The Bible is clear in its answer to this question, although the culture today hates that answer. The man has been given the task of ruling over the earth; the woman is his “helper:” “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Man’s first calling in his relationship with his “helper” is the first of two foundational pillars in a powerful, effective, successful family: to love his wife with agape love, just as Christ loved the church. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians’ 5:17), We have discussed what that means in some detail.
Now it’s time to look at the second, essential, foundational pillar in the family.
2. Lead your wife with strong, firm, decisive, leadership.
Last week we saw what that is NOT—the husband ruling over the wife. What, then, IS it? There are several distinctives that characterize this leadership:
First, leadership in the family consists of making all direction-determining decisions for the family. These are never hasty, independent decisions, but those that are thoughtfully and carefully made, with input from all adult family members. We have wives (and even older children) who may be more insightful, intelligent and experientially aware than we are, and we would be fools not to listen to them. Then the husband makes the final decision himself. The family will bear his stamp
He alone will be responsible before God for what the family does, which demands his awareness and emotional involvement in all family activities The buck truly stops with him. All family problems and failures lay at his doorstep. Once his family members adopt his will, and desire to please Him by endeavoring to carry it out, they can be given more responsibility and the freedom to fully perform it.
Second, family leadership involves listening to our wives and children, also in a more personal way, not simply for decision-making purposes. After a day with the kids, every woman desires some adult conversation with her husband. Too often we come home, give our wife a cursory kiss, turn on the TV or pick up our phone, and do not provide the opportunity for her to share about her day, and in turn tell her about ours.
We communicate unintentionally to her that we are not really interested in her, or in what she does, and that what she does is unimportant. Trying to lead a wife without listening to her, and then communicating back to her, is an impossibility, and will cause her to resist our leadership.
Third, leadership is understanding. Every woman needs a man who can, “…dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). This means that it is possible to understand your wife, contrary to popular opinion. A man needs to be aware of his wife’s emotional needs. He must know when his African violet needs fertilizer and when it needs water, when it needs sunshine and when it needs shade.
Women often are affected by their emotions and are not always clear on what they need in order to face their problems and solve them. Their logic is sometimes obscured by their feelings. For this reason, a woman was designed to be cared for by a man—first by her father, then by her husband—who is generally able to face difficulties more logically and realistically. Because of this, God has given men the insight to know what their daughters and wives need, and then the ability to supply it.
The “honor” mentioned in the above verse includes the investment of time, energy, and care necessary to really understand our wives. A husband must be able to recognize that his wife has certain needs that sometimes are even the opposite of what she says she wants.
Fourth, leadership is serving. It is very important to understand that this is the only kind of leadership that is valid in family life. A man who is a true leader looks for ways to serve his family from a position of strength, as the decision-maker, rather than having them serve him. He does the unpleasant things instead of ordering others to do them; he inconveniences himself; he tries to lighten the load of those under his care without robbing them of the opportunity to do a hard job and succeed. To serve a wife and children properly takes wisdom from God, which He will abundantly give us.
Children learn to serve, not only by being made to serve, but by watching their mother and father serve as well. If they have to do chores around the house, as they should, and their parents are simply using them to keep from having to do anything themselves, the children’s attitude will be, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult and in charge so I won’t have to do anything either.” We teach them by example much more than we can ever teach them by instruction!.
Fifth, leadership is providing. God designed that the responsibility for providing the financial support for the family rests squarely on the shoulders of the husband. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
This is not a popular message today, as our economy is based on two incomes, thereby militating against mothers remaining home with their children as homemakers. But in order for a man to see himself as the leader in his home, with the members of his family dependent on that leadership, as they should be, he will provide for their physical needs.
This does not mean that a woman can never work outside of the home. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that will necessitate doing so: temporary crises, sickness, divorce, or the death of a spouse. There may be other situations as well. But God’s norm is for a man to support his family, and for his wife to be a “worker at home” (Titus 2:5). When this normal lifestyle is possible and followed, it brings great blessing.
Love and Lead. Men, that is our calling by God. Wives, you are next week!
(The information in this posting is an outline of a much fuller rendition, with examples from my life, in Chapter 8 of my 365 page compendium of family life, The Family, God’s Weapon for Victory. It is available, completely free, in pdf form. If you are interested, contact me via email).