Showing Love and Respect as a Wife
“The wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—EPHESIANS 5:33.
1. What questions arise regarding the modern state of marriage?
IN THIS modern era of independence and “liberation,” the traditional view of marriage has suffered some severe knocks. Millions of families have to function while lacking either a father or a mother. Living together without the benefit of a legal marriage has become the custom of many. But has this led to greater security for the woman and mother? Has it provided stability for the children? And has this breakdown of values led to greater respect within the family arrangement? In contrast, what does God’s Word recommend?
2. Why was it not good for Adam to continue alone?
2 When God expressed his intention to create the first woman, he stated: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself.” And after observing animal families—males and females with their young ones—Adam’s feeling must have harmonized with that statement. Although perfect and in a satisfying paradise, Adam lacked companionship with someone of his kind. He was gifted with intelligence and speech, but there was no other creature of his kind with whom to share those gifts. Yet, the situation would soon be different, for God said: “I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”—Genesis 2:18-20.
3. (a) How was Eve of Adam’s “kind”? (b) What does it mean for a man to “stick” to his wife?
3 Jehovah created the woman Eve by using one of Adam’s ribs as a base. Therefore, Eve was of the same “kind” as Adam. She was not a lower animal but was “bone of [his] bones and flesh of [his] flesh.” Accordingly, the inspired account says: “That is why a man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23, 24) The Hebrew word translated “stick” literally means “to cleave, to adhere, specially firmly, as if with glue.” (Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures) This really communicates the idea of a husband and wife being inseparable companions. Another scholar says that “it refers to more than the sexual union of man and wife and extends to the whole relationship.” Thus, marriage is not a passing fancy. It is a lasting relationship. And where there is mutual respect and dignity, that unity, although perhaps strained at times, should be unbreakable.—Matthew 19:3-9.
4. In what sense was the woman man’s helper and complement?
4 God said that the woman would be man’s helper and complement. Since they were made in God’s image, he would expect them to manifest his qualities—justice, love, wisdom, and power—in their relationship with each other. Therefore, Eve would be “a complement,” not a competitor. The family would not be like a ship with two competing captains, but headship would be exercised by Adam.—1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Timothy 2:12, 13.
5. How have many men treated women, and does this have God’s approval?
5 However, the rebellion and sin of the first human pair against God’s loving headship precipitated a different setting for the forming of their family and all future families. With foreknowledge of the results of their sin and its effect upon mankind, Jehovah said to Eve: “Your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” (Genesis 3:16) Unfortunately, over the centuries many men have dominated women in a tyrannical manner. Women have been and still are humiliated and degraded in many ways all over the world. Yet, as we have seen in the previous article, the application of Bible principles provides no basis for male despotism. On the other hand, it does emphasize the value of deep respect.
Deep Respect—A Challenge
6, 7. (a) How may unbelieving husbands be won over to the truth? (b) How could a wife possibly be failing to show “deep respect” for her unbelieving husband?
6 The apostle Peter detailed Christ’s example in conduct and explained that Jesus left us ‘a model to follow his steps closely.’ Then Peter stated: “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 2:21–3:2) How can Christian wives manifest this “deep respect”?
7 Many of our Christian sisters have unbelieving and sometimes opposing husbands. Do these circumstances mean that Peter’s counsel is then null and void? No, subjection and respect are required even if “any are not obedient to the word.” Therefore, would it be a sign of deep respect if a Christian wife with an opposing husband were to come to the Kingdom Hall and gossip about him, recounting to many sisters in the congregation all the ill-treatment she had received from him? If she did that with regard to a brother or a sister in the congregation, what would it be called? Gossip, or perhaps even slander. Therefore, it is not evidence of deep respect for a wife to malign her unbelieving husband. (1 Timothy 3:11; 5:13) Yet, it has to be recognized that some opposed sisters have a serious problem. What is the Christian solution? They can go to the elders and seek their help and advice.—Hebrews 13:17.
8. What might be an opposing husband’s line of thought?
8 How can the elders deal tactfully with an opposing husband? First of all, they can try to see the situation from his viewpoint. His verbal or physical violence could be motivated by a triple-link chain reaction of ignorance leading to fear and then to a violent reaction. And why does this occur? Sometimes the husband knows little or nothing about Jehovah’s Witnesses except for what he hears from prejudiced workmates. He does know that before his wife started to study the Bible she may have been totally absorbed in him and their children. Although she may now be a better wife and mother, his attitude is: ‘She abandons me three times a week to go to those meetings. I don’t know what goes on in those meetings, but there are some good-looking men down at that hall, and . . . ’ Yes, his ignorance might lead to jealousy and fear. Then comes the defensive reaction. Where these attitudes are discerned, how might the elders help?—Proverbs 14:30; 27:4.
9. What tactful approach may be used with some unbelieving husbands, and what effect may this have?
9 Perhaps one of the elders could get to know the husband on a personal level. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) The husband may have skill as an electrician, a carpenter, or a painter. He might be willing to use that skill to help out with a problem at the Kingdom Hall. In that way he would get to see the inside of the Kingdom Hall without feeling any obligation to attend a meeting. As he gets to know the brothers, his attitude toward his wife and the truth might soften. Upon seeing the love and spirit of cooperation in the congregation, he might even begin to bring his wife to the meetings. Then, as one thing leads to another, he might step inside the hall during a meeting to listen for a while. Before long, he could be asking for a Bible study. All of this can be achieved and at times it has been. There are thousands of believing husbands today, thanks to such love and tact and a wife’s “deep respect.”—Ephesians 5:33.
Watches Over Her Household
10, 11. What different facets of a capable wife does King Lemuel describe? (Consider separately.)
10 King Lemuel got good counsel from his mother about the qualities of an ideal wife. (Proverbs 31:1) Her description of the hard-working wife and mother at Proverbs 31:10-31 is well worth reading carefully. She obviously had experience in applying God’s righteous principles and in showing deep respect.
11 Lemuel writes that the “capable wife” is trustworthy, reliable, and loyal. (Proverbs 31 Verses 10-12) She works hard to feed and care for her husband and children. (Proverbs 31 Verses 13-19, 21, 24) She is kind and charitable to those in genuine need. (Proverbs 31 Verse 20) By her respect and fine conduct, she adds to her husband’s good reputation. (Proverbs 31 Verse 23) She is not an idle gossiper or a destructive critic. On the contrary, with her tongue she builds up and heals. (Proverbs 31 Verse 26) Because she is not lazy, she has a clean, orderly house. (Proverbs 31 Verse 27) (In fact, a Christian home should be one of the cleanest in the neighborhood.) Her husband and children show gratitude and praise her. Those outside the family also appreciate her qualities. (Proverbs 31 Verses 28, 29, 31) Her beauty is not skin-deep; it is the beauty of a God-fearing woman with a godly personality.—Proverbs 31 Verse 30.
A Quiet and Mild Spirit
12. What is of “great value in the eyes of God,” and how does a Spanish proverb highlight this point?
12 This last point is echoed by Peter when he counsels the Christian woman not to pay excessive attention to her outward appearance. He urges: “Let [your 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 3:3, 4) Notice the point that ‘the quiet and mild spirit is of great value in the eyes of God.’ Thus, the Christian wife and mother who has such a spirit is not only pleasing her husband but, more importantly, she is pleasing God, as did faithful women of ancient times. This inner beauty is also reflected in the Spanish saying: “A beautiful woman pleases the eyes; a good woman pleases the heart. If the former is a jewel, the latter is a treasure.”
13. What refreshing effect can a wife have on her children?
13 A Christian wife can be refreshing to all in her household. (Compare Matthew 11:28-30.) As the children observe her respect for her husband, they will reflect that respect in their dealings with their parents and those outside the family. As a consequence, Christian children will be kind and considerate. And how refreshing when children volunteer to do chores rather than having to be prodded to get them done! Their unselfishness contributes to the happiness of the home, and a mother’s smile of approval is ample payment.
14. The need for discipline may lead to what challenge?
14 But what about times when discipline is needed? Like their parents, children make mistakes. Sometimes they are disobedient. How will a Christian mother react if the father is absent? Will she continue to respect the dignity of their children? Or will she scream and rant in an attempt to get their obedience? Well, does a child learn from the volume of the voice? Or would a quiet, reasoning voice have greater effect?—Ephesians 4:31, 32.
15. What have researchers found regarding the obedience of children?
15 Commenting on the obedience of children, the magazine Psychology Today stated: “According to a recent study, the louder you tell kids not to do something, the more likely it is that they’ll turn around and do exactly what you don’t want them to do.” On the other hand, researchers have found that when adults speak softly, children tend to obey without much hesitation. Of course, it is especially important to reason with a child rather than exasperate him with endless dogmatic commands.—Ephesians 6:4; 1 Peter 4:8.
Respect in the Physical Relationship
16. How can a wife show consideration for her husband’s emotional needs, and with what benefit?
16 Just as a husband should show consideration for his wife because she is of a more delicate constitution, so a wife should recognize her husband’s emotional and sexual needs. The Bible indicates that a man and his wife should take delight in each other and satisfy each other. That requires sensitivity to each other’s needs and moods. This mutual satisfaction will also help to ensure that neither partner has a wandering eye that could lead to a wandering body.—Proverbs 5:15-20.
17. How should a husband and wife view the rendering of the marital due?
17 Certainly, where there is mutual respect, neither partner would use sexual needs as a psychological weapon. Each should render the marriage due to the other, and if there is temporary abstinence, it should be by mutual consent. (1 Corinthians 7:1-5) For example, sometimes a husband might be away on temporary construction work at the local branch office of the Watch Tower Society or some other theocratic project. In that case he should be sure that he has his wife’s wholehearted consent. Such a separation can also bring spiritual blessings to the family, that is, in the form of encouraging experiences related by the husband after returning home.
Important Role of the Sisters
18. Why does an elder’s wife bear a greater responsibility?
18 Where a Christian woman’s husband is an elder, she has a greater responsibility. First, the demands are greater on him. He is answerable to Jehovah for the spiritual state of the congregation. (Hebrews 13:17) But as the wife of an elder and perhaps an older woman herself, her respectful example is also vital. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:9, 10; Titus 2:3-5.) And what a fine example most elders’ wives set in support of their husbands! Often, the husband has to be away attending to congregational matters, and maybe her curiosity is aroused. Loyally, however, a godly wife does not pry into congregation affairs like a busybody.—1 Peter 4:15.
19. What might ‘presiding over a household’ involve for an elder?
19 However, an elder might have to counsel his wife if she displays attitudes that are not upbuilding or if she does not set a good example for other sisters. ‘Presiding over a household in a fine manner’ involves not just the children but also the wife. Applying this Scriptural standard might test the humility of some wives.—1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 11; Hebrews 12:11.
20. Mention some fine examples of married and unmarried sisters in ancient and modern times. (See “Life Stories of Jehovah’s Witnesses” in the Watch Tower Publications Index 1930-1985.)
20 Unmarried sisters can also reflect on the respectful role of wives in the congregation. There are so many good examples of fine, faithful sisters, both in the Scriptures and in the congregations today! Dorcas, probably a single sister, was highly commended for her “good deeds.” (Acts 9:36-42) Prisca and Phoebe were also zealous for the truth. (Romans 16:1-4) Likewise today, many of our sisters, married or single, are outstanding missionaries, pioneers, and publishers. At the same time, such godly women keep clean, orderly homes and never neglect their families. Because of their numbers and circumstances, they often do the greater part of the preaching work.—Psalm 68:11.
21. How are faithful sisters an encouragement to their Christian brothers?
21 Faithful sisters in the congregation play a vital upbuilding role. Their zeal and example are an encouragement to the brothers and to the Christian congregation in general. They are truly complements and helpers. (Compare Genesis 2:18.) What genuine love and respect they deserve! And for Christian marriage mates, appropriate, indeed, is Paul’s counsel: “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 5:33.
Do You Recall?
□ What were God’s original roles for perfect man and woman?
□ How might unbelieving husbands be won over to the truth?
□ What are the outstanding qualities of a capable wife?
□ How can a Christian wife manifest ‘a quiet and mild spirit’?
□ What balance is required in the physical relationship between spouses?
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The family should not be like a ship with two competing captains
[Picture on page 18]
An unbelieving husband may become jealous, even somewhat fearful, about his wife’s meeting attendance or other Christian activities. How might he be helped?