What does the Bible say about the roles of husbands and wives? Many are unaware that the Bible is full of marital advice that is still practical for us today. Let’s take a look at some examples:
In the first book of the Bible, when the first man Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden, God said: “It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.” He went on to create Eve, presenting her to Adam as his wife, thus inventing the marital arrangement. The passage goes on to explain the meaning of this arrangement: “A man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis Chapter 2)
Many years later, Jesus Christ quoted the above Bible passage. He added: “Humans must not pull apart what God has put together.” (Matthew 19:4-6) God intended marriage to be a joining of a man and woman in an eternal bond. He did not intend for separation or divorce to break his arrangement apart, although he made allowances for them in certain circumstances. Marriage was meant to be forever.
The Bible tells us what it really means to love someone: “Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) If every married couple puts this into practice, then divorce would be a thing of the past.
It takes two to make a marriage work – or fail. Let’s see what the Bible says to husbands and wives individually:
God makes it very clear what the man’s role is in a marriage: “But I want you to understand this: The head of every man is Christ. And the head of a woman is the man. And the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The husband was intended to be the head of the family, like the Captain of a ship. No ship could sail successfully if it had two Captains, and the same is true with marriage. God chose the husband to be in charge, but he also meant for the husband to follow God himself. He gives husbands strict guidelines as to how they should exercise their authority:
“They should love their wives as they love their own bodies. The man who loves his wife loves himself, because no one ever hates his own body, but feeds and takes care of it.” (Ephesians 5:28) God wants husbands to treat their wives just like they treat themselves. No sane man would beat himself, humiliate himself, or make himself into a slave. Thus no man should do such things to his wife. “You husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way, since they are weaker than you. You should show them respect because God gives them the same blessing he gives you—the grace of true life.” (1 Peter 3:7) God never wants husbands to use their headship or superior physical strength to harm their wives, otherwise, it will “stop your prayers from being heard.” He wants women to be given respect and understanding and to be taken care of.
The Bible has clear advice for wives: “Don’t try to make yourselves beautiful on the outside, with stylish hair or by wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes. Instead, make yourselves beautiful on the inside, in your hearts, with the enduring quality of a gentle, peaceful spirit. This type of beauty is very precious in God’s eyes.
For it was in this way that holy women who trusted in God used to make themselves beautiful, accepting the authority of their own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:2-5) God considers a gentle wife who accepts her husband’s authority to be “beautiful”. How appreciative husbands would be if their wives treated them like heads of the family, respecting and obeying them. We’ve already seen that God doesn’t mean for husbands to be dominating or cruel, so an obedient wife wouldn’t be like a slave. She would give respect and gain respect in turn.
One chapter in the Bible quotes the words of a mother to her son, advising him on choosing a wife. She tells him that a good wife is hard to find and that the value of such a woman is “far above pearls”. (Proverbs 31) She goes on to list the qualities that would make a good wife, including being helpful and hard-working, feeding and clothing her family, not being lazy, having a positive view of things, being smart in business transactions, and having faith in God. Such a wife would be very precious to her husband.
As the designer and creator of humans, the inventor of marriage, and the greatest example of love, God is the best marriage counselor in the universe. By studying the Bible as a couple and heeding the advice in its pages, we can have happy marriages. It takes time, hard work, and the humility to accept the Bible’s advice. But it is certainly worth it, if it means forming such a strong marriage that only death can part us.