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Biblical Marriage Management:
Once I'm married, how do I make it work?

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The method whereby husband and wife should manage their marriage has been debated since Adam and Eve. Ideas preached and practiced range from the absolute husband dictatorship—what ever he says is law, to co-equal authority to partners attempting to reach a consensus on each decision, to no organized plan whatever, with the spouse that fights the hardest or longest on each particular issue getting their way. The Bible teaches none of these methods.

To understand the biblical teaching on how to manage a marriage, it is vital to understand the biblical concept of authority. This concept sinks to the very heart of how God works with mankind and what true religion is about. In the Bible, God gave to individuals, as well as to nations, natural resources, commandments, and dozens, sometimes hundreds of years to see if they would obey Him. Sometimes they did, but usually they did not. The Bible records God’s judgments on some of these individuals and nations. It generally sticks to the big events, good or bad. One of the central themes of the Bible is the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to thoroughly judge it in righteousness (Is 9:6; Jer 23:5; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom 2:5, 16; 2Tim 4:1; Jude 1:14; Rev 15:3-4; 16:7; 19:2).

By great contrast, man-made religion is frequently about writing long lists of detailed acts that are supposed to be “righteousness”, and either forcing people to obey them or condemning them for not doing so. This happened at the time of Jesus and it is still happening today. Notice:

Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?" 6 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me (Mark  7:2-6).

How many people today think the saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness” is in the Bible? How many religious denominations today have all sorts of rules and practices that are not from the Scripture, but which they regard as essential to the Christian life and ultimate salvation?

If doing a lot of pre-programmed, specific things produces a happy life, or ultimately salvation, then indeed the formula for life should be to write the longest, most thorough book of righteous practices possible, and then enforce its contents on the entire planet. A governmental hierarchy and a military force would certainly help this process. Fathers everywhere would simply be the lowest link in this hierarchy, enforcing the man-made rules on their hapless wives and children. But that is not what God says:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8).

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (Jms 1:27).

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (Jms 4:17).

The Bible gives us many commands and examples of good and evil, and teaches us to choose the good and reject the evil, but it does not give us a formula whereby we may achieve righteousness.

“Governance”, Not “Dominion”

The book of Genesis marvelously sets down the parameters whereby mankind exists and is to operate. The Bible makes very clear the type of authority that people are supposed to have over each other. Genesis 1:26-27 shows that mankind, both men and women, were created “in the image of God”. We are indeed God’s children, as many other verses show (Matt 5:9; Luke 20:36; Rom 8:16, 21; Gal 3:26; 1Jo 5:2). Mankind was to have dominion (Hebrew radah, Strong’s #7287) over the whole earth and every living thing on it (Gen 1:26, 28). “Dominion” means to have complete charge of, to do whatever one wants with it, either good or bad. Mankind had the right to use, domesticate, train, kill and even eat plants and animals. But neither men nor women were given this same kind of dominion over each other. A study of all the uses of this Hebrew word radah in the Bible shows us that it does not apply to marriage:

  1. Man has dominion over God’s creation (Gen 1:26,28; Jdgs 14:9)
  2. Neither Israelite nor foreigner should exercise “dominion” over Israelite slaves (Lev 25:43, 46, 53).
  3. Solomon exercised “dominion” over a conscripted labor force (1Ki 5:16; 9:23; 2Chr 8:10) which later caused the people to rebel (1Kngs 12:1-19).
  4. Enemies exercising “dominion” over Israelites is a punishment for sin (Lev 26:17; Neh 9:28; Psalm 49:14; 68:27; Isa 41:2; Lam 1:13; Ezk 29:15).
  5. Israel is allowed to exercise “dominion” over conquered enemies, especially those who formerly did that to them (Jdgs 5:13; 1Kngs 4:24; Isa 14:2, 6)
  6. Priests—religious leaders—should not exercise dominion over the people (Jer 5:31; Ezk 34:4)
  7. Christ will exercise “dominion” in His righteous rule (Num 24:19; Psalm 72:8; 110:2).

By contrast, the Hebrew word used to describe Adam’s governance of Eve (Gen 3:16) is mashal (Strong’s #4910). It frequently describes positive, beneficial governance. For example, the sun and moon “governed” over the day and night—providing a useful light (Gen 1:18). Abraham has a good servant that ruled over his house (Gen 24:2). Joseph was a good governor of Egypt (Gen 45:8, 26). The men of Israel asked Gideon to rule over them in this matter (Jdgs 8:22-23).

The government given to Moses, and successfully implemented by Joshua and the Elders (Josh 24:31), did not set up a king or anyone else to issue orders to people. Even in time of war, a man was not forced to serve in the military (Deut 20:8; Jdgs 7:3). People were sovereign upon their own land. It was only when a person had a conflict with their neighbor that

"If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked” (Deut 25:1).

The New Testament teaching on “dominion” verses governance is less extensive, but similar to the Old. The Greek words kurieuo and katakurieu (Strong’s #2961 and #2634) are frequently translated with the idea of “dominion” or “lordship”. Jesus and the apostles clearly taught that Christian leaders and governors should not act in this manner:

Jesus told them, "In this world the kings and great men lord it over [exercise dominion over] their people, yet they are called 'friends of the people.' 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27. Matt 20:25-26 & Mark 10:42-44 are similar).

This approach to leadership has been so common for so long that many people accept it as right. We call our leaders “great men” or “public servants’. Their campaign managers and the press go to great extent to picture them as “nice guys”. But most people are afraid of encounters with the police, courts, taxing agencies and other public leaders. Christ is saying that family leadership should not be like that. The leader should go out of his way to serve the others as Christ did among his disciples, but he can also make the key decisions as Christ did among His disciples.

Other uses of the Greek words for “dominion” follow. None of them are the kind of leadership that Christ wants men to have now.

  1. Death has no dominion over Christ after He was raised from the dead (Rom 6:9).
  2. Neither the law nor sin have dominion over a believer who is under grace (Rom 6:14; 7:1)
  3. Christ will have dominion over everything (Rom 14:9; 1Tim 6:15).
  4. Men possessed of evil spirits can take dominion over those who try to cast them out without Christ in them (Acts 19:16).

Finally, Christ used the analogy of a shepherd for the leadership His servants were to exhibit, not “lording it over” as worldly leaders do:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; (1Pet 5:2-3).

Not that we [the apostles] have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand (2Cor 1:24).

Learning to Say: “That Applies to Me”

Only with this understanding of the godly governance can we begin to approach the subject of managing marriages. To this day, many Christian men take the approach, “If I’m in charge, my wife has to do whatever I say,” and apply this to nearly every minor issue of life. This approach makes both persons miserable: the wife because she has to follow unreasonable dictates or because she is simply deprived of decision-making that should be hers; and the husband because he is frustrated that his wife is not following a course of action that was unreasonable in the first place.

Unfortunately, many long-time Christians may understand these biblical principles of governance, and believe they are following them when they, to a large degree, are not! Specifically:

  1. Husbands believe that they are reasonably exercising godly governance over their wives and are only requesting things of them supported by the Scripture. Often, neither their wives nor anyone else who knows the facts would agree.
  2. Wives believe their husbands are not reasonably exercising Godly governance over them, that their Husband’s requests are unbiblical, and that they should not go along with them. But neither their husband nor anyone else who knows the facts would agree with the wife.

It would be best if husbands and wives in these cases would talk their problems over, with counselors, ministers or friends. Often, one or both parties in a marriage want to talk about only their spouse’s problems—not their own problems. Some are utterly adept at deflecting every question posed about them into a problem with their spouse. Others will find an excuse for stopping the conversation when the subject turns to their own difficulties. The wise believer will not be dissuaded by these things, but make sure the important matters are discussed.

Is Governance the Issue? Often Not!

Most troublesome issues between husbands and wives are not matters of governance at all. Rather, they are:

  • Individual character flaws that would create problems with most people, but surface in the marriage where interaction is high. (ex: a person who is easily angered, always late, messy, etc.)
  • Lack of respect and consideration for the other (ex: One person insisting on their way for joint things: housing, décor, food, entertainment, scheduling, etc.)
  • Lack of communication.

These issues generally do not require governance to solve, but simply the willingness of each spouse to recognize their own faults, the desire to change and asking God to change them. The biblical principles of conflict resolution (Matt 18:15-17, Gal 6:1; 1Cor 6:4-5) should be used between husband and wife. This paper will not deal any further with these non-governance issues, even though they are often the most important. Many good books and videos are available on the subject from Christian books stores or web sites.

But even when these issues are “under control” in a marriage (the are never perfect), lasting marital peace may not be found if there is neither understanding nor commitment to the biblical principles expounded in the next few sections: Here we deal with marriage management, the cases where there is a difference of opinion as to the goals and objectives of the marriage.

Husbands Leaders of Marriages

The Bible instruction on how Godly governance is to be used in marriage is best summarized in the book of Ephesians, chapter 5. We start with instruction that is sometimes misunderstood to establish a consensus management between husband and wife. Verse 21 might give that impression if it is read with the verses following it, which are addressed to husbands and wives But, verse 21 is actually the end of a thought that is addressed to the entire church:

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God (Eph 5:17-21).

This “submitting to one another” is not eliminating any spiritual gifts or leadership in the Church—submission exists there too (1Cor 16:15-16; 1Thes 5:12-13; Heb 13:17, 24), but is up-holding the serving, shepherding leadership of Christ explained in previous sections. The final phrase “in the fear of God” is all-important. It should be the goal of all believers to seek God’s will above their own. It expresses that God’s will may be revealed by His spirit to any believer (1Cor 2:9-10). On those occasions when believers have different understandings of the will of God, they can go their separate ways and continue to serve him (Acts 15:39-40).

The same Greek word for submitting one to another is used for wives submitting to husbands in the verses below. This is not dictatorial dominion, but the gentle governance described elsewhere in scripture. Here, God does not specify a mutual submission in order to preserve the permanence of marriage. He commands the husband to manage the marriage with the love of Christ and the woman to accept that leadership:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself (Eph 5:22-28).

This same instruction is repeated in various ways a number of times in the Bible. It is not an addition or a translation error. Sure, these verses have been used by evil men as an excuse to oppress women. But that sin does not negate their right and godly meaning:

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (1Cor 11:3).

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them (Col 3:18-19).

Let a woman in quietness learn in all subjection, and a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness (1Tim 2:11-12, YLT).

The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — 4that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2 by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3 Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 5 This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 6 For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is rightwithout fear of what your husbands might do. 7 In the same way, you husbands mustgive honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered (1Pet 3:1-7).

Peter’s words here contain a massive amount of valuable teaching. It is not popular, even in the church today, but it is true. For wives:

  1. Accept the authority of your husband.
  2. If possible, stay with an unbelieving husband—he might be changed by a Christian wife.
  3. Don’t seek beauty in clothes, jewelry, hair, etc, but in a beautiful spirit and trust in God.
  4. Look to the Old Testament women as examples.
  5. Do not be afraid of what your husband might do. (Men often have difficult things in their lives that try their faith, sometimes a husband may try a wife’s faith.

There is also a lot of teaching for husbands:

  1. Honor your wife. This means not treating her like a servant required to obey, but as a person of great value.
  2. Understand your wife. That means listening and understanding her struggles as she understands them.
  3. Realize your wife is an equal partner in obtaining eternal life. While she may have a submissive role to her husband, all believers must be submissive to God.
  4. If a man does not treat his wife right, his prayers will be hindered. In other words, if a man is not listening to his wife, God will not be listening to him. A leader cannot assume everything he says or does is God’s will just because he is saying or doing it. Only when a man obeys God does he truly have the authority of God.
  5. Finding a fifth point in James 3:1: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment”. All management involves some teaching. Husbands need to realize they will receive a stricter judgment because their decisions affect their entire families.

Wives with Magnanimous Lives

Proverbs 31 describes God’s version of a good wife. Besides fearing God, being personally organized, taking care of her family and able to manage her household in peace, she is buying and selling real estate, organizing distant trade, manufacturing goods, helping the poor and many other good things. It appears that she is directing all of these efforts while her husband attends to affairs of state in the city gate. This is hardly the timid wife who is only a shadow of her husband, but a capable person in her own right. She simply has a husband who coordinates the activities of the two of them, and has the sense to let her do what she does well. We see something about what God expected of marriage management here:

And if she be married to a husband, while her vows are upon her, or the clear utterance of her lips, wherewith she hath bound her soul; 7 and her husband hear it, whatsoever day it be that he heareth it, and hold his peace at her; then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. 8 But if her husband disallow her in the day that he heareth it, then he shall make void her vow which is upon her, and the clear utterance of her lips, wherewith she hath bound her soul; and the LORD will forgive her (Num 30:6-8, JPS).

While we may not make vows in the same way today, we can still learn a lot about how a husband should manage the serious decisions of his wife—such as a promise to God. Suppose she promised to give a valuable thing to God if He blessed her in a certain way. The husband, on the other hand, may have other plans for this valuable thing—maybe even promised to sell it. This law does not allow the husband to contradict his wife any time he wants, but allows his wife to make an independent decision, subject to his timely oversight. The wisest choice for the woman would probably be to tell her husband on the day she makes the vow—that way she will know whether it will stand or not. But if her husband is gone or too busy at the time, she has flexibility to wait till he can hear it. Lastly, she could wait until the day it was time to pay her vow—the husband still has the right to cancel it then.

We can see an example of this in 1 Samuel chapter 1. Elkanah and Hannah did not have any children together. She wanted children, but his solution to her was to tell her “am not I better to you than 10 sons?” So Hannah petitioned God in the Temple for a son, vowing to dedicate him to God’s service. God heard her prayer and her husband accepted her vow to take Samuel to serve in the temple when he was weaned. When Elkanah normally took the whole family to the temple the first year after Samuel was born, Hannah said she did not want to go this time. Elkanah accepted her request saying “do what seems best to you”. Only a foolish husband has to overrule his wife just to show that he has control.

The Bible has other laws governing men’s leadership in marriage. Some are this simple:

"When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken (Deut 25:5).

God clearly allows women to take on responsibilities normally associated with men when the men are not fulfilling them. For example, the daughters of Zelophehad petitioned Moses and ultimately God to establish a statute in Israel allowing a man’s inheritance to pass to his daughters if he has no sons. (Num 27:1-8). Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess, judge and leader of Israel (Jdgs 4:4-9). Jael, wife of Heber, is praised in the Scripture for killing Sisera, an enemy general, by nailing his head to the ground, whereas some men are cursed for refusing to come to the battle against him (Jdgs 5:23-27). Jehoshabeath, wife of Jehoiada the priest, on her own volition hid Joash, one of the kings sons, when Athaliah was killing all the royal heirs (2Chr 22:11). It was a great success. Seven years later, her husband planned a coup, put Joash on the throne, and had Athaliah killed.

Of the two people who had revelations to know who Jesus was when his parents took him to the temple, one was a man, Simeon, and one was a woman, Anna (Luke 2:25-36). Most of the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women!

These examples are not to say that women can only be fulfilled by competing with men—that is not the general teaching of Scripture. But they demonstrate that the Bible places few limits on what God allows women to do. (There were a few: the high priest had to be a man, the twelve apostles were men, etc.). Husbands ought to realize this great scope that God allows and not unnecessarily limit their wives. Both men and women are striving together to receive the promises to Abraham (Gal 3:28-29). Men have a few tasks assigned to them, but women have some as well:

Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. But refuse the younger widows; for when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry (1Tim 5:9-11).

To Obey or Disobey,
What Is a Wife to Do?

Almost every wife is occasionally met with the challenge of whether or not to obey or cooperate with her husband on a specific issue. Some women face challenges like this every day—maybe many times a day. The all important questions are these:

1)    Is her husband asking her to do something that God would not have her do? If so, then she needs to figure out what is best to protect herself, the children and her husband—which sometimes may mean going along with him so he can see the error of his ways, sometimes may mean talking it out and getting others involved or sometimes mean disobeying or even leaving him. While these situations can be difficult for a wife, at least she understands the real issue and is seeking the help of God and other believers on the matter. The husband may be blind to the wrong he is doing or he may know and not care. God will judge him for both.

2)    Is her husband asking her to do something acceptable to God and is she dividing her family by disobedience or extensive confrontation on an issue that God has given her husband authority to solve? This situation is often more dangerous than the above, because the wife often has a forgone conclusion that she is right, and is not allowing God or other believers to tell her she is wrong, but seeking believers to tell her she is right.

When women fall into the trap of spending much of their time and effort criticizing their husbands, rather than doing productive work themselves, two scriptures come into play:

Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman (Prov 21:9 & 25:24)

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones (Prov 12:4).

Men in these situations tend to leave their homes—even if it means a great drop in their standard of living, or they tend to die (rotten bones). This is a little different than employees who accomplish little and find fault with their boss a lot: they quickly become either self-employed or unemployed.

The Bible gives us some examples of the results of both good and bad things when women choose to follow or not follow their husbands. If they followed husbands who were following God, things went well. If they disobeyed husbands who were not following God, things went well. Many times, husbands led wives into very difficult situations—sometimes claiming they had revelation from God. There is no example of a wife asking God to give the same revelation to her that He gave to her husband. To the contrary, when God reveals His will to a wife, and he asks for God to reveal the same thing to him, He always does.

Noah’s wife and his son’s wives all followed their husbands onto the ark, even though God’s revelation was given only to Noah (Genesis 7). It saved all of their lives. While that might seem like an obvious thing in hindsight, how many women today would follow their husbands onto a home-made space ship so they could be safe in orbit because God had revealed to him that he was going to destroy the world by fire?

Abraham had revelations from God to move from his house in a big metropolitan area to live in tents (Gen 11:31-32; 12:1-9; 13:1). Sarah went along with him, and was blessed for it (1Pet 3:6).

Lot was told to leave the developed city of Sodom because God was going to destroy it for its moral wickedness (Gen 19:15-25). The destruction was so massive that his daughters thought there was nobody left alive on earth (Gen 19:31-32). Lot’s wife apparently did not share her husband’s conviction to leave, looked back toward the city, and became a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26).

When the nation of Israel was being oppressed, an angel came to Manoah’s wife, who was unable to have children, and told her that she would bear a son who would deliver their nation (Jdgs 13). Manoah prayed that the angel would also appear to him so he would know what to do, and God sent the angel to him. Later on, when the angel ascends powerfully to heaven, Manoah thinks that they are going to die “because they have seen God”. His wife has more faith and tells him that God would not have given them that message if they were just going to die. The son born to them was Samson, who delivered his people. This is a good example of how God honors the leadership position of the husband, even though he may not have the faith that the wife has.

When David and his men were hiding in the wilderness, being unjustly persecuted by King Saul, they protected the servants and flock of Nabal, a wealthy herdsman, and stole nothing from them (1Sam 25). When David’s group needed food, they asked him for some, but Nabal refused, contrary to the scripture (Deut 15:7-11). David was angry and went to fight Nabal, but Nabal’s wife, Abigail, quickly assembled a pack train with food and took it to David and his men. Nabal died ten days later and Abigail married David. This is an excellent example of the blessing of a wife disobeying her husband who was dealing foolishly, selfishly and contrary to the scripture.

King Solomon’s wives turned him away from God to idols in his latter years (1Kngs 11:1-13). God faults Solomon for listening to them.

When God allowed Job’s vast possessions to be destroyed and his health to crumble, his approach was “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:1-2:10). Job’s wife did not accept his godly leadership, but said “Curse God and die!” Even so, God was apparently merciful to her in her extreme trial, as no judgment upon her is recorded.

God appeared to the high priest Zechariah in the temple and told him his wife, Elizabeth, in her old age, would have a son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25). The Scripture describes both as righteous people, but when John asked for a sign that these things would happen, he was told he would be unable to speak until the child was born, because he did not have faith. Elizabeth asked for no independent revelation, and seemed to have no doubt that it was the will of God. While this may seem easy in hind-sight, what would most women today think if there husband suddenly became handicapped, but claimed that it was from God?

Mary , the mother of Jesus, was told by an angel that she would become pregnant by the holy spirit before she married her husband, Joseph (Luke 1:27-38). This is not the kind of news that is easy to explain to your fiancé or your neighbors. When Joseph heard about it, he was going to break up with Mary as he intended to marry a virgin, but God sent an angel to him in a dream, confirming His will (Matt 1:18-25). Again, there does not seem to be any biblical example where God insists that a husband make family decisions based upon a revelation only to his wife.

In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, planned together (v 9) to sell their property, keep some of the proceeds, but pretend like they had given all of it to the apostles. Both of them died for this evil. When husband and wife agree together to do evil, they both receive the same judgment. The Scripture does not mention who originally thought of the idea or who “pushed” the other into it, but faults them for agreeing together.

Marriage to a Godly Servant Can Be Difficult

The above examples show how difficult marriage can be at times. Both men and women had to suffer great difficulties. It was not easy for Abraham, Lot, and their wives to leave their homes, but they did.

David and his renegade band of men nearly had to fight with the Philistines against Israel, but avoided it, only to find their wives, families and possessions had been carried away and their city burned by the Amalekites (2Sam 29 & 30). It was a horrible experience for the women and children to be carried away captive by pirates, knowing their husbands had gone to fight in a war where both sides might turn against them. But David strengthened himself in God and followed and attacked the Amalekites. The men reclaimed all of their families and possessions, as well as much more, ending David’s long-time poverty.

A widow of one of the “Sons of the Prophets” was left in debt with no assets and the woman’s sons were about to be taken as slaves (2Ki 4:1-7). Neither the woman nor the Scripture faulted the prophet for his financial failure. Rather, the woman conveyed her situation to Elisha, who, by the power of God, performed a miracle where she was able to take her small jar of oil and fill a huge number of borrowed vessels—paying her debts and providing a living.

Peter was married at the start of Jesus’ ministry, and still married many years later (Matt 8:14; 1Cor 9:5). While it may have been difficult for his wife to accept, Peter abandoned his steady fishing job to follow Christ (Matt 4:18-20), committed a serious crime in his misguided zeal for Christ (John 18:10), had no significant money (Acts 3:6), spent time in jail (Acts 4:3; 5:18) and was certainly gone from home much of the time of his ministry. Yet he has a great reward in the Kingdom (Matt 19:28).

Hebrews 11:35 mentions unnamed women who suffered their husbands being killed serving God, only to have them raised back from the dead.


Marriage is a major means by which we are preparing for the kingdom of God. We need to live within the parameters for management that God has set, avoiding errors on both sides.

Husbands must understand the freedom of biblical governance. They must not try to “control” their wives, but allow them the wide latitude of freedom as exhibited by the wife in Proverbs 31 and elsewhere. If a man’s wife and other believers tell him he is overbearing, he should take it to heart. On the other hand, husbands must be responsible for the overall direction of the family and its commitment to God.

While the Scripture does not teach husbands to force their wives to submit, it does not authorize men to cooperate with wives for purposes contrary to God’s will. A man cannot just blame his wife. It is an embarrassment for husbands to acknowledge to others that their wives are not accepting their leadership, but hopefully, the counsel of other believers will help them to better work together.

Husbands must grasp the godly responsibility of their leadership. They will be judged by God for bad decisions that affected both themselves and their wives.

Wives must understand that God has made their husbands responsible for significant family decisions. Even when wives are more capable, or when the way is difficult or when they think their decisions are better, the biblical teaching does not change. A wife who believes she is being led contrary to God should get counsel from other believers who talk to both her and her husband.

When a husband is demanding that his wife cooperate in sin, she cannot obey. It is difficult to resist bad authority, but at times necessary. She must rely on God and God will be there. But just because a husband may be sinning in one area of his life does not give the wife a free pass to ignore him in all aspects of their marriage.

Wives must grasp the godly responsibility of their husband’s leadership. God will reward them for rejecting evil, but simply a different opinion is not a justification for rejecting good leadership.

May God bless all men and women who seek to serve Him in accordance with his wonderful teaching on Marriage!