Husbands, Show Self-Sacrificing Love
“Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.”—EPHESIANS 5:25.
1. Why is Christian headship both demanding and rewarding?
“MARRIAGE! Nothing else demands so much from a man!” Thus wrote Norwegian poet Ibsen. In view of the Bible principle of headship, you may heartily agree. Yet, when properly exercised, Christian headship can also create a homelife that is a haven of mutual love and respect where your heart is at ease. However, your divinely appointed position as head does bring with it greater accountability before God.—Luke 12:48.
2. Is happiness in the home solely up to the efforts of the husband?
2 Does this mean that you as a husband are solely responsible for the happiness in your home? No, both you and your wife must try to improve the atmosphere there. (Proverbs 14:1) The fact that much of what follows applies to the husband does not mean that wives are less imperfect. But it is designed to help husbands live up to the demands of Christian headship. Just how is headship to be exercised? This is a matter that all Christians—even the unmarried—need to understand.
Love as Christ Loved the Congregation
3. How does Ephesians 5:25 describe proper headship, and what does this mean?
3 “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Ephesians 5:25) Since husbands have the Scriptural right to make final decisions in the family, it would be easy for you to allow selfishness to creep in. Admittedly, most family decisions are matters where personal preferences play a large role. Do your own likes prevail when no Bible principle is involved? Note that a husband must imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificing love. He delivered up himself for his disciples. “Christ did not please himself.” (Romans 15:3) Self-sacrifice means giving up some pleasure or going through some trouble or inconvenience for the benefit of another.
4. In what way did Jesus show his concern for his disciples?
4 Jesus’ consuming interest was to help his disciples spiritually. While firm for righteousness, he was never harsh when his disciples expressed wrong views, or were arrogant, impulsive or cowardly. (Matthew 18:1-3; Luke 22:24-26, 47-51, 59-62) ‘By means of the Word of God,’ and his example, he aided his disciples in overcoming serious weaknesses so that they, as a group, would “be holy and without blemish.”—Ephesians 5:26, 27.
5, 6. How can a husband imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificing love, and when is this especially hard?
5 Do you show such self-sacrificing love? Some men feel that providing for their wives materially is sufficient sacrifice. True, such labor is difficult and should be deeply appreciated. Yet at the heart of Jesus’ example was his tireless exertion in caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of his disciples in addition to their physical ones. After all the anxieties of the world in caring materially for their families, many men may understandably not want to be further taxed mentally at home. While this attitude is common in families that do not try to follow the Bible, sadly even one Christian wife confided: “My husband gave me no direction at all. There were times when I poured out my heart for guidance on certain matters, but his mind was somewhere else.”
6 Self-sacrificing love is the answer. If your wife has a baffling problem, rather than put her off by a word or facial expression this love will motivate you to reason matters out with her patiently. You will be very concerned about her spirituality, studying the Bible and sharing in sacred service with her. You will avoid letting her shoulder weighty decisions that are rightly your responsibility. You will also see that she has opportunity to relax and rest up a bit. (Mark 6:31) Such initiative gives a wife self-respect and real security.
Lowly at Heart
7. To exercise a balanced headship, what quality is needed?
7 Often, men have difficulty finding a balance with headship. At times some will feel threatened even if a wife makes a suggestion or is somewhat critical. Jesus, the model for Christian heads, said: “I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart.” (Matthew 11:29) His humility was not on the surface, only to disappear when someone differed with him.
8, 9. (a) For what did Sarah blame Abraham, and why? (b) Why did Abraham not belittle her or answer harshly?
8 Abraham was also an example of humility. His wife, Sarah, was treated disrespectfully by her slave girl Hagar. Abraham either did not notice this haughty action or failed to take swift action. “The violence done me be upon you,” said Sarah. “I myself gave my maidservant over to your bosom, and she became aware that she was pregnant, and I began to be despised in her eyes. May Jehovah judge between me and you.”—Genesis 16:5.
9 How those words must have stung! For Abraham dearly loved Sarah and would never want her hurt. Though Sarah may have had reason to blame Abraham for her predicament, she may have overreacted, for she even appealed to God as if Abraham would not be just. Now, did Abraham lash out in defense of his headship? Did he consider her unsubmissive? He knew that Sarah had left a comfortable home in Ur and for over 10 years had dwelt in tents as he responded to God’s leading. That was subjection! Her submissive, unselfish support had endeared her to him. (1 Peter 3:5, 6) “Look! Your maidservant is at your disposal,” was his mild reply. “Do to her what is good in your eyes.” (Genesis 16:6) Abraham was lowly in heart. What a man!
10. (a) How can a husband imitate Abraham? (b) Will you always be successful?
10 When your wife may blame you for some problem, try to respond as did Abraham. It is not always easy. There will be times when you fall short. But listen, try to understand and evaluate what she is saying. Sometimes in a burst of emotion a wife may not say just the proper words. She may overreact just like Sarah. Try to see how you can work it out together.
11. Why should a husband not view his wife as a “second-class” person?
11 True, a husband can set down various rules for the household. (Romans 7:2) Yet your wife is not a child or a “second-class” person. Jehovah said, “I am going to make a helper for [the man], as a complement of him [literally, “one like him”].” (Genesis 2:18) Eve was to be on Adam’s level of intelligence, his counterpart, really able to help him in carrying out his divine assignment.
12. (a) What was accomplished when one husband developed modesty of heart? (b) How does modesty work for happiness in marriage?
12 The capable wife described in Proverbs 31 was trusted by her husband. She purchased property; even planted a vineyard “from the fruitage of her hands”—no small task! Was the husband resentful, feeling his headship threatened? No, he praised her! (Pr 31 Verses 10, 11, 16, 28) A similar attitude can help you avoid needless arguments. For instance, one husband and his wife argued constantly. He admittedly exercised a “bossy” headship. After prayerful self-examination he swallowed this improper pride. He began to evaluate her suggestions. Eventually he even let her take care of some of the money matters. He now says: “She does a great job!” The wife adds: “I just wanted to be trusted. It is good to feel inside that your husband has confidence in you.” Proverbs 13:10 thus warns: “By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle, but with those consulting together there is wisdom.” A husband who is modest, aware of his limitations, rejoices with his wife’s skills, thereby showing himself to be modest at heart.—Proverbs 11:2.
Show Honor to the “Weaker Vessel”
13. (a) First Peter 3:7 shows that a husband must do what? (b) What emotional need makes a woman the “weaker vessel”?
13 “You husbands,” wrote the apostle Peter, “continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.” (1 Peter 3:7) You must have knowledge of your wife’s emotional makeup, which is basically why she is considered the weaker vessel. A wife must sense that she is loved and cherished by her husband. Without this one ingredient—despite what material goods she has—she will feel inadequate. She must be convinced that her husband feels as did the husband of long ago who said to his wife: “There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.”—Proverbs 31:28, 29.
14. What gives a woman emotional security?
14 ‘My wife should know I love her. I married her, didn’t I?’ may be the thinking of some men. Women, however, thrive on expressed affection. The faithful man Isaac was sensitive to this need. After 35 years of marriage he was seen showing affection to his wife. (Genesis 26:8) Do likewise. By the attention you give, let her know that your heart is with her, that to you ‘she excels all women.’
15. To be attentive to their wives, what must husbands guard, and why is this so important?
15 To be this attentive takes time and thought. Some husbands find it easier to become attentive to someone who seems new and exciting. This happened in Israel during the time of Malachi. Jehovah said to those self-centered men who were dealing treacherously with their wives: “You must guard yourselves respecting your spirit.” (Malachi 2:13-16) Yes, these needed to guard, watch out for, their feelings. Because we may work or live close to other women, we must do the same. It takes a conscious effort and self-discipline to prevent egotism, boredom or curiosity from changing your spirit, inner feelings, toward your wife.—Matthew 5:27-30.
The Wife’s “Due”
16. What area of marriage has many problems, and how is unselfishness indicated at 1 Corinthians 7:3, 4?
16 Your self-sacrifice is especially necessary with the marital “due.” “Let the husband render to his wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to her husband. The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.” (1 Corinthians 7:3, 4) Problems abound in this sensitive relationship. Some research studies have shown that one half of all couples will experience a serious sexual problem at some time during their marriage.
17. (a) What should be included in paying a wife her marital due? (b) How does one researcher explain the needs of a wife?
17 Many husbands often equate their wife’s needs or sexual “due” with their own. In a completely different avenue Paul showed that not all “dues” are alike. At Romans 13:7 some governmental officials are due the tax, others the tribute, still others honor. The due required depends on the specific need or request of the individual. As to the marital due of your wife, more than physical union is necessary. In The Family, Society, and the Individual, researcher William M. Kephart states: “The essence of female sexuality, then, can best be described in terms of love and affection. . . . During sex activities the average woman is perhaps as much concerned with amatory behavior—being held, caressed, kissed . . . it seems to be in the nature of women to think of sex in terms of tenderness and love, rather than as an isolated physical drive.”
18. What can create self-centeredness?
18 Your wife’s emotional makeup as the “weaker vessel” requires that you be self-sacrificing and not merely concerned with your own satisfaction. Furthermore, being entertained by material that features sex can create an improper “sexual appetite” and lead to self-centeredness, making common and crude what should be beautiful. Avoid such material like the plague! (Colossians 3:5) But patiently, through expressions of tender love, render to your wife her full due.—1 Corinthians 10:24.
Self-Sacrifice Touches the Heart
19. If a husband is self-sacrificing, should a Christian wife take advantage of it?
19 With such emphasis on the husband’s self-sacrifice you may feel, ‘Will not wives take advantage of it—always insisting on their own way?’ That should not be the case! Christian wives should respond as the congregation did to Jesus’ self-sacrificing love. Paul writes: “The love the Christ has compels us . . . and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) So, too, your wife should respond with unselfishness. As one happy Christian wife said: “I will knock myself out for my husband so that we can keep serving in a very difficult theocratic assignment, because I know he cares about me.”
20. (a) How does reflection on Genesis 3:16 show that both husbands and wives can become unbalanced? (b) Why should wives not be quick to point to their husband’s errors?
20 Yes, wives, there is need on your part to be unselfish. Just as a man can abuse his headship by selfishly dominating his wife, so, too, a wife can have an inordinate craving for the attention of her husband. (Genesis 3:16) Balance is not easy. With all the demands on your husband, including heavy congregational duties, there are bound to be times when he may not satisfy all your emotional needs. “If errors were what you watched, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” confessed the psalmist. None of us could! (Psalm 130:3) Just as your husband will have an accounting with Jehovah, so will you. But right now your expressions of appreciation for the good he does along with mercy will capture not just the eye of your husband but his very heart.
Help From Above
21. How does God help? Give an illustration.
21 Of course, all these responsibilities may seem overwhelming. But God will help you “to be made mighty in the man [or, woman] you are inside with power through his spirit.” It is this inner strength that can enable you to carry any load, for Jehovah, through his power, can “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.” (Ephesians 3:16, 20) One Christian couple separated because of problems. After some time they sat down together to discuss a possible reconciliation. The shouting started again. Then the husband suggested that they pray together. They calmed down. “That appeared to be the real problem in our marriage,” confided the husband. “We always tried to settle our problems on our own instead of bringing Jehovah into them. And nothing ever worked.” After being reunited for over five years, the wife said: “It just gets better. The more we apply the truth of the Bible, the happier we become. Now we try to include Jehovah in every aspect of our marriage. We enjoy so much working together in the preaching work.”
22, 23. (a) Around what should a Christian marriage be centered? (b) Why are many wives to be heartily commended?
22 Yes, a Christian’s marriage should be centered around his relationship with God, not simply around pleasing his mate. As Paul wrote: “Let those who have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) Of course, Paul was not telling husbands to ignore their wives. It is only proper that a married man be eager to “gain the approval of his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:33) But as a man advances spiritually and shows the qualities of a good husband he will likely be appointed to service privileges in the congregation. This would take up some of the time that previously was shared with his wife, though he should not become unbalanced. But still occasionally she may have to do without his full attention.
23 Many of you wives have unselfishly bided your time on various occasions while your husband had to care for necessary congregational duties. You are truly to be commended! Your patient support is deeply appreciated by your husband and Jehovah. You are just what the Bible says—“a crown” to your husband and one that brings “goodwill from Jehovah”!—Proverbs 12:4; 18:22.
24. What should husband and wife individually try to do?
24 So, husbands, continue showing self-sacrificing love. Wives, continue to respond with unselfish support. Build your marriage around your relationship with God. And may our tender Father richly bless your efforts!
Do You Recall?
□ How does a husband ‘love his wife as Christ loved the congregation’?
□ How can a husband imitate the lowliness of heart of Abraham?
□ How does a husband show honor to his wife as a weaker vessel?
□ What should be the response of wives to such self-sacrifice?
[Pictures on page 20]
A HUSBAND SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD
In field ministry
In handling family matters