The focus of this fourth article of the series centered on the family and its indispensable place in all human societies, is on the role and functions of the wife/mother, one of the leaders of the family. What position does the Bible assign the wife or mother in the home? How does the husband being the head relate to her position? What are some of the key responsibilities and privileges of the wife/mother in the family? Let us explore below. The third article of the series on the role of the husband/father observed the following salient points:
What then is the role of the head of the family? The Bible is very clear that the husband is the head of the wife and by extension of the family. Let us quote the clearest passage of scripture on the headship of the man: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:21-24). The key to understanding this passage is found in verses 21 and 24: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ… Husbands, love your wives…”
Jesus Christ and the rest of the New Testament teach that headship or leadership is more about responsibility than about privilege and power. “Rather’, he explains, “let the greatest among you become the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26). So the husband is not to dominate or oppress his wife but to serve, if need be to sacrifice his life for his family. He is to provide the family’s basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, health and education), protection, and guidance. He is not only to provide material things for the family but lead in worship and spiritual guidance.
His primary role is to lead by example in discipline, honesty, hard work, and setting high standards and values for the family to follow. His relationship with his wife should be one of love. As Paul puts it: “Let the husband love his wife as he loves his own body… for no one ever hates his body but nourishes and cherishes it…likewise the husband should love his wife as he loves his own body” (Ephesians 5:25-30). The father has an awesome responsibility and a wonderful privilege to make his family to be an asset to God’s Kingdom and the wider society and his reward for fulfilling such a God-given duty is a God-given satisfaction. The next article will say more about the role and functions of the wife/mother of the family.
Clearly the Bible places the husband as head of his family and by implication the wife is second in command of the home. But by being second does not subordinate her to her husband. They are equal partners. The man is the head of his family in terms of responsibility and order but in terms of privilege, managing and caring for the home they are equal. Genesis 2:18 says God made the woman to be a helpmate to the man. The world helpmate means a suitable companion to him. The two collaborate and complement each other for the greater good of the whole family and home. They are not in competition.
The writer of Ecclesiastes puts it beautifully like this: “Two are better off than one because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. If someone is alone and falls, it is just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself?” (4:9-11). The central point of this passage is that husband and wife beef up each other’s efforts. They complete one another. What the father lacks the mother supplies and what the mother lacks the father supplies.
Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous or capable wife who is not lazy and selfish but rather works very hard alongside her husband to maintain the home for the benefit of all its members. She rises early and is prudent and finds creative ways of increasing the family income. She does not give excuses but sincerely makes good use of every opportunity to provide for her family and thereby takes responsibility alongside her husband for the welfare of the whole family.
Father and mother ought to share the responsibilities of the family according to the gift or ability of him/her who can do it better rather than other and not on the basis of gender (man and woman), and none should see self as better than the other or inferior to the other. Both of them are equally responsible for their family and its wellbeing.