CTNAHM: Obey vs. Submit

CTNAHM: Obey vs. Submit July 4, 2014

By Aletha

Originally posted on Yllom Mormon

Created To Need a Help Meet, pp. 180-182

This chapter is called Obey, Indeed?, and there’s been some confusion-mostly due to Michael’s writing-about the difference between obeying and submitting. However, say what you will about Michael, he is decent at solving problems that he creates. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the stirring difference between obeying and submitting.

Your Helper, Not Your Slave

The people at No Greater Joy work for me. I am their boss. Many of my employees are smarter than I, and most of them have talents and abilities I do not posses. I trust them to fill their respective jobs, and I seek their advice in their area of expertise, often deferring to their judgement in a matter. Sometimes they even question a decision I make. I counter-challenge them and expect them to argue their point. I would be foolish to treat their opinions lightly. I would be cutting off my own success if I didn’t treat them with respect.

I’m wondering how many of these respected employees are women. Because I really can’t see him allowing questioning from a woman-regardless of her “expertise”. Although I don’t disagree with what he’s saying. I’m a manager at a fast food place, and sometimes I trust the expertise of my employees. I know, for example, when somebody orders 15 burgers to go, it is best to get out of the way and let the grill people handle it-because anything I do will throw off their groove.

This sort of sounds like what Michael is advocating, but I really don’t’ like the comparison that’s about to happen. One’s spouse should be an equal partner, not an employee. And as delightful as it is that Michael claims to have such a great relationship with some of his trusted colleagues, I just don’t see there being much respect for Debi, or her having much opportunity to question Michael’s decisions.

You are not her master; you are her partner in sanctification. As head of the family, you are responsible to be an example and to patiently encourage your wife to grow as a person and to help her understand and perform her duties as your chief helper. Your role in marriage is not that of enforcer; it is that of encourager.

What worries me is how often Michael has had to tell men in this book that they aren’t their wive’s master. Isn’t that telling of where the actual problem is? Unfortunately, Michael undoes all of this “you’re not their master” by reminding them that women are their employees, helpers, and servants.

Another thing I’m curious about is how the man is supposed to grow as a person. I mean, if the only way wives grow and change is at their husband’s insistence, are we to assume that men are just such natural leaders that they will lead themselves in the right direction? And if women aren’t supposed to question, how is a man to know that he’s in the wrong? Especially if his wife is “properly submitting”-which I interpret to mean “Yes dear”-ing. Or is that the part where God steps in and helps the man with his “head of the household” part?

Submit, not Obey

Several passages in the Bible instruct wives to submit to their own husbands, but obedience is only mentioned twice, and each has its own unique context. Following is one of the many commands that a wife should be in subjection, but it provides an example of Sarah going even further in an act of obedience.

1 Peter 3:1, 5-6

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the world, they also may without the word be won by the conversion of the wives; For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. (emphasis his)

OK. So women are supposed to be in subjection to their husbands, but their husbands aren’t their masters? Does this make sense to anyone else? Because no matter how much Michael talks, I’m really getting the feeling that the difference is all in semantics. “No, she’s not supposed to OBEY you, she’s supposed to joyfully submit to serving you. See the difference?” Um…no, not really. Thanks for trying, though.

The Bible records just two occasions in which Sarah obeyed Abraham, so one of them will of necessity be the even to which Peter is referring. The second episode is not significant; he commanded her to prepare a meal and she did. Of course, if your wife doesn’t prepare meals that verse will be more relevant to you.

I imagine him chuckling at that last line.  “Heh heh heh…glad I got me a woman who will cook for me!”

The first event recorded in Genesis 12 is no doubt the experience in question. When visiting Egypt, Abraham feared that Pharaoh would see his beautiful wife Sarah and have him killed so as to make of her an eligible widow, so Abraham commanded her to lie, saying she was only his sister. Sarah obeyed Abraham, lying as he commanded, calling him “lord”. And though she was in jeopardy of being taken to Pharaoh’s bed, she was not “afraid with any amazement” at the position her lying husband had put her in. Her faith was justified when God intervened and struck the Egyptians with diseases. Pharaoh divined that it was God’s judgment on his nation and discovered the ploy. He so feared God that he released Abraham and Sarah and after a stern rebuke sent them away unharmed with their goods.

This story has always irritated me. When we would go over this in Sunday School, my Mormon teachers would hold this up as an example how sometimes following the prophet doesn’t make sense, but look how well it worked out for them! I, personally, have always thought this is why you shouldn’t trust authority-I mean look at how much work God had to do to fix Abraham’s mess! Instead of coming up with an elaborate ruse, why didn’t Abraham just cover her with blankets or something and say that she has a pestillence or something? Or have her stick blankets under her robe and say she’s pregnant? Surely there were a thousand or so other options Abraham had than forcing his wife to lie. Heck, they could have just avoided the city Pharaoh was at. Problem solved!

Why make an issue between the very similar words “obey” and “submit”? Because though they can be used interchangeably in many contexts, they are different in connotation, not only in English but also in Hebrew and Greek. (I make reference to Hebrew and Greek for those of you who are foolish enamored with two of the original languages.)

Ooooh, oooh, ooh, pick me! I know someone who is enamored with Greek and Hebrew. Want to guess who? Nah. Just watch this video.

A quick review of every use of these two words readily reveals a wonderful distinction. We get the same results in any language. Webster’s accurately represents the differences, as does Strong in his Greek word definitions, not that we can fully trust either of them. Get a concordance or look them up in a Bible program and read every use, noting the differences. That way you won’t have to take my word for it or A. W. Strong’s or Webster’s, or any one of your favorite mothballed Greek scholars.

So we shouldn’t take his word about translations of various words, but we should read his book and apply EVERYTHING he says because he’s right? That is some magical thinking, there, Mike. Heh. Magic Mike.

Or not. Ewww.

I won’t go through all the proofs. It would be too long. You can research it as you will. Obey has a much lower threshold than does submit. It can be impersonal and devoid of heart motive. In Scripture, the winds and the sea obey him. Devils obey him. A slave obeys his master. A child, through constraint, obeys his parents. The church is to obey them that have the spiritual rule over them. We put bits in horse’s mouths and they obey us. Sarah obeyed Abraham in a very difficult situation. You could call that blind obedience, much like a slave renders to his master, or a child renders to his parents. No questions asked, no answers given.

I see. So the real difference between submission and obedience is the heart motive. Apparently Michael has no idea that people can put on a fake face and pretend to be submissive when they are really just being obedient. But what I find most interesting is in Debi’s book. She freely uses the term “obey” as something wives should routinely do for their husbands. She doesn’t talk much about submission, funnily enough.

The discord between the two books is staggering. Debi’s book says to obey the husband. Michael’s book says that obedience isn’t as good as submission. Does anyone else see how this could be a problem? And, once again, there is no oversight in these relationships. Unless one takes the Sarah/Abraham story at face value, and I’m sure many do, that God will step up and patch things up when the man gets them wrong.

Holy cow. I just turned the page and realised that this section goes on for another 2 pages. I think this is enough bananas for one day. So, until the next post, ladies, think of how you can turn your obedience into joyful submission. And men, think of ways to “encourage” your wife into being a more submissive helper.

Nah, just kidding. Everyone should just think of ways to show and give respect to their partner, regardless of gender. (And you didn’t even have to buy a $12 book for that advice; you’re welcome).

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