Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 18, 1971
NUMBER 40, PAGE 5-7a

God's Home — 4

Jefferson David Tant

Husbands And Fathers

In the great work of creation, the crown of God's creation was mankind, male and female, made in the spiritual image of Jehovah God (Gen. 1:26-28). In this relationship, God determined that the man should have the position of head or rule over the woman (Gen. 3:16; I Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23). This does not mean that the man is to be some sort of iron-fisted dictator or tyrant, for his rule is likened to the rule of Christ over his church. "You wives must submit to your husband's leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of His body the church. (He gave His very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the church obeys Christ" (Eph. 5:22-24, Living N. T.).

In view of these words, I cannot imagine Christ perpetrating any unkindness or meanness in asserting his rule over the church. Those matters in which Christ affirm his authority are matters that are for the well-being of the church, and not just a whim to prove his supremacy. I have known of husbands who demanded certain things of their wives just to prove to the wife she was in subjection: e.g., "Jump when I say frog." Any husband who so treats his wife has a problem: (a) He is woefully insecure in his own estimation, and resorts to bullying to assert self, (b) he cannot claim to exercise authority for the good of the wife, and thus (c) approaches blasphemy when he tries to liken his behavior to that of Christ and the church. Think about it, husbands.

"It is not best that there should be the open exercise of authority in a family. When commands begin in the relation of husband and wife, happiness flies; and the moment a husband is disposed to command his wife, or is under a necessity of doing it, that moment he may bid adieu to domestic peace and joy . . . He, too, should consult her wishes; and when he understands what they are, he should regard what she prefers as the very thing which he would command. The known wish and preference of a wife, unless there be something wrong with it, should be allowed to influence his mind, and be that which he directs in the family" (Barnes On The New Testament, Eph. 5).

To the wife is also given authority to rule and guide. The words "subdue" and "have dominion over" the earth in Gen. 1:28 both apply to the generic word "man" in v. 27. I Tim. 5:14 spells out the woman's responsibility: "I desire therefore that the younger widows many, bear children, rule the household, give no occasion to the adversary for reviling . . ." Meyer's Commentary states: "Denotes properly the work of the husband. Here it is used of the wife, who necessarily has her share in ruling the household." "To be master of the household; to occupy one's self in management of the household" (Bagster's Lexicon). Thayer says of this: "To be master (or head) of a house; to rule a household, manage family affairs." "So I think it is better for these younger widows to marry again and have children, and take care of their own homes . . ." (Living N. T.). From this, we note that the wife has some authority, but it is subordinate to the husband's. Having established the husband as head, what are his responsibilities to those in his household?

The husband's responsibilities to his wife are at least fourfold. First, he is to love her.

"Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to (her) no matter what the cost. You will always believe in (her), always expect the best of (her), and always stand your ground in defending (her)" (I Cor. 13:4-7, Living N. T.).

He is to love her as himself, for Paul declared: "Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church ..." (Eph. 5:28-29). Does this not include what we call the "Golden Rule?" How many of us husbands treat our wives as we would like to be treated? Honestly, now? Have you ever seen a husband who could afford nice clothes for himself, but never seemed to have enough money to provide the same for his wife?

But Paul does not complete the comparison with those words. He also declared that husbands are to love their wives "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it ..." (Eph. 5:25).

"There is no danger that a husband will love a wife too much, provided his love be subordinate to the love of God. The command is, to love her as Christ loved the church. What love has ever been like that? How can a husband exceed it? What did Christ endure to redeem the church? So should a husband be willing to deny himself to promote the happiness of his wife; to watch by her in sickness, and if need be, to peril health and life to promote her welfare. Doing this, he will not go beyond what Christ did for the church. He should remember that she has a special claim of justice on him. For him she has left her father's home forsaken the friends of her youth, endowed her name in his, confided her honour, her character, and her happiness, to his virtue; and the least that he can do for her is to love her, and strive to make her happy. This was what she asked when she consented to become his; and a husband's love is what she still asks to sustain and cheer her in the trials of life. If she has not this, whither shall site go for comfort?" (Barnes On The New Testament).

Would not this include words of encouragement and praise (Prov. 31:28-29), as well as faithfulness to her, in that he does not enjoy "running her down" before others. But rather he has respect for her, for if he shows no respect, he belittles himself by showing either what a poor choice in mates he made, or that he is no longer a gentleman.

In the second place, the husband is to "leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife .....(Eph. 5:31). The man expects his wife to be his, and his alone, therefore he should expect to render her the same devotion.

Again, the man is to render to his wife her "due" and defraud her not (I Cor. 7:3, 5). This, of course, speaks of the sexual relations between husband and wife. The man is not to use his wife merely as an object for his sexual gratification, but in the marital relations is to use tenderness and consideration, and take care to see that this sacred part of marriage means as much to her as it does to him. This is an important factor that so many husbands overlook or fail to consider. If the husband needs the help of a doctor or counselor, let him not be ashamed to do what he can to provide consideration for his wife in this matter. I have seen more than one marriage break up, wholly or in part because the husband did not take any pains to give satisfaction to his wife's God-given needs. And how many others simply endure in silence and frustration the thoughtlessness of a husband who could give a new dimension to their relationship, and bring greater happiness even to himself, if he really loved his wife.

A fourth consideration is mentioned by Peter: "Ye husbands, in like manner dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life . . ." (I Peter 3:7). The wife is not a slave, but a partner in marriage — a partner with less physical strength. In order for a husband to fulfill this command, he may find it necessary on occasion to help her. So many times a husband will expect his wife to be preparing food and house for guests constantly, and tend to the children, and yet never offer to help. He may even expect her to help with the income, in addition. Husbands, do you ever lend a hand in carrying babies or watching after the children when the family goes out together? Do you ever offer to babysit while your wife goes shopping or to some sort of woman's gathering? They are your children as well as hers, and it might do you good to get to know them better!! The results of a failure to have proper regard for the wife are not encouraging, for Peter adds to the above quotation: ". . . to the end that your prayers be not hindered." Consider seriously the consequences of a failure to "dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman..."

Responsibilities to his children are summed up by Paul's statement in Eph. 6:4: "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." Considering the negative command, we note there are several ways in which a father may provoke his children. First, he may make unfavorable comparisons between or among children. Great care should be exercised here, for each child is an individual, with different abilities and thoughts. Another danger is constant negativism, the "don't," "can't" psychosis. Our children are what we make them, and the continual downgrading of a child rather than specific acts will impair the child's own self-image. When a parent often says "You are dumb . . . stupid . . . bad," etc., the child will come to think this, and the wise man tells us, "For as he thinketh within himself, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). More than one child has been told so often that he or she is bad and the "black sheep" of the family that they come to believe it, and then set out to prove it so none will be "disappointed." You can become more fully aware of this when you have experience of talking with a sobbing young girl, an unwed-mother-to-be, who has fulfilled the expectations of her autocratic father who has drilled into her head from childhood that she is bad.

Many times we parents also commit errors in discipline. We can do this by failing to give discipline (Prov. 13:24; 19:18), or by leaving it all up to the wife. We can also be too severe, giving punishment all out of proportion to the seriousness of the infraction. Good judgment must be exercised in giving discipline. Or, contrariwise, we may give inadequate punishment, and thus not impress upon the minds of our children the full import of what they may have done. There is also deceptive discipline — the giving of idle threats. Do you promise punishment with no intention of giving it? "You do that one more time, and I'll beat the daylights out of you!" can become an empty threat and can affect a child's whole outlook on discipline when it is constantly mouthed, but seldom enforced. Then there is unfair punishment — punishing the innocent with the guilty, or arbitrarily inflicting a punishment just because we happen to feel "out of sorts" and take it out on the children. There is also the possibility of an overly strict policy, i.e., expecting the child to be an adult and thus expecting too much. You may think it would take the wisdom of a Solomon to do what is right in discipling children, and certainly the welfare of the family, and the eternal welfare of the child demands our thoughtful consideration.

We may also provoke our children by ignoring sincere .questions. Be honest and frank with your children's questions, and remember what it was like when you were a little boy and full of questions — so many you nearly drove your parents batty. Don't back down on promises for trivial reasons if you want your children to have respect and trust for you. And if you want your children to trust you, you must have trust in them, lest they seek to prove that your lack of trust is correct. There is a delicate balance that must be maintained here. Again, one of the complaints that teen-agers have today is the hypocrisy of their parents, and many children have just "tuned out" and gone the way of the hippy. Don't give your child this excuse by setting the wrong example before them, for

It is vain to talk of right and truth,

To the eager ears of a trusting youth,

If when the lad is standing by,

He sees you cheat and hears you lie.

Feign words may grace the advice you give,

But youth will learn from the way you live.

(Author Unknown)

We also see the great problems that accompany the showing of favoritism when we look into the family of Isaac and Rachel, with their sons Jacob and Esau. Don't let this happen in your family. Each child is deserving of your love and attention as much as the next.

Positively, Paul charged, "Nuture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord." "Nuture" is "to nourish up to maturity, bring up" (Thayer). Meyer comments on the "chastening" thusly: "In the N. T. . . . mean(s) . . . education, . . discipline, instruction by correction or chastening." He further says of admonition: "training by word, and in actual use, mostly, though not necessarily, by word of reproof, remonstrance or blame." This would include training in the whole development of the child — spiritual, social, physical and mental, after the example of the growth and development of Christ when he was a child (Luke 2:52). Please notice that it is the father who is addressed here, indicating that the father is certainly to have a definite part in the training of the child, rather than leaving it all up to the wife. There is no more justification in leaving the "nurturing" of the children to the wife and children than in leaving the "church-going" to the wife and children.

Thus we see the grave responsibilities of the man — to be a Christian, to take the lead and be a head of the household that can be respected, and then to provide for those in his care, both spiritually and physically (I Tim. 5:8).

— 3230 Chamblee-Tucker Rd., N. E. Atlanta, Ga. 30341