A Husband Who Gains Deep Respect
1, 2. How is respect gained, and how is this well illustrated in the case of Jesus Christ?
RESPECT is not gained by merely ordering someone to respect you. You must earn respect by how you speak and act and by what you are.
2 This is illustrated in the case of Christ Jesus. He gained respect as a teacher by his manner of teaching. After his Sermon on the Mount “the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” What earned him this respect? His relying on God’s word the Bible instead of the opinions of other men. His sole authority was Jehovah God and His word of truth. Jesus gained respect from both friend and foe, by earning it.—Matthew 7:28, 29; 15:1-9; John 7:32, 45, 46.
3. What obligation does Ephesians 5:33 put upon a wife, and what does this require of a husband?
3 “The wife should have deep respect for her husband,” is the instruction given at Ephesians 5:33. But the husband should be diligent to merit this respect; otherwise, it will be very difficult for his wife to comply with this instruction. How can a husband fulfill his role as outlined in the Bible so as to gain such respect?
BY EXERCISING PROPER HEADSHIP
4. What place does the Bible assign to a husband?
4 The Bible assigns the husband to a position of headship in the marriage arrangement, saying: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body. In fact, as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24) Will this arrangement really contribute to happiness in the household? Some women speak out against what they describe as male chauvinism, that is, a vainglorious or exaggerated view that some men have toward their position in relation to women. But let us say at the outset that the teachings of the Bible do not endorse such male chauvinism.
5. What should a husband recognize about headship, and whose examples should he follow?
5 The Bible emphasizes the fact that, not only the woman, but also the man is under headship. Turning to the Bible book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 3, we find that the apostle Paul wrote these words to the congregation at Corinth: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” Man has Christ as his head, and it is from God and Christ as examples and teachers that you, the husband, are to learn how headship is to be exercised.
6. What can husbands learn about headship from Jehovah God and Jesus Christ?
6 Jehovah’s headship over Christ was exercised in loving-kindness, and Christ’s response was, “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.” (Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:7) Jesus Christ’s headship, too, is loving. To those who would become his disciples he said: “I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) Those who are members of his congregation, which the Scriptures liken to a bride, have indeed found such refreshment under his headship. He has not exploited them, but has been self-sacrificing in his love. This also is the kind of headship the husband is to exercise over his wife: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it . . . In this way 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; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation . . . let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:25-29, 33) If you set the example of submission to the headship of Christ, it will not be a difficult thing—in fact, it can be a pleasure—for your wife to have deep respect for your headship as her husband.
7, 8. Mention some of the ways in which some husbands fail to exercise proper headship.
7 The great problem is that due to imperfection and inborn selfishness there are times when a husband, while wanting to be respected as the head of the family, fails to show the needed love and consideration for his wife. Often a wife will say that she doesn’t feel loved by her husband, that his only concern is his own pleasure and satisfaction. Also, some wives complain that their husbands are domineering. Perhaps this has resulted from the wife’s attempts to usurp his headship, with his resisting such usurpation. Or, the man may have grown up in an environment where many husbands are arrogant and domineering. Regardless of the cause, such abuse of headship gains the respect of no one.
8 On the other hand, instead of abusing headship, some husbands abdicate it. They pass all the decision-making over to their wives. Or, while telling the wife ‘not to rush them,’ they procrastinate so much that family interests suffer. They may not be lazy or idle physically, but if they shy away from mental effort the results can be the same as those described in Proverbs 24:33, 34: “‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,’ and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.“—Revised Standard Version.
9, 10. When making decisions that affect the family, whose views should a husband consider?
9 You will gain respect from your wife if you show yourself steady and strong and able to make decisions. But that does not mean that no one else in the household is to be consulted or that your wife’s opinion is not to be given serious consideration just because it does not happen to agree with yours. Early in the Bible record we read about a serious problem in the household of Abraham and Sarah, involving their son Isaac and the son of their servant girl Hagar. Sarah recommended a solution that did not coincide with Abraham’s feelings on the matter. But God told Abraham: “Listen to her voice.”—Genesis 21:9-12.
10 We are not to conclude from this that a husband should always accede to his wife’s wishes. But it can be beneficial to discuss with her those decisions that affect the family, encouraging her to express her thoughts and feelings freely. Keep open the lines of communication, always be approachable, and weigh carefully her preferences in the decisions you make. Never be bossy or tyrannical in exercising headship, but manifest humility. You are not perfect, you will make mistakes, and when you do, you will want your wife’s understanding. When those situations arise, the wife whose husband is humble will find it easier to respect his headship than will one whose mate is proud.
BY BEING A GOOD PROVIDER
11, 12. (a) What is the husband’s responsibility as to providing material necessities of life? (b) How is it really by joint effort that such provisions are made?
11 It is the husband’s responsibility to provide the material necessities of life for his family. First Timothy 5:8 shows this: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” To live today, in many lands, it takes a great deal of money, and you as the husband must make the decisions that govern how this need will be met. You will probably find that, in addition to bringing home the money you earn, you will need to work out with your wife a budget that you both understand. This simply means having an arrangement for controlled spending. It will help you to live within your means, and it can do much to avoid the kind of arguments that sometimes arise when the money runs out before payday.
12 Although in most cases it is the husband who brings in the money for the family’s support, it should not be forgotten that it is earned by a joint effort. If you, the husband, think you are doing this by yourself, then just stop and figure out what it would cost you to hire a purchasing agent, a cook, a dishwasher, a housekeeper, a decorator, a nursemaid, and so forth. Normally, your wife saves this expense by doing the work, which is, of course, her share as the marital partner. And if she keeps a lot of the records of home expenses you can add “accountant“ to the preceding list. Very true is Proverbs 18:22: “Has one found a good wife? One has found a good thing.”
13. When it comes to material things, what outlook should married couples avoid, and how can this benefit them?
13 In providing materially, there is the ever-present danger—for you and for your wife—of slipping into a materialistic outlook and approach to life. Few things can ‘eat away’ at the foundation of family happiness as much as this does. “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out,” says the Bible writer Paul. “So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” No matter what possessions a materialistic way of life may bring, it can never compensate for the pain of seeing family relations weaken and break down. The material gain is far outweighed by the spiritual and emotional loss.—1 Timothy 6:7-10.
14. What determines whether material things are too important in a person’s life?
14 Materialism is love of material things, not merely having material possessions. A person can be poor and materialistic, or rich and spiritually minded. It depends on where his heart is. Jesus said: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21.
15, 16. Besides caring well for material needs, what else should a husband do in order to maintain a happy family?
15 A husband who is a good provider of material needs will reflect on such Scriptural admonition, and besides providing the things needful in a material way will devote time to making spiritual provisions for his family. What’s the good of spending so much time at secular work to obtain the material things of life that you do not have sufficient time and energy left to build up your household in a spiritual way? In order to have the wisdom to cope successfully with the problems of life, time must be spent to build into the family a strong devotion to right principles. Making place in your life for reading and talking together about God’s Word can do that, as will united prayer. As family head, it is up to you, the husband, to take the lead in this. The cost in time and effort will be far outweighed by the benefits. God’s promise will not fail: “In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.“—Proverbs 3:6.
16 A husband who looks to the Creator to direct his steps appreciates the balance in the counsel found at Ecclesiastes 7:12: “Wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” So, as a good provider, he works hard to supply the physical needs of his household. Nevertheless, he rests his hope, “not on uncertain riches, but on God.” He sets an example in putting the primary emphasis on spiritual interests, in order that both he and his wife may “get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) The efforts of a husband to make such provisions, both physically and spiritually, will win the respect of a God-fearing wife.
BY SHOWING HER HONOR
17-19. How might the Bible’s counsel to assign “honor” to a wife be applied in connection with sexual relations?
17 The apostle Peter talks to husbands about their wives and tells them to be “assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7) In this same verse Peter points out that you, the husband who dwells with your wife, should be assigning her this honor “according to knowledge.”
18 This certainly applies in sexual relations. Much frigidity in wives is due to husbands who are ignorant of a woman’s physical and emotional makeup. “Let the husband render to his wife her due,” but let it be done ‘according to knowledge, assigning her honor as to a weaker vessel,’ counsels God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 7:3) If you truly ‘assign her honor,’ you will not be harsh and demanding, insisting on satisfying your own passions even when she may be very tired or during difficult times of the month. (Compare Leviticus 20:18.) And when you do have relations, you will not be so intent on your own pleasure that you ignore her needs. In this area of life a woman usually responds slower than a man. She has a special need for tenderness and affection. In telling the husband to “render to his wife her due,” the Bible puts the emphasis on giving, not getting.
19 That kind of giving, of course, is to be reserved for one’s own marriage mate. True, many men today have “affairs” with other women. But in the end what do they gain? They simply undermine the happiness of their own home. They fail to ‘assign honor’ to their wives, and so they provide no basis for their wives to respect them. More than that, they dishonor marriage itself, an arrangement that originated with God. In view of all the heartache this brings, it is understandable why Hebrews 13:4 urges: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”
20. As indicated at Ephesians 5:28, in what other ways should a wife be shown honor?
20 Showing honor to one’s wife does not end with sexual relations. In other matters, too, the husband who is truly respected shows that he has high regard for his wife. It is not that he puts her on a pedestal and becomes her slave. Rather, it is as we read earlier from Ephesians 5:28: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” A man who does this surely is not going to treat his wife as if she were an inferior person. At mealtimes he certainly wouldn’t feel that his body merited all the choice portions, with hers getting only the leftovers—not if he loves her ‘as his own body.’ Rather than being self-centered about his own appearance, he will be as much or more concerned about his wife’s, doing what he can to help her feel content about her clothes. A man does not hit himself when he fails to do as well as he might like. Nor will a Christian husband do that to his wife just because she sometimes falls short of his expectations. Very much to the contrary, if anyone should treat her harshly he would loyally come to her aid. He loves her as he does his own body.
21, 22. How can a husband help his wife to find enjoyment in fulfilling her role?
21 While appreciating the areas in which your needs are alike, you also need to understand the psychological differences between the two of you if you are going to ‘assign honor’ to your wife. Basically, women like to work under a ceiling of authority, provided that it is exercised properly. This is the way Jehovah God created them. Woman was made to be ‘a helper for the man, as a complement of him.’ (Genesis 2:18) But if the supervision is too close, if there is no room to take initiative and use her own abilities, a woman can begin to feel that the enjoyment is being squeezed out of her life, and resentment may develop.
22 Another vital factor that needs attention is the woman’s natural desire to feel needed. A helpful husband is appreciated by most wives, but one who simply pushes his wife aside and takes over may find that he has done more harm than good. You do much to win your wife’s loyalty if you are kind and appreciative and let her know that she is needed, that you hold her in honor, that you are working as a team, that it is “we” and “our,” not “I” and “you” or “mine” and “yours.” Do you really let your wife know how much you appreciate and need her? You don’t do it by paying her a salary; you must show it in other ways.
APPRECIATE HER FEMININE QUALITIES
23. Generally speaking, how do men and women differ as to emotions?
23 A woman psychologist wrote: “Basically, women feel while men think.” By itself, one trait is not better than the other; they simply are different. We do not care for people who are unfeeling; neither do we like thoughtless persons. Obviously, women have the capacity both to feel and to think, and the same is true of men. But, generally speaking, a woman’s emotions more readily come to the fore, while a man is usually more inclined to try to subdue emotion in favor of what he considers a logical approach to matters. Though exceptions, of course, are found, this is another difference that makes husband and wife complements of each other. Along with her basically more emotional makeup, her strong interest in people often causes her to talk more than the man. And she needs someone to return the talk. This is where many husbands fall short.
24. Why is it important for a husband to listen to his wife and to talk with her?
24 Do you talk to your wife? Not just about your work, but hers as well? Are you interested in it, and do you show her that you are? How was her day? What happened with the children? Don’t come home and ask, ‘What’s for dinner?’ and, after eating it, hide your head behind a newspaper and grunt in response to her endeavors to talk. Be interested in your wife, her thoughts, her activities, her feelings about things. Encourage her in her projects, commend her in her accomplishments. If she is complimented on what she does, she may start doing other tasks she may have neglected. Criticism can be a subtle poison and a depressant, but genuine praise given where deserved is a curative and a stimulant that makes the spirit soar!—Proverbs 12:18; 16:24.
25, 26. (a) What message does a gift convey to a wife? (b) What kind of giving is most important to her?
25 Do you bring her an occasional gift? Not necessarily an expensive one—perhaps just a small item that says, ‘I was thinking of you.’ And do you do this, not necessarily for a specific occasion, but just spontaneously, for no other reason than that you wanted to? Pleasant surprises are always a delight. Are you not pleased when she surprises you by preparing some special dish that you like? Return surprise for surprise, and please her. Small remembrances, prompted by love, mean more than expensive gifts routinely—perhaps even begrudgingly—offered out of a sense of duty. “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) So do wives. Even if meals aren’t special, remember, “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.”—Proverbs 15:17.
26 The most important giving is the giving of yourself—your time, your energies, your attention and your thoughts, especially those closest to your heart. Many men find this difficult. To make expressions of endearment may seem to them like foolish sentimentality and somehow unmanly. But if you love your wife, you will keep in mind how much a look, a touch, a word can hold for a woman. But the absence of these can do much to make her feel cross, weary, unhappy. So, follow the example recorded in the Bible’s Song of Solomon. Expressing regard and affection for others is good for the one making the expressions. People are irresistibly drawn to warm people. And what is a warm person? A person who reveals his feelings and enthusiasm to those he cares about. Such warmth is contagious; it will be returned to the giver.—Song of Solomon 1:2, 15; Luke 6:38.
27, 28. (a) What might a husband ask himself, to determine whether he is exercising headship in a proper way? (b) Why is it good to be concerned about this matter?
27 Husband, ask yourself: Is my headship easy for my wife to respect? Do I love her as I do myself? Or am I interested primarily in just my own satisfaction and wants? How much do I consider her needs? Before I make family decisions, do I listen to her views and consider her desires? Are my decisions made with her welfare in view? Do I assign her honor as a more fragile vessel, the feminine one? Do I communicate with her, and open up my heart to her?
28 You will not be able to measure up perfectly. But if you put forth a consistent and humble effort, you can be confident that this will go a long way toward making you become a husband who gains your wife’s deep respect and God’s approval.
[Picture on page 49]
Little things mean a lot