We have been studying God’s design for men and women. Our world has made a mess of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman that we need to turn to the Lord to understand our true identity. In the last lesson we spent the time observing that God made men and women different. Amazingly, what seems to be so obvious is being denied in our culture. God made us male and female. He did not make us all female nor did he make us all male. The goal is not for men and women to be the same. Rather, Genesis teaches us that we were made to complement each other. We are not meant to be the same, but to work together for the glory of God through our differences. Since we have been talking about the false views the world has put upon us concerning our identities as men and women, we need to look to the scriptures to understand the right view of ourselves. What is God’s vision for men and women? We explain this in the last lesson that a man is made to work and a woman was made to be the complement to the man. But what does this mean and what does this look like? This is what we will consider in this lesson.
The Curse (Genesis 3)
After the sin of Adam and Eve, listen to the curse that is placed on the woman in Genesis 3:16.
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)
I think it is easy to misunderstand this curse. Is God saying that the curse upon the woman is that she will desire her husband? That would be a good thing that would help prevent adultery and unfaithfulness. The word for desire is a word that is used in Genesis in a negative way, not a positive way. Listen to what God told Cain in Genesis 4:7.
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 ESV)
Notice the same sentence construction between Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. Sin was trying to rule over Cain, but Cain must rule over it. This is the same point of the curse in Genesis 3. The woman will try to rule over the husband, but he will rule over her. English translations reflect that this is the meaning of this sentence.
You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” (Genesis 3:16 NET)
And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NLT)
The point I want us to see is that the temptation is going to be for the man to be passive and for the woman to take the lead. God says that women are going to want to control the men, but that is not right. We need to see that this curse is the overthrow of God’s vision for men and women. In short, God says that men and women will be in conflict because of these desires. This does not make these desires correct (like we see in 1 Timothy 2; Ephesians 5; 1 Peter 3), but is the reality. There will be natural difficulties between men and women in relationships. The conflict between men and women is because of sin. It is not right. It is not the way the relationship is to be. When we talk about what it means to be a man and woman, we are going to have a natural resistance to what we are hearing because of the fall of man and woman in the garden. The scriptures are restoring the marriage to what God’s vision and intention are. To say this another way: sin broke the concept of marriage in the fall but we are to restore marriage to God’s original intention through obedience to his laws.
God’s Vision For Men
The summary of the picture God has for the man is this: The man has the divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home. Women, God says in Ephesians 5:23 that you are to understand that your man is the head of your family. Men, you have a God-given responsibility to care for your home. This is why Ephesians 6:4 commands the fathers to not provoke the children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The man has the responsibility of being the spiritual leader. The man has the responsibility to be the protector and provider for the family. Even if we did not have the myriads of passages in the scriptures speaking about men ruling their household well, being head of the family, and raising the children in the instruction of the Lord, we have this leadership asserted from the very beginning.
Please consider why God condemned Adam. “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you…” (Genesis 3:17). Adam was the responsible person in this marriage. He was supposed to be the spiritual leader, but refused to do so by listening to his wife that encouraged him to sin with her. Adam is not excused. The man is to set the spiritual environment and lead it. Now, again, we see a rebellion against this in our culture. There is a full culture war waged on the men and the role of the man in the family. We see and hear this message that men are not necessary.
The responsibility of male leadership in the home has nothing to do with male dominance. In fact, the scriptures condemn where any man uses his position as a means to dominate or compel others in the family. Remember, God commanded the men to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Think about how Jesus brought about our submission. We submit to the Lord, not because Jesus strong armed us and forced, but because he sacrificed himself for us. In the same way, men lead their families, not through domination or force, but by sacrificing himself for his wife and children. Men, you are never told to subordinate your wife. You are never told to take or force her submission. Submission is given, not taken or demanded or forced. The man gives himself. The women and the children are first. Self-sacrifice is what makes you a man and not a boy. Men give themselves. Boys take for themselves.
Further, the responsibility of the man to be the spiritual leader in the home does not mean women are incapable or incompetent. It is a false idea to believe that since there is difference in the role of men and women there must be a difference in competence. I think this is why male leadership is fought against. Man being the spiritual leader of the family does not mean that the woman is not competent or capable of such. My wife is far more competent and capable over many things than I am. It is why I married her. I know she excels in areas over myself and I do not suppress this truth but encourage it. She can be and is better than me in all kinds of things. We see this in the scriptures where we read about women prophets, women supporting the ministry of Jesus, and being very active for the Lord. But I am the one responsible for the leadership of our family. God has laid that on me. God is telling us that women will flourish and have joy in a relationship where the husband leads well. If men did as they ought, as described in Ephesians 5:25, then women would flourish in their submission in that relationship. But here is how we know that having a different role does not mean that there is a difference in competence or value: Jesus. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and exercised a different role than the Father and the Holy Spirit. Was Jesus lesser in anyway because he did this? Absolutely not. In the same way, a woman is not lesser in any way at all just because she has a different role in the relationship than the man.
Men, even though you are called to be the spiritual leader of the home, you are to honor your wife (1 Peter 3:7), be understanding of her (1 Peter 3:7), and lead like Jesus led in humility, love, and self-sacrifice (Ephesians 5:25-33). We are commanded to do this because it is not natural, but the way we honor and serve God while on earth. Men, if your wife is not doing all you desire, then you must ask yourself if you are leading her well and sacrificing yourself for her.
God’s Vision For Women
In Titus 2 God gives Titus the instructions to give to the women concerning their role.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3–5 ESV)
If the younger women need to be trained in these things, then we are learning that what is being taught here is not natural for her. A woman will not wake up and instinctively do these things. The first thing the women are taught to do is to love their husbands and their children. The woman’s first responsibility is to her husband and children. Do we see how God made this relationship to fit together beautifully? God made the man’s responsibility to be to love his wife like Jesus did and God made the woman’s responsibility to love her husband and children. Her concern is for her husband and her children and this is her service to the Lord. We read this in Proverbs 31 where all that we see her doing is for the welfare of her husband and children, not herself. She is not doing for herself but for him. “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12). She is sacrificing herself for what is good for her husband and her children all throughout that chapter. This is what it looks like to love your husband and children, to work at home, and be submissive to her own husband (Titus 2:4-5).
Let us look at this another way: if what you are doing as a woman is not doing your husband and children good, but is to their harm, you must stop what you are doing. Obviously this would include sinful things but those are not the only things. If your actions are harming him or your children, even if the action is not sinful, it must be stopped. This is how you love your husband and your children. Paul said to the Ephesians that women are to respect her husband. Notice that it does not say that he is supposed to earn your respect. You are commanded to give it. You love and respect your husband by doing what is good for him and for the family, not what you think is good, but what is truly good for them.
Consider this: just as we noted that a woman flourishes and has joy in a relationship where the husband leads well, so also men flourish and have joy in a relationship where the wife yields and helps the relationship in all areas of life. Women, your submission is given. He is not to make you yield to his direction and leadership. You are to give it willingly, even if it leads the family in less desirable areas of life. Ask him what you can do or change that is for his good and for the family and then do it. You are not to compete with him. You were made by God to complete him, to fill what is lacking, not to destroy him and attempt to exercise superiority. Remember that Genesis 3 told the women that your temptation is going to be to rule over him. But notice that this is not what God wants. You are not to follow into this temptation but to yield to him.
Proverbs 31 is particularly interesting in its description of this godly woman. In the middle of describing all the good she is doing for her husband and children, it says, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23). Then the text returns to talking about all the good she does for her husband and children. Is this saying that the excellent woman marries a successful person? No. The point is that what she is doing has made him a success. The reason he sits in the gates and is respected in the community is because of what she does. Women, if your husband is not what you desire him to be, then your work is to do things to cause that success for him. Your work is to not complain, nag, and destroy him. Your work is to encourage him by doing him good.
Let me end with this question: what if you are single? You will notice that scriptures speak of God’s vision for men and women in terms of how they relate to each other. A man is a godly man by how he treats his wife. A woman is a godly woman by how she treats her husband. If you are single, then you are practicing these things now.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8–10 ESV)
Single men are working, showing their willingness to sacrifice for a woman, ready to protect and provide for her, living a life devoted to the Lord (1 Timothy 2:8). Single women are professing godliness with their modesty and self-control, showing good works, living a life devoted to the Lord (1 Timothy 2:9-10).