The wife’s role in a marriage simply cannot be understood Biblically without the use of that politically incorrect word “submission.” As I noted in my previous post, both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach that the husband should be the head of the home. Naturally, this means that the wife should voluntarily submit to his headship. The proof texts are Genesis 3:16, Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Corinthians 11:3, Titus 2:3-5, and 1 Peter 3:1.
Of course, the wife’s submission should go to a lover not an ogre. Surely if more husbands obeyed the Bible’s command to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25) more wives would think kindly toward the idea of submission. The same holds true for 1 Peter 3:7, which says: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
At no point, however, does the Bible say, “Wives, if your husbands aren’t all they should be, you don’t have to submit to them.” To the contrary, 1 Peter 3:1 specifically speaks of husbands who “do not obey the word.” Interestingly, the verse teaches that a wife’s best chance of creating a desired change in her husband is to do it through her conduct, not her rebellion against his headship.
There is, however, another aspect to the wife’s role in a marriage. And, again, it is one that seems very out of step with our times. According to the Bible, the wife is also to play the role of homemaker. Proverbs 31:10-31, a passage that offers a description of the ideal wife, clearly describes a homemaker. In 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul says, “Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” In Titus 2:4-5, he encourages older women to teach younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” These passages certainly aren’t hard to interpret or understand.
I do want to point out, though, that the Proverbs 31 passage does allow some room for a wife to bring in an income. The passage speaks of the woman seeking wool and flax and working with a distaff and a spindle (v.13, v.19). She makes linen garments and sashes and sells them to merchants (v.24). From the money she earns as a seamstress, she purchases a field and plants a vineyard (v.16). You see, she does all of this in addition to being a great homemaker. So, it can be done. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.
Finally, Proverbs 31:23 offers us one other aspect of a wife’s role. It says: “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” In Bible times, a city’s business was conducted at its gates. Therefore, to be “known in the gates” or to sit “among the elders” was to be a very prominent man in the city. The teaching is that a wife should build up her husband socially, not tear him down. She should better his reputation, not hurt it. She should be willing to take a back seat career wise if it means helping him get ahead in his career.
Even as I write these words, I realize how foreign they seem to the “modern woman.” But just remember this: You can “come a long way, baby” but be traveling in the wrong direction. God understands how differently men and women are wired, and His word can be trusted to lead a wife into the kind of life that will make her the most contented and joyous.