As much as we discuss the idea of biblical headship, do we really understand it? We hear or read that we are the head of the home and fill in the details of this doctrine from all kinds of places. From our time in the army, or the shift manager at our high school job, or the from the leadership techniques we learned from one of those ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries. We think that the head of the wife is the boss of the wife, end of the discussion, where is my beer? Or coitus, as the case may be.
What we do not understand is the organic nature of our authority in the home. The Biblical doctrine is complicated, limber and dynamic. The two errors are dangers on either side of the road which we franticly drive our marriages into, side-to-side, like a pinball. On one side is egalitarian feminism; a wooden fence, which has no way for accounting for what men and women actually are. Masculinist domineering is the solid hedge on the other side. Egalitarian feminism is a pure democracy – a flat horizontal line. Masculinist domineering is like a divine-right-of-kings monarchy – a straight vertical line.
But the lines of a faithful biblical marriage look more like the lines of a complex Celtic design. It’s like a feudal monarchy in which the monarch has true authority over his assigned realm, but the vassals have a different but equal authority over their assigned realms. The feudal system was based on obligations and duties. The king and vassals owed certain duties to one another. Different, but equally mandatory duties and they had the right to demand those duties from one another. Those in a feudal system are equally bound in an organic, covenantal way and no one person is absolute.
Which is why husbands who think their wives can never stand up to them or offer a contrary opinion about anything, are flat wrong. This is why husbands who think that their wives cannot make any demands on them, are flat wrong. This is why husbands who think their wife as no authority over them, are flat wrong. This is why husbands who think their wives have no court of appeal higher than them, are deathly wrong. Repent and believe.
You are not the final authority in your home and you have authorities to which you answer to and to which your wife should appeal if you are failing and unresponsive. Anne and I have designated, as a court of appeal, certain men she request to address me if I become unrepentant or dangerous. If that happens, I know I have really messed up. They are a kind of safehouse-authority if the government of our home breaks down. Things can’t stay in the dark. And you if you won’t get outside help and it’s too dangerous for her, its bad boys, it’s really bad. If you are failing in the home and she is not free to talk to elders or counselors, what kind of thing do you have going on there? A police state.
Husbands delegate responsibilities to their wives, but we do so in light of the biblically established constitution of the home. Husbands delegate to their wives what the bible requires them to. He cannot delegate the responsibilities the bible requires of him; that’s abdication. Husbands delegate the management of the home to their wives, not the responsibility to go to war or check the noise in the garage at midnight.
As we said last week Paul in 1 Timothy 5:14 designates the wife as the “house-despot.”1 Timothy 5:14So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.“Manage the household,” means she is the mistress of that domain. You must delegate this complex web of responsibilities to her. Another example of this is found in the book of Titus. Titus 2:4–5and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. “Working at home,” would be better translated as “house-guard.” A wife therefore has true authority over her home which no one, including her husband, can take away from her. Wives must be obedient to their husbands but hers is a delimited obedience.
This can all be easily miscomprehended and misapplied. However, it’s crucial now as we weed feminism out of our homes while not rebelling against biblical categories of authority. In a certain sense, the head of the wife is a permanent and honored guest. He wipes his feet. He eats what is served at the hour determined – by her. He picks up after himself. He does the chores he is assigned. He conforms to the expectations and patterns she has established as she honors him.
Husbands and wives have the authority assigned to them by God in His word. Christ is the Lord of the home. He has assigned each of his vassals to certain realms. Harmonizing these authorities is a complicated diplomatic mission of grace, humility and love. So, in some areas of the home, the husband is engaged and active and in other areas, he is to delegate and get out of the way while saying, “yes, dear.”
Wives have authority over a husband’s body and sex life (1 Cor 7:4), food (Prov. 31:14) and his clothing (Prov. 31:21). Is the husband the head of the home? Amen. Is he the boss-man? Hell, no.