Imagine the world’s best wife. Without a wrinkle or a hair out of place, she’d be a fashionista with a model perfect figure. Without ever compromising her principles, she’d be the equal of every man in the board room. She coaches soccer, sells homemade scarves on Etsy, keeps an urban garden, volunteers at the homeless shelter, organizes the PTA, and feeds her family nothing but balanced, organic, whole food meals. Her husband never feels neglected and she is deeply involved in each of her children’s lives.
In fact, the world imposes a whole series of competing and impossible ideals on women. In contrast God’s vision of a faithful wife offers simplicity and freedom. He calls us to portray basic godly principles— gentleness, courage, submission, love and hard work—in our marriage relationships.
A faithful wife is gentle; she has “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pe. 3:4b). This verse has left many a woman frustrated and confused. Are we supposed to be weak? Silent? Does God value introverts over extroverts?
Rather than being a personality trait, gentleness is how the whole church is called to act. Paul says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Ph. 4:5). Why would it matter that the Lord is near? He is not a harsh and terrifying master peering over our shoulder to see if we are behaving. Rather he is our primary example of gentleness. Our Lord cradled and blessed the children. He saw to the safekeeping of His mama while He was dying.
Although every Christian should be gentle, a Christian wife is gentle in unique ways. She can be trusted with the tenderest baby or the most broken heart. When her husband faces disappointment and failure, she doesn’t rail at him. When he has been thoughtless or careless, her rebuke wouldn’t take the form of silence or shouting but a quiet word about how she feels. This isn’t about our personality but about choosing not be harsh regardless of the circumstance.
An excellent wife is also fearless. Peter puts it this way, “You are [Sarah’s] daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Pe. 3:6). When Abraham told her he heard the voice of God, she left everything she knew in Ur for a lifetime of uncertainty. She waved as he marched off to war and bore his child in joy at 90 years old. Fearless is the right word.
Fear is the opposite of faith. When we trust God, not to make everything magically okay but to see us through the worst, we can live fearlessly in every aspect of our lives.
Fear has haunted many a marriage to its death. In fear that her husband will leave her, many a woman has driven him away. In fear of what others will think, many a woman has tried to make her husband into someone he isn’t. In fear of poverty, many a woman has nagged a man until he hates his role as provider. In fear of all this and more, many a Christian wife has prevented her husband from leading their family out on to some limb of faith—moving, mission work, making new disciples.
A faithful wife is submissive. The concept of a submissive Christian wife is grounded deeply in the submission demanded of every Christian and exemplified in Jesus Christ.
Remember the words Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Ph. 2:6-11). Jesus, didn’t care about being “equal” to God. He became a person, the kind of person who submits to God, to the point of death. It is this kind of submission that Paul has in mind when he begins his section on relationships in Ephesians with these words, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ep. 5:21).
Every Christian is called to follow Jesus Christ who went to the cross in submission to God. Thus they owe their submission first to God and then to each other. Again we face the question how would this submission look in a Christian household?
Ephesians 5:22-32 and Colossians 3:18-21 address this question. Submission would look like a wife who follows her husband’s lead with love and trust. She doesn’t need to lead, to be in charge; she can give all that up. Not because she’s not his equal before Christ, but because she is.
Christian wives submit to their husbands from the foundation of their submission to Christ. He demonstrated what it means for an equal to lower Himself and submit in the best times and the worst, to someone who loves Him.
An excellent wife loves. “So that [the older women] may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children” (Ti. 2:4). In the world’s version of love our heart takes the reins and drives us any direction it wants. This is not God’s kind of love.
God’s love for us is constant. The word that we translate “lovingkindness” in places like Exodus 20:6, Lamentations 3:22, and Jeremiah 31:3 means something like “faithful love.” Has God ever decided He had suffered one slight too many and found more amenable people? His commitment to redeem us is eternal. His love is sacrificial. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Ro. 5:6). He doesn’t choose the people who are good, or righteous or beautiful or powerful…but to every person, helpless in their sins, He sent His Son.
A wife who loves sees the best in her husband. She believes all things. She is transparent and forthright, not just in the sense that she doesn’t lie but that she reveals her heart. She rejoices in truth. She doesn’t have to have her way, stand her ground, or be right. She doesn’t seek her own. She doesn’t give up or give in. It’s not about her. It’s about a faithful commitment. It’s about loving her husband the way her Father loves her.
An excellent wife is hardworking. No delicate wall flower, the excellent wife from Proverbs 31 is clearly a competent woman. She is a skilled worker in fabrics, a business person, an organized manager and a wise adviser.
Again the world has competing ideals. On the one hand is a picture of a woman sheltered by her family; she is far too sweet and delicate to make her way in the world. On the other had we have a woman who elbows and jostles her way through the world leaving all thoughts of family behind as she shatters the glass ceiling.
Yet God doesn’t box women in to these two extremes. He sets us free to bless our families by the work of our hands. We do this home or in the community. We can teach our own children or a classroom full in the public school. We can fret over the fever of our own infant or change diapers in the NICU. We are free not to fight for what we want but to serve the way our Savior did!
An excellent wife is precious. “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” (Pr. 31:10). The world doesn’t value wives. Our culture whispers that it is an out-dated role, a position of weakness and a waste of a woman’s potential. But from the creation God has shouted Satan down.
When God finished the streams and mountains and fashioned every kind of animal, He brought all the creatures to the man to name. Adam found no equal among them, no suitable partner. So God made one more thing, a precious gift for Adam crafted from his own flesh, a wife.
God intended a wife to be a His own precious gift to her husband. He can both cherish her and lean on her. She is his equal, his mate.
Being a faithful wife starts with being a faithful Christian. We know our value because we were redeemed by the God who gave the life of His Son for us. We love with faith and integrity because that’s how God loved us. We work with all our hearts because we do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus (Co. 3:17) We submit to our husbands because we look to our Savior who submitted wholeheartedly to His Father. We fearlessly follow our husbands because a woman who fears God need fear nothing else (Lk. 12:4-7). We act with utmost gentleness because we serve the one who wouldn’t snap off a broken blade of grass (Is. 42:3). The example of our Savior and the character of our Father enlighten every aspect of what it means to be a faithful wife.
There is no need for us to be overwhelmed. Being a faithful wife isn’t about being busy, being good at everything or never making a mistake. It isn’t about how we look, if we win the “mommy wars” or how clean our house is. Simply put a faithful wife walks in the Spirit. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
Tassie and her husband were missionaries in China for almost nine years under the eldership of the South Knoxville Church of Christ. Since returning stateside, they have worked with the Rock Springs Church of Christ where her husband preaches.