Sermon: Husbands, Wives, and Children
Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30
In this week’s lessons, we learn how a family is to function, and what the responsibilities are of husbands, wives, and children.
Theme: The Meaning of Submission
What does it mean that the wife is to submit herself to her husband as under the Lord? Well, it certainly does not mean that she is submitting to a form of slavery or tyranny. For we are not called to a form of slavery or tyranny by Christ. It does not mean a type of blind obedience either, for a wife is not a chattel. Neither does it mean that the submission itself is always entirely one-sided, for the verse immediately before this says that we are to submit ourselves “one to another in the fear of the Lord” (v. 21). Actually, the verse means that the wife was created primarily as a helpmeet for the man. Thus, in a very real way she is to subordinate her interests to his.
One of the underlying meanings of the Greek and Latin words translated “be subject” bear this out, for they are constructed of a verb meaning “to set, determine, or place” and a preposition meaning “under.” The meaning is “throw oneself under.” Thus, the words refer to a type of obedience that is supporting—like a foundation supporting a house or a member of the White House cabinet supporting the President of the United States. The wife is to be this to her husband. And if any wife is thinking to herself that this is a demeaning position, she is to remember that the same chapter of 1 Corinthians that says that the “head of the woman is the man” also says that Christ is the head of the man and that God is the head of Christ. No woman should be ashamed to be part of that relationship.
I do not think the position that God sets forth here for the woman necessarily means that the woman cannot have a degree of independence. For instance, there is no reason why she cannot pursue a career. There are conditions in which a woman can do this and still support her husband within the marriage relationship—for instance, in order to increase the family income at the time when the children are going through college. It does not mean that the woman cannot pursue her own interests. In fact, it is a dull marriage if the wife does not have any. However, if the two come into conflict—that is, if the wife’s career hurts the career of the husband or if her interests lessen her concern for his work and the goals he is pursuing—then the wife is to yield to him in exactly the same way she should yield if her interests came into conflict with the way marked out for her by Jesus Christ.
If at this point someone says, “But isn’t that unfair?” the answer is that it is not unfair, for that is the way God made things. Moreover, no wife will be truly happy in her marriage until she is willing to let God trim her interests wherever necessary in order to balance those of the man.
Let me say one more thing to you wives before I go on. If you are to be all that God intends you to be as a wife, you must show an interest in what your husband is doing and for that you must be informed. I know of a marriage in which the wife has never shown any interest in her husband’s work and instead has always insisted that he leave the problems of his work at the office. The result has been a sense of unfulfilled need for the husband and an increasingly limited and introverted existence for the wife. How much better it would have been if they could have grown in the man’s work and responsibilities together!
Moreover, if you are to be a proper helpmeet to your husband, you must read and you must look attractive. Do not forget that your husband spends the better part of his day with people who are interested in his work and who are therefore at least partially stimulating. And the persons he works with are making at least some effort to be attractive, particularly the women. How then is he to be excited about loving you as Christ loves the Church if he comes home to find you with your hair in curlers and so taken up with the household affairs that the most interesting part of your conversation has to do with enzyme detergents or baby food? I know you are busy. Being a housewife is often far from fun. But you must build some time into your schedule in which you can read and keep up your appearance. Read books. Read a good news magazine. Read something about your husband’s work and his hobbies. Time spent in this way is important, certainly more important than the time many people spend watching television.
What views of submission are to be rejected?
How are we to understand Paul’s teaching about submission in Ephesians 5? How does the idea of a “helpmeet,” as well as the meaning behind the Greek and Latin words for “being subject to,” explain the biblical meaning?
Why is the biblical idea of submission not at all demeaning to a woman?
Reflection: Can you think of any ways in which cultural ideas about how men and women relate to each other have found their way into the Church?