Q: I am in a dilemma. I have been told my husband (a Christian) is the head and priest of our family. I have waited for him to lead, but if anything is accomplished on the spiritual level it is because I initiate it. I am frustrated with the whole matter. I know I have a call on my life, but my husband shows no interest or spiritual inclination towards spiritual matters. I don’t know what to do or where to turn. Is there any Scriptural advice you could give me concerning this matter?
A: You are not the first Christian woman that has been faced with this dilemma, and you certainly will not be the last one to struggle with it. The Scripture is clear that the man is indeed the head of his wife and children, but there is no real scriptural backing that he is to serve as the priest of his family (Ephesians 5:23). (Keep in mind the priest’s responsibility is to serve God on behalf of man and represent God’s interest and concern to man.)
The Apostle Peter tells us each saint is personally placed in a royal priesthood and Timothy and Hebrews stipulates that only Jesus serves as the High Priest between man and God (1 Peter 2:5, 9; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25-27). Remember that priests minister in temples, and although the home should be a type of sanctuary for the family, it is not the official temple of God; rather the saint’s body serves as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19). This simply means that each believer must minister before God in his or her temple. The one time a saint serves as a mediator occurs when he or she intercedes for others through prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:18). Therefore, in prayer a husband may serve as a type of mediator for his or her family, but he has no real authority to serve as a personal high priest for the home.
There is no debate that the man is the head of the family unit. According to Vine’s Expository, “head” in this text means leadership by example. Because Jesus serves as the man’s example and pattern in regard to being the head of the house, hence enters the example of Jesus loving each of us first in a sacrificial way, which will result in us naturally loving Him. Jesus’ servitude prepared the way of righteousness for His followers and His sacrifice served as the means of redemption. He leaves each of us an indelible example of what it means to walk in the ways of divine love and acceptable righteousness, while choosing the excellent road of self-denial and sacrifice to reach greater heights in our spiritual lives.
This brings us to the obligation of men in the family. There are many expectations put on men that are not always realistic. In candidly talking to men about their plight, there are at least three major challenges they have made reference to through the years. The first challenge involves the cultural influence. So much of manhood is defined by culture and not the Word of God. It has caused much confusion for the men who are striving to be godly men, and their wives who do not understand their inward struggle.
The second struggle has to do with the fact some men, or perhaps many of them, compartmentalize their many duties. For example, they may have a compartment for God and religion, another for family, another one for work, and so forth. Each compartment has different requirements and duties to fulfill. For some men the main duty they have to fulfill in regard to God and religion is simply go to church once a week. Once that duty is fulfilled, they are no longer obligated to do anything else until the next Sunday when church rolls around again. This can prove to be very frustrating to the wife. It is vital that a wife avoids judging her husband based on his type of response towards religious matters. I have met many men who fulfill what they consider their duty towards God and religion while quietly maintaining a deep abiding trust in Him.
The final challenge for husbands has to do with the wife’s expectations. Christian women can have some unrealistic expectations as to what it means for the husband to be the head of the family. It is not unusual for women to put much pressure on their husband to live up some fanciful notion, and when the husband fails to do so, the wife can become frustrated and judgmental towards the husband. It is for this reason that wives must make sure that their attitudes towards their husbands scripturally line up in spite of how they perceive their husband’s religious life.
Each believer has his or her own life in Christ. Those closest to us will not always be able to share in that calling, causing our inner life and service to become a personal matter between God and us. If you have a call, give God permission to reveal the manner in which you can fulfill your call in your present status. You need to avoid seeing your marriage as a hindrance to your call, and know it might be a valuable point of discipline and protection. Seek God to open the right doors of ministry, while being open to His wisdom to know how to properly balance your responsibilities towards your husband and family. Keep in mind that God alone knows how to bring about a person’s calling while enabling him or her to maintain the integrity of his or her relationships.
When Christians find themselves doing this type of balancing act, they need to remember what King David did in regard to Saul, “And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14).