Volume 13, Issue 3: Husbandry
The Bible teaches us that husbands should love their wives, and that wives should respect
their husbands. We may infer from this that wives need to receive love, and that husbands need
to receive respect. When the Bible says that shepherds should feed the sheep, it follows, or seems
to, that sheep need food.
We also can note that wives have a need to render respect, and not just a duty to do so.
Husbands have a need to love their wives, and not just an obligation to love them. We are all called to
find our fulfillment in doing what God calls us to do. A man who does not love his wife is a man
who is failing to fulfill his husbandly duty. But in this failure, he is failing to be what he needs to
be. Put another way, a man who is harsh with his wife
is not just failing to "meet her needs," to use the
common phrase, he is failing to meet a fundamental need that he has.
He does not come to love her because she is needy and
he is full and overflowing. The man and woman are both
needy, but in different ways. He needs to love and she needs to
be loved. She needs to respect, and he needs to be respected.
A man who loves his wife, Paul says, loves himself.
As much as a man might want to believe it, he cannot be
independent from his wife. When Adam stood alone in the garden,
mankind was not yet fully created. God had looked at everything else He
had created and said that it was good. But when one male stood there,
He said it was not good that man should be alone. Male and
female created He them.
A man cannot be a sadist to his wife without being a
masochist. An unkind word to a wife is like hitting yourself in the
forehead with a hammer. God has so united a man and woman together
that, in effect, when a man does not love his wife he is refusing to
love himself. When a wife disrespects her husband, she is showing
herself worthy of contempt and invites disrespect to be heaped upon her.
This is the reverse of our current psycho-babble. We have
been told, ad nauseam, that before we can love others we have to first
love ourselves. This is false on two counts. In the first place, Paul tells
us that no man ever hated his own flesh. There is a natural love for
one's own body that ought to be a template which a man uses in order to determine what he should do for his
wife. When he has a headache, what does he want? What should he therefore do when she has a headache?
The problem is straightforwardit is simply the Golden Rule applied to marriage. Do for your spouse what
you would like done under comparable circumstances.
But there is a sense in which love of spouse and love of self is directly linked. Our confused
generation has the thing upside down. We should not work on loving ourselves, and
then, when we have that down, go on to work at loving the wife. Rather, to the extent that we need to learn something in how to love
ourselves, we are to do so by working on loving ourselves in the image of our wives. How should a man love
himself? He should treat his body right. Who is his body? She is.
A man who treats himself right in the person of his wife
first is a man who is blessed indeed. A man who
eats broken glass is likely to find that his body somehow retaliates against him. A man who drinks kerosene is
a man who will likely have trouble with his body shortly, Rolaids or not. A man who cuts off his own
fingers will soon be unable to pick up the knife in order to get at the last two.
And a man who is harsh and angry with his wife is not just a sinner: he is a fool. He yells at her in
the morning and wonders why the conversation at dinner lags. He harps on her and criticises herfor her
weight, her cooking, her discipline of the kidsand when her life is full of the sound of his pontificating
voiceoh, yeah, the sex isn't any good either. A man who treats a woman like this is actually treating himself like
this. The problem is that he is such an unbelieving fool that he does not acknowledge what Scripture says
about his fundamental unity with the object of his complaining. A man, staring at a mirror, bemoans the fact
that his hair is uncombed. Well, comb it.
Returning to the point, Paul says that a man who loves his wife loves himself. It is very hard for a man
to outgive a woman. And in giving to her, he discovers that he is giving to himself. But by the time he
learns this, the lesson of humility is already taken a deep root, and he has learned not to abuse it. This is no
technique, no trick. How can those dead to sin still live in it? How can a man alive in marriage opt for the
death called selfishness?