Summary: In Eph. 5:33 there is one command for men - love, but twelve directives for women to respect their husbands. Even if this is an unpopular passage it must be preached.
The Politically Incorrect Message for Wives (Eph. 5:33)
One old church member said, "There are two sides to every question in our household: My wife’s side and the wrong side."
Or as one man said, "The average man lays down the law and then accepts his wife’s ammendments."
Yet, let us take a fresh look at the principles of marriage relationships from the pen of the apostle Paul:
"However, let each man of you love his wife as his very own self; and then let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband, that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him and that she defers to him, praises him and loves and admires him exceedingly." (Eph. 5:33 - Amplifed)
Did you notice that the husband is given one command but the wife is directed to do twelve things for her spouse. No doubt this upsets some who insist that this is unfair, misogynist and discriminatory toward women. However, Paul draws the equivalence of the honor due to the husband with that glory that goes to Christ from His bride the church. Just as the church is to give subjection, veneration and great admiration to her husband so a wife to her own mate. Yet, many women chafe at this idea as society has generally construed men to be unworthy of respect.
Most men in TV sitcoms are pictured as baffoons who have a hard time managing their jobs, their children and their finances. Have you ever noticed that the main character in most TV shows is a stumbling, bumbling and incompetent idiot the equivalent of Homer Simpson.
The following are several errors to avoid that flow out of the tendency in women to try to overthrow the authority that God has placed in every marriage as given in Genesis. Remember that in the sinful nature of every woman is the desire to dominate her husband:
"To the woman He said, ...Yet your desire and craving will be to rule over and control your husband but he will be your master." (Gen. 3:16 - New Living Translation)
Adam and Eve’s disobedience and fall from God’s grace affects all creation. It has implanted in the sinful nature of every woman the desire to rule over, control and dominate her husband, but she is commanded to submit to the God given authority of her spouse.
Matthew Henry writes about this passage most insightfully:
"She is here put into a state of subjection. The whole sex, which by creation was equal with man, is, for sin, made inferior, and forbidden to usurp authority, 1 Tim. 2:11, 12. The wife particularly is hereby put under the dominion of her husband, and is not sui juris—at her own disposal, of which see an instance in that law, Num. 30:6-8, where the husband is empowered, if he please, to disannul the vows made by the wife.
This sentence amounts only to that command, Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; but the entrance of sin has made that duty a punishment, which otherwise it would not have been. If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; and, if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness; and then the dominion would have been no grievance: but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy. If Eve had not eaten forbidden fruit herself, and tempted her husband to eat it, she would never have complained of her subjection; therefore it ought never to be complained of, though harsh; but sin must be complained of, that made it so. Those wives who not only despise and disobey their husbands, but domineer over them, do not consider that they not only violate a divine law, but thwart a divine sentence."
Matthew Henry is teaching that women who try to dominate their husbands or demean them are actually rebelling against God’s authority. Let us remember what the scriptures teach about those who are rebellious against God. "Submit yourself to the elder and be clothed with humility for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (I Pet 5:5,6)
Let us graciously instruct, correct, reprove and teach wives to positively fulfill the twelve directives in Eph. 5:33 while avoiding the top ten most common tendencies to usurp the authority in their homes:
1. RESPECT - Wives are to give deferential esteem toward their husbands regarding them as their God gifted and given leader. Failing to give respect often is manifested in cynical, deriding and doubting language that subtly undermines the authority of the Father or the husband in the home.
2. REVERENCE - Wives are to exhibit deep and affectionate - spiritual honor towards their husbands. In contrast we often see and hear of wives who demean, denounce and attempt to denigrate their husbands by speaking about them behind their backs to their friends, relatives or even children. Disparaging remarks are slights that often wound men deeply and create a rift in many marriages that are the heart of most conflicts. In Nigeria Pastors would teach women about the power of their tongue from James 3 insisting that their speech was like a razor blade that cuts painfully, deeply and dispirits. One proverb used was, "Karfin mata, sai yawan magana." The strength of a woman is in her use of many words." Words can wound or bring healing.