What Does It Mean For The Husband To Be The Head Of The Home?


There is probably not a more in-politically correct teaching in the Bible than that of Ephesians 5:22-25. However, much of the consternation surrounding teachings as such flow from a misunderstanding of God’s view on the husband being the head of the house. Let’s take a look at what it means for the husband to be the head of the house or the family.


Ephesians 5:22-25


Just in case you have never read Ephesians 5:22-25, here is what Paul stated:


“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”


A Defensive Approach


First off, I want to be understood that God needs no defending. In fact, I feel that the church has done a disservice to the scriptures by taking on an almost apologetic stance on issues pertaining to biblical roles of men and women, homosexuality, purity, eternal punishment, and salvation through Christ and Him alone. This is not my manner nor my spirit. I say let God be true and every other skeptic a liar as Paul said in Romans 3:4.


When We Think of Leadership


When many think of leadership, they often think of the man in charge, the head honcho, or the man that calls the shots. Though I believe the head must be free to guide and direct a family or a body, headship is a place of service and protection rather than simply decision making.

I have led a number of organizations, churches, and programs in my life. Honestly, when people relate leadership to simply decision making, I find myself chuckling. This is because the fact that I am a leader does not mean that I sit in a fat chair and call the shots. It means that I am a servant to the needs of the people within a particular body or organization.

Concerning my home, I will freely admit that I am the head of the house. But, for me that mostly means that I am a provider, protector, and a servant. Do I have the freedom to make decisions and require things of my family? Sure. But, I would say that headship to me is 99% service and 1% decision making. Any altering or reversal of this order usually leads to disaster in any home or organization.


Leaders Serve


Though I am not a slave to organizations that I lead, I should be a willing servant. In other words, when everyone is gone and there is mess that has gone unnoticed, I am the one picking up trash. If a messy bathroom is overlooked at the place we lease as a church, I am typically the one with a bucket or a plunger in my hand after everyone else has left.

As a pastor, I have probably spent more sleepless times in my bed thinking and praying for our church body than anyone else. Concerning my family, my children do not stay up at night worrying about food, clothing, and shelter. That is my job as the protector of the home. It is my responsibility as guard, guide, and head of the home to stay spiritually and mentally awake so they can have rest in their hearts.


Some Leaders are Selfish Leaders


The scriptures teach that leadership is service as well as guidance. Is this sometimes turned around in some churches, organizations, and marriages? Of course, the answer is yes. Ezekiel 34:2 even deals with this:


“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”


In Matthew 23:11, Jesus said, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Therefore, according to Christ, the job of leaders is not merely to make decisions, but to serve.

Once again, I certainly understand that some managers, pastors, and husbands have this idea turned around, but it should be said that God’s intentions are that leaders serve their way to success. Simply put, their service should pave the way for them to pull from the bank account of credibility and trust that their deposits of love can only secure.


Do Leaders Decide?


Leaders are to make decisions, but it should also be noted that John Maxwell defines leadership in one word, influence. And, I believe I also heard him say that if you are looking over your shoulder and nobody is following, then you are not much of a leader. You may have a position, but you are not necessarily having an influence on those around you.

Leaders should have the freedom to make judgment calls, provide guidance, and make decisions. But, they also ensure that the spirits as well as the bodies of those they lead are with them. Though there are times when people are unwilling to follow even good leaders, generally speaking, good leaders produce good followers and broken leaders produce broken followers.


Help for Husbands


Husbands will find it easier to lead and make decisions when they incorporate the following into their lives:


1. Earn respect rather than demand it.


2. Open the spirits of others in the home before their minds.


We teach this in chapter four of our marriage book. It is probably our most important teaching. I call this the Proverbs 18:19 principle.


3. Consult the opinion of your wife.


Almost every time I have made a decision that my wife is not all about, it has turned out to be a bad decision. Though there are exceptions to this rule, I still find it to be generally accurate.


4. Stop asserting that you are the head.


The man that has to assert his position as the head of the house has the least control over his houeshold. He is a Barney Fife of sorts in that he has to talk a big game because there is little evidence to back up his talk.


5. Make few executive decisions.


I will admit that I am the head of our home, but I rarely exercise that right without knowing that my family is on board with my decisions. In fact, if I have to “pull rank” of sorts, I find that something is off kilter in our home, and we are not walking in the unity that God would have us to enjoy.

Are there times when my wife and I do not agree? Of course. Are there times when we cannot come to the same conclusion? The answer is yes, and, in those cases, we have an understanding that I make the final call. But, most of the time, I find it best to talk and move in the “we” instead of the “me” as the same Holy Spirit that leads me is leading her.


A Quote from Matthew Henry


Some of you know that I am an avid reader of Matthew Henry. In his comments on Genesis he said, “If man is the head, she is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation.”

I love the Matthew Henry quote because Matthew Henry is saying that though the man is the head, it is the woman that beautifies the head and crowns him with glory.

Some men are bad about tarnishing their crown with poor conflict resolution skills, bad decision making, inconsistent behavior, et cetera. A man in this position will do well to understand that when he acts in such a manner he is dulling the shine that was intended to bring him honor.

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12 comments on “What Does It Mean For The Husband To Be The Head Of The Home?
  1. Rae says:

    There has been abuse in my marriage, verbal, spiritual (twisting scripture to use it as a weapon against me, crushing me), and physical. After a serious physical incident, with the recommendation of my pastor and counselor (I was the only one seeing a counselor at the time, because I “was the only one who had issues”), full of sorrow and at the foot of the cross, with a heart aligned with the Holy Spirit, and a deep hope for reconciliation, I separated from my husband, taking my small children with me. A few months of counseling and he moved home.

    A year later, and our marriage is worse than ever. I’ve been working to strengthen myself as a wife to be his partner, to fill myself with God such that it overflows to my spouse, to be strong, courageous, and tender. Gently sharing that he is twisting scripture has led to accusations of being so very disrespectful. My testimony, the dark valley I traveled through where God revealed I didn’t have Him rightly placed at the top pedestal and the course He has led me on, clinging to Him, being stripped of every bit of pride I had in myself, and the deep groaning of crying out to the Lord after physical abuse incidents where I have felt abject terror at my husband’s hands, has been wholly rejected by my spouse. He declared I am now full of pride masking as religiosity. His anger and throwing objects is still present, and most recently he told me I had no fruit, being a ungracious unkind, impatient neighbor, friend, sister, relative. And at the risk of sounding prideful and defensive, because at the time I swallowed these deeply woundful words and internally investigated their truth, sadly, he is the one who does not have close friends, and is known as being quite grumpy with neighbors and his co-workers.

    I read power of a praying wife years ago and have prayed consistently for God to give my husband a better wife and let her be me. I constantly pray for God to uncover darkness in my heart. I used to pray for God to soften my husband’s heart (praying for change), then for him to feel shame/repentance, but now I pray for a another Christian man to speak mightily into his heart and life. My question to you is, at what point is headship so destructive to the next generation that it is better to separate? Am I setting up my son to be an abuser, to my daughter to be similarly abused? Do I need to have fresh bruises to justify fear of future physical events, because I see the same mentality and behavior patterns that led to the physical abuse repeating themselves?

    • N says:

      Get out friend.

    • Heather says:

      Please check out Leslie Vernick’s Facebook page and blog ( leslievernick.com ) She offers so much Biblical wisdom for women in situations such as yours.

    • Johanna says:

      I am married to a narcissist, without physical abuse even present , I’ve separated. God DOES NOT CALL YOU TO EVER STAY IN ABUSIVE marriage. If someone twisted scripture around to make you think that , they are very wrong . Get away from that now . Your children are your responsibility to protect , get them away from that . There is no excuse for his abuse period , I don’t care if you weren’t a good wife or if you are . Get out !!! It’s actually abusive to your kids to be subjected to living in that environment and will affect them their whole lives

      • Christie says:

        God loves you and does not want you to be abused. Leave, separate, and find healing for yourself and your children. Give your husband to God.

  2. Laurie says:

    I am so glad that my husband and I lead together as we follow Christ. He and I submit to each other as Eph. 5:21 teaches. He doesn’t try to have the last word. Christ has the last word. If we disagree, he doesn’t automatically get the last word because of his anatomy. The person better equipped to make the decision makes it. Sometimes that’s me and sometimes it’s him. All of that is after a lot of prayer. That is Biblical marriage. Once the church realizes that they will see more successful marriages in the church

    • Rae says:

      What an incredible blessing and a testimony to what us, trapped in unhealthy marriages, ought to strive for.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This article seems very complex and doesn’t really seem to be saying much to the average husband. Yeah, this may be great for guys who pretty much have it together but most of us don’t. I’m glad you’ve got a handle on things but one thing I wish pastors and other Christian leader’s would realize is that not everyone is the same and there are people struggling. It seems most of this stuff is written from a pedestal and that we common people should just be able to get it and fit things. Let’s have some real world, relevant and helpful information for a change.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t think the poster was suggesting that you lower any of the standards, but rather was requesting more practical examples. By way of an example, it is easy to say “be a servant”. Many of us know that, but struggle with how to do that rightly in the day to day when your spouse is having health struggles and just taking care of her seems like a full time job, then layer on your employment, kids, and other responsibilities it is easy for things to become so overwhelming that they begin to fall through the cracks. Then the guilt and accusation of your not being a good provider and protector comes when you accidentally miss a bill payment or have to tell your wife you can’t do X for her because you have to go to your place of employment and have already taken off as much time as you can without losing your job. These are the kinds of struggles that men deal with and I believe the original comment poster was eluding to.

      It is easy to simply say the God will not give you more than you can bear, but sometimes we need to be encouraged in that and given practical tool to help us bear it and regain a glimpse of hope that success is possible.

      • Deona says:

        Yes I feel the same way. Practical tools and examples. He is wanting help living this when we are all human and make mistakes. This response of yours highlights to me the very lofty idealistic borderline arrogance that he is struggling with. I would have hope that as head of …. you.would have shown nurture to this response from a growing christian instead of this…. I have no words

    • Deona says:

      Your response saddens me. He is trying to understand these ideas but needs more practical instructions instead of the lofty theological prose, that could be perceived as ideallistic yet unattainable from a less experienced person in faith becuase practical how to be the man God calls you to be is to nebulous. Help him understand not this reaction. Of.. I’ll let you judge the tone and heart behind it

    • Ryan says:

      Probably the most insensitive response you could have given, and as a man nullifies everything you just said in you article. What a shame.

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