Biblical Servanthood in Marriage

Apr. 15, 2024 | By Taffi Dollar

God created us to be in relationship with each other. Happy relationships bring great joy into our lives but focus on who’s supposed to be the head in a marriage and who takes directions can cause lasting conflict. Being the head doesn’t mean being a dictator; it actually means being a servant. In a marital relationship, it’s worth asking whether Christ is the head of every person, if the man is the head of every woman, and if the husband is the head of every wife. 

God wants to enlighten us in the area of biblical equality when it comes to our marriages. We can’t limit ourselves to tradition or what we saw in our parents’ or grandparents’ marriages. Allowing the light of God’s Word to bring about progressive revelation concerning our relationships causes us to realize His will for our relationships.

God Wants the Best for Our Marriages

When most of us first got married, we hoped our marriages would last and that we’d stay together, but we’ve got to have a lot more than just hope. Most people settle for the mediocre, for scraping by and having just enough to pay the bills. The Scriptures say that God wants us to have more than enough, not just to pay our own bills but also to help someone else. He wants the best for us not just in our financial lives, but in all other areas as well.

The traditional way of thinking is that the man should assume the position of leadership, because he’s the man. He makes the decisions, and he’s the one who decides how the family unit operates. This idea of headship is even found in church leadership. There’s nothing wrong with being a leader, as long as our leadership is based in God’s definition of it. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself(Ephesians 1:22, 23, NLT).

Servant Leadership in Marriage Benefits Both Parties

Jesus, the head of all things and the one who provides growth and sustenance, is also the giver of life and the supreme source of headship. He doesn’t dominate or lord His position over the church and its members. Jesus came to serve others, not to be served; this is the perfect example of leadership. The type of headship He has over His church should carry over into our model of a godly marriage.

Submission is a point of contention in traditional marriages because most couples don’t understand its biblical context. Submitting to one’s spouse is a two-way street, not an opportunity for the husband to dominate or threaten his wife. “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.  For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” (Ephesians 5:21-25, NLT). Most of us have looked at traditional marriages and thought that women were the only ones who were supposed to submit. In mutual submission, both spouses support each other, encourage each other, serve each other, and put the other one first.

Godly Marriages Bring Unity and Equality

When couples get married, the preacher says something like, “Now the husband and the wife have become one flesh.” The question is, whose flesh—hers or his? The answer is that new flesh was created when the man and woman said, “I do” before God. Godly marriages involve a coming together and a unity that didn’t exist before.

Submission in marriage should be motivated by reverence for God and love for Him, as well as for each other; it isn’t based on gender. Both spouses serve God and each other. Jesus’ example of servanthood teaches us what true submission is all about; what He modeled during His earthly ministry still applies today. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NKJV).

The enemy doesn’t want us to understand this; he wants a dysfunctional church that doesn’t know how to cooperate with God’s plans. The devil also wants an unequal marriage that doesn’t apply the biblical principles of headship and servanthood between a husband and a wife. His plan is to keep women feeling frustrated and devalued. Patterning our marriages after God’s Word thwarts the enemy’s plans. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3).

The Husband’s Role is to Lead and Nurture

A husband should love and cherish his wife so that she grows and flourishes into the kind of person God wants her to be. Just as Jesus is our source and the one who nourishes us, so should the husband nourish in a godly marriage. Christ’s headship is best described as a servant-provider. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15, 16). We can’t go wrong when we pattern our marriages after this.

This is the type of headship God refers to, the kind that puts others’ needs first; it’s His will not only for the church, but also for marriage. In Christ, there is no male or female because we’re one in Him. Aligning ourselves with His Word brings true equality.  

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