Bible Question:

What should a Christian wife do if her husband is not the head of the household?

Bible Answer:

How would you answer the question,”What should a Christian wife do if the husband is not the head of the household?” Would you suggest that the wife engage her husband in a calm and understanding conversation about his lack of leadership? Would you suggest that the wife nicely and repeatedly remind him that he needed to change? Should she pray? What would you recommend? What follows is not what you think, she thinks or what the Bible thinks a wife should consider. What follows is what the Bible says God commands the wife to do.

Husband Is Not Head of House

What Is The Biblical Responsibility Of Husbands?

Scripture teaches that a husband has four primary responsibilities in marriage:

1) Ephesians 5:25 and 28 teaches that the first and primary responsibility is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, as He loves Christians.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . . Ephesians 5:25 (NASB)

So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself . . . Ephesians 5:28 (NASB)

Unfortunately, many wives do not know how a husband is supposed to love them and many husbands do not know how to love their wives!  Often couples think that loving one another means that the husband should give his wife whatever she wants and vice versa. Paul makes the point that husbands and wives try to please each other in 1 Corinthians 7:33-34. A careful reading of the verses that follow Ephesians 5:25 reveals that the primary way husbands are to love their wives is by helping them become more holy and grow spiritually (Ephesians 5:26-29). This explains how a husband fulfills Ephesians 5:21 where the husband is commanded to submit to his wife.

2) Ephesians 5:23 explains another responsibility of the husband. He has the responsibility to minister to his wife by being the “head of the home” or “head of the wife.” When he leads her with love, then he fulfills his God assigned role. 1 Corinthians 11:3 echoes the same principle for the husband.

But how can a husband be the head of the wife, if she constantly fights for control? In order for a husband to be the head of  the household, the wife must submit. That is the message of Ephesians 5:22.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 (NASB)

Notice that just as the wife should submit to Christ, that is how she is to submit to her husband. A wife who does not submit to her husband is not in submission to Christ. Otherwise, her behavior would be different. Titus 2:5 echoes the same principle that wives are to submit in order not to dishonor the word of God or the faith. Only then can a husband truly lead the wife in peace.

3) Ephesians 5:33 summarizes the love and respect responsibilities of the husband and wife.

4) 1 Peter 3:7 gives us the third responsibility of a husband. Here we discover that he is to treat his wife in an understanding way with honor and as a fellow heir of the grace of life.

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (NASB)

Notice again, that is how the husband submits to his wife. At the same time, 1 Peter 3:1-6 teaches that she is to submit to him by accepting his direction. Especially, notice verse 6.

Therefore, a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and died for her. The husband is to provide leadership as the head of the home. This primarily means he is to provide spiritual leadership Ephesians 5:25-28), provide the financial needs for his family (1 Timothy 5:8) and manage his household well (1 Timothy 3:4-5). This includes keeping his children under control. Finally, he is to fulfill the responsibilities of 1 Peter 3:7.

What Should A Wife Do If The Husband Is Disobedient?

Now what should a wife do if her husband does not fulfill his responsibility as head of the household? There are three principles she should follow.

1) The first principle that a wife should follow is given in 1 Peter 3:1-2.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 1 Peter 3:1-2 (NASB)

Here God tells a wife to remain submissive to her husband so that he may be won. The Greek word for submissive is upotasso in the Greek. It is a present participle verb. That is, she is to remain constantly in submission even when he is disobedient. What does it mean to be disobedient? It is possible that he may not be a Christian, or he could be a Christian who refuses to fulfill his responsibilities, or he could be committing some serious sin. Therefore, the passage teaches her that God wants to her remain faithful to her assigned role and responsibilities. She is not to violate her responsibilities or God will discipline or correct her.

Unfortunately, many Christian wives will try to motivate their sinning husbands to change by repeated suggestions, reminders, pleas and other tactics. Sadly, wives take leadership in the relationship when they repeatedly urge their husbands to change. This only damages the relationship and most husbands will resent this behavior and further refuse to do what the wife wants. Scripture calls this nagging.

2) The second principle that a wife should follow is given in a series of Proverbs.

A foolish son is destruction to his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.
Proverbs 19:13

It is better to live in a corner of a roof
Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 21:9; 25:24

 It is better to live in a desert land
Than with a contentious and vexing woman.
Proverbs 21:19

A constant dripping on a day of steady rain
And a contentious woman are alike;
Proverbs 27:15

Notice the constant theme. The Hebrew word for contentious is madon. It means to quarrel, dispute or nag. We see in these verses that a wife who is constantly nagging and fighting will drive her husband away. He would rather live on the roof or in a desert land than with a nagging woman. Such a wife is not motivating her husband to fulfill his God assigned role. Instead, she is motivating him to sin more.

3)  The third principle that a wife should follow is to pray for her husband.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16 (NASB)

Here we are told to pray for one another. This is, wives are to pray for their husbands and vice versa. Prayer is very effective.


Unfortunately, these principles are contrary to the approach recommended by our culture and contrary to our sin nature. Wives and husbands both want to be in control. Therefore, we recommend the reader study the series called, “Marriage In Splendor – God’s View.”  In this series you will discover why wives and husbands fight with each other and the solution.

In summary, these three principles that wives are to follow are not God’s suggestions or nice ideas. They are His commands and His solution for a fulfilling marriage.

Suggested Links:

Marriage In Splendor - God's View