...and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:33b (NASB)
In our Sunday school class we have been learning how to be godly women and wives. One of the areas that was brought out was this verse from Ephesians 5:33 about wives respecting their husbands. This is an area of great struggle for many women. I hear over and over from women that their husband is not a respectable man, or that he deserves no respect because he drinks or smokes or is slovenly or overweight. The women who really get upset with this verse of Scripture are married to men who have been unfaithful or view pornography or refuse to participate in the marriage or the leading the family.
"How can I respect him?" they ask me.
Respect in this context is due to the position that God has given him in the family. God set the man over the woman in created order and she is to first submit to the position. Practically speaking, this means that she considers her husband before herself (Phil 2:2-4) as she plans her day. She asks him about things she can do to be helpful to him and to further the goals he has for the family.
I understand that in many homes, the husband is not leading his family as Scripture directs him to. This puts a woman who wants to live biblically in a tough spot because she may get little to no cooperation from her husband in this regard. In such a case, she can still inquire of him and do what she can do to be helpful and consider his goals and desires before her own, as well as meeting the legitimate needs he has.
She can also submit her spending habits to her husband. Many women have a "go it alone" philosophy when it comes to the family budget. The are accountable to no one and do what they want with the household funds. Of course, most are very responsible but I have seen women who hide charge cards and have the bills sent to their work address or email to keep their husband from finding out about their spending habits. This is not respecting his place as the steward of your home and if you operate this way, I suggest you stop immediately. Will God honor such deception on your part?
I listen to a lot of women talk during the week as I counsel and one primary way we can be respectful is in our words and tone of voice. Oh ladies, the words we use and how we use the tongue... There is no greater disrespect to a man than that of the wicked tongue of his wife. Cursing and belittling him, criticizing him, demeaning him in person and to your friends, gossiping about him to your Bible study group are all ways that we demonstrate a lack of respect to our husbands.
Please be careful what you say about him, and be careful how you say what you say to him. Your body language is a major part of how you communicate to him and he is most likely quick to see if you are rolling your eyes, shaking your head, pressing your lips together, or other visual cues in response to him.
Respecting your husband is not always easy. Some men are difficult and cranky and hard to get along with. By God's grace you can demonstrate respect to him, despite how you feel about his actions. The Lord will enable you to bear up under this kind of suffering because it glorifies Him when you obey.
It is unfortunate, but I must say a word about the issue of abuse in this context. Respecting your husband does not mean you tolerate physical abuse. No husband has any right to slap or hit his wife at any time. It is not disobedient to report him to the authorities and press charges. He is in violation of Romans 13 and must submit to the governing authorities.
Verbal abuse is a little more difficult to pin down beyond the obvious. There are many different opinions on what constitutes verbal abuse so much wisdom is required in dealing with these cases.
Respect is not always easy, and the hard truth is that God has not given wives an exception clause in Scripture; women are to respect their own husbands.