“The head of every man is the Christ.”—1 COR. 11:3.
SONG 12 Great God, Jehovah
1. What factors are likely to influence a man’s view of headship?
WHAT does the word “headship” mean to you? Some men allow tradition, culture, or their own family background to determine the way they treat their wife and children. Note what Yanita, a sister who lives in Europe, says, “Where I live, there is a deeply ingrained view that women are inferior to men and should be viewed as servants.” And a brother named Luke, who lives in the United States, says, “Some fathers teach their sons that women should be seen and not heard, that their opinion is not important.” However, those attitudes do not reflect the way Jehovah wants men to exercise their headship. (Compare Mark 7:13.) How, then, can a man learn to be a good family head?
2. What must a family head know, and why?
2 To be a good family head, a man must first understand what Jehovah requires of him. He also needs to know why Jehovah established headship and, specifically, how he can imitate the example set by Jehovah and Jesus. Why is it important for a man to gain such knowledge? Because Jehovah has given family heads a measure of authority, and he expects them to use it well.—Luke 12:48b.
WHAT IS HEADSHIP?
3. What do we learn about headship from the statement recorded at 1 Corinthians 11:3?
3 Read 1 Corinthians 11:3. This verse describes the way in which Jehovah has organized his universal family. Headship involves two key elements—authority and accountability. Jehovah is “the head,” or the ultimate authority, and all his children, both angelic and human, are accountable to him. (Rom. 14:10; Eph. 3:14, 15) Jehovah has given Jesus authority over the congregation, but Jesus is accountable to Jehovah for the way he treats us. (1 Cor. 15:27) Jehovah has also given a husband authority over his wife and children, but a husband is accountable to both Jehovah and Jesus for the way he treats his family.—1 Pet. 3:7.
4. What authority do Jehovah and Jesus have?
4 As Head of his universal family, Jehovah has the authority to make rules about how his children should behave, and he is able to enforce those rules. (Isa. 33:22) Jesus, as head of the Christian congregation, also has the right to make and enforce rules.—Gal. 6:2; Col. 1:18-20.
5. What authority does the head of a Christian family have, and what are his limits?
5 Following the pattern set by Jehovah and Jesus, the head of a Christian family has the authority to make decisions for his family. (Rom. 7:2; Eph. 6:4) However, his authority has limits. For example, his rules should be based on principles found in God’s Word. (Prov. 3:5, 6) And a family head does not have the authority to make rules for those who are not part of his family. (Rom. 14:4) Also, when his sons and daughters grow up and leave home, they continue to respect him, but they are no longer under his headship.—Matt. 19:5.
WHY DID JEHOVAH ESTABLISH HEADSHIP?
6. Why did Jehovah establish headship?
6 Jehovah established headship out of love for his family. It is a gift from him. Headship makes it possible for Jehovah’s family to function in a peaceful, orderly way. (1 Cor. 14:33, 40) Without the clear-cut role of headship, Jehovah’s family would become disorganized and unhappy. For example, no one would know who should make final decisions and who should take the lead in carrying out those decisions.
7 If God’s arrangement for headship is such a good thing, why do so many women today feel oppressed and dominated by their husband? This is because many men ignore Jehovah’s standards for the family and choose instead to follow local customs or traditions. They may also abuse their wives to satisfy some selfish desire. For example, a husband might dominate his wife in an attempt to boost his self-respect or to prove to others that he is a “real man.” He may reason that he cannot force his wife to love him, but he can make her fear him. And he may use that fear as a way to control her.* That type of thinking and conduct clearly deprives women of the honor and respect to which they are entitled, and it is directly opposite to what Jehovah wants.—Read Ephesians 5:25, 28.
HOW CAN A MAN LEARN TO BE A GOOD FAMILY HEAD?
8. How can a man learn to be a good family head?
8 A man can learn to be a good family head by imitating the way that Jehovah and Jesus exercise their headship. Consider just two of the qualities manifested by Jehovah and Jesus, and note how a family head can show those qualities when dealing with his wife and children.
9. How does Jehovah show humility?
9 Humility. Jehovah is the wisest Person in existence; yet, he listens to the opinions of his servants. (Gen. 18:23, 24, 32) He has allowed those under his authority to offer suggestions. (1 Ki. 22:19-22) Jehovah is perfect, but he does not, at present, expect perfection from us. Instead, he helps imperfect humans who serve him to succeed. (Ps. 113:6, 7) In fact, the Bible even describes Jehovah as a “helper.” (Ps. 27:9; Heb. 13:6) King David acknowledged that he could accomplish the great work he was given to do only because of Jehovah’s humility.—2 Sam. 22:36.
10. How did Jesus show humility?
10 Consider Jesus’ example. Although Lord and Master of his disciples, he washed their feet. What is one reason why Jehovah had this account preserved in the Bible? No doubt to provide family heads, among others, with a clear model to follow. Jesus himself said: “I set the pattern for you, that just as I did to you, you should also do.” (John 13:12-17) Although he had great authority, Jesus did not expect to be served. Instead, he served others.—Matt. 20:28.
11. What can a family head learn about humility from the example set by Jehovah and Jesus?
11 Lessons for us. A family head can show humility in many ways. For example, he does not expect perfection from his wife and children. He listens to the opinions of family members, even when they do not agree with his. Marley, who lives in the United States, says: “My husband and I sometimes have different opinions. But I feel that he appreciates and respects me because he asks for my opinion and carefully considers it before he makes a decision.” In addition, a humble husband is willing to do household tasks, even if in his community these tasks are viewed as women’s work. That can be a challenge. Why? “Where I come from,” says a sister named Rachel, “if a husband helps his wife wash dishes or clean the home, his neighbors and relatives will question if he is a ‘real man.’ They will think that he cannot control his wife.” If that attitude is common where you live, remember that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, even though it was viewed as a slave’s job. A good family head is concerned, not about making himself look good, but about making his wife and children feel good. In addition to humility, what other quality is essential for a good family head?
12. What does love motivate Jehovah and Jesus to do?
12 Love. Everything Jehovah does is motivated by love. (1 John 4:7, 8) He lovingly cares for our spiritual needs by means of his written Word—the Bible—and his organization. He provides for our emotional needs by assuring us that we are loved. And what about our material needs? Jehovah “richly provides us with all the things we enjoy.” (1 Tim. 6:17) When we make mistakes, he corrects us, but he does not stop loving us. Out of love, Jehovah provided the ransom arrangement for us. As for Jesus, he loves us so much that he gave his life for us. (John 3:16; 15:13) Nothing can break the bond of love that Jehovah and Jesus feel for those who are loyal to them.—John 13:1; Rom. 8:35, 38, 39.
13. Why is it important for a family head to show love for his family? (See also the box “How Can a Newly Married Man Earn the Respect of His Wife?”)
13 Lessons for us. Everything a family head does should be motivated by love. Why is that so important? The apostle John answers: “The one who does not love his brother [or family], whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:11, 20) Specifically, a man who loves his family and who wants to imitate Jehovah and Jesus will provide for his family’s spiritual, emotional, and material needs. (1 Tim. 5:8) He will train and discipline his children. He will also continue to learn to make decisions that honor Jehovah and benefit his family. Let us consider each of those requirements and see how a family head can imitate Jehovah and Jesus.
WHAT A FAMILY HEAD SHOULD DO
14. How does a family head provide for his family’s spiritual needs?
14 Provide for his family’s spiritual needs. In imitation of his Father, Jesus was concerned about keeping those under his care spiritually well-fed. (Matt. 5:3, 6; Mark 6:34) Likewise, a family head’s first priority is to provide for his family’s spiritual needs. (Deut. 6:6-9) He does this by making sure that he and his family read and study God’s Word, attend meetings, preach the good news, and build and maintain a friendship with Jehovah.
15. What is one way that a family head can care for his family’s emotional needs?
15 Provide for his family’s emotional needs. Jehovah openly expressed his affection for Jesus. (Matt. 3:17) Jesus freely expressed affection for his followers, both by what he did and by what he said. In turn, they expressed affection for him. (John 15:9, 12, 13; 21:16) A family head can show his wife and children that he loves them by what he does, such as by studying the Bible with them. He should also tell them that he loves and appreciates them and, when appropriate, commend them in front of others.—Prov. 31:28, 29.
16. What else must a family head do, and how can he maintain the right balance?
16 Provide for his family’s material needs. Jehovah cared for the basic needs of the Israelites even while they were being punished for disobedience. (Deut. 2:7; 29:5) He also provides for our basic needs today. (Matt. 6:31-33; 7:11) Likewise, Jesus fed those who followed him. (Matt. 14:17-20) He also cared for their physical health. (Matt. 4:24) To please Jehovah, a family head must provide materially for his family. However, he needs to maintain the right balance. He should not become so involved in secular work to support his family that he fails to care properly for his family’s spiritual and emotional needs.
17. What example do Jehovah and Jesus set in the way that they train and discipline us?
17 Provide training. Jehovah trains and disciplines us with our best interests in mind. (Heb. 12:7-9) Like his Father, Jesus trains those under his authority in a loving manner. (John 15:14, 15) He is firm but kind. (Matt. 20:24-28) He understands that we are imperfect and prone to make mistakes.—Matt. 26:41.
18. For what does a good family head make allowances?
18 A family head who imitates Jehovah and Jesus makes allowances for the imperfections of family members. He does not become “bitterly angry” with his wife or children. (Col. 3:19) Instead, he applies the principle recorded at Galatians 6:1 and tries to readjust them “in a spirit of mildness,” remembering that he too is imperfect. Like Jesus, he realizes that the best way to teach is by example.—1 Pet. 2:21.
19-20. When it comes to making decisions, how can a family head imitate Jehovah and Jesus?
19 Make unselfish decisions. Jehovah makes decisions that are in the best interests of others. For example, he decided to create life, not to benefit himself, but to share with us the joy of living. No one could have forced him to give his Son to cover our sins. He willingly decided to make that sacrifice for our benefit. Jesus too made decisions that primarily benefited others. (Rom. 15:3) For example, he decided to forgo his own need for rest in order to teach a crowd of people.—Mark 6:31-34.
20 A good family head knows that one of the most difficult things he must do is make wise decisions for his family, and he takes that responsibility seriously. He tries to avoid making decisions that are arbitrary or that are based purely on emotion. Instead, he allows Jehovah to train him.* (Prov. 2:6, 7) That way, he will think of benefiting others, not himself.—Phil. 2:4.
21. What will be discussed in the next article?
21 Jehovah has given family heads a challenging assignment, and he holds them accountable for the way they accomplish it. But if a husband strives to follow the example set by Jehovah and Jesus, he will be a good family head. And if his wife fulfills her role, the marriage will be a happy one. How should a wife view headship, and what challenges does she face? The next article will answer those questions.
SONG 16 Praise Jah for His Son, the Anointed
When a man gets married, he becomes the head of a new family. In this article, we will discuss what headship is, why Jehovah established it, and what men can learn from the example set by Jehovah and Jesus. In the second article in this series, we will consider what a husband and a wife can learn from Jesus and other Bible examples. And the final article will examine the subject of headship in the congregation.
The perception that it is acceptable for a man to mistreat his wife, even physically abusing her, has sometimes been conveyed in films, in plays, and even in comic books. Thus, the popular culture may have contributed to the idea that a man may dominate his wife.
For more information about how to make good decisions, see the article “Make Decisions That Honor God,” published in the April 15, 2011, issue of The Watchtower, pp. 13-17.