When discussing the submissive attitude a wife should have in relation to her husband in marriage often the question gets down to what if he does this or wants me to that. While it would take forever to cover every possible “exception” and decisions should be made with prayer and the desire for God’s Wisdom, there are some principles we can learn from the Bible.
This is based on accepting the fact that the Bible says women are to be submissive to their husbands. I only see this as a controversy when Scripture is ignored. I’m not going to ignore verses such as:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,
4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,
5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. ESV
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. ESV
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 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.
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. ESV
But even our husbands are to submit to Christ as their head, just as we submit to our husbands. However, since nether husbands or wives are free from sin we fail mightily at times.
So what should a wife do if her husband is not submitting to Christ as his head but desires the wife to go against Scripture itself? That is complicated but here are some examples from Scripture of wives and their husbands.
We are commanded not to lie, right?
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ESV
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. ESV
So what is a wife to do if her husband wants her to lie? Maybe asks her to call in work because he is “sick” when actually he partied to late, sign a false financial statement, or lie in court.
Here are some examples from Scripture of women pressured to lie.
1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,
2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?
4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”
9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”
10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. ESV
Notice that Sapphira knew her husband was lying yet also chose to go along with him by lying herself. They both received the same punishment. What do you think would have happened if she spoke the truth?
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.
11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance,
12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.
13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”
14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.
15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.
16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?
19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.”
20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. ESV
Not only did Abraham lie here and encouraged Sarah to lie, they repeated this later. But in this instance God actually spoke and said He was protecting Sarah.
1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”
4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people?
5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all who are yours.”
8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid.
9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.”
10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?”
11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.
12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.
13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'”
14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him.
15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.”
16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.”
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. ESV
Finally Abraham and Sarah learn that God is protecting them and watching over them so that no harm would come to either of them. Lies where not necessary to protect Abraham because God was sufficient.
Is that not what we all need to learn? God will protect us and provide for us even when we feel all hope is lost?
Do you think God would not have protected Sarah if she didn’t tell her “little white lie”? After all she really was Abraham’s half-sister.
While they were blessed and protected despite their lies, they still sinned. Not only did they sin but their sin carried through to several generations. Just think of the lying that encompassed all of Abraham’s children!
- Isaac asked his wife Rebekah to lie in the same way his mother had. Genesis 26:6-11
- Isaac was lied to by Rebekah and Jacob. Genesis 27
- Jacob was lied to by his sons about Joseph. Genesis 37
Although God will still protect His own even when they fall into sin, the fruits of sin can be long lasting.
The whole story is at 1 Samuel 25:1-42.
1 Samuel 25:2-8
2 And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel.
3 Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.
4 David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
5 So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name.
6 And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
7 I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel.
8 Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.'” ESV
One of Nabel’s young men ran and told Abigail that David had asked for some food and Nabel had cursed David and refused. He warned her of the repercussions of scorning David.
Abigail gathered up lots of food and sent it ahead and then she traveled quickly to David to beg for forgiveness and mercy for her people. She appealed to him and reminded him that the Lord was with him and protecting David and His men. She begged David to not take vengeance for himself.
Abigail could have tried to hide her actions from Nabal but instead she told him despite what consequences her disobedience to him might have caused her. Because remember he was a “harsh and badly behaved” man. Nabal’s name meant – fool, stupid, dolt. I’m sure it was no easy task going against his will and then being brave enough to admit it to him. But the Lord protected her and provided greatly for her.
1 Samuel 25:36-39
36 And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light.
37 In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.
38 And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The Lord has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife. ESV
So while we as women are to be submissive to our husband’s we are not to ignore God’s Word and sin in the process.