Part 1 of 2: The husband as leader, lover and provider

 Albert Ngoma

After God created man, he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). Marriage is therefore God’s idea. God has carefully outlined the roles of a man and a woman in marriage. Just as they have complementary physical characteristics, so they enjoy complementary roles in marriage. The success of both roles demands cooperation by both partners. I wish to consider the God ordained roles in marriage.

The Roles of the Husband/Father

God has planned roles for the husband in order for him to contribute to the family’s happiness and wellbeing. I want to consider six roles of the husband.

  1. The husband as a family leader

God’s first assignment for the husband is to be the leader of his family. The apostle Paul says in Eph. 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church, and he is the Saviour of the body.” This agrees with Gen. 3:16, where God says to the woman, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The principle is repeated in 1 Cor. 11:3; “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man.”

Several questions are worth asking as we consider this subject. For instance, why should man assume headship over a woman?

  1. It is because God has commanded it in his word as indicated in the scriptures we have referred to above.
  2. Man was created first before a woman. The apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:8-10, “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her because of the angels.”
  3. When Adam and Eve sinned, God called man first. He did not call Eve who was first deceived by the serpent to account for what happened, but man. The bible says in Gen. 3:9, “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” This clearly implies that the headship was given to man before the fall and he was here being asked to account of his failure to provide headship.

Before any young man takes a bride from the protective custody of her father’s home, he had better be ready to assume a leadership role. It does not matter if the lady he has married is a quick acting choleric and he is a passive phlegmatic—she still needs a leader. The most frustrated women are those who take advice from the Women’s Lobby group as they fight for equality and call women to dominate their husbands. God put it very clearly in the book of Genesis that a woman’s desire shall be for her husband. Her basic psychic mechanism is to be a follower of that man who opens his life, home, and possessions to her. Once she marries such a man, her natural inclination is to follow him. However, it is very difficult for a woman to submit to a man who refuses to lead.

A man best serves God, his wife, and himself when he starts immediately to assume the role of a leader in his home. If children do not respect the man as the head of a home, then the entire family is in trouble.

Another question that must be answered is: How is a man to lead his family?

  1. Positively, the husband is to serve as a leader of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23-24). This leadership is to be done in love just as our Lord leads us, directs us, makes decisions for us and takes responsibility for us in a spirit of love.
  2. Negatively, the husband is not to lead as a dictator, abusing his God given authority. A loving husband will always make his final decision for the good of his family. A good husband will always consider the feelings and ideas of the wife and children. Therefore, the husband should be fair, reasonable, and loving as he heads the home.

Some husbands perform better as heads of department at work than they do as heads of their own homes. They have misplaced priorities as heads of the family. They consider job or career first at the expense of the family. What should be the order of priority for a man as he provides headship in the family?

Firstly, God should be first in all a man does as head of his family. He should be a God fearing person if he has to provide biblical headship in the family.

Secondly, he should provide leadership to his family. He should be interested in the well-being of his family. He should monitor the children’s behaviour and provide direction for the family.

Thirdly, he should be committed to church activities and to his job or career. For example, a missionary wife went to church in tears after a seminar, saying, “I am losing all respect for my husband, he leaves all the discipline of our teenage children to me.” This man, interestingly enough, was a very effective missionary. But strong home leadership was difficult for him. A case in point was how he treated his children when he found them watching forbidden programs on the TV. He would go to the wife and complain, “Why are you letting children watch forbidden programs?” When the wife would respond, “Tell them to shut it off,” he would reply, “That is your job.” Thus the spiritual head of a family abrogated his role and played second-string to his wife, even though God has given men a deeper register of voice and masculinity, that makes discipline of the older children much easier for them than for their wives. I found myself under similar circumstances. My wife rebuked me when I took up the pastorate at Chipata Calvary Baptist Church. She told me that my first church is our home.

  1. The husband as an ideal lover

After God, the greatest love in a man’s life should be his wife. He has been commanded to love his wife. The apostle Paul says in Eph. 5:25; that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. God did not leave it up to each husband to determine the extent to which he should love his wife. God gave the extent. See the following from Eph. 5:25-28.

  1. He is to love his wife unconditionally (v25). The husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. We did not love Christ first but he loved us first. The husband’s love should not be determined by what his wife does whether good or bad. He has to love her unconditionally.
  2. He is to love his wife sacrificially. A husband should love his wife in a way that will cost him something, in terms of time, personal comfort, finances, and any other ways. He has to die a little for her.
  3. He is to treat his wife privately and publicly in a way that sets her apart as special to you (v26). He has a task “to make her holy,” to build her up and help her grow and excel in all aspects of human endeavours. The husband is not told to order his wife to be perfect but to love her so that she responds by working to please him and in so doing becomes “holy” (v25-27).
  4. He is to love his wife as himself (v28). This is the bottom line. The minimum level of the husband loving the wife is to love her as he loves himself. No one hates his own body.

During our session of study of the domestic order at church, one man asked, “Why does God command men four times to love their wives and only once directs the wife to love her husband?”

Two possible answers were given. Firstly, women have a greater need to be loved. As one woman said, “Without love I have no life!” But secondly, men have a harder time loving because of their nature. Women possess an enormous capacity for love, whereas men have to cultivate theirs. That is why a man should be careful to walk under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He needs the supernatural love of God to be a lifetime lover. The wife expects just that from him. 

  1. The husband as family provider

From the very beginning, man was given the responsibility of being the family breadwinner. He is responsible for the economic well being of the family. God said to Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gen. 3:19). From that day on, the man has been accountable for both the financial provision and the psychological well-being of the family. In the New Testament, men are taught, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

Whenever the husband is not a breadwinner in his marriage, his role of leadership and personal self-esteem is seriously threatened. There are temporary exceptions to this. For example, when there is mutual consent with the wife. The wife works as the husband takes additional, specialised training or other responsibilities. This should not be a permanent way of life, but a temporary arrangement. It may also be due to circumstances. Perhaps the husband has lost his job or has fallen ill.

How must the man provide for his family? In many homes the basic rule of thumb is that the husband’s income should provide food, shelter, and clothing, while the wife if she works outside the home is to meet other cash requirements, which the husband’s income cannot sustain.

A man should also leave an inheritance for the children. In Prov. 13:22 we read, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Similarly in 2 Cor. 12:14 we are told, “For the children ought not to lay up for the parents but parents for the children.” We are coming from an African culture where, nowadays, many parents expect the children to lay up an inheritance for them. They expect their children to build a house for them, provide the basic necessities for them. And therefore, they believe in having many children. The more children they have the richer they became. This is contrary to the teaching of scripture. It has brought a lot of problems in many families. It is therefore, incumbent upon the man to plan and invest his resources so as to leave an inheritance for the children.

A man needs to have a sense of responsibility that comes with knowing that his family is dependent on him for the necessities of life. Man must learn to trust God to enable him to find some means of providing for his wife and children, if physically able to do so.

There is a danger a Christian man needs to guard against in connection with being a workaholic. He may do this at the expense of his spiritual life or that of his family. He may work hard and occasionally endure work-pressure periods, and often request to work Sundays in order to get a double time wage. This reminds me of a Christian friend who always requested to work on Sunday so that he can raise more money to meet the family needs. He rarely came to church but assured me and himself that he still loved the Lord. He naturally experienced an undeveloped spiritual life, and he was out of touch with what was happening at church and at home. His three girls grew up with little interest in the things of the Lord, and rarely attended church. They ended up getting married to unsaved men.

Happy is the man who understands that his vocation is a trust from God. His talents, energy, and creativity are gifts from God and should be used for his glory. God told Adam he was to earn his bread by the sweat of his face. On the other hand, God has promised to supply all our needs. This means that he will give you an opportunity to trust him to earn your bread by hard work. It is part of being a man.