Wives—Deeply Respect Your Husbands
“Wives be in subjection to [your] husbands.”—EPHESIANS 5:22.
1. Why is respecting a husband often hard to do?
IN MANY lands when a couple gets married, the bride makes a vow, promising that she will deeply respect her husband. However, the way that many husbands treat their wives has a bearing on whether that vow is difficult to live up to or not. Yet, marriage had a wonderful beginning. God took a rib from Adam, the first man, and made the woman. Adam exclaimed: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”—Genesis 2:19-23.
2. What has developed regarding women and marriage in recent times?
2 Despite that fine beginning, a movement called women’s liberation—an attempt by women to break free from male domination—began in the early 1960’s in the United States. At that time, some 300 husbands abandoned their families to every 1 wife who did. By the end of the 1960’s, the ratio changed to about 100 to 1. Now, it seems, women swear, drink, smoke, and behave immorally as much as men do. So are women happier? No. In some countries, about half of the people who marry eventually divorce. Has the effort by some women to improve their marital situation made matters better or worse?—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
3. What is the basic problem affecting marriage?
3 What is the basic problem? To some extent, it is the problem that has existed since Eve was seduced by the rebel angel, “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” (Revelation 12:9; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14) Satan has undermined what God teaches. For example, regarding marriage, the Devil has made it appear restrictive and harsh. The propaganda he promotes through the media of this world—of which he is the ruler—is designed to make God’s instructions seem unfair and out-of-date. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) If, though, we examine with an open mind what God says regarding a woman’s role in marriage, we will see how wise and practical God’s Word is.
Caution to Those Who Marry
4, 5. (a) Why is caution advisable when considering marriage? (b) What should a woman do before consenting to marry?
4 The Bible provides a word of warning. It says that in this Devil-ruled world, even those in successful marriages will have “tribulation.” So although marriage is a divine arrangement, the Bible cautions those who enter into it. One inspired Bible writer said regarding a woman whose husband has died and who therefore is free to remarry: “She is happier if she remains as she is.” Jesus also recommended singleness for those who “can make room for it.” However, if anyone chooses to marry, it should be to one “in the Lord,” that is, to a dedicated and baptized worshipper of God.—1 Corinthians 7:28, 36-40; Matthew 19:10-12.
5 The reason that a woman in particular should give attention to whom she marries is the Bible’s caution: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband.” Only if he dies or commits immorality and the couple is divorced because of it is she “free from his law.” (Romans 7:2, 3) The love-at-first-sight feeling may be enough for a pleasurable romance, but it is not an adequate basis for a happy marriage. A single woman, therefore, needs to ask herself, ‘Am I willing to enter into an arrangement in which I will come under the law of this man?’ The time to consider this question is before getting married, not afterward.
6. What decision can most women today make, and why is it so important?
6 In many places today, a woman can choose either to accept or to reject a marriage proposal. Yet, making a wise choice may be the hardest thing a woman ever does, since her desire for the closeness and love possible in marriage can be very strong. One writer noted: “The more we want to do something—whether it is to marry or scale a particular mountain—the more likely we are to make unchecked assumptions and pay attention only to the data that tells us what we want to hear.” An irrational decision for a mountain climber may cost him his life; an unwise choice of a marriage mate can likewise be disastrous.
7. What wise counsel has been provided about seeking a mate?
7 A woman should consider seriously what could be involved in being under the law of a man who proposes to her. Years ago, a young Indian girl modestly acknowledged: “Our parents are older and wiser, and they aren’t as easily deceived as we would be. . . . I could so easily make a mistake.” The help that parents and others can provide is important. One wise counselor long encouraged young people to get to know the parents of their prospective marriage mate as well as to observe carefully that one’s interaction with parents and other family members.
How Jesus Showed Subjection
8, 9. (a) How did Jesus view his subjection to God? (b) What benefit may be realized from subjection?
8 Although subjection can be challenging, women can welcome it as honorable, even as did Jesus. While his subjection to God involved suffering, including death on a torture stake, he found joy in being submissive to God. (Luke 22:41-44; Hebrews 5:7, 8; 12:3) Women can look to Jesus as an example, for the Bible says: “The head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Significantly, however, it is not only when women marry that they come under the headship of men.
9 The Bible explains that women, whether married or single, should submit to the headship of spiritually qualified men who exercise oversight in the Christian congregation. (1 Timothy 2:12, 13; Hebrews 13:17) When women follow God’s direction to do so, they set an example for the angels in God’s organizational arrangement. (1 Corinthians 11:8-10) In addition, older married women, by their fine example and helpful suggestions, teach younger women to ‘subject themselves to their own husbands.’—Titus 2:3-5.
10. How did Jesus set an example in showing subjection?
10 Jesus realized the value of appropriate subjection. On one occasion, he directed the apostle Peter to pay taxes to human authorities for them both, even providing Peter with the tax money to do so. Peter later wrote: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation.” (1 Peter 2:13; Matthew 17:24-27) Regarding Jesus’ most outstanding example of subjection, we read: “He emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.”—Philippians 2:5-8.
11. Why did Peter encourage wives to be submissive even to husbands who were unbelievers?
11 When encouraging Christians to be submissive even to harsh, unjust authorities of this world, Peter explained: “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.” (1 Peter 2:21) After describing how much Jesus suffered and how he submissively endured, Peter encouraged wives of unbelieving husbands: “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.
12. What benefits were realized by Jesus’ submissive course?
12 Submission in the face of ridicule and abuse may be viewed as evidence of weakness. Yet, that is not how Jesus viewed it. “When he was being reviled,” Peter wrote, “he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening.” (1 Peter 2:23) Some who watched Jesus suffer became believers, at least to some degree, including a robber on a stake next to him and the army officer viewing the execution. (Matthew 27:38-44, 54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:39-43) Similarly, Peter indicated that some unbelieving husbands—even those who are abusive—will become Christians after observing the submissive conduct of their wives. We have seen evidence of this happening today.
How Wives Can Win Favor
13, 14. How has submission to unbelieving husbands been beneficial?
13 Wives who have become believers have won over their husbands by their Christlike conduct. At a recent district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a husband said of his Christian wife: “I guess I was a jerk in the way I treated her. Yet, she was very respectful of me. She never once put me down. She didn’t try to force her beliefs on me. She cared for me in a loving way. When she went to an assembly, she worked hard to prepare my meals ahead of time and to get the housework done. Her attitude started to arouse my interest in the Bible. And, well, here I am!” Yes, he had, in effect, been “won without a word” by his wife’s conduct.
14 As Peter emphasized, it is not so much what a wife says but what she does that produces positive results. This was illustrated by a wife who learned Bible truths and was determined to attend Christian meetings. “Agnes, if you go out that door, don’t come back in!” her husband shouted. She did not go out “that door” but, rather, another one. The next meeting night, he threatened: “I won’t be here when you come back.” Well, he was not—he was gone for three days. When he returned, she kindly asked: “Would you like something to eat?” Agnes never budged in her devotion to Jehovah. Her husband eventually accepted a Bible study, dedicated his life to God, and later served as an overseer with many responsibilities.
15. What “adornment” is recommended for Christian wives?
15 The apostle Peter recommended something that the wives noted above have demonstrated, namely, “adornment,” but not by giving exaggerated attention to the “braiding of the hair” or “the wearing of outer garments.” Rather, Peter said: “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.” This spirit is reflected in a tone of voice and a manner that are becoming rather than challenging or demanding. Thus a Christian wife shows her deep respect for her husband.—1 Peter 3:3, 4.
Examples to Learn From
16. In what ways is Sarah a fine example for Christian wives?
16 Peter wrote: “Formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:5) Such ones realized that pleasing Jehovah by heeding his counsel would ultimately result in family happiness and the reward of everlasting life. Peter mentions Sarah, the beautiful wife of Abraham, noting that she “used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord.’” Sarah supported her God-fearing husband, whom God had assigned to serve in a distant land. She gave up a comfortable lifestyle and even put her life in jeopardy. (Genesis 12:1, 10-13) Peter recommended Sarah for her courageous example, saying: “You have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.”—1 Peter 3:6.
17. Why might Peter have had Abigail in mind as an example for Christian wives?
17 Abigail was another fearless woman who hoped in God, and Peter may have had her in mind as well. She “was good in discretion,” but her husband Nabal “was harsh and bad in his practices.” When Nabal refused to give assistance to David and his men, they prepared to wipe out Nabal and his entire household. But Abigail took action to save her household. She loaded supplies of food on asses and met David as he and his armed men were en route. Catching sight of David, she dismounted, fell at his feet, and entreated him not to act rashly. David was deeply moved. “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me!” he said, “and blessed be your sensibleness.”—1 Samuel 25:2-33.
18. If tempted by the amorous attentions of another man, wives can reflect on what example, and why?
18 Another fine example for wives is that of a young Shulammite woman who remained loyal to the humble shepherd to whom she was promised in marriage. Her love for him remained strong despite the amorous attentions of a wealthy potentate. Moved to express her feelings for the young shepherd, she said: “Place me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; because love is as strong as death is . . . Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away.” (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7) May it also be the resolve of all those who accept a marriage proposal to remain loyal to their husbands and deeply respect them.
Additional Divine Counsel
19, 20. (a) For what reason should wives be in subjection to their husbands? (b) What fine example has been provided for wives?
19 Finally, consider the context of our theme scripture: “Wives be in subjection to [your] husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22) Why is such subjection necessary? “Because,” the next verse continues, “a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.” Therefore, wives are urged: “As the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything.”—Ephesians 5:23, 24, 33.
20 To obey this command, wives need to study and then imitate the example of Christ’s congregation of anointed followers. Please read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 and thereby learn what one member of the congregation, the apostle Paul, endured in being faithful to his Head, Jesus Christ. Like Paul, wives as well as the rest of the congregation need to remain loyally subject to Jesus. Wives demonstrate this by their subjection to their husbands.
21. What can serve as incentives for wives to remain subject to their husbands?
21 While many wives today may chafe at being in subjection, a wise woman will consider its advantages. For example, in the case of a husband who is an unbeliever, submitting to his headship in all matters that would not mean violating God’s laws or principles may well yield the marvelous reward of her being able to ‘save her husband.’ (1 Corinthians 7:13, 16) Furthermore, she can find contentment in knowing that Jehovah God approves of her course and will richly reward her for imitating the example of his dear Son.
Do You Remember?
• Why may it be a challenge for a wife to respect her husband?
• Why is accepting a marriage proposal so serious?
• How did Jesus serve as an example for wives, and what benefits may result from following his example?
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Why is deciding whether to accept a marriage proposal so serious?
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What can wives learn from the example of such Bible characters as Abigail?