Submission to Authority That Is Rewarding
1. Why can we say that submission to existing arrangements is wise and beneficial?
THERE can be wisdom in submission, in showing subordination to existing arrangements. Whatever apparent appeal it might have, total independence is undesirable, unrealistic. No one person on earth can do everything or know everything. Just as we are dependent on air, sun, food and water for life, so, too, we need other persons and what they can do for us if we are to benefit from life and to enjoy it.
2. How should the fact of Jehovah’s being the Supreme Sovereign affect our life?
2 Governmental arrangements, employer-employee relationships, family ties, association with the Christian congregation, our very living among people, all impose on us certain duties. We owe something in return for what we receive from others. Of primary importance in discharging these responsibilities toward humans is our recognizing the position of Jehovah God. As the Creator, he rightly is the Supreme Sovereign to whom we owe all things. In a vision, the apostle John heard 24 elders declare: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Our making a similar acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Most High is not just a matter of words. In all our relationships, we can demonstrate that we are submissive to God’s will for us and acknowledge Jesus Christ as our appointed Lord.
“FOR THE LORD’S SAKE”
3, 4. What are the ‘human creations’ to which we should be in subjection, and why can they thus be identified?
3 The apostle Peter forcefully presented this elevated view of the major reason for subjection to human authority. He wrote: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors as being sent by him to inflict punishment on evildoers but to praise doers of good.”—1 Peter 2:13, 14.
4 The ‘human creations’ to which we should be in subjection are the man-made ruling authorities. They are ‘human creations’ because men, not God, have created the positions of kings and lesser rulers or governors. The Most High has merely allowed such to come into existence and is tolerating them, as they do serve a useful purpose under the present conditions. Because governmental authorities exist by his permission, persons who rebel against them are revolting against the “arrangement of God,” a provision that he has as yet not seen fit to end and replace by a heavenly kingdom through his Son. (Romans 13:1, 2) In the days of the apostle Peter, the Roman emperor or Caesar appointed governors to administer affairs in the imperial provinces, including Judea. These governors were directly responsible to the emperor in maintaining law and order in the territory under their jurisdiction. As they carried out their duties, the governors would “inflict punishment on evildoers”—robbers, kidnappers, thieves and seditionists. But they would also “praise doers of good,” that is, honor upright persons by giving them public recognition as men of merit and by protecting their person, property and rights.
5. For whose sake should we be in subjection, and why is he rightly called “Lord”?
5 It is not primarily to escape punishment and to procure “praise” for themselves that Christians are urged to be in subjection. But it is “for the Lord’s sake.” This Lord is Jesus Christ, for the apostle Peter earlier identified him as such. (1 Peter 1:3) The Scriptures speak of the Son of God as “Lord over both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:9) He, therefore, occupies a position that no human ruler has ever held. As ‘Lord over the dead,’ Jesus Christ can summon them before him by restoring them to life. The scope of Jesus’ lordship extends even beyond his having authority over living and dead humans. After his own resurrection, the Son of God said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Surely, it is wisdom on our part to submit ourselves to human rulers for the sake of One who has far, far greater authority than they do.
6, 7. How do we subject ourselves to human rulers “for the Lord’s sake”?
6 What is meant by subjecting ourselves to men in high governmental station “for the Lord’s sake”? Our recognition of Jesus Christ as our Lord is to be the motivating force behind proper subjection to rulers. The Son of God set the perfect example in this regard. He did not revolt against the demands of the governmental authority nor did he teach others to do so. Rather, he urged: “If someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) ‘Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.’—Matthew 22:21.
7 At times governments may order citizens to register for various purposes, or they may call upon them to support certain community building and farming projects, perhaps in connection with construction of roads, dams or schools. (Compare Luke 2:1-3.) In all these matters, Christian conscience is, of course, to be considered. However, where there is no issue involved that would offend one’s Scripturally trained conscience, it can contribute to the advancement of the “good news” when the Christian does what he can to show himself both submissive and cooperative. It would be highly improper to agitate against any particular projects or to become outright rebellious toward governmental authority on any level. The Biblical injunction is to “be in subjection and [to] be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, to be ready for every good work.” A belligerent, arrogant stand does not harmonize with the teaching and example of God’s Son.—Titus 3:1, 2.
“AS SLAVES OF GOD”
8. What benefits can come from proper subjection to rulers?
8 Showing how proper submission to authority can serve to further the cause of true worship, the apostle Peter writes: “For so the will of God is, that by doing good you may muzzle the ignorant talk of the unreasonable men.” (1 Peter 2:15) Christians, by doing what rulers regard as good, decent or law-abiding while, at the same time, preserving a good conscience before God, may receive commendation. This results in silencing ignorant men who may falsely charge servants of the Most High with being stubborn, insubordinate, antisocial, seditious or subversive. The laudable conduct of Christians thus proves to be the very best defense against having their good name defamed.
9, 10. Why is our subjection to governmental authority not like the subjection of a cringing slave to his master?
9 But does a Christian’s submission to rulers mean abject slavery to them, being totally subservient? The inspired answer is, No. The apostle Peter continues: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”—1 Peter 2:16.
10 As Christians, we have been set free from slavery to sin and death. (John 8:31-36) The Son of God has even emancipated us from the fear of a violent death, by means of which fear Satan the Devil has been able to keep men in slavery, maneuvering them, through the dictatorial orders of men, to act contrary to their own conscience. (Hebrews 2:14, 15) Because of being a free people, however, our conscience cannot be subservient to the dictates and threats of any man or group of men. Our submission to rulers is voluntary and is limited by the superior commands of the Supreme Sovereign, Jehovah God. We cannot become the abject slaves of any man, rendering unquestioning obedience without regard for divine law. As the apostle Peter pointed out, Christians are “slaves of God.” Hence, we gladly submit to the wishes of the governmental authorities to the extent that there is no direct conflict with our worship of the Most High. Otherwise, we must take the position voiced by Peter and the other apostles when before the Jewish supreme court: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
A FREEDOM, WITH LIMITS
11. What attitude toward governmental authority would constitute an abuse of Christian freedom?
11 However, it would be wrong for us to live as though political governments had no authority over us, defying them in matters that are not out of harmony with divine law. Such disrespectful conduct constitutes a misuse of Christian freedom. The freedom that we enjoy is bounded by our being slaves of God. It provides no license for casting off proper restraints, indulging in badness or treating with contempt laws that may inconvenience us but which are designed to protect life and the environment. Rather, we should show by our conduct that we appreciate the good purpose behind traffic laws, antipollution regulations, hunting and fishing restrictions and the like.
12. What determines the kind of obligations that we have toward others?
12 Yes, we have obligations toward others. The nature of these duties is affected by the particular relationship that we have with Jehovah God and with our fellow humans. The apostle Peter points out these obligations and admonishes: “Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.”—1 Peter 2:17.
13. (a) Why are all humans deserving of honor? (b) What do we owe our spiritual brothers? (c) What should determine the kind of honor that is given to humans? (d) What do we owe to God alone?
13 All humans are the product of God’s creation and bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. That is why we rightly honor them, treating them with respect and impartiality. (Acts 10:34, 35; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) The whole “association of brothers,” however, deserves far more than just the formal respect that is the due right of humans generally. To our brothers, we additionally owe deep love, affection. Moreover, while an earthly sovereign and lesser officials should be granted the honor for which their position calls, the Most High God alone is deserving of reverential, worshipful fear. Consequently, the honor that is given to any man must always be limited by a wholesome regard for Jehovah God and his commands. There is no objection, for example, to addressing rulers by their customary titles when these do not attribute to them the kind of honor that belongs to God alone. But mortal humans are not the saviors of Christians nor the ones through whom all blessings come. (Psalm 146:3, 4; Isaiah 33:22; Acts 4:12; Philippians 2:9-11) Hence, a genuine Christian does not address men in a way that calls into question his own fear of God and exalts rulers far above what their station requires.
ARE ALL OFFICIALS DESERVING OF HONOR?
14, 15. (a) Why does the moral standing of a ruler or an official not affect whether the Christian will honor him? (b) What can we learn from the way in which the apostle Paul dealt with officials?
14 In view of the Biblical injunction to honor rulers, some persons may ask with reference to a certain official: ‘How can I respect or honor someone who may be morally corrupt?’ The point to keep in mind is that the moral standing of the official is not the basis for such honor. Rather, the authority that he represents and exercises calls for a certain kind of respect. If there were no regard for duly constituted authority, anarchy would reign, with consequent damage to society, including Christians.
15 The apostle Paul’s dealings with officials illustrate that what rulers are as persons has no bearing on the type of honor that should be shown them. Ancient historian Tacitus described Roman Governor Felix as a man who “thought that he could do any evil act with impunity,” and who, “indulging in every kind of barbarity and lust, exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave.” Still, out of regard for the office that Felix occupied, Paul respectfully opened his defense before this man with the words: “Knowing well that this nation has had you as judge for many years, I readily speak in my defense the things about myself.” (Acts 24:10) Despite the fact that King Herod Agrippa II lived in incest, Paul showed him due honor, saying: “I count myself happy that it is before you I am to make my defense this day, especially as you are expert on all the customs as well as the controversies among Jews.” (Acts 26:2, 3) Although Governor Festus was a worshiper of idols, Paul still addressed him as “Your Excellency.”—Acts 26:25.
16. What counsel are Christians given at Romans 13:7?
16 Besides giving men the kind of honor that befits their authority, Christians are also under divine command to be conscientious about paying taxes. The Scriptures tell us: “Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to him who calls for fear [by reason of his authority, including the power of life and death], such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.” (Romans 13:7) Why is it right to pay taxes and to be honest in reporting income?
17. (a) Why should Christians view the payment of taxes the same as the payment of debts? (b) Why should Christians be exemplary in the payment of all taxes?
17 The ruling authorities render vital services to ensure the safety, security and welfare of their subjects. Included are the maintenance of roads, the provision of law-enforcement bodies, courts, schools, health services, postal systems and the like. For the services rendered, the government is entitled to compensation. Hence, Christians rightly view payment of taxes or tribute as the payment of a debt. Just how the ruling authorities will thereafter use the taxes received is not the responsibility of the Christian. Misuse of tax or tribute receipts on the part of officials does not entitle the Christian to refuse to pay his debt. Under the present arrangement of things, he needs governmental services and, therefore, in good conscience, pays what is required. When it comes to paying off a debt to an individual, that person’s misuse of monies would not cancel one’s debt. Similarly, regardless of what governments may do, the Christian is not relieved of his duty to pay taxes and tribute. He is to be exemplary in conforming to the legal requirements in reporting income or the purchase of items on which duty must be paid. His conscientiousness in these matters prevents the bringing of reproach on him and the Christian congregation. It also puts true worship in a favorable light, to the honor of God and Christ.
18. To what present circumstance can the Scriptural principles about the master-slave relationship be applied?
18 A Christian’s relationship to governmental authority is not the only relationship that calls for proper subjection. At his place of work, for example, he may be accountable to a supervisor or a superior. Back in the first century C.E., when slavery was common in the Roman Empire, many Christians found themselves working as slaves or servants. Appropriately, God’s Word discusses their obligations toward their masters. We today can apply the principles of conduct in the master-slave relationship to the employer-employee relationship.
19. What counsel did Peter give to Christian house servants?
19 Directing his counsel to house servants or domestics, the apostle Peter wrote:
“Let house servants be in subjection to their owners with all due fear, not only to the good and reasonable, but also to those hard to please. For if someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing. For what merit is there in it if, when you are sinning and being slapped, you endure it? But if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Peter 2:18-20.
20. (a) How would a house servant be in subjection “with all due fear”? (b) What situations might have resulted in suffering for a Christian slave?
20 What did heeding this counsel require? While discharging his responsibilities as a slave, the Christian was to manifest proper fear or regard for his master, not wanting to displease him. This fear was to be shown even if the master proved to be inconsiderate, harsh or unreasonable in his demands. The master may have been a man who found fault even with work that was well done. He may have demanded that the Christian slave do things that were contrary to God’s law. Because of faithfully obeying the dictates of his godly conscience, the Christian slave may have suffered unjustly for refusing to steal or to lie for his master. At other times, too, the slave may have been the object of physical and verbal abuse.
21. What good could result from a slave’s patient endurance of mistreatment?
21 In harmony with Peter’s counsel, the Christian slave would not rise up against his harsh master. He would continue to do his work conscientiously, and patiently bear up under mistreatment. This course would be agreeable in God’s eyes, for it would not reflect unfavorably on Christianity. Others could see that true worship had exerted an influence for good on the slave. It could move them to investigate Christianity in order to find out how a mistreated slave could exercise such commendable self-control. By contrast, if a slave wronged his master and was severely disciplined for it, people would see no particular merit in his quietly taking punishment.
22. How would a Christian employee want to conduct himself at work?
22 Today a Christian who faces a particularly trying situation at work may be able to procure other employment. But this may not always be possible. He may be working under a contract or be forced to continue laboring under undesirable conditions because other jobs simply are not available. So his situation may differ very little from that of a house servant in the first century C.E. who could not get away from an unreasonable master. Therefore, as long as a Christian continues in the employ of someone else, he would do his utmost to perform quality work, and patiently and uncomplainingly put up with any abuse to which he may be subjected and which could not be stopped by Scriptural means. He also would continue to treat his employer with due respect and consideration.
JESUS’ EXAMPLE—AN ENCOURAGEMENT
23, 24. (a) Whose example can encourage us when we are subjected to mistreatment for doing what is right? (b) What did this one face, and how did he conduct himself?
23 Clearly, it is never easy for anyone to have to endure injustice. Happily, however, we have a perfect model to follow, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ. His example can be a real source of encouragement. In consoling mistreated Christian slaves, the apostle Peter pointed to the example of Jesus, saying:
“In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Peter 2:21-23.
24 Thus the apostle reminded Christian slaves that one of the reasons for which they were called to be disciples of the Son of God was to demonstrate a spirit like his while subjected to unjust suffering. Especially on the final day of his life as a man on earth, Jesus Christ endured much. He was slapped, hit with fists, spit on, scourged with a whip (which was probably fitted with pieces of lead or bone or barbs to tear the flesh), and, finally, nailed to a stake like a criminal of the worst kind. Yet, he submitted to all these indignities, never reviling or threatening the men responsible for meting out such unwarranted treatment. Jesus Christ knew that his life course had been pure, but he did not take matters into his own hands to vindicate himself. He committed his cause to the Father, confident that his God and Father would render a righteous judgment in his behalf. We, too, can be sure that the Almighty takes note of any injustices that we may experience. He will balance the scales of justice, provided we continue to bear up patiently under suffering. Surely, if the sinless Son of God was willing to endure mistreatment, we followers of his have even greater reason to do so, recognizing that we are sinful creatures.
25. How have we benefited from Christ’s suffering?
25 The suffering that Jesus Christ underwent was actually for our benefit, giving us additional motivation for imitating him. This aspect is stressed in the apostle Peter’s further words:
“He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness. And ‘by his stripes you were healed.’ For you were like sheep, going astray; but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”—1 Peter 2:24, 25.
26, 27. What effect should Christ’s suffering in our behalf have on us?
26 By reason of our being sinners, we are undeserving of the gift of life. The Bible tells us: “The wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) Jesus Christ, however, willingly took upon himself the penalty for our sins, dying sacrificially like a blameless, uncomplaining lamb in our behalf. Through his suffering the extreme penalty of a shameful death on a stake, the Son of God made it possible for believing humans to be set free from sin and to begin living a life of righteousness. Considering the suffering of Jesus Christ in our behalf, we should certainly be moved to show deep appreciation for what he has done for us. This requires that we imitate Jesus in all areas of life, including our being willing to undergo mistreatment for righteousness’ sake, as he did. Whenever we are subjected to injustices, we do well to think about the suffering that our Lord experienced.
27 Such contemplation can impress on our minds the importance of conforming to Christ’s example so that we do not miss the purpose of his great suffering for us. In our sinful state, we were in a pitiable condition, comparable to that of straying sheep without the guidance of a loving shepherd. This was so because, as sinners, we were alienated from our Great Shepherd, Jehovah God. However, on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice and our faith in it, a reconciliation has been effected. (Colossians 1:21-23) Hence, we have come under the loving care, protection and guidance of the overseer of our souls, namely, Jehovah God, and of his “chief shepherd,” Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 5:2-4) Truly, then, no amount of affliction for righteousness’ sake would be too great to bear in demonstrating our appreciation for what Jesus Christ has done. How far greater was Christ’s suffering in our behalf than any mistreatment that we may undergo for his sake!
WORK ARRANGEMENTS WITH BELIEVERS
28, 29. (a) What counsel did the apostle Paul give to Christian slaves with believing owners? (b) Why was such counsel needed?
28 Not all Christian slaves in the first century C.E. however, had unreasonable masters at whose hands they endured mistreatment. On account of the existing social conditions at that time, even some Christians had slaves. When the slave and his master were disciples of the Son of God, both men needed to look at their spiritual relationship in the correct light. Directing his admonition to slaves with believing owners, the apostle Paul stated: “Let those having believing owners not look down on them, because they are brothers. On the contrary, let them the more readily be slaves, because those receiving the benefit of their good service are believers and beloved.”—1 Timothy 6:2.
29 Why was this counsel needed? The believing slave was a joint heir with Christ and, therefore, enjoyed a spiritual equality with his believing master. Consequently, the slave needed to guard against reasoning that this spiritual equality annulled the secular relationship existing between them and the authority of the master in that relationship. Such an attitude could easily have led to a slave’s taking advantage of his master, not doing his best in discharging his duties. The apostle Paul’s counsel came to grips with any wrong conclusions that slaves may have drawn from their brotherly relationship with other members of the congregation. Because of being in such a relationship with their masters, they had even stronger reason to discharge their duties in a fine way. It was their privilege to do something for a Christian brother, and this should have been a source of great joy to them.
30. Why should a Christian today do his best if he is working under the supervision of a believer?
30 Similarly today, if a Christian works under the direction of a believing supervisor or is in the employ of a believer, he should want to do his very best. It is his brother who is getting the benefits from his labor. If he were to do poor quality work or to be self-sparing, he would be a disappointment and a source of irritation to this brother. (Proverbs 10:26) What lack of affection he would be showing for the brother whom he is under obligation to love!—1 John 4:11.
31. What counsel did Christian masters have to keep in mind?
31 On the other hand, Christian masters or employers were not to disregard the fact that they, too, had a master, Christ. The realization of their being accountable to the Son of God was to affect the way in which they treated their slaves or workers. Commenting on this, the apostle Paul wrote: “You masters, keep dealing out what is righteous and what is fair to your slaves, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”—Colossians 4:1.
32. What responsibility do we have toward believers who may be laboring or rendering services for us?
32 Furthermore, if Christian brothers are laboring or rendering services for us in the capacity of doctors, lawyers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, repairmen and the like, we certainly would want to give them just compensation. Would it not be inappropriate to take advantage of our spiritual relationship by postponing payment to a Christian brother while using a large part of our earnings for lavish entertainment, luxuries or expensive vacations? In business matters, should we not want our fellow believers to get whatever they are entitled to receive? It is certainly fine when we can thereby aid our brothers to make a living. If special consideration is shown us, we rightly regard this with appreciation, recognizing that our fellow believers are not obligated to give us special rates or to favor us over others. In all these matters, then, we can show that we want to do all things in a way pleasing to our heavenly Head, God’s Son.
33. (a) What admonition is given to Christian wives? (b) In 1 Peter 3:1, what is significant about the word meaning “in like manner”?
33 Marriage is still another relationship that calls for submission to a head. Therefore, Peter links his discussion of wifely subjection with his previous admonition about subjection under adverse conditions by starting out with the Greek word meaning “in like manner.” We read:
“In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”—1 Peter 3:1, 2.
34. Under what circumstance is the apostle Peter encouraging a wife to be in subjection, and why may this not be easy?
34 The circumstance under which Christian wives are here encouraged to be in subjection is an unfavorable one. When a husband does not accept the principles of God’s Word, he may make life very difficult for a Christian wife, being harsh and unreasonable in dealing with her. But this does not excuse her from acting in harmony with the fact that a husband is the head of the family. So, whenever his requests do not conflict with divine law, a Christian wife would want to do her utmost to please her husband.
35. How might a wife gain her husband “without a word”?
35 As the apostle Peter pointed out, her fine example may help the husband to become a believer. A wife’s thus gaining her husband “without a word,” however, does not mean that she would never share Scriptural thoughts with him, but she would let her commendable actions speak even louder than words. A husband would then be able to see that the conduct of his wife is chaste or pure in speech and action and that she has deep respect for him.
36, 37. According to Titus 2:3-5, to what should a Christian woman give attention in order to be an exemplary wife?
36 What the apostle Paul wrote about women provides still more details as to what may be expected from a Christian wife. In his letter to Titus, he stated:
“Let the aged women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good; that they may recall the young women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:3-5.
37 According to this admonition, a woman should conscientiously seek to conduct herself in a manner revealing her appreciation of the fact that her whole life course comes under the view of Jehovah God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. She will work hard to use her tongue to build up and encourage others, not resorting to slander or hurtful gossip. Moderation in food and drink are certainly in order. As a wife and mother, the Christian woman is to be exemplary in her love, seeing to it that she is doing her part in providing nourishing meals and making the home a clean and pleasant place. Love for her husband and her children includes her being willing to put the family’s interests ahead of her own. A husband should not be able to find evidence that his wife is seriously neglecting her duties. But he should be able to see that, when compared with unbelieving women, she is indeed exemplary.
BALANCED VIEW OF ADORNMENT
38. What counsel about adornment do we find at 1 Peter 3:3, and how should it be understood?
38 Important, too, is a wife’s keeping adornment in the right perspective. The apostle Peter stressed that a Christian wife is not to put the main emphasis on making herself attractive by means of showy adornment. He said: “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments.” (1 Peter 3:3) In the first century C.E., women spent much time and effort in braiding their long hair into elaborate, attention-getting designs, including harps, trumpets, wreaths and crowns. Additionally, they adorned themselves with very ornate apparel and an abundance of gold chains, rings and bracelets. For a Christian woman, such extreme attention to physical adornment was inappropriate, as it would suggest that her main object in life was her own person rather than her being pleasing to Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, women who live mainly for show or fashion are often the victims of pride, envy, and status seeking, which rob the mind and heart of a spirit of calmness and produce frustration and irritability.
39. Why should a wife not neglect her appearance?
39 However, this does not mean that a Christian wife would give little attention to her appearance. When similarly counseling against showy dress, the apostle Paul also said: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Timothy 2:9) So a Christian wife does well to watch that she does not present an unsightly appearance to her husband by being careless about her dress, grooming and physical appearance. Furthermore, the Bible states that “the woman is man’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 11:7) Clearly, a lazy, unkempt woman is no credit or glory to her husband. She degrades his appearance in the eyes of others. And if the husband takes reasonable pride in his own appearance, by sloppiness his wife could be a source of much irritation. Hence, it is most desirable that a Christian woman’s dress and adornment indicate that she has good judgment in choosing what is modest, or decent, and becoming to her person.
“THE QUIET AND MILD SPIRIT”
40. (a) What makes a Christian woman truly beautiful? (b) With what should “the quiet and mild spirit” not be confused?
40 Nevertheless, a Christian wife’s real beauty lies in what she is at heart. The apostle Peter wisely urged that her adornment “be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) This “quiet and mild spirit” is not to be confused with a veneer of outward sweetness. For example, a woman may be soft spoken and meekly submit, in word, to the wishes of the family head. Yet, she might, at heart, try to dominate her husband by being rebellious, plotting and scheming.
41. How might a woman determine whether “the quiet and mild spirit” is part of her permanent adornment?
41 In the case of the woman who genuinely possesses “the quiet and mild spirit,” this humble spirit is a reflection of her true inner self. How can a woman determine whether this “spirit” is part of her permanent adornment? She might ask herself: ‘What happens when my husband, on occasion, is inconsiderate, unreasonable or shirks his responsibility? Do I often flare up, become enraged and harshly censure him for his failings? Or, do I usually strive to remain calm inside myself and avoid open confrontation?’ A woman with a “quiet and mild spirit” is not just seemingly peaceful on the surface but like an active volcano inside herself, ready to erupt. No, under trying circumstances, she seeks to maintain a calm and even temperament both outwardly and inwardly, causing observers to be deeply impressed by the inner strength she shows and the kind way in which she handles herself.
42. According to 1 Peter 3:5, 6, who did have a “quiet and mild spirit”?
42 Such a “quiet and mild spirit” distinguished God-fearing women of pre-Christian times. Calling attention to this fact, the apostle Peter wrote:
“For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord.’ And you have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.”—1 Peter 3:5, 6.
43. What shows that Sarah was a ‘holy woman’ who hoped in God?
43 As one of the “holy women” of pre-Christian times, Sarah placed her hope and confidence in Jehovah. Unlike Lot’s wife who longingly looked back at Sodom, only to perish, Sarah willingly left the comforts of Ur and continued to dwell with her husband, Abraham, in tents for the rest of her life. Along with Abraham, she looked forward to a permanent abiding place under divine rulership. (Hebrews 11:8-12) Sarah certainly did not attach too much importance to material possessions and comforts. She lived in a manner that revealed a spiritual outlook. Sarah appreciated that God would richly reward her at the time of the resurrection. Similarly, Christian women today wisely make pleasing Jehovah God their main objective in life.—Compare Proverbs 31:30.
44. What proves that Sarah had deep respect for her husband?
44 The beautiful Sarah had deep respect for her husband. When unexpected visitors arrived, Abraham felt no hesitancy in saying to his faithful companion: “Hurry! Get three seah measures [.6 bushel; 22 liters] of fine flour, knead the dough and make round cakes.” (Genesis 18:6) That very day Sarah referred to Abraham as her “lord.” Since she did so inside herself and not in the hearing of others, this clearly shows that she was, at heart, submissive to her husband.—Genesis 18:12.
45. What shows that Sarah did not have a weak personality?
45 However, Sarah was not a woman of weak personality. When she noted that Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian slave girl Hagar, was “poking fun” at her own son Isaac, Sarah spoke out strongly to Abraham, saying: “Drive out this slave girl and her son, for the son of this slave girl is not going to be an heir with my son, with Isaac!” But that she was making a forceful appeal to Abraham, not improperly demanding or commanding, is shown by Jehovah’s approval of Sarah’s request. The Almighty noted the appeal made in the right spirit, and directed Abraham to carry it out.—Genesis 21:9-12.
46, 47. (a) How can a woman who expresses strong views and takes initiative demonstrate that she is submissive? (b) What should we expect from a God-fearing woman?
46 Likewise, a submissive Christian woman need not be spineless or wishy-washy. She may express definite personal views and take the initiative in handling certain affairs that are of importance to the family’s happiness. But she would endeavor to have in mind her husband’s wishes and feelings, letting these guide her when making purchases, decorating the home or caring for other household business. If she is uncertain about his view on a particular activity or major purchase, she can avoid problems through prior consultation. By seeking to discharge her wifely duties in a way that is pleasing to God, she will also please her husband, not giving him any valid reason to find fault. Such a wife usually gains a position of honor and dignity in the family. Her situation proves to be like that of the capable wife described at Proverbs 31:11, 28: “In her the heart of her owner has put trust . . . Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her.” A husband who is confident that his wife will act wisely and not endanger the welfare of the family would feel no need to lay down numerous rules designed to control unwise actions. There will simply be a fine understanding between them. In caring for family affairs, she will enjoy using her capabilities and initiative to the full.
47 To be a God-fearing woman in the Biblical sense, a Christian wife needs to be industrious and able to take the initiative in helping others. So she will not be a woman who lives virtually ‘in the shadow’ of her husband. (Compare Proverbs 31:13-22, 24, 27.) This is evident from the description of Christian women who qualified to be put on a special list in the first century C.E. We read: “Let a widow be put on the list who has become not less than sixty years old, a wife of one husband, having a witness borne to her for fine works, if she reared children, if she entertained strangers, if she washed the feet of holy ones, if she relieved those in tribulation, if she diligently followed every good work.” (1 Timothy 5:9, 10) Note that her record of fine works would go back to the time when she was “a wife of one husband.” So, we do not want to confuse a “quiet and mild spirit” with what may actually be only a lack of initiative and industriousness.
BENEFITS FROM SHOWING A CHRISTLIKE SPIRIT
48. How can a Christian wife become more like the Son of God?
48 Since Christ is ‘a model for all his disciples to follow,’ a Christian wife will want to apply herself in becoming more like him when faced with unfavorable circumstances. (1 Peter 2:21) This requires that she be honest with herself in evaluating her words and actions. Then, by prayerfully considering the example of Jesus Christ and continuing to ask Jehovah God for the help of his spirit in becoming a better wife, she will come to have the “mind of Christ” to a greater degree. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Her advancement will become apparent to others. This is so because the more we think about the fine qualities and praiseworthy acts of someone whom we love, the more we will want to be like that one.
49-51. (a) Why is it always wise for a wife to apply Bible principles? (b) What fine benefits can result from faithful adherence to the Scriptures? (c) What “cause for terror” should a Christian woman not fear, and why?
49 Even when a husband is inconsiderate, unreasonable or shirks responsibility, a wife can have every confidence that applying Bible principles will get the best results possible under the circumstances. Little is gained by a wife who makes a big issue over every wrong decision that her husband has made, thus disregarding Scriptural counsel to be submissive. Humans are prone to defend themselves even when they are wrong. So, if a wife makes a ‘major case’ whenever her husband uses poor judgment, she may get a reaction that is opposite to what she is seeking. He may become more determined to ignore what she says in order to prove to her that he does not need her advice. On the other hand, if her reaction reflects an understanding of the fact that we sinful humans cannot altogether avoid mistakes in judgment, he may be far more inclined to give consideration to her thoughts the next time. He will find it easier to keep his pride from becoming too intimately involved in the matter.
50 By encouraging her husband in a kind, gentle manner, a Christian wife may cause him to think seriously about the way he is handling himself and then to start making changes in his life. While progress may be slow, a wife does gain an immediate reward. What is it? She avoids the tremendous emotional stress, bitterness and unpleasantness to which open confrontation with her husband would lead.—Proverbs 14:29, 30.
51 A wife’s faithful adherence to the Scriptures in conduct and speech may not always cause her unbelieving husband to become a Christian. But she still has the satisfaction of knowing that her course is ‘well-pleasing to God.’ The commendable way in which she handles her responsibilities as a wife and mother is part of her record of fine works that is like a treasure deposited in heaven. That treasure will yield rich dividends in the form of divine blessings. (Matthew 6:20) Appreciating the importance of maintaining a good standing with God, she should “keep on doing good” and not fear any “cause for terror”—any abuse, threats or opposition that may result because of her being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Instead of yielding to fear and forfeiting her relationship with Jehovah and his Son, she may view her experience as suffering for the sake of Christ. Thus she proves herself to be a daughter of submissive Sarah, a godly woman of faith.
“ACCORDING TO KNOWLEDGE”
52. What is significant about Peter’s use of the Greek word meaning “likewise” or “in like manner” when counseling Christian husbands?
52 Just as a wife has certain duties because of her relationship with a husband, so does a husband because of his relationship with a wife. The apostle Peter reminded husbands of this, using the Greek word for “likewise” or “in like manner” to link his admonition to them with his previous counsel to wives, saying:
“You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with them according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one, since you are also heirs with them of the undeserved favor of life, in order for your prayers not to be hindered.”—1 Peter 3:7.
53. What should govern the manner in which a husband dwells with his wife?
53 It is noteworthy that the inspired apostle, himself a married man, first calls attention to the fact that the manner in which a husband dwells or lives with his wife is to be governed by “knowledge.” (Mark 1:30; 1 Corinthians 9:5) Surely a husband would want to know his wife well—her feelings, strengths, limitations, likes and dislikes. But, even more importantly, he should come to know what his responsibilities are as a Christian husband. By really knowing his wife and also knowing his own God-assigned role, a husband can ‘continue dwelling with his wife according to knowledge.’
54. What does the exercise of headship require?
54 The Scriptures show that the husband is the head of his wife. But he is not an absolute head, for he is required to submit to the headship of Jesus Christ in handling family affairs. “The head of every man is the Christ,” the Bible tells us. (1 Corinthians 11:3) “Husbands,” wrote the apostle Paul, “continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25) Thus, the way in which the Son of God treats the Christian congregation serves as a model for husbands in discharging their family obligations. There certainly is nothing tyrannical or cruel about Jesus Christ’s exercise of headship over the congregation. He even gave up his life for it. Therefore, a husband’s headship does not entitle him to dominate his wife, putting her in a low, degraded position. Instead, it places on him the responsibility of being self-sacrificing in his love, being willing to put his wife’s welfare and interests ahead of his personal desires and preferences.
55. Since Jesus Christ is the example, what should Christian husbands do?
55 Since Jesus Christ is the perfect example for them, husbands do well to acquaint themselves with what he did in dealing with his disciples. More importantly, husbands should strive to conform to the pattern of the Son of God in discharging their family responsibilities. Consider just a few of the many things that Jesus Christ did while on earth in caring for his disciples.
56, 57. (a) How did the Son of God show genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of his disciples? (b) In view of Jesus’ example, what might a husband ask himself?
56 The Son of God was genuinely interested in the spiritual welfare of his followers. Even when they were slow to grasp vital matters, he did not become impatient with them. He took time to make things clear for them and saw to it that they really understood his teaching. (Matthew 16:6-12; John 16:16-30) When they continued to have a problem in having an appreciative view of their relationship to one another, Jesus repeated points on the need for humbly ministering to others. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:42-44; Luke 22:24-27) On his final night with them he fortified his teaching on humility by washing their feet, thus setting the example for them. (John 13:5-15) Jesus also took into consideration the limitations of his disciples and did not give them more information than they could comprehend at the time.—John 16:4, 12.
57 A Christian husband might, therefore, ask himself: ‘How concerned am I about the spiritual welfare of my wife and children? Do I make sure that they really understand Bible principles? When noting wrong attitudes and actions, do I make it clear just why such are wrong and why changes should be made? Do I take into consideration their limitations and watch that I do not require too much?’
58. How might a husband imitate Jesus’ example in considering the physical needs of his family?
58 The Son of God was also alert to take note of what his disciples needed from a physical standpoint. When the apostles returned to Jesus from a preaching tour and made report of their activity, he said: “Come, you yourselves, privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:31) Similarly, a husband wisely sees to it that his wife and children have time for relaxation and refreshment from the regular routine of life.
59, 60. (a) How has Jesus Christ shown confidence and trust in his disciples? (b) How can this help a husband in exercising headship?
59 In exercising headship, Jesus Christ does not hem in the members of the congregation by a list of involved regulations. He gave them the really important commands and guidelines as a basis for their reaching proper decisions in handling the problems of life. His self-sacrificing love, coupled with his confidence and trust in the disciples, in effect, “compels” them to respond with like love, doing their utmost to please him.—2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; compare 1 Timothy 1:12; 1 John 5:2, 3.
60 In a similar way, a husband’s showing confidence in his wife can do much to preserve a happy marriage. A wife who has little latitude to use initiative in caring for her responsibilities will soon lose joy in her work. She will feel stifled in using her knowledge, talents and abilities, resulting in frustration. On the other hand, when her husband entrusts certain important matters to her good judgment, she will have pleasure in handling things in a way that will delight her husband.
“ASSIGNING THEM HONOR AS TO A WEAKER VESSEL”
61-63. (a) What do the Scriptures say about the way in which a husband should deal with his wife? (b) What things would a husband avoid if he indeed assigns an honorable place to his wife? (c) When it comes to important family matters, what should a husband be willing to do? (d) Why is it not enough to take into consideration merely the spoken word when making final decisions?
61 In dwelling with a wife according to his knowledge of her as a person and of his Scriptural responsibilities toward her, a husband would also be assigning her “honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” Because a woman’s bodily makeup imposes more physical limitations on her than is usually true of men, she is the “weaker vessel.” But she is to occupy an honorable or dignified standing in the family. The following words of the apostle Paul illustrate how a husband can assign honor to his wife: “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.”—Ephesians 5:28, 29.
62 Husbands generally do not downgrade their own accomplishments, make themselves appear incompetent, subject their bodies to cruel treatment, and disregard their need for rest and refreshment. They do not want to have the reputation of being “good-for-nothings,” but desire a dignified standing in the eyes of others. If a husband is really a Christian, he will not make light of whatever weaknesses his wife may have, belittle her or otherwise make her feel low and degraded. He would accord his wife the same kind of dignity and consideration that he wants for himself, making her feel wanted, appreciated and needed.
63 For a wife to have an honorable position in the home, her husband needs to be willing to discuss family matters with her in a calm and reasonable way, getting her thoughts and ideas. The wife should be able to express herself freely, with the assurance that what she says in discussing serious matters will not be lightly dismissed but be given due consideration by her husband. (Compare Judges 13:21-23; 1 Samuel 25:23-34; Proverbs 1:5, 6, 8, 9.) Furthermore, a husband needs to be alert to take note of more than just the spoken word. Deep inner feelings can be revealed by the tone of voice, facial expressions or by lack of enthusiasm or spontaneity. (Compare Proverbs 15:13.) A husband who has come to know his wife will not ignore such things and blindly go ahead with something that might give rise to needless irritation.
64. When would a husband not give in to his wife, and why is this beneficial?
64 Of course, as head of the family, when a husband is thoroughly satisfied in his own mind that the interests of the family as a whole would be injured thereby, he would not give in to his wife’s desires. (Compare Numbers 30:6-8.) He recognizes that he is Scripturally obligated to uphold what he honestly believes is right, despite any emotional displays by his wife. For the husband to comply with his wife’s wishes against his better judgment would mean dishonoring God, who has entrusted the man with the position of family head. And if matters thereafter led to hardships for the family, this could embitter him toward his wife. On the other hand, his remaining firm for what he definitely believes to be the right course will benefit the family. If his decision is made prayerfully and in harmony with Scriptural principles, his wife may well come to see the wisdom of the decision made and be glad that her husband remained firm. This should enhance her respect for him and contribute to her happiness and that of the whole family.
A SPIRITUAL REASON
65. What spiritual reason is there for a Christian husband to live with his believing wife “according to knowledge”?
65 There is a compelling reason for a Christian husband to live with his believing wife “according to knowledge,” granting honor to her. It is not just the benefit of increased peace in the family. The Christian apostle Peter showed to his fellow believers an even greater reason. He pointed out that husbands are ‘heirs with their wives of the undeserved favor of life.’ By reason of his sacrificial death, Jesus Christ opened up to both men and women the opportunity of being relieved from the condemnation of sin and death, with eternal life in view. Hence, a wife can have just as much of an approved standing before God and Christ as does her husband. There is serious reason then for a husband to exercise care that he does not treat his wife as if she were an inferior person having less value in God’s eyes than he does.
66. When marital affairs are not handled Scripturally, why does serious spiritual harm result?
66 When marital affairs are not handled according to the example of Jesus Christ with his congregation, this has a damaging effect on the spiritual state of both husband and wife. Yes, ‘prayers could be hindered.’ In a home where there is a readiness to quarrel, to take offense, to harbor grudges and to act with harshness and unreasonableness, it is difficult to appeal to God in prayer. Because of feeling condemned at heart, a person would not have freeness of speech. (1 John 3:21) Then, too, Jehovah God has set forth requirements for hearing prayers. He will not listen to appeals for aid from persons who are merciless, unwilling to forgive the trespasses of others. (Matthew 18:21-35) Only those who strive to harmonize their lives with his commands are given a favorable hearing. (1 John 3:22) Neither husbands nor wives who fail to imitate in their marriage the example of Jesus Christ with his congregation can expect to have divine assistance in dealing with their problems. On the other hand, faithful obedience to Scriptural admonition guarantees divine approval and blessing. Surely, this is a fine reward that comes from submitting to the headship of God’s Son.
SUBMISSION IN THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION
67. According to Matthew 23:8-11, what attitude should exist within the Christian congregation?
67 Within the Christian congregation, there is also real need for recognition of Christ’s headship. This recognition will affect the attitude and conduct of the individual members toward one another. According to Jesus’ own words, his congregation was to be a brotherhood. He said to his disciples: “You, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister [servant, Kingdom Interlinear Translation].”—Matthew 23:8-11.
68, 69. (a) Since the congregation is a brotherhood, what liberties should not be taken? (b) What did Timothy have to keep in mind when dealing with members of the congregation?
68 No one, therefore, is to play the prince in the congregation. But those who serve as elders and teachers in it are to imitate the Master, Christ, in humbly slaving for their brothers. However, since the congregation is a brotherhood composed of both young and old, male and female, individual members of the congregation are not free to take liberties that would violate the natural sense of propriety. The apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “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 Timothy 5:1, 2.
69 At the time the apostle wrote these words, Timothy was likely in his thirties. Although serving as an appointed elder, he was being admonished to keep in mind that he was still comparatively young. If an older man needed correction, Timothy was not to be harsh with him but was to appeal to him with the respectful bearing of a son standing before his father. (Compare the respectful way in which Jacob was entreated by his sons, as recorded at Genesis 43:2-10.) Older women, too, were to be shown the consideration and kindness that were due a mother. Not even with young men could Timothy take liberties, but he was to deal with them as he would with beloved fleshly brothers. Because of the strong attraction men feel toward the opposite sex, it was most appropriate that Timothy be cautioned to treat young women as his own fleshly “sisters with all chasteness.” This meant that, in his association with young Christian women, he was to remain chaste, pure or clean in his thoughts, words and actions.
70. (a) Why is a spirit of submissiveness needed in order to maintain proper conduct in the congregation? (b) What call help one in maintaining a submissive spirit?
70 In our relationship with other members of the congregation, we need a spirit of humility in order to keep our place and not violate the natural sense of decency and propriety. Rightly, then, the apostle Peter admonished: “You younger men, be in subjection to the older men.” (1 Peter 5:5) Young men should strive to cooperate with older men, especially the appointed elders of the congregation. It would surely be inappropriate for a young man to speak to older men or act toward them in a way that would be unthinkable if he were dealing with his own fleshly father. But what may a young man do to maintain a spirit of submissiveness? He may find it beneficial to think about the commendable qualities of older brothers and their record of faithful service. This can contribute toward deepening his love and appreciation for them.—Compare Hebrews 13:7, 17.
71. What is meant by our ‘girding ourselves with lowliness of mind’?
71 Of course, Peter did more than encourage just the young men to be submissive to the older men. He continued: “All of you gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another.” The original-language expression for “gird yourselves with lowliness of mind” carries the thought of tying such lowliness of mind on oneself with knots. That “lowliness of mind” was to be like an apron or a garment girded on by a slave. Hence, the spirit that Peter encouraged is one of willingness to serve and benefit others. How fine it is when we treat all in the congregation with respect and deference, according them the dignity that they deserve! This course leads to Jehovah’s blessing and favor, for Peter adds: “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.”—1 Peter 5:5.
72. What rewards come from showing proper subjection?
72 Truly, our showing the kind of submission that harmonizes with the Holy Scriptures pays a rich reward. It will never worsen a bad situation but will give us a good conscience before God and men. Subjection to governmental authorities, employers, supervisors or an unbelieving husband can provide a fine witness respecting the value of true Christianity and may help others to become disciples of God’s Son, with eternal life in view. In our own case, we can rest assured that Jehovah God will richly reward us for having followed the course that is pleasing in his sight. Yes, proper subjection to authority is a vital part of our enjoying the best way of life now.