Duty and Wisdom
As far back as I can remember, I have desired to be happily married. Perhaps it was all the storybooks I read as a child about fairies and princesses and tall, handsome princes riding away into the golden sunset and living happily ever after. Or maybe it was all the fanfare and glamour around weddings that caught my attention: the beautiful bridesmaids, the puffy white wedding gowns, the dolled up flower girls, storeyed and bedazzled cakes, and rows upon rows of multicolored, sweetly-scented flowers. It all seemed wonderfully enchanting and surreal to me. I loved the idea of a loving mommy and a strong daddy working together to provide a safe, nurturing, and happy home for their many, many children… oh yes, I love big families!
Growing up, most of my friends felt the same way; I think many teenage girls do. Even my teenage nerdiness didn’t occlude my desire to one day meet a man of equal, if not higher, intellectual acuity, tie the knot with the blessing of my parents and the church, and settle down to take care of my twelve exceptionally brilliant children. Marriage, for me, was an escape from the dreary loneliness, abuse, and insignificance I felt daily. And while the monster may vary, most women view marriage as an escape, a gateway to a better life, or a sort of rubber stamp, validation, or affirmation of their female identity and prowess. Thus, a majority of women naturally aspire to get married.
Men View It Differently
It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I discovered that the attitude is vastly different for men. While women look to men as rescuers, men have to grapple with the weight of responsibility that comes with caring for someone. They literally have to carry the weight of their wives and children while being judged by a critically harsh society that does little to prepare them for this role. Think of it this way, while a woman dreams of a handsome, suavely clad prince swooping in on his magnificent beast and whooshing her away to a magically ornate and enchanting palace, the man is thinking about how to get the suave clothes, where to buy this magnificent horse, building that expansive palace and furnishing it to the woman’s near-impossible standards, acquiring the grapes and honey he needs to feed her, and identifying the golden platter on which to display them. And how does one even ride a horse?!!
It is, therefore, understandable why most men shy away from marriage and commitment. A lot is expected of them; and rightly so, because this is how God designed and established the marriage institution. As evident in the narration in Genesis 2, the man carries the vision of God and is tasked with responsibility over the earth, and the woman protects, defends, and helps him to accomplish his divine assignment, both being submitted to the Almighty God.
Man and The Burden of Responsibility
Therefore, a man carries the burden of responsibility whether he is married or not; marriage only forces him to account for his actions, not so much to his spouse, children, or society, but more so to himself. One function of marriage is to provide checks and balances for both men and women in the execution of the divine mandates on our lives. Marriage is like a mirror held up close to our faces, compelling us to see ourselves as we truly are, not as we imagine ourselves to be. And this is a good thing because only by recognizing our flaws can we begin to fix them. Consequently, running away from marriage is no absolution from responsibility; it is only cowering from the mirror of accountability that’s meant to sharpen us into becoming the best possible versions of ourselves.
Does this mean that every man should aspire to marry? Truthfully, no. Apostle Paul is very clear on this in his writings to the Corinthian church.
“In all you do, I want you to be free from worry. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can’t do that so well; he has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. It is the same with a girl who marries. She faces the same problem. A girl who is not married is anxious to please the Lord in all she is and does. But a married woman must consider other things such as housekeeping and the likes and dislikes of her husband. I am saying this to help you, not to try to keep you from marrying. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few other things as possible to distract your attention from him.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (The Living Bible)
It’s crystal clear from this passage that our main duty and responsibility is to the Lord; to serve and please Him in all we do. Marriage, on the other hand, is described a distraction from this noble and divine task. Paul actually desires that more people would refrain from marriage (see verses 7, 28, and 40), not out of fear, immaturity, or laziness, but so that they may take on more responsibility (i.e. devote themselves fully) in serving the Lord. However, Paul quickly clarifies his stance: he is not saying these things to keep men from marrying; rather his aim is to help the listener minimize the distractions that steal his attention away from God. This says to me that although marriage sets forth some undeniable distractions, there are ways we can minimize these distractions and serve the Lord in a way that pleases him.
Devotion and Not Distraction
In fact, the New Living Translation starts verse 32 thus: “I want you to be free from the concerns of this life.” You see, it’s not just marriage and family that distract us from serving God. Oftentimes, our jobs, hobbies, studies, friends, social media, the news, and other everyday activities take up the time that we would have spent in prayer or studying the word. The concerns of this life – what we will eat and drink, what to wear, make up, fun and unwinding, social media, amassing wealth, etcetera – distract us from pursuing God, but if we view them as such, then we are able to minimize their effect.
It’s interesting that in Genesis 2:24 God institutes marriage – which is the only divinely acceptable way to procreate, thus multiplying and filling the earth as is man’s mandate according to Genesis 1:28 – yet in Corinthians 7, He calls it a distraction. Is God contradicting Himself? Not at all. You see, at the point of creation in Genesis 2, man was a perfect being: work was totally enjoyable for him, not tiresome; he was completely submitted to God’s leadership, not seeking selfish gain; and his flesh was fully holy, not corrupted by lust or pride. At this point, it only mattered to Adam that Eve pleased God; not that she pleased him – but as she pleased God, he was pleased.
“For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16
In Corinthians 7, Paul is addressing an entirely different kind of man – a fallen man, corrupt in his flesh and overrun by selfish desires and foolish ideologies of grandeur. This kind of man is self-centered, prideful, egocentric, manipulative, and seductive. He does not understand the meaning of unconditional love: everything is a give and take for him. His needs are of prime importance to him and he will grab, steal, connive, seduce, manipulate, and do whatever it takes for him to get what he wants and find pleasure, no matter how fleeting. So one spouse mistreats the other, continually taking more and more from them and the counterpart endures the abuse because they benefit a misguided identity erroneously pegged to their spouse.
Marriage Gods Way
Marriage, when done God’s way, fulfills divine purpose. However, when done man’s way, it becomes one of the greatest distractions from man’s only duty of serving God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Since in our current fallen nature we are bound by fleshly limitations (e.g. getting tired when we work), marriage will always pose some distractions for us. However, the more we are transformed into the perfect image of our Lord Jesus, the fewer the distractions and the closer our marriages come to fulfilling purpose. Concurrently, the further we are away from the image of the perfect man, the more our marriages distract us from serving the Lord.
The question, then, is how do we do marriage God’s way? How can a man conduct his marriage in a way that allows him to carry out his duty to God with as few distractions as possible? It certainly requires wisdom and understanding; and, as Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Wisdom begins when we acknowledge God’s supremacy and sovereignty: when we recognize Him as Master (Lord) and settle in our position as His servants; when we are willing to say, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
Therefore, marriage – and everything that comes with it – must be done according to God’s will. We marry when He says it’s time, not when we want, or due to peer, parental, or societal pressures. We marry the person whom God approves, not whomever we like. We treat our spouse as God would, not as we were taught by our parents or according to tradition or popular culture. A marriage that is done God’s way is one in which Christ is emulated: as He only did what He saw His father doing (John 5:19), so must we only do what we see our Master doing; as He submitted to His Father’s will, so must we submit to our Lord’s will.
Mans Duty in Marriage
Now, if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then everything else done outside God’s will for us is foolishness. And no one wants to live foolishly. Therefore, a prudent son of God will embrace his duty, both in marriage and without, and carry it out diligently – not begrudgingly, as if it were a burden to him, nor petulantly, as if it had been forced on him, but joyfully and gladly, wisely discerning that God’s ways are best and most beneficial to mankind.
So, we have established that every man has a duty to God: to fear Him and obey His commandments. But what is the man’s duty in marriage? His duty is to God, his wife and, where offspring are present, his children. Duty is a responsibility or a moral or legal obligation, and it cannot be fulfilled unless it is known. Let us therefore examine what the scriptures say concerning the responsibilities of a man in marriage.
“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
This is a heavily loaded verse and we will study it deeper next week. For now, however, notice the structure of authority that God has established: the woman is to submit to the man, who submits to Christ just as Christ submits to the Father (Philippians 2:5-8). Ephesians 5:23, emphasizes this structure within the institution of marriage: “For the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” And just in case someone might wonder why the children are not mentioned, Apostle Paul addresses them in Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
There’s no question, therefore, about the man’s role in heading the family. The pertinent concern is: what does it mean to be the head? The answer is evident in the comparisons made in the verses above about Christ submitting to God (the Father) and the church submitting to Christ (Ephesians 5:24). The head is the master: that is, the decision-maker, the one to whom the subject belongs, the authority.
Mans Role in The Family
The head is the vision-carrier – he leads the body in the right direction. Every decision he makes affects the body and will ultimately decide its fate. As we saw earlier, the man carries the vision of God and is responsible for its execution. Therefore, the husband must engage God for the divine vision for his family and then apply himself to leading his family to the accomplishment of that vision.
However, the head is also the protector – he (Jesus) gives his life to spare the body (the church). The word translated as Savior, is the Greek soter, which means savior, deliverer, or preserver. It was a title given to deities, princes, kings, and men who had conferred significant benefits to their country. It comes from the word sozo, whose root literally means safe. The word sozo means to save, to keep safe and sound, to protect, to rescue from danger or destruction, to save from Messianic judgement, to save a suffering person from perishing (in the sense of healing; saving a sick person from death), to make whole. Christ’s headship over the church is associated with His being its Savior; hence, in keeping with the principle of emulating Christ, the husband’s headship over his wife requires him to protect her and work towards her wholeness, even to the point of giving his life for her.
Recall that we are hybrid beings, i.e. spirits housed in flesh bodies. Therefore, a husband’s duty as the head of his wife is to protect her, not only physically but spiritually as well. This means that he must ensure through prayer that the spiritual hedge of protection around his wife never goes down. He must also defend his wife’s emotional and psychological well-being. As a matter of fact, the husband is not only to protect his wife’s psyche against current or future attacks, but is also responsible – in conjunction with the Lord, of course – for the healing of past emotional and psychological wounds in his wife’s heart and her restoration to wholeness.
Clearly, the wife also has a role to play in these matters. She, too, has direct access to God and can and should pray for herself – she has a responsibility over her own salvation, healing, and relationship with the Master (Philippians 2:12). However, her responsibility over her own life does not absolve her husband from his responsibility over his wife. Both work together to ensure a greater, more robust fortification of their territory against the wiles of the enemy. Hence Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one … though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” The Lord is, of course, the third strand in the cord of marriage.
Consequently, the head is also the priest. As Ephesians 5:25-27 commands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-27
Christ gave his life to make his bride holy: He is our atonement – the Lamb of God that was slain to take away the sins of the world (Revelation 5:6 and 9). Now, there is no longer a need for husband to offer sacrifices unto God, nor to shed his own blood to sanctify his wife; however, the man has a responsibility to keep his wife pure – whether by meeting her sexual and emotional needs so that she is not tempted to wander away into an extramarital affair, or by continually washing her with the water of the word (i.e. rightly dividing the word of truth), or by constantly praying for her and pleading the blood of Jesus over her. It is the responsibility of the head (husband) to keep the body (wife) pure and to present her to the Master, without wrinkle, spot, or blemish, but holy and blameless.
Man and Moral and Marital Duties
With regard to sexual purity, allow me to emphasize something here: 1 Corinthians 6:16 says, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” When a man sleeps with a woman outside marriage, he becomes one body with that woman. If he sleeps with ten women, he is now one body with each of those women. When he comes home to his wife and sleeps with her, he is forcing his wife into union with all the other women he has ever been with, either before or outside his marriage. He is literally helping all those other women – plus all the men they’ve been with – to molest and defile his wife without her knowledge.
Can you imagine inviting a man you’ve never seen before into your house, helping him to drug your wife unconscious, carrying her into your bedroom and laying her down on your matrimonial bed, then sitting down and watching as he defiles her? Now imagine there are multiple men all at once. Worse still, multiple men and women engaging in a devilish orgy with your unconscious wife… It’s utterly sickening, isn’t it? Yet this is exactly what it looks like in the spirit realm when a married man commits adultery or engages in fornication then enters unrepentant into marriage.
These things may not seem that ugly or appalling in today’s culture, but God utterly abhors adultery. There’s a story in the book of Genesis about Abraham and a king named Abimelech. In fear for his life, Abraham disowned his exceedingly beautiful wife, Sarah, claiming that she was only his sister. The king, therefore, took Sarah into his palace, intending to have intercourse with her (this was the custom in those days). How did God respond? He struck the king’s entire household with barrenness and was going to kill each one of them, save for the king’s humble submission and repentance after a divine visitation in a dream (Genesis 20).
Gods Divine Design for Marriage
Back to Ephesians: the head is the lover and the body is the beloved. All through Song of Solomon, the wise king romanticizes the relationship between Christ (the Lover, the Groom) and the church or saint (the beloved, the bride), which is the exact image portrayed here in Ephesians. In fact, husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. In God’s kingdom, leadership (i.e. being the head) has nothing to do with egotistical aggrandizement, vain rodomontade, and tyrannical rule; rather it is the use of power to protect, nurture, and develop that which has been entrusted into one’s care in humble submission to the Almighty and Sovereign God. This is what Christ did and continues to do for the church. We will study this further in next week’s series.
The two passages we have examined in Corinthians and Ephesians provide some valuable insights into the role of a man in marriage. However, to grasp things more comprehensively, I like returning to the beginning to explore the original perfect and divine design which is what the new man strives towards. So let’s look at a few scriptures in the book of Genesis.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it … The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:15 and 18. In the beginning, God gave man the responsibility of working (cultivating, tilling) the land and taking care of it. The woman came in as a companion and a helper. When man sinned, these positions did not change.
“To Adam [God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Notice the emphasis placed on food: he will henceforth have to labor through painful toil and by the sweat of his brow to eat the plants of the field. Therefore, difficult as it is, it is the man’s duty to labor to feed his family; the wife is there to help him, but again, her help does not excuse him from his duty. Just as the Father provides for his children (Matthew 6:25-32), and the master for his slave (Colossians 4:1), so also must the husband provide for his wife. The head is the provider.
What I wish ALL Men Know..
This is the fourth item on my wish list: I wish that men would realize that running away from marriage is no absolution from responsibility; that marriage is, in essence, a honing tool that sharpens them to be the best versions of themselves through the confrontation of accountability. I want them to know that there is a right and wrong way to do marriage and that when done right, marriage actually serves to fulfill divine purpose.
I desire for men not to view marriage as a burden or duty as an enforced regulation, but as precious gifts from God that afford mankind the opportunity to serve a loving and kind Master who has nothing but our best interests at heart at all times. May the good Lord transform and renew the attitudes of our brothers’ minds regarding authority and leadership, humility and servanthood.
My dear brothers, when you decide to marry, how I pray that you would learn to look past the outward beauty of a woman, and instead look for that inner beauty of a woman that knows how to engage God for healing, provision, and protection; that you will not have to shoulder the burden of her wants and needs all by yourself. I pray that you would seek God’s approval concerning the timing and bride of your liking before making those vows.
And to my lovely sisters, let’s pursue God: prince charming may or may not come along, but all that we need for life is found in Christ. Amen.