Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is
the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. (Eph 5:22-24)
Wow, this is a mouthful! One thing I would like to say at the outset. Jesus is our example for wives as we imitate His submission to the Father and Jesus is the example for our husbands as they seek to love us just as Jesus loves the church and gave Himself up for her. So, when we think, “There is no way I can submit to what my husband is asking” remember that Jesus understands submission and can give us the power to do it.
The word used in this passage for “be subject to” (translated submit in other versions) is a military term in the Greek meaning to align yourself under a commander or leader. So it means that there is a leader in our homes, and we are not it. But this doesn’t mean we have no authority at all, just that we are not the FINAL authority. In fact, our husbands do not even have the final authority…that belongs to God.
What submission DOESN’T mean. It doesn’t mean that husbands are inherently better than wives, or smarter, or more godly or any of that. It doesn’t mean that husbands are better equipped or prepared to deal with those under their charge. They have no greater spiritual value in the eyes of the Lord. They were just chosen to be the head/leader. And with that choosing, God gives our husbands grace to follow Him in this role of head over the wife. Whether our husbands choose to walk in that grace is another story.
Submission also doesn’t mean that wives are to be doormats. A doormat is a piece of material placed on the floor for everyone to wipe their dirty feet on. It has no will of its own, it simply is placed on the floor to take the abuse of every and any one coming its way. Godly submission is NOTHING like this!
Years ago (when I was still single) a couple of the single guys in my church had a misconception that ALL women were to submit to ALL men. Then I brought some of them to this verse in Ephesians 5:22. It says that wives are to submit “to their own husbands”. This is not just a Men Of The World Rise Up kind of situation. This is specifically for the unique union God has established in the marriage relationship. I have lived in a household with 10 other women and I can tell you, if there is NO one in charge, everyone thinks they are (or should be) and chaos soon begins to erupt. It is essential in any long-term relationship where decisions need to be made and where it is difficult for a final agreement to be reached that SOMEONE be delegated to make that final decision. It is only wise common sense.
In a marriage, God also established a person where “the buck stops here”. That is the husband. He has the final authority but before the Lord, he also has the final responsibility. If things go wrong, he is the one that God holds accountable. This is a good thing and is actually a great source of freedom for a wife. Submission does not keep me bound up, it frees me up to walk in my role as a wife and helpmate to my husband. I give my counsel, my insight, my research, my concerns and I work toward having good strong and honest discussions with the hope of both of us coming to a united decision. In the event (and hopefully this will be a rare thing) that we do not come to agreement and a decision must be made, God has given the final authority for that decision to the husband. Our job is to support that final decision with joy and grace.
And it is important for me to remember that my trust is in GOD, not in my husband! I can trust God to speak to and guide my husband but my husband may or may not be listening (or willing to submit to the Father). My joy and faith is STILL in God, and He is trustworthy, no matter how fallible my human mate may be.