Prov. 6:32).
Paramount in the eyes of God is the need for the husband to support his family. While economics and changing technology has forced many women to work outside the home, the husband should nevertheless realize that God holds him accountable for providing for his own. A Christian who abnegates this responsibility should be regarded as an unbeliever. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Whatever economic condition we find ourselves in today, we should try to make the best of the situation. While it may be difficult or impossible to completely change our circumstances, the goals mentioned in all the above paragraphs are what Christian husbands should strive to attain.
Those wives who find themselves in an unhappy marriage, or one that is floundering, should realize this: Wives more than likely will not be able to change their husbands. But they can change themselves. Improvements cannot be made in a marriage unless both parties work together, but the wife must begin with herself. There is a need for couples to be able to discuss their problems and then concentrate on themselves. A husband who constantly finds fault with his wife, or the wife who constantly henpecks her husband, only generates discouragement and depression. There are few marriages without problems, and it takes a lot of work and determination to achieve a happy union. The unwillingness of either mate to admit faults or fail to come to grips with his or her problems cannot achieve the desired goal. We all have shortcomings and faults. It is a part of human nature, but we can only change ourselves.
What many couples have not realized is that marriage cannot be separated from religion. It is of divine origin, and there are spiritual laws that regulate it, bringing either blessings or curses. God is the One responsible for the sexes and for marriage. The secular view today is that marriage is purely physical and sanctioned by the state, that it has no permanency, and divorce is perfectly acceptable. Not so!
. . . Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt. 19:4-6)
The religious leaders then asked Him: ” . . . Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew19:7). Jesus explained: ” . . . Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (vv. 8-9). For a complete explanation of Matthew 19:3-9, please refer to our Website article entitled, “Divorce and Remarriage-What the Bible Really Says!”
While the Divine Order places the woman in subjection to her husband, many husbands are unable to assume this God given responsibility. They lack the ability, the education, the training, or whatever, to assume the role. A wife who desires to follow God’s instruction can be greatly frustrated in these circumstances. She may not be able to avoid a leadership role under these conditions. We are living in a world today that requires a large majority of married women to work outside the home. The profound effect that women have on the home and the family has been overlooked, and the price that must be paid is high.
For example, how many unmarried women are equipped for homemaking and motherhood? When they get married, many are totally at a loss what do. Most young woman are forced to go to work and simply do not have the time to devote to this important charge. They have never learned to cook healthy meals, and some refuse to cook at all. The family lives essentially on junk food. Society has deemphasized the importance of homemaking and motherhood. Consequently many unmarried women have never understood what is required to be a successful wife and mother. The propaganda, however subtle, that emanates from the media and Hollywood will have much for which to answer. It has contributed heavily to the divorce rate. The media and Hollywood make adultery and fornication, as well as “alternate life styles,” appear to be acceptable. The Bible warns: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).
Parenting is a full-time occupation. No mother who has to work can do credit to her children when they are farmed out most of the day with baby sitters. Include in the scenario a husband who refuses to help with the childrearing and you have youngsters who are not being properly prepared for life. So many children have seen both their father and mother work that they assume this is the proper model. Consequently, when they later get married, they believe their wife, like their mother, should be out in the work force. In turn, their children are shortchanged, and even later when the children get married, the cycle continues. They have never seen the proper role model in the home and do not really understand what it is. Consequently, they will never be proper and effective parents. Add to this broken homes without a father of any kind, and serious deficiencies are almost certain.
As men are commanded to love their wives, wives are commanded to be in submission to their husbands. Not all wives can do this, as some husbands are not worthy of this respect. Some are irresponsible, or alcoholics, or drug users, and their only interest seems to be gratifying themselves. Yet, the Bible states: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Eph. 5:22-24). Why is this command given? The answer is because it is very difficult for many women to apply this in their marriage. Many find it impossible to submit and to do so with a willing and right spirit. The Apostle Paul instructs Christian women as follows: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Col. 3:18). What about non-believing husbands? What should a wife do in that case?
Here is the answer:
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any [terror]. (1 Pet. 3:1-6)
A woman who produces the family income, or earns more than what her husband is capable of, may find this exceedingly difficult to apply. Control of the finances is often an emotional issue. Arguments over what to spend where often leads to hostility. The solution is so simple. Every couple should make out a complete budget. Once the budget is agreed upon they should let the budget determine how the money should be spent, and where. With this method, the budget decides, and the couple need not argue. The budget may have to be altered from time to time as the need arises, but it will eliminate the friction that often ensues because of a lack of one. Again the key is communication and a willingness to live in harmony, not always demanding the fulfillment of each one’s selfish desires.
Notice again what the Apostle Peter stated above. The women of Old who trusted God were women of faith. So in reality faith is a central issue in applying the proper marriage principles. A woman who cannot, or will not, look to God for the blessings He promises cannot possibly be submissive to a husband. One fact is certain. Women of Old had a much more accurate comprehension of the proper marital relationship than women today. Many women tend to nag their husbands in order to get their way. They have forgotten the old adage: “A woman who has horse sense is not a nag.” What does the Bible say about this or some similar approach? ” . . . The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping” (Prov. 19:13). “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Prov. 27:15). “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman” (Prov. 21:19). “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house” (Prov. 25:24). Of course, this works both ways, as some husbands are just as bad. However, let it be emphasized there is a profound influence women can have on their husbands. Many fail to realize a simple negative statement, along with the way they state things, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and helplessness on the part of a husband. She should learn to express her viewpoint without creating an adverse effect.
Above all, every woman who wants to be a better Christian wife must make every effort to establish a proper relationship with God. Homemaking and being a good mother are an important part of that relationship. Why? Because the Bible states: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Ps. 127:3). While parents may not realize it, they are partners in creation with God. The character they instill in their children can be for eternity. This is how important motherhood is. Any woman who establishes the right relationship with God and does what the Bible instructs by being willing to change and correct her mistakes may be amazed to see her husband change as well.
Keep in mind; the easiest way to refuse to change is to blame the other party. When we stand before the Judgment, will God accept this reasoning: “Well, look at my husband there. He did not fulfill his responsibilities so I was not obligated to fulfill mine.” In the Judgment we will not be judged by what others do, but by what we do. The faults of others will not enter into our judgment. This is what counts: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
When it comes to overcoming our marital problems, the matter of prayer cannot be overestimated. While it is not in the Bible, the following saying is certainly true: “More things are accomplished by prayer than this world dreams of.” A woman who receives God’s help, not only can change herself, but also may see her husband change. No situation need remain hopeless. Any woman who really wants to be a better wife should read and study Proverbs 31.
Who can find a virtuous [competent, worthy, good] woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates. (Prov. 31:10-31)
In the modern world, this woman would certainly be in the minority, but notice that she is an entrepreneur, very intelligent, and very capable. Any woman who believes that motherhood and homemaking are unbecoming needs to realize she may have been misled into thinking that this is not important in God’s plan for mankind. It is, and it is time to seriously rethink the matter through.