Words of Healing “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” – Jesus (Matt 24:35).


The Husband is Called to Serve His Wife

The Last is First

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt 20:25-28, NIV).

Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords "did not come to be served, but to serve." This is an incredible revelation of the character of our God. He had the power to make men fall prostrate before him, but instead He got down on his hands and knees and washed His disciples feet. Jesus had the power to do anything that He wanted--to command men to do whatever He chose. However, instead of exercising His divine right in such a way as to get things for Himself, He used His divine right of authority to serve His own creation. When you think about it, this seems like madness, but it is why we love God..."because He first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19 NIV).

So, what does this have to do with being a husband? Everything! The Church is the Bride of Christ, and as Christ served the church, so also husbands are commanded to serve their wives:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph 5:25-33, NIV).

This means that while, yes, the husband has been given "authority" over his wife, he is commanded to use that authority in the way that Christ would, by laying down his own desires for the sake of his wife. This is not such an easy thing, but it is a powerful concept. The husband has been commanded to be Christ-like in his marriage, to represent Christ in the way that he treats his wife. For husbands, this should be a bit terrifying, for this means that anytime we do not treat our wives in a way that is Christ-like, we are sinning against our wives and against God, for "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17, NIV).

Love is a Verb

In the typical marriage, the wife is in charge of monitoring the relationships (Taylor, 2001). She is the one that keeps track of how often they've been connecting, how the kids are doing in school, etc., and she lets her husband know when they "need to talk." As a likely result of this, we have what was called in my Psychology class, the "Paradox of Marriage" (Taylor, 2001). The "Paradox of Marriage" is that married men are healthier than single men, but married women are less healthy than single women (Taylor, 2001). A theory on this is that when men get married, they have less things to worry about, essentially because the wife worries about those things for him (Taylor, 2001). This fits into what I've observed in most marriages. The wife takes care of and worries for everything, and the husband sits on the recliner watching the television. Is this loving your wife as your own body?

Most men, at the slightest hint of hunger, feed their bodies. We do not wait until our body is screaming in agony telling us that if we don't eat we're going to die before we eat. We also do not wait until our clothes are tattered and filled with holes before we buy new clothes. We do not wait until we are starving on the street side before we seek out a job to provide for our needs. However, we so often wait until our marriages are in shambles before we give an ounce of effort to repair them. This should not be.

Love is not a passive word. To love someone is proactive. When the husband gets home from work, he should be seeking out his wife's needs so that he can proactively fulfill them: "Can I wash your feet?" "Can I take the kids off of your hands for awhile?" "What can I do to make your day turn into a great day?" "You didn't have time to make dinner, how about I make dinner tonight, it sounds like you've had a rough day."

Women will typically give and give and give and give until they are so worn out that they realize that they can't give anymore. Women try to intuitively figure out what their partner needs, and then they seek to fulfill that need. This could be why the Bible doesn't command women to do this, because it seems that they do it almost naturally, whereas for men, to get them to do this can be like pulling teeth. However, this is what the Bible commands. Love is a verb, and it is proactive.

Therefore, husbands, lay down your lives. Lay down your own desires. Be selfless with your time. Listen to your wives, and don't just listen, ask questions about how they feel. Listen to them when they are having a bad day, and don't assume that they are asking for advice. Seek out ways to serve your wife, and "wash her feet." Do not settle on waiting for her to bring problems up, but rather keep actively involved so that problems never have a chance to fester.

As of yet, I have not seen a marriage where the husband served his wife that ended in divorce. Rather, when the husband serves, I have found these to be the most fruitful and content. So, it may be a difficult thing to try to lay down your life for your wife, and you may not get to relax quite as much, but it's worth it.


Taylor, Dr. H. (lecture) Psychology of Sex Differences. Bellevue Community College. Fall 2001

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Did Jesus ask his disciples what they needed before deciding the sacrifice himself for them? No he did not. Jesus serves his church as he wills not as his church wills. If you do not understand this I question your intelligence. Your article did shed light on my marriage and for that I am grateful, but your human interpretation is of course flawed like a human is flawed. Perhaps you were serving your wife or church as it wished rather as you wish and as Jesus instructed. Please correct your word and serve god as god instructs and not how your church or wife instructs.

    • Charles, I’m wondering how my “human interpretation” is flawed while your “human interpretation” is not…??? If I’m in error, please indicate the passage of scripture that I violate and I will correct myself quickly. I’m saying this quite seriously. I once entertained the idea of mutual submission, but found this to be clearly in contradiction to scripture, so I am quite willing to be corrected by scripture.

      You are correct that Jesus did not ask what his disciples needed (in any case that I can recall, anyway). However, last time I checked, I wasn’t an all-knowing God. If I knew what my wife’s spiritual, physical, and emotional needs were without asking, I would be the guru of all marriage gurus and I would quit my day job and go right into the marriage-guru business full-time. However, since I’m slower and less knowledgeable than Jesus and don’t automatically know what my wife needs, I–unfortunately–have to use verbal communication. Now, there are times where I ascertain a need my wife has and meet that need without being asked. There are times where my wife asks for something and I refuse–often for lack of the energy to do it (I am human and have a finite amount of energy afterall). And perhaps, someday, she’ll ask me for something that I find is counter to what I feel I must do as part of the spiritual leadership of the family…and if such a thing ever happens, I’m accountable to God first and foremost and must refuse to do such things.

      However, I think you are also slightly off in your assessment about Christ. Even though there is no example of Jesus asking the disciples if they needed their feet to be washed, etc., Jesus did instruct His disciples to go to God in prayer and make their requests known to God so that God would answer them. So, in effect, even though God does know our needs…as a part of our relationship with Him, he asks us to verbalize what we need and ask Him for it. So, if even an all-knowing God asks us to ask him…should I not also…being much less capable than God, ask my wife to ask me? This is how relationships work. You can either be passive and wait until she asks you something of her own accord, or you can be a proactive servant-leader and seek out her needs and volunteer your service to help her. I can tell you right now, even if this weren’t derivable from scripture, being proactive like this will work wonders for your marriage. In any case, however, I don’t see any flaw in my interpretation. We have examples of God doing all of this.

      I think perhaps you are mistaking servant-leadership with submission. It can be confusing in some ways…they almost look the same at times. Honestly, I would prefer submission…I sincerely wish God had commanded husbands to submit. Submission is passive. Submission waits to be asked. Submission is LAZY. I’m lazy…so that fits much better with my way of doing things. To be both a leader–to proactively guide your family–and to “lay down your life” means that I need to “sacrifice proactively.” I’m not sure how you think someone should sacrifice proactively, but the best way I could explain it is what I wrote above.

      If a boss at work can ask the questions of his employees: “where do you need help?”, “where are you struggling?”, or “how can I help you succeed at your job better?”, then it makes total sense that asking questions is a part of leadership, and actively doing things in a servant-hearted way to fulfill the needs of those you are taking care of just plainly makes sense…whether you ascertain those needs yourself because you’re all knowing, or you can intuitively figure some of it out, or whehter you’re slow like me and need to ask sometimes. No matter how you ascertain the information…as far as scripture goes, I do not see any limit to the amount of serving I can do for my wife. I can not possibly lay down my own desires too much; I can not possibly sacrifice too much; I am limited only by time and energy (my human capacities) in how much I can serve. Scripture does not give any indication that you can make yourself too lowly/humble or serve too much. Afterall, God became man…if I make myself a prostrate slave, I still haven’t stepped as low as He did for me. So, you may think I’m going too far in what I say a husband should do for his wife, but with the example of Christ I can only think that perhaps I haven’t gone far enough.

  2. Very interesting, but the only thing that halted me was the suggestion, “When the husband gets home from work, he should be seeking out his wife’s needs so that he can proactively fulfill them: “Can I wash your feet?” “Can I take the kids off of your hands for awhile?” “What can I do to make your day turn into a great day?” “You didn’t have time to make dinner, how about I make dinner tonight, it sounds like you’ve had a rough day.” This doesn’t relate to every home or marriage. There are “Stay Home Dad’s.” Also, there are homes, which both partners are working and arrive home about the same time, some times, the wife before the husband, so what should a husband do? I do agree that a happy wife makes a happy home, which most men/husband wish to have, Peace.

    I found this article after a classmate mentioned, “Husbands should serve their wives as Christ served the church.” I paused and pondered, because the scripture implied love not serve, and I pondered some more, because it was a profound expression, which I have never heard or thought about before as far as marriage. So, when I researched, I came across your article, and it was using the same word serve. As we know, serve or serving is not the same as love. Although, I do understand that you used the reference that Jesus came to serve not to be served, however, the church is the world/us, and if we love ourselves as Christ loved the church, than our devotion and quest should and would be the same for those of us who does have a wife.

    Again, thank you for sharing such profound input. I would love to read more.



    • Hi Willie, I did not mean that the act of serving always looks the same way. Obviously, when I say to wash your wife’s feet, I do not mean it in the literal sense. These are examples of trying to be “proactive” and “seek out” and fulfill your wife’s needs without her having to ask. Every wife and every family will, definitely, have different needs. But the key point I see is that Jesus washed his disciples feet even though they did not know that they needed it, let alone that they needed to allow him to do it. He met needs even we didn’t know we have. That said, sometimes meeting your families needs might mean saying “no” (e.g. wife really “needs” a new car, but it would put your family in financial difficulty, so you say no.) I’m NOT advocating that a husband is to submit…though he should always listen to his wife and heed her opinions in all things because she sees things he doesn’t.

      Anyway, most husbands I’ve seen (including myself) seem to take the reactive/submissive role more naturally. As a husband, I would say that what I’m good at in marriage is “reacting” to my wife’s needs. That is, when she hits critical mass and blows up from having done too much, then I get into clean-up mode…once pacified, I go about my way…rinse, repeat. If I were to be more proactive and serve her more…and try to meet her needs BEFORE she hit critical mass…our marriage would be much better.

      I technically wrote this when I was single, and now married for 12 years, I can honestly say that most of the problems I’ve had in my marriage have been from not heeding my own advice. It would be easy for me to say that I was merely naive in my single days and now married, I realize how ridiculously hard it would be to live that way, so I must have been wrong. However, that would merely be giving myself an excuse. I know that if I were to be more like the husband that I describe in this article, it would only improve my marriage and my leadership.

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