An Analogy for Authority in the Family


The Bible teaches that the husband should “rule” the home (1 Tim. 3:5). It equally teaches that the woman is the “head” and “master” of the home (1 Tim. 5:14). It teaches, further, that the husband is the “head” of his wife (Eph. 5:23). It teaches, finally, that the Dad and Mom share in authority in the lives of their children. How do these teachings cohere as they relate to the family? While no analogy is perfect, let me offer one.

CEO’s and COO’s

Enlisting organizational nomenclature, the husband is more like the CEO, and the wife is more like the COO. The husband establishes policy, and the wife implements that policy. Of course, this doesn’t mean the husband doesn’t teach their children, too, nor that the wife never establishes policy. Both Proverbs and Deuteronomy are quite clear about this. Yet if we read Proverbs 31:10–31, we note immediately how extensive the wife’s family responsibilities are. She’s actively providing for her family. This is not, I must add quickly, the modern idea of the “career woman.” It’s a description of a godly woman using all of her husband-encouraged resources to provide in ways appropriate to her for the needs of her husband and children (and in the culture at that time, servants).

By contrast, you’ll note that the husband is known “in the gates” (v. 23). “Gates” refers to his leadership in the wider culture of the time, and from the NT we know this would include the church (1 Tim. 3:2). The distinct picture here is: the husband is cultivating his love for his wife and directing her in her leadership of the family. Her main role is “domestic.” His main role is “foreign”: outside the confines of the home, providing for his household as the breadwinner, leading in the culture.

Let me say again that this metaphor isn’t perfect (the family obviously isn’t a business corporation), but I believe that it captures for our own mindset much of what the Bible is teaching. The husband is the principal leader in the home, but he spends much less time implementing that leadership than in helping his wife to implement the kind of home that the Bible requires.

The Bible is therefore neither egalitarian (since the husband governs the wife), nor patriarchal (since the Dad and Mon share authority in the lives of their children).


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