Men as Spiritual Heads of the Household

Men as Spiritual Heads of the Household


I have been in some discussions with young men, where many of them acknowledge that women are the religious type. They state it as a matter of fact that women are the spiritual ones. They are the ones who spend time in church, pray for long hours, fast, faithfully read the bible. From those observations, they have concluded that the religious or spiritual responsibility of the relationship or marriage lies with the woman. According to them, the man can focus on ‘hustling,’ the wife will more than compensate for spirituality. 

Many of them will even insist that they want a wife who is God-fearing or spiritual (even when they are not). They want a woman who can take on the spiritual responsibilities while they work to provide for the family.

This mindset is becoming prevalent among young men. When many of them think about marriage and the responsibilities it brings, they hardly think about the spiritual leadership of the home. The focus is usually on how to ‘put food on the table.’

While providing for the family is essential, men must recognize that there is a responsibility that is higher than that. Paul was insistent that anyone who does not provide for his relatives and immediate family has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. However, we must not assume that the responsibility to provide for the family trumps all others.

spiritual heads

The Calling

There is no debating the fact (contra egalitarians) that God has established the man as the head of the household (1 Corinthians 11:3). God calls Christian women to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22) as the church submits to Christ in all things (Ephesians 5:24). The husband is to love the woman as Christ loves the church. In this passage and many others, Paul establishes for us the pattern of male headship in the home.

While many men and women will accept that this is God’s way of ordering the family, the practical outworking of this order is not always clear to many people. Many men see headship in terms of decision-making – having the final say in every household decision.

However, one area of application of this headship that we often miss is the responsibility of the man to serve as the spiritual leader in the home.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul addressed some of the problems of the Corinthian church as it relates to public worship. Paul emphasized the importance of orderliness in worship throughout this chapter. After establishing the fact that the prophet is greater than the tongue speaker (vs. 5) is, he went on to instruct the church on how tongue speakers and prophets should conduct themselves in the worship service. “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two- or at the most three- should speak one at a time, and someone must interpret. “ (vs. 27) “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said”

Still on the importance of orderliness in worship (vs. 33), he gave another instruction -“women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (vs. 34)

Our focus is verse 35- “if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” My goal here is not to focus on the interpretative issues of this verse but to highlight the point Paul makes about the women going home to ask their husbands if they want to inquire about something.

In this verse, Paul points us to the spiritual responsibility of the husbands to teach their wives at home. They are to respond to their inquiries and clarify their theological confusion.

Ephesians 6:1-4

In this passage, Paul gives instructions on the relationship between children and their parents. The children are to honor their parents in the Lord (verse 1-3). Conversely, Paul instructs fathers that they must not exasperate the children. Here, Paul is focusing on the relationship between fathers and children.

Rather than exasperating (KJV- provoking to wrath) the children, the father has a responsibility to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The Greek word for training (or nurture in the KJV) is paideia. Paideia is a common word in the Greek culture that means more than training or nurturing. It is the whole process of enculturation. According to Wikipedia, “In the culture of ancient Greece and later of the Greco-Roman world at large, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (/paɪˈdeɪə/; [1] Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis or state. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis.

Paideia is how a child comes to have a worldview – an integrated system of beliefs that shape every aspect of life. Paul is telling us that it is the responsibility of the fathers to train and instruct the children in the Lord. They are to be the primary shaper of the theology/worldview of the child. The responsibility does not fall on the teacher at school, the friend in the sports team, the celebrity on the TV, or the ‘society.’ The father has the primary responsibility to bring up the children in the faith. He is to teach them, catechize them, and exemplify for them what it means to be a believer.

Of course, this does not mean that wives cannot teach children. Rather, it means the primary responsibility (and therefore, accountability) of this process lies with the man. No wonder Paul emphasized that Titus should teach the older men to be sound in the faith (Titus 2:2)

1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1

In these two pages, Paul gave instructions on how to appoint elders in the church. The elders are the spiritual heads of the church. One of the requirements that Paul established is that the elder/overseer/pastor/bishop should be the husband of one wife (not the wife of one husband). God gave the position of elder/overseer/pastor/bishop in the church to men. Paul already made this point in 1 Corinthians 11, 14, and 1 Timothy 2. The elders of the church must be husbands.

However, my focus is on another requirement – he must manage his own family well (1 Timothy 3:4). The person who will be the spiritual head of the church must be a faithful head in the home. This establishes once again that husbands are to be the head of the house, a calling that places on them the spiritual headship of the home. No one can become a spiritual head of the church that is not faithfully serving as the spiritual ruler of the house. All men are to be faithful spiritual leaders of the home. Out of those faithful men, God calls some few to be the elders of the church, serving a double role as spiritual leaders of their home and the church of God.

The Whole Point

My point is that this whole attitude of indifference among some young men is grossly unbiblical. Marry the most spiritual woman on earth but understand that God makes you responsible for the spiritual leadership of the home. By all means, provide for the family, but do so with the understanding that these are not mutually exclusive. Your wife may invest significant time teaching the kids (she might even be a better teacher), but know that it is your primary responsibility to oversee the spiritual development of your wife and the children (a responsibility that includes protecting them from false teachers and teachings). Delegate some of the duties all you want, but know that you are the one God holds accountable for the spiritual growth (or otherwise) of the family.

Fulfilling the Responsibility

Ask an average woman what she wants in a man, and she will tell you she wants a God-fearing man. However, if you press hard, you will discover that in most cases, the definition of a God-fearing man does not go higher than “he will not beat me,” and “he will not cheat on me.”  While a God-fearing man will not do the above, the definition of a God-fearing man goes way beyond those two negatives. A God-fearing man is a Christian man who recognizes his responsibility to be a spiritual leader of the home and is committed to it (or actively preparing himself to do that).

However, we must not feel overwhelmed or daunted by this responsibility. You do not need to have a degree in theology to do this. God is not calling every man to learn to read the Greek New Testament or teach a class in Systematic Theology.

What God requires of us is more than knowledge of the facts. We must exemplify true Christian living for the family. We teach and train the family by the example of our devotion and pursuit of holiness. As we make use of the means of grace and live out that grace-filled life, we become an example to our wives and children.

However, this responsibility is not less than actively teaching and instructing the family in the word of God. We must teach them the doctrines of the faith. Similarly, we must protect them from deceptions. Fathers must train the family to think God’s thoughts after him and to approach the whole of life with biblically saturated minds. Fathers must teach the family how to think through economics, politics, culture, work, entertainment, leisure, science, etc. from a biblical standpoint. This is what it means to nurture and instruct in the Lord.

This should not call us to despair. As believers, we must always recognize that when God commands us, he commands us as children. When he calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, it is “in view of God’s mercies” (Romans 12:1). If we trust in Christ, we are justified. Our sins have been washed away in his blood. There is no condemnation for us. When we approach our sanctification, it is from the point of full and permanent justification. We do not become spiritual heads to earn God’s favor. We do not operate with God out of doubt. Instead, as pardoned and forgiven sinner, we seek to live our lives for him who gave his so we can live (2 Corinthians 5:13). We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Those who are the true children of God delight to obey him and do his will in all things. This is one area he calls us to dutiful and joyful obedience.


When we think about marriage, we have more to think about than how to ‘put food on the table.’ While we prepare ourselves to be financially responsible, we must also prepare ourselves to be spiritually responsible. God places a high responsibility on us. Like every responsibility God gives, he will hold us accountable. However, like every responsibility God gives, he will provide us with the grace we need to be faithful.

“As your days, so shall your strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25)

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