with one’s wife
The phrase, of course, comes from the Bible: “Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Over the years I have given this verse some thought: what does it mean to live considerately with my wife and how would not doing this lead to my prayers being hindered? Here are a few ideas I have on the subject.
Scripture says the husband-wife relationship has a parallel (two parallels to be exact): Jesus Christ over his church, and Jesus Christ over the husband. We see the first parallel expressed in Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.” And, we see the second parallel in 1 Corinthians 11:3: “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife.”
Perhaps I should stop right here and make a disclaimer. Yes, I know that the idea of a husband being the head of his wife is not a popular one in modern society – it’s just not politically correct. Even so, the Lord is clear about this order in scripture, and my duty as a Christian is to obey God’s word, not the notions of modern society. Also, one could note that modern society does not have a very good record when it comes to building successful marriage relationships. I want my marriage to reflect the clear teaching of scripture: the part about my being the head and the part about my living considerately with Jan.
Giving and receiving
Keeping the parallel of the husband/wife and Christ/husband order firmly in mind, let us look at another important scriptural principle: giving and receiving. In Luke 6:38 we read: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your lap. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Let’s put these concepts together. When I go to the Lord in prayer, I am addressing my head – Jesus Christ. I ask my head to be considerate of me; I want him to provide generously for my daily needs; I ask him to forgive my failings; I ask for his protection and guidance. One can imagine the Lord asking himself, “I wonder what Jerry means when he asks me to be considerate? I know – I can look at his relationship with Jan. He is her head in a similar way that I am his head. The measure of consideration Jerry uses for his wife – that is the measure I will use for him.”
As the head of my family, I’m in charge of many family resources – resources that are important to my wife. When she appropriately asks for more financial resources, do I respond with generosity or am I stingy? When she needs some help, do I give all the help I can or do I hold back? If I want to correct her in some way, am I gracious and kind or harsh and irritable? When it is time for me to lead the family spiritually, am I faithful to that responsibility and give clear direction or am I missing in action? When it is time to talk together, do I give her my full attention and really engage the conversation or am I distracted and non-communicative? Scripture says that the measure of consideration I use in my relationship with Jan is the measure that will be measured back to me by the Lord. I should especially be considerate of my wife because I love and cherish her as Jesus Christ loves and cherishes his church – and, so that my prayers will not be hindered.
Paying honor as
joint heirs in Christ
Next we come to the part about paying honor to our wives as joint heirs in Christ.
Here is a scripture with pointed advice to those with a governing authority – the kind of authority a husband has over his wife. But Jesus called them to himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25).
Yes, the Lord has given me a position of authority over my wife (and family). I am given this authority by God because I am her husband. I did not earn the position; I am not smarter than my wife; I am not more capable than her; and I am not better than her. We are equal partners in life, and more importantly, we are “joint heirs of the gracious gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7). For reasons known to God – I have my guesses but God knows for sure – he appointed me the head over my wife. In exercising that authority, the Bible says I must not lord it over her, rather I am to serve her and be considerate of her.
Even more, I am to pay honor to my wife – precisely because she belongs to the “weaker sex” (another not-very-politically-correct idea). This discussion of “the weaker sex” brings to mind yet another passage from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 12:22-23: “Those members of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor.” Let me be clear, I do not think that my wife is somehow less honorable: this 1 Corinthians passage is addressing other relationships in the body of Christ, not the husband/wife relationship. Still, here we see a principle from the body of Christ that has an important application in the marriage relationship: I am to value and honor those who are weaker than me.
Leaders must become
servants of God
My wife is unusually physically strong among women, while I am not particularly known for my physical strength. Even so, I am physically stronger than she. In this way, physical strength, my wife is weaker than I. The Bible is clear, I am not to use my physical advantage to get my way. My job is to honor my wife. (Note: it is not up to me to “get my way” it is up to my wife to appropriately submit – but I’ll let one of the sisters write that article.) My job is not to throw my weight around (another area where I have more than my wife) but to love her, honor her, and live considerately with her. In the topsy turvy world of the body of Christ where leaders become servants and God, Himself, became servant of all; love, honor, and consideration yields better results than lording authority over another. (Note: I want to be careful NOT to say “lording MY authority” because the authority is not “mine.” The authority is God’s – if he can give it to me, it must be his.)
Some men love the image of being “king of the castle.” They see the king as the big boss: everyone else in the family serves the boss, and the boss always gets what he wants. Good husbands and good fathers, however, have learned that being the head of a family means a lot of hard work. You have to look down the road, make careful plans with your wife, provide and manage limited resources, take spiritual and practical leadership (even when you don’t want to), communicate openly and honestly, and be constantly looking to the welfare of others. Being the head does not mean that we always get our way. Being the head means that we actively seek what is best for our wife and family, and then do our very best to get that to happen. Our model of authority is not the tyrant king who roars orders, but the King of kings, Jesus Christ. He set the example and we husbands would do well to follow it. Following the example of Jesus Christ builds a better marriage – and, it keeps my prayers from being hindered.
Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
[If you are interested in more study of this topic, may I recommend a book: The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. This book presents 40 verses from scripture relating to relationships of love (not just marriage) and then asks, what would it look like if someone actually did what this scripture says.]