By Marcia Hornok
Women must fight for their rights and free themselves from “old school patriarchy.” This protest mentality of the women’s liberation movement indoctrinates women to a mindset of independence. They are expected to seek self-fulfillment in a career, competing with men for success in the business world.
Being conformed to this cultural viewpoint contradicts the Biblical narrative for wives, which involves gentleness and willing submission. God’s plan is for a wife to help her husband in ways well-suited to him (Gen 2:18). Eve was created to help Adam in his work of tending and keeping the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15). Sadly, they failed and got fired (expelled).
However, God had already established their job description in Gen 1:26-28. Men and women together were to reflect God’s image, to rule over all created things, thus subduing the earth, and to reproduce. After the Fall, God said husbands were to rule over wives (Gen 3:16). Although “sin had corrupted both the willing submission of the wife and the loving headship of the husband,” wives should take 1 Cor 11:9 personally—God created them for their husbands.1
The NT explains how God’s plan works. The husband is to rule or lead while loving his wife as Christ loved the Church, and the wife is to submit or obey, as the Church does to Christ, while respecting her husband. See 1 Cor 11:3-12; Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:17-19; 1 Tim 2:8-15; and 1 Pet 3:1-7. The marriage principles in those verses make no exception for an unbelieving spouse or a wife who has better skills than her husband or in a culture that pushes total gender equality.
Helping Hubby His Way
Genesis 2:18 appoints the career for every wife—suitable husband-helper. A wife must help her husband the way he determines is best for them. Many wives need to “go to work” to adopt that mentality. It goes against everyone’s me-first nature and is extremely counter-cultural. But God’s desired resume for wives is Titus 2:3-5.
The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things: that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
Who among us would want to cause God’s Word to be dishonored and maligned? Bob Wilkin said, “The unbelieving world looks carefully at Christian families, and especially wives. Fidelity in family responsibilities is vitally important.”2 From 1 Tim 5:14, younger widows are to “marry, bear children, manage the house, and give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” We may think our peers will reproach us for not working outside the home, but the opposite is true.
Titus 2 Standards
Several older women have “sensible-ized” me (the Greek word for admonish in Titus 2:4). It relates to having a sound mind (good judgment), being self-controlled, and balanced. Even after 51 years, I am still learning these seven paramount qualities and teaching them to other wives.
1. To love their husbands. My mother-in-law, Frieda, said the secret to her 63-year-long marriage was, “Don’t try to change him! Accept him as he is—a sinner like yourself.” Criticism and contempt, expressed in words and tone of voice, will kill a relationship. To keep growing in phileo love (fondness or affection), I try to purposely concentrate on Ken’s good qualities (Phil 4:8) and study how to please him (1 Cor 7:34).
2. To love their children. Why do mothers need to learn phileo for their children? Because, cute as they are, children can be exhausting and exasperating. As a breast-feeding counselor, I tell new mothers that success in nursing their babies requires self-sacrifice, which is not automatic, but can be cultivated. My older friend, Jeannette, helped me learn to train (not merely tolerate) my six children by teaching them to be respectful, obedient, and submissive to authority.
3. To be discreet. This word, related to “admonish” in v 4, speaks of a sound mind and self-control. It implies common sense. By application, being balanced and not over-indulging in useless pursuits.
4. To be chaste. Purity involves how we dress in public (1 Tim 2:9-10) as well as our thoughts and actions. Guarding our hearts begins with guarding our minds against fantasizing about other men, reading or watching impure media, and flirting, even with online contacts. Don’t indulge in secret sins.
5. To be homemakers. This rare Greek word relates to working/keeping/guarding the home or family. A wife’s efforts and choices largely determine the atmosphere of the household. “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her own hands” (Prov 14:1 NASB). The Proverbs 31 woman developed expertise (virtue) that ministered to her family and to people in need. Many women need a creative outlet besides homemaking. They wisely accept their husband’s counsel regarding their endeavors.
Both my mother and mother-in-law were stay-at-home moms, even though they had business skills and training. My mother left her career so she could make breakfast, pack lunches, and be home when her eight children were. My mother-in-law helped her husband as the office manager (in their home) for the ministry organization he founded. If a husband wants his wife to “help” him by working outside the home, she still needs to prioritize him and their children. Being a wise home manager is a wife’s primary (though not necessarily exclusive) ministry in God’s eyes.
6. To be good. Being useful, agreeable, kind. Proverbs 31:11-12 says “every day.” For some examples of goodness, 1 Tim 5:10 presents a widow’s curriculum vitae: she should have brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints’ feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted herself to every good work.” Those endeavors may not earn a pay check, but they store up treasure in heaven.
7. To be obedient to their own husbands. Ephesians 5:24 says “in everything.” Isn’t that old fashioned in this day when progressive thinking supposedly trumps tradition? Doesn’t it cause abusive husbands who bully their wives? A better question is, do godly women live by God’s standards or not? The word “to be obedient” is hypotassō, a military term for being arranged by rank—placing oneself under authority. It implies protection, not suppression, and cooperation, not competition. Sarah is the older woman who modeled this. She obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and God handled the consequences for her. That attitude is precious in God’s eyes (1 Peter 3:4-6).
Helping and Submitting to a Husband “As Unto the Lord” Is Holy Work
Submitting to Christ enables us to place ourselves under our husband’s authority, accept his decisions, and respectfully carry out his wishes, just as we would do for an employer. It took years for me to willingly govern my independent spirit. My initial grrr attitude changed to grrreat when I realized the freedom that comes from Ken’s being in charge and protecting me. Following his directions without challenging becomes easier with practice, and the perks are worth it.
A wife’s God-appointed career has these seven responsibilities. Many wives with children at home take this job seriously while also pursuing a career in the working world. Most find they cannot do both well. Feminism tells a woman that working for a boss gives her freedom (liberation), but serving her husband and children makes her a slave. Wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to work for the family you love than to serve a timeclock, let a boss control you, and come home with conflicted priorities? Perhaps employment can be postponed until the temporary child-raising years have ended.
Of course, husbands have God-appointed roles and requirements, too, and should not be dictatorial, but this article addresses wives. We find joy in obeying God’s Word. God will not evaluate us for our earning potential but for being good and faithful wives. Take pride in your career as your husband’s willing helper, well suited to him. Ironically, your personal fulfillment will come from ministering to his needs.
Marcia Hornok writes from Salt Lake City where her husband pastored Midvalley Bible Church for 39 years. Now retired, they enjoy their 12 grandchildren, 10 of whom live near them.
1. See Thomas L. Constable, planobiblechapel.org/soniclight, Bible study notes on Genesis 3:16.
2. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Epistle Of Paul the Apostle to TITUS,” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, ed. Robert N. Wilkin, vol. 2 (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 1018.