What Does the Bible Say About the Role of a Wife?

In an earlier post, we talked about three roles or duties that the Bible primarily gives to husbands. This post will serve to do the same for wives. We will look at three roles that are highlighted in Scripture.

[The summary of these descriptions comes from the book – Tying the Knot: a Pre-Marital Guide to a Strong & Lasting Marriage by Rob Green.]

There are a few passages in the Bible where the role of a wife is shown, in part, to be that of a follower. 1 Peter 3 has a long passage about both husbands and wives, but within it is found the phrase, “wives, be subject to your own husbands.” Peter explains this role as having such a powerful effect that when lived out faithfully, it can help point even unbelieving husbands to the Gospel.

The tandem bike is a helpful illustration for showing the amount of faith needed to fulfill the role of a follower well. In the illustration, the husband is at the front of the tandem bike pedaling, steering, and keeping the bike balanced. The wife is in the second seat pedaling. It takes tremendous faith for the wife to be in that second seat knowing that the bike is being steered and balanced by her husband and for her to try to steer, instead of just pedaling, would just make the whole thing fall over. Similarly, the husband needs to balance and steer in such a way as to not make the wife fall off. After all, he needs her to help pedal the monstrous bike! The illustration isn’t perfect, however it does aid us in trying to spur one another on to live out these roles faithfully.

In Genesis chapter 2, right at the beginning of all creation and before sin even entered the world, God created women to be a companion and a helper to man. Verse 18 reads, “Then the Lord God said, “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” There are plenty of times in Scripture that the role of “helper” is expounded upon to include emotional and spiritual support. However, here in Genesis 2, the help is also physical. The “alone” that God is referencing in verse 18 is a response to what Adam sees all throughout the Garden of Eden. Animals all have a companion so they can accomplish what God required of them. Adam is self-aware enough to see that something’s not quite right. Eve was to help Adam accomplish the role that God gave him. He couldn’t do it without her. He couldn’t multiple, he exercise dominion over creation, he couldn’t do it alone.

This is perhaps one of the most apparent characteristics of a Gospel-centered marriage. If you’ve ever been around a marriage where companionship is neglected, it’s awkward and sad. The relationship has seems to lack purpose, mission, and fellowship. However, the marriage of two saints who have gone through life as close companions is a tremendous gift to be around.
In the New Testament wives are called to respect their husbands. In 1 Peter 3 and in Ephesians 5, wives are described as being the “respecter” of their husbands. The majority of marital issues tend to occur because of either a lack of respect from the wives and/or a lack of love from the husbands.

Since this issue is so common, let’s consider some ways respect can be displayed.
1. Encourage your husband. Encouragement is one of the most underutilized gifts to a marriage. It requires a spouse to see the good work in their wife or husband and a careful eye and heart to deliver it well. Wives who are good at encouraging their husbands are always on the look out for where he is taking risks and fulfilling his own roles in the marriage. Encouragement trains our hearts to see beyond the negative, beyond the mistakes husbands make and instead helps us focus on the admirable.
2.  Don’t hold his mistakes over his head. “I told you so” or “I knew this would happen” is a common phrase that communicates the opposite of respect. Because of the biblical design for marriage, the responsibility of the husband is to lead and for a wife to follow. This doesn’t mean there won’t be healthy disagreement and conversations over decision-making, but it does mean that at times husbands will have the responsibility to make the final decision, take a risk, and lead. There will undoubtedly be times that this won’t pan out and fail. An untimely “I told you so” in such scenarios can be devastating.

One of the reasons that we are looking to Scripture for what it says about marriage roles is because we have been programmed throughout our whole lives to come up with other definitions for how husbands and wives are to be husbands and wives. The Bible has lots to say about marriage but it doesn’t always give exact ways to fulfill the assigned roles and I’m convinced that’s because not every wife will feel loved by her husband the same way, and not every husband will feel respected the same way. Not every husband will pursue knowledge of his wife the same way and not every wife will submit and follow her husband the same way. Nonetheless, there are clear guiding principles that inform the roles of husbands and wives and that guide our lives together.
Posted in
Tagged with ,