In my last two posts, Should She Be Your “Best” Friend? and All Men Need “Helpers”, I made the case that man needs to be in a relationship of mutual servanthood with his wife so they can follow God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.
But this mutuality leaves open the question: Who should be the leader of the family? And what does that leadership look like?
So in this post, I’m going to outline the biblical command that a man should lead his family. I will then describe what it looks like for a man to lead in the next post or two.
To be brutally frank, there are a lot of men with no concept or understanding of their God-given role as leaders. They have succumbed to the sin of passivity.
This series is mostly to inform those who are yet to be married or are newly married. But I also hope it will encourage men who are well into their marriages since –in reality, many wives are still looking for their husbands to take on their God-given role as men, as husbands, as fathers, and as leaders of their homes.
Male Leadership: An Unpopular Statement
Although it is unpopular in today’s #MeToo and “cancel culture” environments, the Bible actually teaches a lot about male leadership. Some denominations feel male “headship” is taught so clearly in Scripture that if you deny it, you can easily fall to other false teachings and unbiblical doctrine.
Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the term “headship” and prefer “leadership”, mainly because I believe that people misunderstand the term and the fact that so many guys today have become too passive and are thus, missing leadership skills.
In my opinion, the entire debate started from the lack of leadership that Adam demonstrated in the Garden of Eden and still carries forward today.
The Passivity of Man
As I’ve written here and here, one of the most impactful studies I attended in my younger days in marriage was The Quest for Authentic Manhood. Authored by Dr. Robert Lewis, the study (since been renamed “33, The Series” for the number of years Jesus was on earth) suggests that the world has lost its vision of God’s design for humanity and that we need to recover a proper biblical view of both manhood and womanhood.
Dr. Lewis says a lack of a proper understanding and use of masculinity has led too many guys to become passive, to not accept their responsibility, and to live without the courage to lead anything, including themselves and their family. Of course, the opposite is also true about masculinity and some men abuse and misuse theirs.
Dr. Lewis uses the example of Adam and Eve from Genesis chapters 2 & 3. The first couple lived in perfect harmony with God and were given dominion and authority over all of creation. Some believe the entrance of the original sin into our world was Eve’s fault since she ate of the fruit first (Genesis 3:6).
However, the Bible tells us it was Adam who God first told to not eat from the tree of knowledge. Also, the first man did not step forward to rebuke Satan and remind Eve that they commanded to stay away from the forbidden fruit. Instead, Eve ate, Adam hid and generational sin for all humans carries forward even today.
Even if Eve sinned before Adam, God also questioned Adam first (Genesis 3:9) since He ordained leadership to men in marriage. As the leader of his family, Adam did not provide adequate protection for his wife, allowing Eve to sin, then denied it, and blamed her for making him eat.
Even today, some experts feel that there is a generation of men who stay in this passivity. Over the last several years, women have advanced more so than men in areas such as college degrees earned, employment figures, and homeownership. While they still unfairly fall below men in salary and boardroom seats, the signs are that men are falling behind and need to step up to return to equal standing.
The Call to Lead, Protect and Provide
The case for a husband’s leadership position starts with the fact that Adam was created first from the dust of the ground. Eve was created later from a rib taken from his side (Genesis 2:7, 21–22). God also gave instructions to Adam before the appearance of Eve (Genesis 2:16-17). Eve was also designed to be Adam’s suitable helper and name her.
All this gave Adam responsibility to protect and provide for his family.
Pastor John Piper writes about this roles in his book What’s the Difference: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible:
“When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases the differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation.”
Piper goes on to define masculine responsibility:
“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”
It’s important to reiterate that any use of masculinity based on fear and dominance is NOT a type of leadership the Bible teaches. But masculine passivity is not what is needed either.
Biblical manhood teaches male responsibility that is very different: we are to lead like Jesus.
Leading Through Mutual Submission
The Bible also says that when God ordained marriage, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one” (Genesis 2:24).
Some translations of the Bible use the words “one flesh” which means the physical unity of two bodies in a perfect union for the purposes of love and procreation. There is also the unity of the spirit with the oneness of our hearts and souls so that husband and wife can actually hear the heartbeat of the other, so to speak. Another unity is that of emotion in which we care deeply for the mutual benefit of each other. It’s about serving each other.
So when speaking of male leadership, the Bible gives us the ultimate example of Jesus and how He leads:
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior”—Ephesians 5:23
Jesus’ leadership was not harsh or domineering or prideful but one of humility, love, and gentleness. Jesus loved His church so much and counted people more precious than His own life that He died on the cross so that we might be forgiven of the sins of Adam and Eve.
So Who Should Lead?
In my opinion, this requires both a husband and wife to the mutuality of leadership. But ultimately, someone has to take responsibility for tough decisions and leading through difficult situations.
In my marriage, I have learned that sharing the responsibility with my wife and allowing each other to lead in the areas of our strengths, is good servant leadership.
There is also a competency issue. Or a lack of competency.
When neither husband nor wife has the desire or skill set in a particular area, the Bible gives the man the responsibility to learn the necessary skills to ensure their marriage thrives. Men are commanded to be courageous, lead by example, and do the right things, especially when things get tough.
So what exactly does this type of leadership look like?
Stay with me in the next post as I outline some of those concepts.