The truth about “submission” in marriage

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One of the most misunderstood, debated and controversial parts of marriage outlined in the Bible is the concept of “submission.” Just to clarify, some people use the word “submission” to refer to sexual acts that involve bondage, but that is NOT what this blog post is about (sorry to disappoint you). It’s important to tackle this issue of Biblical submission in a straightforward way, because too many people have avoided the issue altogether in an attempt to avoid controversy, but by avoiding, we miss out on a beautiful and powerful picture of what God intended marriage to be.

For starters, let’s go straight to the Bible to the “controversial” passage in question. Here’s Ephesians 5:21-25 from the New Living Translation (NLT): ”

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”

The reason why this passage rubs so many people the wrong way is that, on the surface, many have misinterpreted these words to allow men to take a place of dictator-like authoritarian rule over their wives. The word “submission” has become synonymous with weakness and has been seen by many a regressive and dangerous doctrine to hold women back and perpetuate chauvinistic behaviors. This misinterpretation misses the whole point of this important, God-given portrait of a harmonious marriage.

Here are the main points for us to consider:

1. It all begins with MUTUAL submission to Christ.

For a marriage to truly thrive the way God intended, it must be built on a foundation of faith. As a husband and wife both follow Christ and willingly lay down their own rights for cause of Christ and the benefit of the other spouse, they’ll simultaneously grow closer to God and closer together in marriage. Most marriages are self-focused and when we allow our own selfishness and demand for our own rights to take center stage, we sabotage the peace and health that can only come through selfless, mutual submission and trust in God’s plan.

2. Men and Women each have UNIQUE GIFTS and responsibilities.

Our culture is waging a war against the very idea that there is any difference between the genders. We’ve made the tragic error of believing that equality means there are no distinctions. Clearly men and women are equal in every way. We are all created in God’s image with equal value BUT God created men and women with some distinct gifts, roles and responsibilities that are especially important within the context of marriage.

3. The goal of submission is always UNITY.

When we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and both spouses willingly lay down some rights and preferences for the sake of unity, in almost every situation, a husband and wife can reach a mutual decision. In these harmonious marriages, both spouses have discovered the powerful truth that disagreements in marriage don’t have a “winner” and a “loser.” Since a husband and wife are united as one, they’ll either win together or lose together which causes them to work hard to always find a unified solution where they can both win.

4. In God’s plan of submission, MEN are actually called to submit MORE than women. (Read this WHOLE description, because this is exactly how “submission” can work in practical daily application.)

How this harmonious submission should look in practice is that wives should submit to husbands in areas of PRINCIPLE and husband should submit to wives in areas of PREFERENCE. At least 90% of life’s decisions are a matter of preference and not principle. This point is huge and we miss it so often. God has placed a unique responsibility and sacred burden on the shoulders of men. When men are called to “lead” in the example of Christ, it means selflessly serving to the point of laying down his life for his family. The husband will give an account for how he led his family, and the wife will give an account for how she encouraged and supported him in this unique role. Since the man carries this unique burden of accountability in areas of principle which impact the family safety, faith and legacy, when a unified decision cannot be met someone has to be the tie-breaker and women are called to support the husband’s decision in these principle-based decisions. Wives, when you submit to your husband in this way (even when you don’t agree with his decision) you’re giving honor to your husband and ultimately giving honor to Christ (as outlined in the Bible passage above). In ALL other matters, for a husband to selflessly serve and love his wife the way Christ loved the church, when a unified decision can’t be reached in matters of preference (which house to buy, which color to paint the walls, what to eat for dinner, what to watch on TV, where to go on vacation, and a million other things) husbands should be willing to support and serve their wives by willingly submitting to her preferences. His willingness to submit to her in areas of preference will make it much easier for her to submit to his decisions in the areas of principle.

For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, check out our book Marriage Minute: Quick & Simple Ways to Build a Divorce-Proof Relationship and our online video course on sex and intimacy in marriage.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • wit brown

    Dave ; this is a good article ; thanks for sharing.
    I like the “Principle / preference” point of view. I may use it as well in ministry.
    Question, should a wife not submit to the husband’s preference as well.? or should a husband not have a “preference”.. for if it is all about her preference, ( as you seems to be suggesting ) then it becomes an issue of control for her.
    Please note the Bible did say to the wife to submit to your own husband in “Everything”….I am curious as to how you will make the distinction [ meaning submit to her every preference] and she submitting in Everything.

    Secondly, the bible does not instruct a husband to submit to his wife. A wife is NOT to be in a position of headship for him to submit to.
    Submission and Authority are complementary ideas. With out submission, authority is violated. With Abusive authority , submission will be forced.

    The idea of “Mutual Submission” should be in context with “humility of heart” to do what is specifically asked of the Husband and wife to do. That is; wife submit and husband Love…both requires humility and self denial (as you have stated) to do it as unto the Lord.

    Again thanks for sharing, it is a good article.

  • Heather

    You are simply way off base here – I know plenty of women that do run the household, making key decisions and are without question just as capable of it as most men. It is both ignorant and offensive to treat women that way. We are just as capable as men and do not need or desire male leadership, guidance, financial support or physical protection. I would rather spend my life single than to live that way and find that the bible is irrelevant and outdated concerning this issue. We as a society have fortunately evolved and come a long way since those days. Men and women are truly equals in every way and gender is a completely inappropriate way to judge a person’s ability to make decisions. Women don’t want or need the husband to exercise authority, we just want them to love, respect and support us emotionally as we do them. Fifty-fifty all the way…..

  • wit brown

    Well, it is obvious that you are not a Bible Believing Christian. Culture and the World [ kosmos] dictates and govern your world view.

    “Men and women are truly equals in every way and gender is a completely inappropriate way..” from a Christian perspective I can say that God created them, male and female as equal image bearers , but He gave them different roles that are equally important to Him and others. That makes your statement fallacious.
    And with views like yours, it is one reason for gender confusion , gays and lesbians in this culture. They are all confuse about gender and it’s importance to God and mankind.
    I guess society have also evolved in this respect. It’s a messed up gender confused society; the result of views like yours.
    But who cares? you are in the majority, feeling good, in a confused culture.

  • Chip Hudson
  • Kaelee Krege

    Why can’t it ever be reversed? Why can’t we teach our boys and men to see women as fully capable and needing support and submission as well? It brings me to my knees thinking that men will never see women as capable of being the leader and the one who is supported unconditionally. What is so wrong about that concept?

  • OMGLOL

    You can’t be their master, then! Duh. It’s always nicer to have half a population subjugated to the other half. Don’t you think so?! C’mon! In fact, slavery was fun. We should probably go back to it. Something went wrong with society when we started letting women vote and voice their opinions. We should probably take their vote away again, too. Men are the most capable ones of making important decisions, after all. / sarcasm

  • Josh

    You are pretty ignorant, he said in the first paragraph that it’s not a dictator rule the husband takes. Keep throwing around your philosophy, but it’s not biblically grounded.

  • OMGLOL

    “I don’t wanna be a dictator, just impose my ruling if we can’t decide together.” LOL. Ok. That’s not a dictator. Ok.

  • TabSpangler77

    I am sorry for LOL’s bf.

    Since disagreements on large things require a final say (compromise isn’t always a good option), every relationship needs a head. I would advise any man thinking about getting in a LTR with a “strong, independent woman” to run the other way. This will lead to a lifetime of disrespect (unless she divorced you sooner) with her demanding to be that head of the household.

  • OMGLOL

    No need to feel sorry for him. My boyfriend prefers to have an equal by his side than a slave to rule over. He wouldn’t even be with me if I’d just let him walk all over me. Some men do want a woman capable of having and defending her opinions – an EQUAL to them. I understand for you this is hard to grasp, though, as is the concept of “equal, healthy, and adult relationship.”

    Quoting myself “If we can’t decide on something, then we find a middle ground or the decision is left to the one more capable of making it. Sometimes that’s him, and sometimes that’s me. Since we are EQUALS, it depends on the situation itself. I am just as capable of him of making decisions. This is what a healthy relationship is all about.”

    I don’t need to demand anything, because we talk and agree or disagree on things like adults with equal power.

  • TabSpangler77

    I don’t really feel sorry for him. It’s his choice as much as yours.
    If you both think Biblical submission = slavery, it’s probably good that you’re together. Although, when you end up finding that you don’t feel loved, and you realize that you don’t respect him, just remember that there’s a better way.
    Love,
    Tab

  • OMGLOL

    When that doesn’t ever happen, remember there are more equal, respectful and free ways of loving someone =)

  • Heather

    Your comment is both ignorant and disgusting. Your spouse is the one that should be pitied. Relationships DO NOT require a leader. I am an educated adult with the experience to manage both my own life and relationship. I do not need or desire male leadership or guidance – especially not from a backwards person like you who is obviously intimidated by a woman who can think and act for herself! You are obviously only comfortable with women you can treat as inferior. People like you are a big part of what is wrong with this world. You need to learn that respect should be mutual and must be earned, rather than demanded. Also, this whole thing where men are designated leaders and head of household is an ancient and completely outdated concept. You can be a Christian without taking the bible literally. The practice of submission is totally irrelevant to modern society and should be done away with. Trying to sugar coat it to seem that the wife “benefits” from this is complete BS. The benefits are totally reaped by the man. Women do not want or need protection – we can take care of ourselves. Even if we did want it, it would be a ridiculously one-sided sacrifice to give up our individuality and independence for it. I totally agree with OMGLOL.

  • TabSpangler77

    Meh. I never said anything about anyone being inferior, you just see it that way. I hope feminism really works out for you and your relationships, but if not, there’s always cats!
    Love,
    Tab

  • Heather

    Um, yes you did say that when you said “I would advise any man thinking about getting in a LTR with a “strong, independent woman” to run the other way. This will lead to a lifetime of disrespect with her demanding to be that head of the household.” Obviously you are intimidated by “strong independent women” or you wouldn’t advise others to run the other way. First, a relationship DOES NOT need a head. That is complete nonsense. My spouse does not consider it “disrespectful” when I make my own decisions, take responsibility for my actions/life and express opinions – he happens to like it because he (unlike you) isn’t threatened by it. Secondly, many men prefer independent women and don’t want a spineless pushover who likes to be dominated simply based on her gender. Thirdly, feminism has worked marvelously for me, my career and my relationship, thank you very much. You just don’t get it, quite clearly, and think we are still living in the 1950s. Finally, your reference to the TIRED and completely unoriginal stereotype about cats is just plain ignorant and not even clever.

  • TabSpangler77

    It has nothing to do with intimidation or feeling threatened. Men and women are not that same and both excel in different areas. We compliment each other with our masculine and feminine gifts. That’s a good thing.
    I’m happy that feminism has worked so well for you. If only it didn’t do so much damage to relationships and society.
    Rest assured, I’d never force “the patriarchy” on you or anyone. I’m just calling a spade a spade.
    Cheers!
    Tab

  • Heather

    Whether or not you are able to see it, most of the rest of society can see that men and women are the same. I don’t need a man to complement me – I have all that I need to survive on my own if I so decide. What people like you miss completely is that the bible was written in a time when women were second class citizens, couldn’t own property or vote, and thus needed men to survive. Fortunately, our society has stepped out of the dark ages and evolved from there. If you are a Christian, I get that the bible serves as a source of spiritual inspiration and even comfort during hard times, but to treat it as a literal guide for how to make decisions and live in a modern world is absolutely absurd. Submission was simply a product of those long ago days and has no place in modern society. Only a few fundamentalists engage in this antiquated and unrealistic practice – the vast majority of the world knows that it is outdated and irrelevant. Feminism is not damaging – I am as capable, educated, hard-working and experienced in my field as most of the men I work with and absolutely deserve the same opportunities and pay as they do. Call it feminism if you want, but I simply call it fair.

  • wit brown

    “but if not, there’s always cats!” Lol…so true. “Many of the feminist leaders of the 60’s have cats and dolls to show as theirs , but I have my grand children to love me. and to show as mines” Phyllis Schlafly once said of her feminist opponent of the 60’s and 70’s feminist movement.
    But today, most feminist don’t mind paying a man for them to get pregnant them will tell him to get loss once the baby is born.

  • wit brown

    ” Relationships DO NOT require a leader.”>>wrong ! your objection , is base on the feminist deception about ‘marriage , family and men’ .
    Most ‘relationships ‘ in this society have one head. Be it the School system with one Principal or the Bank System with *one* CEO, or the Government with *one* governor or *one* President that is given ‘veto’ power.
    It is absurd to say Relationships do not require a leader or a head…
    such views comes from deception and rebellion. But is the popular one in this messed up culture.

  • wit brown

    You are right, it is one reason for many divorce in Christendom as well. Women are rebelling against God’s design for order.
    Anything with 2 head is a monster and anything without a head is dead.

  • wit brown

    Some one ‘must’ be responsible to make the final decision if and when one can’t be made collectively. That person is the husband , assigned by the creator of the relationship.
    The same is true of the Manager of your McDonald’s work place. He / she is given authority and responsibility to make decisions, collectively or unilaterally. Is that a dictatorship too?

  • wit brown

    she is not a believer ; the things of God is foolishness to her..
    She is part of the deceived group that promotes equally , not know that God did make them ‘male and female’ equally important to Him with their equally important in different roles. That is a foreign concept to her.

  • Josh

    You also didn’t read the entire article…men submit even more than women do. It’s the “happy wife happy life” mentality. But when it comes to the spiritual well being of my house it is my responsibility as the spiritual head to make sure things are right. Not in a dictator sense, But in a loving spiritual way.

  • Xochitl V

    Why would you assume that she didn’t read the article? I read the whole article and landed on the same question. Why can’t women be the leaders in some relationships? There are plenty of marriages in which the wife, as a person, is more suited to lead and the husband, as a person, is more suited to support. This dynamic works for them, but you’d have them reverse it (to the detriment of the union)…
    Also, the whole “women get to make MORE, trivial decisions and men get to make fewer, IMPORTANT decisions.” isn’t the selling point that you seem to think it is.

  • Josh

    Do you believe the bible to be truth??? Then you should heed what it says. I’m not saying anything the bible doesn’t. The problem is that men aren’t being men. We are not teaching men to grow up and be the spiritual head of their families.

  • TabSpangler77

    Josh, be careful with the “happy wife, happy life” mantra. I’ve stricken it from my vocabulary.
    We do want our wives to be happy, but more importantly, cultivating a holy wife does not always give you or her happiness in the short term, but gains you respect and brings her happiness by finding security in your integrity.

  • OMGLOL

    Wow – Good job on making your wife inferior to you by telling her that, if you both can’t agree, your opinion simply matters more. The Suffrage Movement’s women must be turning in their graves. The Bible says what it says because women used to be men’s slaves. I can’t believe you can’t see this. So sad for your wife.

    I discuss my plans with my boyfriend. We communicate with each other, and we discuss our options. But I sure as hell am not submissive to him. He is and EQUAL to me. I am not inferior to him. He is not superior to me. My opinion counts as much as his. If we can’t decide on something, then we find a middle ground or the decision is left to the one more capable of making it. Sometimes that’s him, and sometimes that’s me. Since we are EQUALS, it depends on the situation itself. I am just as capable of him of making decisions. This is what a healthy relationship is all about.

  • Josh

    You apparently didn’t read the entire article…typical wacko liberal femi nazi.

  • mdsjhawk

    I assume since you are attacking her, you agree with the article, and therefore, consider yourself “Christian.” (or you are just trolling) The “Christianity” in your words reek. You wonder why people don’t jump on the religion bandwagon nowadays.

  • Josh

    I wouldn’t expect people to jump on the bandwagon. Narrow is the path that leads to God, and few will find it. The devil twists the truth to be of the mark. That is what your trying to do.

  • mdsjhawk

    You just unnecessarily called her a “typical wacko liberal femi nazi” and now you’re trying to tell me I’m twisting words and you’re a man of God? I don’t think so. Try again.

  • OMGLOL

    Not only did he say you were twisting words, but that you have been possessed by the devil, lmfao… “The devil twists the truth to be of the mark.”

  • OMGLOL

    If there is something I learned from working Sundays at McDonalds when I was 17 is that church going people are in general more bigoted than regular people. Seriously. I wouldn’t have issues with any other customers… but the church crowd? Holy crap were they intolerant! Very mean people.

  • OMGLOL

    If I’m a wacko liberal femi nazi because I believe in equal rights and believe that both people in a relationship have equal capacity to make important decisions, then I wear the badge with honors!

  • adamcharles

    “Your opinion simply matters more” is taking the words a little far. There probably isn’t a good way to explain how I believe it should be taken that can’t be construed as demeaning, but the best analogy I can come up with (at least in how my wife and I operate) is that the expectation is on the man to lead, or captain in the way that a point guard typically runs an offense in basketball.

    The point guard isn’t chosen as a point guard because they’re the better, or more important player – they’re simply the ones who choose to train at taking the lead and ensuring that everyone is in position to execute the play. He needs to know the play inside and out, and have constant communication with his coach (God). When a man becomes a husband, he chooses to take on the responsibility of taking the ball, holding it, and then deciding when to attack, and who should have the ball when it comes time to execute. The ball ‘starts’ there, but usually ‘finishes’ elsewhere (typically with the better player, or open shooter if you’re playing good basketball).

    God being the coach is saying “Husband, I am giving you the ball, it’s your responsibility to see that we score points. Wife, ‘submit’ to your husband because he ‘currently’ has the ball, but be in position, because he will undoubtedly look to you to be open and potentially take the shot.” If the husband is a good shooter he may choose to take the shot if he’s open (Steph Curry), if he isn’t a great shooter he should look to who should take the ball next (Rajon Rondo). Both of those players are champions on opposite ends of the spectrum of style of play.

    Only one person can have the ball at a time, and only one person can score points. It’s up to the point guard to see the play through. Everyone needs to be both ready to take the shot, and ready to give up the shot.

    Point guards who hog the ball and take shots when they shouldn’t don’t usually have happy teammates and it usually leads to losing. Shooting guards and other positions that lack faith and respect for the point guard also usually leads to losing because it causes conflict when they choose to not give the ball back if the play calls for it. Teams that win championships don’t always have *great* point guards, but they’re champions because of mutual respect for assignment based on position and everyone understanding and agreeing on where the strengths of the team reside in a given situation.

    The movement between everyone should be harmonious with everyone moving and looking to get better position on the opposition with the ball in consistent motion (look to the San Antonio Spurs last championship over the Heat if you want to see a great example of how harmonious basketball can overcome a team of higher individual talent). Always working as a unit, always trying to better their individual game, and always thinking about how they can best help the team, hence “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    “For wives, this means submit to your husband as to the Lord.” – God has given the man the ball, look to spread the floor and help him see the path to points. If he chooses to take the shot himself, respect the decision, and if he misses then console him and discuss whether or not he should have looked elsewhere.

    “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” – Feed her the ball! She can shoot! She loves the feeling of hitting the big shot. SUBMIT to her desire for glory too! If she misses, console her and discuss whether or not she should have looked elsewhere.

    What will sound demeaning is that it still sounds like that the decision lies solely on the shoulders of the husband. All I can say is, if you believe in truth of the bible then you believe that what God expects out of the husband is for him to make the decision, and he expects nothing less of the man. If the man respects and loves the wife enough to relinquish control and swallow his own pride and occasionally pass up an open shot to ensure that she has opportunities too, then a wife should respect and love the husband enough to live with his decision-making even if it isn’t always the correct one (until he gives reason not to). You should only ever ‘submit’ if you trust, and at that point submission should be very, very easy for both men and women. If you don’t submit you express lack of trust, and that’s a deeper problem that should be addressed between the couple.

  • OMGLOL

    Look, I understand what you are saying. But I want both of us at the top of the hierarchy. EVEN if I let him make decisions, I don’t do it out of “God tells me to.” Maybe I do it out of laziness, maybe I simply trust him a lot on certain things. It’s ok, because I know that my opinion is still equally important. Sometimes, he will want ME to decide on things because he knows that I am better at those things.

    I want an equal relationship in which we are both leaders. Compromise is always attainable if you talk long and hard with an open mind… but yes, it is harder than simply saying “Since I’m the man, I get to have the last word on the issue.”

    Think about it this way: If your decision is so good, why couldn’t you simply persuade her? I mean that’s what you do in a discussion: you put forth arguments and try to convince each other of why yours make sense WHILE having an open mind to what the other person is saying. If your decision is good, she will agree anyways. The result is the same, but the way you approached it changed to one that was equally respectful to both partners in the relationship. Try it. Maybe one day she will surprise you and give you a better idea than the one you have that you would have never heard if she had simply decided to “submit” to you.

    You said “Only one person can have the ball at a time” … “at a time” is not the same as “all the time.” “Compromise” is not the same as “Submission.” Compromise means you both get to hold the ball, one at a time. You for some decisions. Her for others.

  • adamcharles

    It sounds like you’re taking the idea of the man being “the head” with the man becoming the brain, and the woman submitting to a life of mindlessness or irrelevance. That isn’t the case. I consult my wife in everything (almost literally), and she consults in me. We have to if she expects me to make the best decision possible for us (which she does) when the situation affects us. Many times I relinquish to her, because she’s better suited (she has a more thorough mind than I do), hence passing the ball, but we consult always. The man “the head, the woman “the body”, at least to me, isn’t taken as “the man direct, the woman do” so much as one simply just doesn’t live or operate without the other. They communicate and sync, always (like a team). When one does something without consideration of the other, the whole fails.

    The idea of submission doesn’t mean one relinquishes responsibility, it also doesn’t mean that “the head” dictate the movement of the body and consider it only as a vessel for labor or duty. It doesn’t mean “When I say go, you go!”, it means simply “I’m asking that you trust me and stand by me even if I’m wrong, because I feel I’m doing what’s in our best interest.” The trust has to be earned, but it should be earned far before ever deciding to get married, at least in a traditional Christian sense because you should only ever do it once. It took my wife 2 years to gain that trust that my decision-making would always be about us first, guided by God.

    That’s asking that whoever the woman chooses that there should be very high expectations upon the man, because she will be expecting his A game in all decisions regarding the family (and a man open to consultation should be a big part of that), because that is what God expects of him. Since God asks of her that she have faith in him, she needs to be absolutely certain that her faith is placed without error.

    As far as your comment about “why couldn’t you simply persuade her?” it isn’t about winning the argument or proving a case. Me convincing her that my decision is good doesn’t in turn make it good (just agreeable), nor does my not being able to convince her make the decision not good. If we disagree it’s up to me to choose between whether I’m willing to accept that I might be wrong even if I don’t think I am, or also even ignore whether I think something is right if it’s “wrong enough” to her.

    It’s similar to when you have to pull an all-nighter for a test. Your head is telling you to keep studying because you don’t know enough, your body is telling you that you need to sleep because you won’t have the capacity to recall anything if you’re tired. At the time, both are both right and wrong. If you opt to stay awake and study more and end up making a 60 you might think “I wish I’d slept some. I know I knew some of those answers, I just couldn’t think of them.” If you opt to sleep and make a 60 you might think “I probably could have read a few more chapters. I probably would have seen the answer to some of the questions I know I missed.”

    In both scenarios you end up with a 60, but you’ll never know that because you had to pick only one and will only ever ponder on what might have been if you’d gone the other way. What God asks with submission is that the wife stand by the husband in his decision to choose head or body, regardless of the outcome.

    Granted, it takes a lot for anyone to submit control like that. Which means, if a woman is to submit like that she should have very high expectations of her husband. An expectation to make his best decision, and an expectation to listen because he knows he can’t have an informed decision if he doesn’t consider avenues she can see that he can’t.

    At least, that’s how I see it.

  • Kaelee Krege

    I’m replying to you because you seem like someone who is very much capable of the deep thinking that I was interested in when I first commented on this article. Feel free to ignore my questions if you have better things to do.

    So it seems to me that you take this idea of man being the decider as kind of the “default” factory setting that can be changed or customized to fit the situation? It’s a great way to approach this issue, in my opinion, and a healthy interpretation that doesn’t dehumanize your wife and empowers both of you. But I have a couple minor issues with it that do not show disagreement, just a desire to delve a little deeper. (skip to #3 if you don’t feel like reading through all of this)

    1) Is God setting this factory default? Can it be assumed that this has cultural origins, rather than religious? Otherwise, why have it at all? If you trust your wife to “take the shot” as you put it, doesn’t that mean she is just as capable of being the point guard as you are? I don’t know about basketball to understand if this other player could also be the point guard within the same game (not at the same time, of course)? Why is the man automatically the main designator of the play, other than “god said so because he knows more than we will ever know”. This is obviously more of an origins question, than a practical one. But this, to me, is why most people will never agree on whether the man should be submitted to in all things (one extreme) or whether the woman should (the other extreme). Most people fall somewhere in the middle (see the OP) but the default is taken as the natural, and therefore best, setting in this case, and I just want to know how we got to this point. (The default being that the man is to be submitted to, in whatever form is deemed culturally acceptable to a given group of people in a given time). And is it blasphemous to argue it?

    2) In terms of practical outcomes, this teaches children at an early age about roles they must play. Mostly through actions and likely unconscious bias, but it has effects nonetheless. Even if it is discarded outrightly by huge parts of the population as “outdated religious dogma”, it did inform our culture for centuries and cannot therefore be discounted as a driving force for the inequality between men and women. I see it as continuing to this day and can only be overcome by seeing it with our eyes wide open, acknowledging it, and then actively fighting against the subjugation of women. I would never say that the inequality of men and women re: being seen as capable and competent is so bad that we need an all-out assault on the power that men have. That would be rash and also discriminatory. I see the act of naming it and acting to adjust accordingly, while admitting that it is a huge part of our culture allows for humility when it comes to treating women as infantile or unfit to lead. It may not go along with most people’s core values (to treat women inferiorly), but it happens all the time. I believe this is the root of that inequality.

    3) Do you believe a woman (whether it’s your wife or any other woman) is capable of being the point guard at some point in any relationship? If yes, why can’t it be a shared duty? If no, why not?

  • adamcharles

    Hi Kaelee, for the most part it seems like what your inquiries sort of lead back to is whether or not women are perceived as capable of leading a family (or anything), and if yes then why must the man be the one to do it?

    For the first part, I’d say the answer is yes (essentially, your #3 question), and anyone who says otherwise is probably adding logic from Peter (men treat women as the weaker vessel) into why God must have designated men to be the head of the home. If God wants men to head the home it must be because he created men to be better at it, or women incapable of doing it well.

    If you believe in God then you believe that God doesn’t have to work in our understanding of logic. If you have faith in truth of the passage then it isn’t for us to apply reason to it that makes it agreeable or understandable, but to have faith that there is a reason for it, and that the reason is good. Good as defined by be pleasing to God.

    That being said, it isn’t blasphemous to question, but merely to “doubt.” I look to the Book of James, Chapter 1 in that regard. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

    This is why prayer should be important in the household, from both husband and wife. It’s one’s personal time with God, to ask God for guidance and question with dilemmas that even the bible itself presents.

    Women lead countries and businesses and both successfully. A think a woman is amply “capable” to lead. And maybe that’s why some households differ. I respect my wife as one that is “capable” of doing everything I do. I don’t believe she “is” a weaker vessel outside of the sense of the superficially physical, but I won’t deny that I factor her safety in a decision that maybe puts her at risk that I would throw by the wayside for myself with a sense of reckless abandon – ostensibly “treating her” as a weaker vessel.

    I can certainly see how that’s condescending, but I wouldn’t feel disrespected if she were to do the same for me, so I don’t see it as disrespectful. I think she also acknowledges that she doesn’t feel the need to convince me of her strength either. There’s a mutual respect there that we each know what we can do, negating the need to prove to each other of our abilities.

    Me seeing her as equally capable is also how I see that as giving her the right to be critical of my decisions, even as she stands by me as I make mistakes – and what pushes me to do my best, because I know she can do the job too. God is telling me I’m assigned, she’s telling me I can’t slack in my assignment. To “submit” doesn’t mean you cannot question, it just means when it comes time for a decision that the allegiances align even in times of disagreement.

    I think of it almost like a boss having 2 employees and must designate only one to be project manager. Both are capable, but one will be assigned. God has “defaulted” (as you put it) to men. Therefore, God expects the man to take up the assignment. Probably not because he’s more capable of it, or because he will even make the right call, but simply because the assignment has just been given to him and for no other reason. The family will live or die by it, but if you believe in the passage then you believe that whether you are succeeding or failing in your decisions, you are pleasing God in your attempts to do your best at doing what you believe he’s given to you to do.

    That includes prayer first, bible study, and conference and consultation.

    As to your other points and questions about whether or not it can be assumed to have cultural origins, I don’t know with certainty. I can’t say that it’s ‘assumed’ so because to assume it would be to dismiss the writer of Ephesians (the Apostle Paul as currently the believed writer) to have not been divinely inspired but to have written the letter as guided not by God. But, that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of seeing how the letter can be perceived as a means of the church’s attempt at eternal subjugation of women, and slaves even for that matter (further down in Ephesians Chapter 5). And, yes, it’s a very dangerous and terrifying thing to consider.

    Considering that the bible is a collection of historical texts as decided collectively by the church that its contents were of writers that were of divine inspiration, and the church having been made up largely by males it’s very easy to see how it can be perceived that men wrote this, and men decided this as absolute truth.

    To that all I think can be said is, for women to also consult with God. It’s very possible that it isn’t the way. Perhaps it’s up to whoever to question it to question it to God, and achieve divine inspiration to inform the rest of us.

    To be fair, it’s very possible that it’s already happened, and as a society we’ve chosen to dismiss it. For that, we will be judged, for not also having consulted with God about it. A believer should not be guided simply by the word of God via the bible. There should be consistent consultation through prayer. If the bible is all that was necessary God would not ask that we pray to him directly.

    I think I deviated a little, but I hope I’ve given you enough to shoot back with anything if you’d still like to discuss.

  • adamcharles

    Also, I’m kind of a movie buff, and I like to find films that tackle difficult themes (like this one) in very real ways, and it just so happens that one of my favorite films of the modern era happens to hit this one really well.

    It’s called Take Shelter (came out in 2011), and stars Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Michael Shannon is a small-town construction worker who, out of nowhere, begins to experience horrific visions of this impending, apocalyptic and sinister storm, and he’s apparently the only one experiencing them. He can’t explain it, but his visions feel too real for him to not take seriously. So, against his better judgment of sanity, he goes about building a fortified storm shelter in their backyard. The problem is, in doing so, he’s depleting the family’s savings (which they were previously saving up to get their deaf daughter treatment) and also risking his job in the process. To make matters worse, he won’t confide in his wife (or anyone else) and therefore she has no idea why he’s doing any of it, and only has his family’s history of schizophrenia as a reason for any of it.

    What they go through together I feel accurately represents the struggles of both sides of this passage. He knows that his mother is schizophrenic, and he knows that they only have one source of funds to build a shelter (their health savings for their daughter’s hearing treatment). He knows that he has to do what he feels is best for his family, but he also doesn’t know if he’s crazy and feels too scared to confess to his wife. “How” he’s going about the whole thing is wrong.

    Chastain has every reason imaginable NOT to ‘submit’. He doesn’t tell her what’s going on, he’s using all of their money for something they don’t appear to particularly need, that money now can’t be used for treatment for their child, and schizophrenia isn’t foreign to his family’s history. She has every justifiable reason imaginable to abandon him for the sake of herself and their daughter (take control), and given the circumstances she would probably be lauded by nearly everyone if she got herself and her daughter away from him.

    His confession of what’s going on with him happens in a very public and sort of humiliating way, but how she reacts is what I think it truly means, when push comes to shove (for both men and women), to submit to each other:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey1Z0VhAQdA

  • wit brown

    “The Bible says what it says because women used to be men’s slaves.” …women were never men slave in the Bible. Can you show where in the Bible you got that.? Use the KJV. Thanks
    Please note , when the children of Israel were in Egypt they were ALL slaves , not just women.

  • Kayla Renaud

    To try to understand your intention with this article – what would you provide as an example of a “principle” issue? You already provided a few examples in the article for “preference” issues.

    Also, what is informing you for making this principle/preference distinction?

  • Dan Klebes

    Yes, please provide some examples of principle issues, because house purchase and vacation destination seem like principle-level issues.