No. 24: Gender Roles in Marriage Pt. 1 (Wives)

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No. 24: Gender Roles in Marriage Pt. 1: Wives

Listen to this episode from One Degree Podcast on Spotify. We’re going to do a mini two-week series on Gender Roles in Marriage, and this week, we’re starting with wives. Right off the bat, please don’t dismiss what we have to say, give it some thought and prayer, and examine what we say against the Bible, and see for yourself if what we are saying is accurate and true.

We’ve got a hot topic here for you today! We’re going to do a mini two-week series on Gender Roles in Marriage, and this week, we’re starting with wives!

Right off the bat, please don’t dismiss what we have to say, give it some thought and prayer, and examine what we say against the Bible, and see for yourself if what we are saying is accurate and true.

What does Scripture have to say about wives and the role of women in marriage? To be clear, we’re specifically talking about husbands and wives, not gender roles in general for men and women.

Let’s dive in!

Back to the Beginning

The best place to start is in the beginning, so we’re going to look at Genesis 1. In the garden of Eden, both men and women, husbands and wives are made in the image of God. Both men and women are able to uniquely reflect God in certain ways. Based on this, we can say that the primary role of the wife is to glorify God. The primary goal of every Christian, and honestly every person, is to believe the gospel, live it out, and therefore glorify God.

When we get to Genesis 2, we see God declare that it was not good for man to be alone, so he will make a helper fit for him. We can already see some distinctions in gender roles before the fall! Eve is to help Adam as they have the same goal- to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Adam and Eve are both made in the image of God and have equal, inherent value, but they are different! This is countercultural, but let’s think about this…

We’ve never heard someone talk about if your nose or your eyes are more important (unless you were playing a good game of “would you rather”). They serve two different functions, but they are both equally important to the body functioning properly.

So what is the responsibility of a wife? To lovingly come alongside her husband and help him as he leads, guides, protects, and provides for the family.

The Perfect Wife

Oftentimes, in “Conservative Christian” circles, the perfect wife is often pictured as a domestic housewife who just cleans the house and does whatever her husband needs. This is what people (rightfully) push back on.

Proverbs 31 flips this idea on its head. This woman is working hard, investing in property and starting businesses, providing for her family, etc… Let’s look at what Proverbs 31 calls “perfect wives” to do:

  • Fear the Lord (verse 30)
  • Be wise and kind and share that wisdom with others (verse 26)
  • Work hard both in the household (verses 15, 21, 27) and outside of the household (verse 24)
  • Steward finances well (verse 16) 
  • Do her husband good and not harm (verse 12)
  • Prepares for difficult challenges and shows strength amidst difficulty (verse 17)
    • In Hebrew, this phrase means to “gird your loins.” This was used to describe men preparing for battle, going on a long journey, or running somewhere quickly. In Job 38:3, God finally answers Job and his friends and he tells Job to “gird your loins like a man” because Job is essentially about to have to battle God and answer Him directly. God is about to go off on Job and question him.

A biblical, godly wife is called to do all these things across different seasons.

So, if a “perfect wife” does all of that, it sounds like this idea of whatever her husband can do she can do…. But going to this extreme isn’t biblical either. So what is the actual distinction?

The Real Role of the Wife

We will get into husbands’ roles next week, but to put it simply, husbands are called to lead, guide, and protect the family. As we said earlier, a wife is called to come alongside and help her godly husband as he leads, guides, protects, and provides for the family.

For wives, sometimes that means girding her loins and planting vineyards, and buying properties. Sometimes that means asking him questions and calling out his sin and bringing that sin to others. Sometimes that means bringing what she has to the table and supporting her husband’s decision.

This is not a passive role. We tend to think of the “helping” role as passive, or just the husband is the plumber and we’re passing him his tools because we can’t do the job ourselves.

The Wife as Helper

The word for “helper” in Genesis 2:18 is ezer, so Xan took a deep dive into this Hebrew word.

  • It is used 21 times throughout the Old Testament.
  • 2 of these times, it is in reference to Eve.
  • 3 of these times, it is in reference to powerful nations Israel called on for help.
  • 16 of these times, it is in reference to God as our helper.

Clearly, God is not lesser than His creation, but He is often referred to as our helper, just as wives are referred to as their husbands’ helpers. We think, in our English context, of ‘helper’ as a servant, but ezer refers to help, savior, rescuer, and protector. Wives can’t rescue or save their husbands, but they are a help and strength in some part of him that is lacking. Men cannot fulfill God’s mission (to be fruitful and multiply) alone- it literally requires women.

Wives, when we bring everything we have to the table, we are bringing our God-given strength, creativity, wisdom, and all the good that we have into the beautiful design of marriage to help our husbands. Being an ezer to our husband is a very active, not passive, responsibility.

We do think that wives have a burden to make sure the household is in order and husbands have a burden to make sure the family is provided for spiritually, physically, etc. But these tasks are not mutually exclusive and both responsibilities are honorable and weighty.

The “S” Word

Naturally, we’ve kind of come up to an important discussion. This episode wouldn’t be a complete episode if we didn’t talk about the “s” word…. submission.

We need to talk about the difference between unconditional and conditional submission.

Wives are called to submit to God unconditionally because all believers are called to submit to God unconditionally. In James 4:7, believers are commanded to submit to God as they resist worldly temptations. Romans 8 tells us that life in the flesh resists God, so then life in the Spirit submits to God.

But yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands, conditionally. Ephesians 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:1 tells wives to submit to their husbands. By conditionally, we mean that women are called to submit to their husbands, not all men.

Submission does not mean subservient, unquestioned obedience. It does not mean failing to voice your opinion, it does not mean refusing to question your husband’s motives, etc… It’s not passive. It DOES mean bringing what you have to the table, voicing all of your opinions, submitting to a godly husband, bringing all your strength, wisdom, and insight, as the ezer, and laying it all on the table.

Submission is Trust

Submission means choosing to trust your husband’s discernment, rather than trying to control outcomes. Sometimes, bringing what you have to the table means having deep, rich discussion, and then following your husband’s leadership and guidance. Husbands are called to look out for the good of the family, so wives are called to help him and submit to his plan as he does this.

This requires a lot of trust! A lot to be said about encouragement, asking good questions, bringing what you have to the table, etc. but doing this all in love. 1 Peter 3:1-2 tells us that sometimes wives can win over their husbands to the Lord with their gracious and loving behavior (and vice-versa).

There are some disclaimers, or conditions, to submission:

  • Submission never means submitting to sin.
  • It never means submitting to abuse.
  • It does not mean you cannot bring your husband’s sin to church authorities/elders. This goes back to the Matthew 18 principle).

One Degree Shift

This is for wives, any woman, or honestly, even men too:

Read, study, and meditate on Proverbs 31 and Ephesians 5 this week.  Maybe look up the Hebrew root of “ezer” while you’re at it!

Want to Stay a Little Longer?

Gender Roles in Marriage Pt. 1: Wives

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