This video segment is one of six lessons in the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations” seminar.
The GCM series are marriage preparation and marriage enrichment level resources. If your marriage needs restoration level care consider one of the other options available at summitchurch.com/counseling, or visit bradhambrick.com/findacounselor for help finding a counselor near you.
If you are interested in the pre-marital mentoring program built around these materials, you can find everything you need at www.bradhambrick.com/gcm.
NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the GCM seminar notebooks. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).
There is so much debate over what a wife is not, that it often feels like we’ve lost a passion for who a wife is. Our time is spent debating and defending instead of celebrating. We often talk about wives as if they were subjects instead of people. We’re not talking about a role, but a person.
Just like when we discussed the role of a husband, no one aspect of what Scripture uniquely calls a wife to be captures the totality of who she is. Additionally, each wife will express the unique parts of this job description differently based on the talents, passions, and needs of the family God has given her. Scripture does not give us cookie cutter molds to be pressed into, but values and purposes to live out with creativity.
In this chapter, we will look at the three key characteristics of a Christian wife.
- Well-Suited Helper
- Woman of Competence
- Cultivating a Godly Home
Quality One: Well-Suited Helper
Read Genesis 2:18. In the first description of a woman, Eve, God describes her as “a helper.” The Hebrew word is stronger than our English word and can be more accurately translated “well-suited helper.” This same word is frequently used about God (Psalm 10:14, 28:7, 54:3-4, 72:12, 86:17; John 14:26; Hebrews 13:6), so it cannot mean “having a lesser role” or “being of less importance.” The Hebrew word for helper carries the meaning of “being on the same team” with “an essential role to play.” God’s plan for the human race could not be accomplished without women. Both genders are necessary to fill the earth with God’s image.
The term “helper” begs the question, who gets to decide what “helping” entails? Answering this question requires both spouses to fully embrace areas one through three of their job descriptions: a mature character, skilled friendship, and functional approach to life. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. When a couple tries to define the helper role without taking the rest of the job description seriously, they experience the kind of stereotyping, abuses of authority, and confusion that can make biblical teaching on marriage destructive. It takes godly character to apply biblical principles well.
When a couple learns to be honest about their character weaknesses, skilled at being friends, and committed to the kind of functional living home management requires, then they are ready to begin thinking through roles within marriage. It is necessary to be the person God has called you to be – character and skills – before you can be the couple God has called you to be. Right roles don’t change hearts. Godly hearts are necessary for people to flourish in biblical roles.Right roles don’t change hearts. Godly hearts are necessary for people to flourish in biblical roles. Click To Tweet
This discussion introduces another question, how should we understand and apply the biblical teaching about a wife being submissive to her husband? Take a moment and read Ephesians 5:22-6:4. Let’s make several observations from the text.
- Paul speaks to husband-fathers more than wives and children. Paul writes 3 verses to wives, 3 verses to children, and 9 verses to husband-fathers. When you look at what Paul said to husband-fathers, it is clear he wants to be sure that men use their role to serve their family, rather than take it as a license to be domineering.
- Submission is limited (v. 22). Whatever submission means, it only applies between a wife and her husband. A woman is not called to submit to all men. Applying biblical teaching on marriage to all male-female relationships is wrong and should be condemned as unbiblical.
- Submission is not obedience (5:22 and 6:4). Paul could have used the same verb in both verses. He did not. Obedience is involuntary and based on competence. Children are called to obey because they are not yet capable of managing life. Submission is voluntary and has to do with attitude, not ability.
- This passage is predicated upon a mature Christlike husband-father. God does not call a wife to submit to anything which is immoral or ungodly. In the same way that domineering behavior by husbands should not be called “headship,” the response of a wife to a domineering husband should not be categorized as “submission.”
- Not much is said about decision making. This is where our mind typically goes, and we will discuss the subject of headship and submission in the GCM seminar on decision making. But Paul’s focus in this passage is more centered on motivation and attitude. Paul talks about character, not protocols for decision making.
- A focus on attitude helps us apply “in everything” in verse 24. If we define submission as obedience, then verse 24 would require mindless compliance. A godly wife has an attitude that longs for her husband to guide the family well and wants his leadership to be wise. When she disagrees, her dissent does not come from a heart of rivalry.
A woman who does not trust her fiancé in a way that makes this feel safe should question the decision to marry. These points serve as a maturity test for the husband-to-be by which a couple can vet their readiness for marriage. A key part of assessing whether a husband-to-be can be trusted in this way is to evaluate how he hears concerns you may have. As we saw in the previous lesson, God strongly condemns a husband who does not listen to his wife.
Other examples of being a well-suited helper are:
- Knowing your husband’s interests, dreams, and strengths without idolizing then.
- Knowing your husband’s fears and weaknesses without shaming them.
- Facing sacrifices and challenges without pouting, punishing, or becoming discontent.
- Encouraging your husband, especially when reasonable decisions fail or go differently than expected.
Quality Two: Woman of Competence
Read Proverbs 31. Scripture does more than value women (v. 10). It celebrates women’s competence. In poetic affirmation, this passage spotlights women’s ability to work hard (v. 13-15), make wise business decisions (v. 16, 18), be strong (v. 17), be generous (v. 20), anticipate the future (v. 21), make those around her better (v. 23), be brave (v. 25), be wise (v. 26), and be more than a pretty face (v. 30). God expects that those who know her should praise her for all that He has equipped her to do (v. 31). Scripture is clear: there is no competence a man might have that a woman inherently does not have because she is female. Each person varies in the abilities they have, but this distribution of abilities is not rooted in gender (I Corinthians 12:4-11).
This quality is primarily an invitation to explore. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? How did God make you to influence the world? God delights in you asking these questions. God wants to see you flourish in the answering of these questions. A godly husband sees that part of his role as leader in helping you make the answers to these questions a reality.
Both husband and wife will sacrifice some of their personal aspirations during different seasons of their family life. That is a product of love, not of gender roles. But, both husband and wife, should know what their God-given competencies are and seek to utilize them to the fullest within the limitations that caring for their family requires (I Corinthians 7:32-35).
Other examples of being a woman of competence are:
- Know and be confident in your abilities, spiritual gifts, and life dreams.
- Be willing to try new things in order to discern what you are good at and passionate about.
- Develop your abilities in areas of passion to enhance your effectiveness at God’s calling on your life.
- Continuously seek to use your life to advance God’s kingdom and bless your family.
Quality Three: Cultivating a Godly Home
Read Titus 2:3-5. Home is the foundation for every family. This quality for a wife corresponds to the husband’s call to be a shepherd of the family. When we realize that home is the most influential place in any society, we will view these twin responsibilities towards our family (shepherd and cultivating a godly home) as a high honor, worth the sacrifice they entail. Work outside the home will take on its most significant meaning because of how it allows us to care for our family. The happiness, safety, and unity of Christian homes should be attractive to a world that experiences so much pain due to broken families.
What does it mean for a wife to cultivate a godly home? Titus 2 denotes three ways this is done. This list is likely not meant to be exhaustive and looks different for each family. Otherwise, it would conflict with Proverbs 31. But it provides a set of guiding priorities for a husband and wife to filter their family decisions through.
- First, love your husband well (v. 4). The GCM seminar on romance and intimacy will provide an opportunity for both husband and wife to consider how they can be continually growing in this area.
- Second, love your children well (v. 4). If a family is blessed with children, raising these children well will be an essential part of that family’s joy and flourishing. The decision to have children should contain the commitment to love and raise those children well.
- Third, make the home a warm, orderly place (v. 5). As a couple matures and life brings more opportunities, responsibilities, and challenges, continual attention will need to be devoted to how to make the home an oasis and sanctuary for each member of the family.
Other examples of cultivating a godly home are:
- Being mentored by a more experienced wife and mentoring a younger wife.
- Being content with the family’s possessions and modeling contentment for the children.
- Assessing whether the current family systems and values are still a good fit with the changes life brings.
- Enforcing the family’s values and disciplining when needed.
When we value family as the blessing that God intended it to be, then both husband and wife begin to value and enjoy their respective contributions to cultivating a godly home. This causes us to realize in a fresh way that to enjoy living out biblical roles requires embracing biblical values.
At the end of considering job descriptions like these, you may still be prone to think, “If we follow the Bible, then all Christian marriages look just alike.” C.S. Lewis uses the impact of salt on food to help us understand why this isn’t the case. In the context of Lewis’ book, he is refuting the idea that, “if Christians are all supposed to be like Jesus, then they would all have the same personality,” but the same principle applies to our discussion of marriage.
“Suppose a person knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch to taste, and he experiences a particular strong, sharp taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply, ‘In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else.’ But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg… and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till you have added the salt…It is something like that with Christ and us. The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs,’ all different, will still be too few to express Him fully (p. 225).” C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.
In the same way that salt draws out the flavor inherent to each food on which it is sprinkled, the biblical principles within the job description for a Christian husband and wife draw out the God-given strengths, passions, and abilities each of you have. It is meant to prompt important conversations and help you identify predictable challenges. We hope they help you grow into the couple God made the two of you to be.