We saw last week that Eve did not see clearly what was happening in the Garden as Satan tempted her. However, when she offered the fruit to Adam, he knew perfectly well what was occurring. He knew, and yet he seems to have made a deliberate decision to disobey anyway. That is the thrust of 1 Timothy 2:14, when Paul says, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
If Adam knew what he was doing, then why did he do it? It was not as though he actively, aggressively disobeyed God, or that the fruit was so attractive to him he could not resist. No, he simply did what so many of us do as husbands; he just “went with the flow,” letting his wife do whatever she wanted, even though he knew at the time she had been tricked by Satan into disobedience. He avoided confronting her and abdicated his role as leader in the family, essentially saying, “Yes dear, whatever you say, dear,” as he even joined her in her tasty snack—he not only passively didn’t lead, he actively followed! The results were disastrous: the fall of man into sin, a curse from God on each of them, and banishment from the Garden of Eden for life.
It’s so much easier for us as men not to be involved, particularly if the wife is competent and independent like Eve was. Training the children, managing the finances, setting the family social calendar, deciding on piano lessons for the kids, and overseeing church involvement, are all responsibilities that are easy to ignore after a long day at work. However, by ignoring those responsibilities and not ultimately being responsible for them himself (even though his wife may do the actual work under his direction), and others that are equally as important to family life, a man creates a leadership vacuum that a conscientious wife must fill in order to preserve the family intact.
Without realizing it, gradually a woman becomes a safety net, stepping into the breach that her husband has vacated. The result of her efforts to do her husband’s job is often either excessive stress, or a hardness that comes from a woman trying to fill the man’s leadership role in the family. A “gentle and quiet spirit” in the wife, so “precious to God” (1 Peter 3:4) has been unconsciously lost as she tries to do a job she was not designed to do.
Certainly this is not to say that women make no decisions, or have no influence on final results, as Proverbs 31 clearly shows. Of course they do, as they continually express their insights and wisdom to their husband. A wise leader receives it and evaluates it as he makes his final decision. He is a fool if he ignores a woman who is probably more insightful and may be much smarter! But the final decision on major issues must be the husband’s, if the divine order of the family is to be followed. “Great idea! We’ll do that!” often times may be his legitimate response.
As men have abdicated their roles as lovers and then as leaders in their families as they have unknowingly conformed to the culture around them, women have become bitter, sometimes even rejecting men as unnecessary and useless, and in reaction have turned to feminist ideology. They have not clearly understood that emotional abandonment has caused the hostile feelings they find springing up within them. Behind practically every militant feminist is a tragic story of rejection, abuse, or abdication of responsibility by some man, either a father or husband. Their God-given desire to respond to a man’s strength and leadership has been buried under piles of mistreatment, weakness, or neglect.
Why do men abdicate their responsibility as leaders in their families today? We are going to look at that, but before we do, I want to make one thing very clear. If the Lord brings conviction as you read, the temptation will always be to use the law that you are reading as a means to “try harder” to obey to “shape up” and to eliminate what you have been doing and “do better.” This is a prescription for disaster, a deadly, improper use of the law of God.
The law was never meant for man to obey to become more Christ-like, but always to act as a mirror to expose our sin to us so we can repent and thank our Father for His complete forgiveness of it all. This is the goal of the following narrative. Keep this in mind as you read.
Certainly being ignorant of their biblical responsibility is a major reason why men abdicate their responsibility as leaders in their families, and most churches do not touch this extremely unpopular topic, much less teach us as men how to then practice it. Pastors themselves are often not the leader in their own home. Laziness and selfishness are two other big factors, along with a feeling of inadequacy due to past failures and today’s antagonistic culture. A church that recognizes the centrality of the family and that will encourage and equip fathers in their leadership role, is an invaluable resource if men are to be successful family leaders. However, there is another aspect of male abdication that is subtler and that we must consider.
Eating of the forbidden fruit was easier for Adam than going through the unpleasantness of telling Eve, “No! Put that apple back.” She had just made a major decision that was contradictory to Adam’s direction for the family, and yet he meekly surrendered his leadership authority to her because he was afraid to confront her and incur her displeasure. She, being deceived, subconsciously challenged his leadership and “won.”
Man fell, not simply because he ate an apple that God said not to eat, but because Adam failed to carry God’s delegated authority and exercise it properly. Satan attacked the order of God’s kingdom, and Adam yielded. His failure to lead led to mankind’s fall into sin. “For as in Adam all die…” (1 Corinthians 15:22), not “in Eve.” He was accountable to God for his family.
God’s curse on Adam was based on this failure to lead: “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife…” (Genesis 3:17). Certainly a man must listen to his helpmate, profiting from her input and insights, but when a wife contests the direction for the family the husband has set, he must learn to lovingly, but firmly, resist her challenges and manipulations in order to maintain the integrity of his position as head of the family. He cannot give her a voice in the family direction until she yields to his leadership. Remember, leadership in the kingdom of God, including the family, in always with compassion and not leniency, and firmness and not harshness.