Role of husband and wife

What does the Bible say about the role of husband and wife? Is the man the boss of his wife in a marriage?

The simplest answer is: “No.”

Yes, Scripture speaks of the husband as the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23), but that is vastly different from what is often meant when we speak of a “boss” in our culture.

In what way?

Is the man as head more important than his wife, on the top position on the totem pole of important people in the family? No. A Christlike head knows that in importance before God, there is no difference between male and female since both are equally redeemed and valued in the blood of Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).

Is the man as head able to make sure that what happens around the house is what he wants to happen, regardless of the wishes of his wife? Is he the “king of his castle?” No. A Christlike head knows that he is not called to lord it over or dominate his wife, but he is called to love and serve her as Christ loved the church—making her needs and concerns his first priority, just as Christ did for us (Mark 10:42-45; Ephesians 5:25-28).

Headship in Scripture is, at its heart, humble leadership that has as its prime concern the spiritual and physical welfare of all others whom God has placed in that head’s care. Headship is not perk and privilege; it is an awesome responsibility to be God’s representative in caring for others. Yes, there is a bit of Christ’s authority whenever God gives someone such a position of responsibility, yet that authority is not to be used as a club or a threat. That authority is a solemn trust from God to be used for the benefit of those in our care. It is a trust that needs to be exercised wisely as those who will give an account to God for the trust he placed in us as his representatives.

Where we fail in that, we run to Christ’s forgiveness. There at his cross, we find the strength of his grace to live out this awesome responsibility of being representatives of his selfless love in our homes.

One last thought: please notice that in Ephesians 5 Paul does not address husbands about being the head. He does not tell them to make their wives submit! He speaks instead to wives and urges them to respect their husband’s headship. When Paul does speak to husbands, what does he say? He speaks of sacrificial love patterned after Christ. As husbands, we have more than enough to concentrate on right there. If we carry out that self-sacrificing love well for the spiritual and physical needs of our wives, we will have carried out headship well.