How Should Men Treat Women?
WHAT is the best way for men to deal with women? How, especially, should a husband treat his wife for the greatest benefit to both?
The answer to such questions can come only from the one who is the best qualified. Who is that? It has to be the One who designed and made the minds and bodies of men and women. Surely the Creator, Jehovah God, knows best how his own creation should operate for the best results.
Keep in mind that marriage is not an accident, something that just happened to develop over the ages. The first marriage was ordained by God. First, God created the man, then the woman, joining them together as husband and wife. Each was given somewhat different qualities and responsibilities. Of this, Genesis 2:18 says: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”
A complement is a counterpart, something that makes complete. It provides what is lacking or needed. In the case of the man and woman, each was created with a need that the other filled. Their qualities balanced, or complemented, each other so well that the man and woman as a married couple were considered to be “one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) That this worked in the best interests of both can be seen by what the Bible account also says: “After that God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”—Gen. 1:31.
Note too that when the woman was created it was not said that her only function was to have children. The woman’s relationship to her husband as a complement, or partner, is what is singled out for specific mention. She obviously complements him in childbearing, because neither one can accomplish this alone. But she complements him in many other ways too.
God’s View of Women
Also, the relationship of the woman to her Creator, Jehovah God, was more important than her relationship either to her husband or to the children she would have. This can be seen in several ways. One was the fact that, while the man was given heavier responsibilities, the female also was given qualities that reflected God’s personality, having these in common with the man.
The woman, for example, certainly is in no way inferior to man in the quality of love, and this is the dominant quality in God’s personality. God’s Word says: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. . . . God is love, and he that remains in love remains in union with God and God remains in union with him.” (1 John 4:8, 16) That holds just as true for women as it does for men.
Then, too, the apostle Paul included, not just men believers, but also women disciples when he said: “All of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by Jehovah the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) In fact, the most conclusive evidence of God’s high regard for women is that he grants women the privilege of being among those who form his Son’s heavenly government. That is why the Bible says in this regard: “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) So God has a high and loving regard for women, dealing with them as persons, their relationship to him being just as important as the man’s relationship to God.
Who Was More at Fault?
However, in time both the first man and the first woman began to desire something that could never be theirs. They wanted to be like God in having the right and ability to determine for themselves what was right and what was wrong, instead of guiding themselves by God’s laws. The woman rebelled first, then the man.—Gen. 3:1-6.
From this some have concluded that ‘if it were not for women we would be in the garden of Eden.’ But that is not accurate. Man was created first and made the family head with the greater responsibility. As the ‘captain’ of his ship, he should have steered a straight course even in troubled seas. But that first man, Adam, failed as a family head. Since he had the greater responsibility, he had the greater guilt. Hence, Romans 5:12 says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.”
As a result of moving away from God’s guidance, the human family began to devise their own rules of conduct. In this, the woman in many cases has come out the loser, for man’s greater physical strength and aggressiveness enabled him to dominate the female and often abuse her, which was contrary to God’s purpose.
God’s Superior Ways Unfold
Yet, God set a time limit on permitting human foolishness. As the centuries passed, God gradually revealed what he would do to remedy the bad situation into which the human family had come.
About fifteen centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, God revealed more of his purposes by his dealings with the nation of ancient Israel. Through Moses, he gave Israel a law code. Incorporated in it were provisions for the benefit of women. These brought the Israelite women into a situation far superior to that of women living in the surrounding pagan nations.
Centuries later, Jesus Christ introduced Christianity, unfolding God’s purposes more fully. Under the Christian arrangement, women came into a position superior even to that in ancient Israel. True Christianity was a way of life far, far superior to any ever devised by man, and woman would reap the benefits when it was practiced in the way God purposed.
Under Christianity, the role of man as ‘captain’ of the family was maintained. It was the best arrangement, considering how God made man and woman. So, as Ephesians 5:23 says, “A husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” And if there were no head in a family, what would happen? There could be constant bickering and disagreement over decisions, with no one making the final one. But it is necessary for the welfare of the family to have someone authorized to make final decisions, and God has assigned that role to the husband.
For instance, if a man is driving an automobile, and sees a difficult traffic situation developing that calls for an immediate response in direction or speed, it would only make matters worse for his wife to insist that she had a view on the matter and he should do it her way. Someone has to make final decisions, and when the husband does so in a loving and considerate way, it really does work for the best of the family.
What Kind of Headship?
But just what does the husband’s headship mean? As noted, it means that in the family he has the right to make final decisions, especially in serious matters. But how should he exercise that headship? Does it entitle him to be a boss, a dictator?
That is not at all what God has in mind, for Ephesians 5:28, 29 declares: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh.” The husband is under obligation to be as considerate of his wife as he is of himself, since they are “one flesh.”
But much more is involved. God also commands husbands to do this: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
How do you honor another person? Why, you treat that person with respect. You have consideration for that one’s opinions, likes and dislikes. You give that one the preference when there is no issue at stake. You do what Colossians 3:12, 13 says: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.”
These are the qualities that make it easy for women to love and to respect their husbands. In fact, one happily married woman, when asked what she appreciated most about her husband, replied: ‘The tenderness and consideration that he has for me.’ And that is just what God says husbands should show their wives.
Also, while at first the mother’s role in a child’s life is critical, in time the father’s grows more important. That is why God’s law tells fathers to take the lead in training their growing children in the vital things of life, such as morality, religion and discipline. While the mother also plays an important part in all this, it is the father who is to take the lead.—Eph. 6:4.
Part of taking the lead is in setting a good example, ‘practicing what you preach.’ And here one of the finest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother. What a fine example that sets for the future mothers and fathers!
There is more. Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” Yes, the husband is to have such consideration for his wife that he would be willing to lay down his life for her! That is what Jesus did for those he loved.
Now, then, what sensible woman would want liberation from a man who shows her that kind of honor, respect, consideration, tenderness and loyalty? Of course, she has her role to play too, and the Bible gives much good counsel on this. But here we are discussing primarily the responsibilities of the man.
Treatment of Other Women
How should men deal with other women not their wives? The young man Timothy was given this counsel that was inspired by God: “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.”—1 Tim. 5:1, 2.
A man should have respect for an older woman as if she were his mother. And he must be morally upright toward a younger woman, as though she were his sister, not considering her a ‘sexual object’ but dealing with her as a person.
Right View of Woman’s Role
Jesus had high regard for women. He did not view them as ‘inferior,’ as ‘sexual objects’ or as just baby producers. On one occasion he visited two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha busied herself in preparing things, but Mary “sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word.” When Martha complained that Mary was not helping her, Jesus commended Mary instead, saying that she “chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus was not belittling household duties, but was showing that there are more important things than that for women.
On another occasion a woman said to Jesus: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that you sucked!” But Jesus told her: “No, rather, Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” (Luke 11:27, 28) He showed that a woman’s relationship to God is more important than her role as a mother. After all, only a minority of a woman’s life is involved in childbearing and the raising of children. And if a man, even a husband, asks a woman to break God’s laws, what then? The Bible principle is: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
So when you really study what the Bible has to say about how men should treat women, you can see that God has certainly placed the women in a position of dignity and favor. True, most men in this world do not abide by God’s high standards. But that does not make the standards wrong. Instead, it exposes the wrong attitude of such men. And someday they will have to answer to God for it.
Men who are true Christians do accept God’s standards. If you investigate Jehovah’s witnesses, you will find that they do. They constantly learn how to apply these standards in their lives, with increasing benefits to themselves and the women they deal with. And when their wives, mothers and sisters also have the same high regard for God’s superior standards and play their roles properly, they find great harmony and happiness. None of them seek liberation from that, and not because they are forced to stay in that arrangement, but because they want to, seeing it as a far superior way of bringing them happiness than any other.
Still, even compatible men and women need liberation. From what? From a world filled with hatred, crime, war, poverty, sickness and death; from a world that has caused such injustices, not only to women, but to men and children too. Will such liberation ever be a reality?
[Picture on page 15]
When a woman told Jesus, “Happy is the womb that carried you,” he answered: “No, rather, Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”