Where The Christian Wife Is To Honour The Lord
by Phyllis Mercer
In the sixth part of this continuing series, Mrs. Mercer describes how the Christian wife is to honour the Lord in her marriage.
There is an old saying which we seldom hear these days: "Charity begins at home." This is good advice for us as wives.
The Marriage Bed Let us start with the bedroom. The marriage embrace is essential for all good Christian marriages. 1 Cor. 7:3-5 gives the best advice.
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
Enthusiasm and wholeheartedness here will reassure our husbands that our love for them is not waning. The warning not to deprive each other cannot be taken lightly. Physical union is ordained by God for the mutual blessing of the couple, and withholding of such union results in unnecessary temptations.
To view sex the way the world views it is wrong. Sex is not a plaything. Sex was given by God, to be beneficial to each of the marriage partners. It is to be viewed responsibly, bearing in mind its God-ordained purpose of reproduction. This should not escape the notice of the Christian couple. The command in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth is to be applied by all couples in all generations. This modern generation, with free access to contraceptives, is apt to forget that. Many Christian couples unthinkingly avoid producing children for no reason other than their own convenience. By the time they think it might be nice to have a baby, the wife has reached her mid-thirties and quite often fertility has decreased and conception is difficult. Some realise too late that they have wasted the opportunity to bear children. Acting with due responsibility in this area is essential. Hebrews 13:4 gives us clear boundaries for sexual activity:
"Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Feeding the Body Another important place for the wife to honour the Lord is when she is shopping. Money really belongs to the Lord and He allows us to use it for all our needs. Shopping should be done wisely, remembering the things your husband needs and really enjoys. It is good to have food available for unexpected visitors so that we can obey the Scriptural direction to be hospitable. A modest income does not mean that we cannot be hospitable, for we are told to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. We are told to entertain strangers, and Luke tells us to invite the poor and needy. Many home-made dishes can be prepared for quite a number of people at less cost than many would spend on a meal for two. Careful planning and shopping will allow you to do a lot with a little.
The kitchen is another place where the wife is to honour the Lord. Thoughtful consideration of menus to provide nourishment for the family is essential. Time spent finding good recipes and palatable dishes will be time well-spent. To say "I'm not a good cook", is really to confess a lack of application to the task, a task which could otherwise bring good results.
Winning your Husband A woman may be converted to Christ after her marriage, and her husband does not accept her faith in Christ but remains an unbeliever. How is the new believer to honour the Lord in the home and outside? The answer is in 1 Peter 2:25 to 3:1-4.
"For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the Word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
New Christians often try to talk their husbands into turning to Christ. The wife is not to try to win her husband by talking but by her godly behaviour. It refers primarily to her conduct in the home. She has the special privilege of being a faithful witness to Christ by exhibiting a new meekness towards him; her gentle and quiet spirit with corresponding actions towards her husband will allow him to see the reality of her profession and be drawn to Christ himself. Some new converts immediately think they need to spend half their life at the church and become involved in various forms of activities in the church.
It is unwise for a woman with an unconverted husband to take up many offices in the church as this could drive her husband further from the Lord. Your husband is to be your first consideration, irrespective of how long he takes to come to the Lord. Be sensitive to his needs and do not neglect him in any way. Start submitting to him, now that you are the Lord's. He is to be reverenced as your husband, even though he is not yet a believer. Ask his approval for the time you spend at church; he will know instinctively that you will want to attend regularly at the place of worship now that you are a believer. Before you ask your husband about church affairs, try to ask the Lord first to guide your husband in his decisions, then graciously accept your husband's ideas. This is the way which will honour the Lord. To think that you know better than your husband, now that you are a Christian, and that you will be able to judge matters independently of him, is foreign to the Scriptures. Your obedience is to the Lord. He gave you your husband and you are to be a helper suitable for him, especially so now that you have entered into the blessing of salvation. 1 Peter 3:1-6 tells you how.
A Godly Adornment The Scriptures are very definite about the way a wife should behave at church. 1 Peter applies to church as well as anywhere. The Lord is honoured by the gentle and quiet spirit in the wife at her church. This is also confirmed in the pastoral epistles - women are to dress modestly, with decency. Outlandish styles are not for the godly wife, nor are very ornate or ostentatious types of jewellery. 1 Timothy 2:13-15 tells us, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission." She is not to have authority over men. Why?
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But the women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."
God understands the position of women and He has arranged our responsibilities in the church accordingly. The men are to lead. He also knows how vulnerable a wife is during the childbearing years and His promises, with conditions, need to be applied to the period of raising the family. Remember, Titus 2:4 tells us that the older women are to support and train the younger women during this time.
Women at Work These days many women are in the work force, some before childbearing and some after. The wife who is honouring the Lord will ask her husband's opinion as to what he thinks best for them. Some wives become very tired, trying to work long hours and attending to the demands of the home. The Lord will hold the husband and wife accountable for the choices they make in the area of work outside the home. A woman's first responsibility is her husband, then her children. No one else can attend to these roles as she can. The love of money leads some to seek outside work when they should be dedicating themselves to activities which honour the Lord. If a wife works full-time, it is nearly impossible for her to be hospitable and to do the good deeds which the Lord has planned for her to do. Our materialistic society can easily lead us into harmful ways if we are not cautious.
I have a young friend who is still single. She watches the married women who work with her. She told me of one woman who thinks about her work, talks about her work and organises her schedule around her work. Her husband hardly gets a look-in! She says there is no evidence that that wife and her husband are `one flesh'.
One of my favourite examples of a godly wife is the late Mrs. Bethan Lloyd-Jones, wife of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Both were brilliant young people. Bethan qualified as a physician in London. Her husband was a leading doctor in London. Martyn received a call from the Lord to the ministry. They obeyed the call. Their appointment was to a country district in South Wales, where many of the men were miners. Their income went down remarkably, but Bethan did not attempt to work; she knew her husband needed her in the home and she was to bear children. Near the end of their long ministry which concluded in London, she said that her task was to "keep her husband in the pulpit." They both considered that the proclamation of the Gospel required their best, and that was the way the Lord had led them.
Learning Submission In dealing with the behaviour of the wife wherever she goes, the role model of Sarah, wife of Abraham, is a good example. Abraham had been a member of a wealthy, influential family in the Chaldees. Many of the best comforts of the day would have been available to them. The call of God to go to a strange country meant leaving all this behind and becoming a tent dweller. We do not hear of Sarah complaining or wanting to remain where she was. Having settled in Haran, a further move was necessary to Canaan. As we well know from the Scriptures, there were many fierce and strange people living in Canaan. Sarah had to endure all these upheavals, and yet she was commended for her reverence of her husband and the way she called him her Lord. She was a beautiful woman, but we do not find her frequently resorting to womanly wiles to get her way.
I have a friend whose husband worked in the Public Service. He was offered a higher position in another state. He was very thrilled at the prospect but his wife would not move from their home. Needless to say she has a frustrated husband and her witness for Christ is marred by her unwillingness to submit. Being prepared to move where your husband requires is a sure way of showing a submissive response.
A woman who usually respects her husband may be tempted to show disrespect among her friends or relatives. When women talk together and "let off steam" it is possible to say things which may be regretted. Be on your guard; the devil goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Severe illness in a home, at any stage of life, can be hard to handle. God gives grace where it is sought, and a home where there is severe illness can be used by the Lord as a powerful witness to His wonderful grace. My husband had the care of a dear lady who was dying of cancer. She had been a believer but had followed the Lord from afar. She and her husband, together with their teenage daughters, came into true blessing during the course of her illness. John was at her deathbed with the younger daughter. The victory of faith was evident. Just after her death the daughter said, "My mother has been with the Lord for five minutes," and her face, still wet with tears, lit up!
Both inside and outside the home, many opportunities arise for the Christian wife to honour the Lord by her godly approach to her husband. "See that the wife respect her husband." (Eph. 5:33)
Phyllis Mercer is the wife of Australian missionary John Mercer. In 1952 he was chosen to settle a nomadic tribe of Aborigines, the Nunggubuyu people, in their own tribal country, Numbulwar, at the mouth of the Rose River. They married in 1953 and over the years did much pioneering work, enduring the isolation as well as the primitive conditions which prevailed at first. Since retiring in 1990 they have produced two booklets of stories for children, and other writings for the Christian wife and mother from which this article is an extract. They have five children and seventeen grandchildren.
Copyright © Family Matters 1997