What does the Bible say about “man being the head of the house,” leading his family etc. Can you give scripture?
response written by Jimmy Carnes, Worship Arts Director
Yes, there are definitely plenty of verses that address the idea of the man being head of the household. However, some of the verses used to support this viewpoint often become hot topics of debate and are sometimes used inappropriately by people trying to prove a point. I believe the best way to understand the Bible’s stance on this topic is to read each of them in the context of a bigger picture, namely each of our roles in God’s Kingdom.
In Genesis, we find that God created man and women (Adam and Eve) in His own image to have dominion over the earth. God clearly created the two to be a pair, and they were instructed to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:26-28). Adam was created first, then God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). The jokes and clever remarks commence: “man was first!”, or “God saved the best for last!” etc. However, the clear message here in Genesis is that God instituted the idea of a family from the start and did all the work to set it in motion.
We are shortly thereafter given a clue into the dynamic of this relationship. After the fall, God is speaking to Eve about the consequences, one of them being that “your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16). Often this verse is joined with others such as Ephesians 5:22, 5:33, 1 Peter 3:1, and Colossians 3:18 which instruct wives to respect and submit to their husbands, but this is normally used by people to suppress women, not elevate and understand the responsibility placed on a man. I believe this is where a bigger context is needed to understand these verses.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). If read with a military understanding of rank, this comes across as a clear authoritarian structure that puts God at number one, Christ second, husband third, and wife fourth (still in authority over the children). Here’s the kicker though. Christ came to earth submitting Himself to the authority and will of God the Father, but “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant… becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross!”(Phil 2:6). Jesus had every authoritarian right to come and rule over us, but instead loved us in such a way that he paid the ultimate sacrifice to lift us up. It is in this vein that Paul says, “husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).
We are all called to be imitators of Christ and any and all submission is to be out of reverence of Christ (Eph 5:21). We have been adopted into God’s kingdom due to no accomplishment of our own, and our lives should reflect an attitude of extreme gratitude. Our roles may be different, but each of us are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Once we’ve contemplated the implications of this, we can begin to look at what we are called to do as men.
1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that we are to provide for our family. Deuteronomy 6:2 & 7 calls us to keep God’s commandments and teach our kids to do the same, citing every opportunity to talk about these things. We are told that God chose Abraham, the father of God’s chosen people, so he would “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (Gen 18:19). Our children are instructed to obey their parents in Proverbs 1:8, Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20, Exodus 20:12, and we are instructed to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord in Ephesians 6:4.
The responsibilities we have been given are great, but the best news is that we have been given an incredible guide! We are assured that scripture is a reliable source for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). All men would be wise to write God’s word on our hearts and allow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things.