Who leads my family? The leader of the family is not the one who talks the loudest, the most, or even the one who thinks they are the leader. It is the one who makes final decisions on the direction the family will go and then on how they will all arrive there. The de jure leader (the one who is designated the leader by God’s law according to the Bible) can be far different than the de facto leader (the one who actually leads by making final decisions and whom the family follows).
As we have discussed in previous postings, the Bible designates that job to the husband. He is uniquely equipped by his natural abilities and gifts as a man to do so. Likewise, his wife is uniquely equipped to be his “helpmeet”—to assist him in that task by providing complimentary gifts he doesn’t have but desperately needs in order to accomplish this task that every man who has a family is given.
However, being the leader is not as easy as it sounds. It is not enough to know that I should be, I ought to be, I need to be, or even to earnestly want to be. That naturally created family order changed dramatically at the Fall in the Garden of Eden. There Eve usurped Adam’s leadership role, he let her do so by his passivity, and mankind immediately fell into sin.
God’s reaction was instant and dramatic. He placed a curse on both Adam and Eve as well as on the serpent who tempted them (In reality it was Satan who was possessing the serpent).
God’s curse was that the serpent would henceforth slither on the ground, while the man would now find it necessary to diligently scrap and scratch to survive. No longer would he painlessly eat of fruit waiting to be picked but would now have to beat back thistles and thorns to grow his food to eat by the sweat of his brow. His lack of leadership in his family cost him dearly: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife … (Genesis 3;17). But the most interesting aspect of God’s curse is what He told Eve and is at the heart of why male leadership is anathema, ridiculed and hated in our feminist culture..
After telling Eve she would have pain in childbirth, He said, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Commentators have generally thought that statement has some sexual connotation, i.e., even though they will have pain in childbirth, women will still “desire” to engage in the sexual intercourse that produces children.
However, the Hebrew word for “desire,” teshuqah, is used only one other time by Moses in the Pentateuch, and that is in the next chapter in Genesis. God warns Cain before he kills his brother Abel, “And, if you do not do well, sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).
Sin’s desire was to control, or capture Cain, and indeed it did. In the same way, as a result of God’s curse, a woman’s natural way is now to try to control her husband, to contest his leadership, to run the family if she can. It is almost as if God said to Eve after the fiasco in the garden, “If you really want to run things I’m going to let you. I’ll give you a built-in propensity to do so and show you by real-life experience that My plan is the only way the family really works.” His kingdom only functions His way.
Biblical history records several instances of this feminine penchant for control; Sarah’s attempt to use Hagar to “help” God fulfill His promise to Abraham (Genesis 16); Rebekah’s deceit in tricking Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau (Genesis 27); Rachel and Leah’s manipulations of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 30, 31); and Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, who led her husband into idolatry and in essence ruled Israel through him (1 Kings 16:29-34,19,21). In Revelation 2, Jezebel is again mentioned, this time as a feminine religious spirit who has gained control, and who has led astray the church in Thyatira.
This desire to control their husbands is very much observable in today’s “daughters of Eve,” and is celebrated and zealously promoted by the culture, including actually attacking men for being men with cries of “toxic masculinity.” Even many evangelical churches have passively refused to resist this role reversal. They have even encouraged women to “be all they can be” and pursue separate careers from their husbands outside the home, thereby relegating woman’s God-ordained role as “helpmeet”—mother and homemaker—to nothing more than an inferior afterthought.
The passivity and irresponsibility men have inherited from Adam fits together with this cultural pattern like a hand in a glove. Fallen men tend to want someone else to take the responsibility for the leadership of the family by evading their role of final decision-maker, and their wives readily step right up to do so. Neither understands that this pattern they are following is a result of sin, and God wants to reverse that curse in Jesus Christ by restoring His divine order.
God’s curse on Eve does not always result in passive men, though that is the spirit of this age in America. The last part of the curse, ” …and He shall rule over you,” has meant, down through the ages, a despotic, overbearing, oppressive rule, with women little more than property, subjugated and tyrannized by sinful men. That is the case in Muslim countries today who live under sharia law. Women are literally slaves of their husbands.
And there are men with this same distorted, tyrannical view of women in America today as well, including in churches who do not understand the gospel of the grace of God. They lord it over their wives, even abuse them, treating them as inferior creatures. This is the condition that draws the legitimate, righteous ire and condemnation of the general populace.
But in our country, this male chauvinism is outweighed by the far the more predominant problem of the weak, passive man, who, for one reason or another, refuses to lead his family.
However, wherever the true gospel of the cross has gone, the curse has been reversed, with the status of women dramatically improved as they are seen as completely equal to men in value and importance, but with a different function in God’s kingdom. If that is not the emphasis in our churches, we do not yet clearly understand the gospel.
Only in Jesus Christ can the curse be reversed in family life, with loving, godly, servant rule being instituted by Christian husbands, with their wives’ natural desire to control overcome by their God-given desire to submit to their husbands “as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Only in Jesus Christ can both men and women “will and do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)—submit to the divine order in the family.