Volume 12, Issue 3: Husbandry
The Wife as Ruler
In a biblical home, the wife has far more practical authority than some reactionary Christians might suppose. Biblical thinking on role relationships between men and women requires more than simply offending the feminists. Since this is so easily done, such a standard is far too low. We have to look more closely at what the Scriptures teach.
As the apostle Paul is urging young women to marry, he lets a very interesting comment fall in passing. "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully" (1 Tim. 5:14). The word translated here as "guide the house" is oikodespotein. The wife is to be the ruler or despot of the home. This means that when she tells you to take your shoes off at the door, you will take your shoes off. And cheerfully.
This does not contradict what the Bible teaches elsewhere about the husband’s authority and headship. In the family, the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. He is also the head of the home, and has the responsibility to protect and provide for that household. He is responsible to lead, and he has the authority to do so.
But wise leadership never micro-manages, and never insists upon the prerogative of making all decisions that have to be made. To take an example from elsewhere, the business world is filled with failures who were undone because they were highly-competent control freaks. In contrast to this, a good leader in business is one who finds or cultivates competent men to whom he can delegate responsibility.
Something similar happens in marriage. A man should marry a woman whom he can trust. "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her" (Prov. 31:11). But trust defined in the context of marriage is not simply believing that she will do well if any problem ever comes up. And it involves far more than thinking she will not go out honky-tonkin’. Trust here means entrusting, and something has to be there to be entrusted. In a godly home, that which is entrusted is the management of the home, and the inhabitants thereof.
Of course, the husband is not "under" her command—she ought not to boss him around like he is one of the kids—but at the same time, he is called upon to honor the standards which she establishes for the home. This will ensure that everyone in the house will see that he honors and respects her judgments. He married her; he entrusted these things to her. In respecting her judgments, he is standing by his own judgment.
So let’s make it practical. Let’s say Mom wants everyone to wash up in the mudroom, and not in the kitchen. She wants them to put their dirty clothes in the laundry room, as opposed to their ongoing attempts to make a compost pile out of them in the back of the closet. She wants everybody’s "stuff" to find its way away from the pile at the front door. She wants shod feet off the couch. She wants plates rinsed and put in the dishwasher. All these desires have the force of law, and everyone, including her husband, should honor them. In a very real way, the home is her domain. She is not the head of the home, but she is the executive of it.
If her wishes are routinely disregarded, this means that her husband has failed to invest her with his authority, and has failed to act as an example for the rest of the household. A sure indicator of an unhappy household is the ignoring of Mom, and the head of that home is an abdicating father.
Another great blessing arises from wives seeing their authority in this. Authority, known to be such, is more carefully wielded than kibitzing is wielded. If a woman sees her desires being implemented as a simple question of raw competition, survival of the fittest, and devil take the hindmost, she will be tempted to nag, and nagging is frequently irrational and contradictory. But if she knows that her word is law, with regard to the management of the home, then she will be more careful about what she requires.
None of this means that she is chained to the home; rather, she is within her element there. It is the domain in which she is gifted by God to bear authority. This is not her burden to bear, any more than birds are troubled by having to haul their wings around.