Respect When It's Hard
By Nancy Wilson
And let the wife see that she respects her
Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment,
And cause it to give off a foul odor;
So does a little folly to one respected for
wisdom and honor...
Wives are commanded to see to it that they
respect their husbands. Husbands were not
commanded to see to it that their wives respect
them. The command is directed to the wives
themselves. Certainly this does not mean that
the wife's conduct regarding respect is outside
the husband's jurisdiction; but it does appear
that Paul's injunction is worded in such a way
as to lay the responsibility squarely in the
wife's lap. Women see that the laundry gets
done, that the meals are prepared, that the
children are clean, and that countless other
tasks get done, but are they as diligent to see
that they respect their husbands?
Respect is a demeanor that should characterize
wives in all their conduct toward their husbands
and in all their communication to or about their
husbands. This means courtesy in the home
where the husband is treated with honor.
Christian wives must show respect by treating
their husbands with honor and courtesy in their
role as head of the family. They must also show
respect in many little ways each day that
demonstrates that they revere their husbands.
This can mean following through when husband
requests something instead of putting it at the
end of the to-do list. This kind of respect is
simply a courtesy that springs from gratitude
Respect in communication includes how wives talk
to their husbands, and how they talk about them.
This kind of respect is also shown on a daily
basis. When wife speaks to husband, she should
not speak as though she is talking to one of the
kids. Her tone should be courteous and kind, not
critical, sharp, or flippant. Likewise, when her
friends hear her speak of her husband, they
should note that on her lips is the law of
kindness, not railing and complaining. Rather
than sharing his weaknesses, faults, or
problems, she should speak of him kindly, saying
things that would please him to hear her say.
Consider Proverbs 31:12,
"She does him good and not evil all the days of
her life." This husband receives
positive blessings from his wife every day.
"The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so
he will have no lack of gain"
(Proverbs 31:11). Again, this husband is
confident in the character of his wife; she
brings him nothing but good things. He knows she
is not telling others things that she should
not. His heart is safe with her. She is
trustworthy. This is a blessed husband because
he has a respectful, courteous, kind wife who
lovingly considers his interests ahead of her
own. What husband wouldn't be thankful for such
a wife? In fact, the husband in Proverbs praises
his wife, for she is a source of tremendous
blessing for the whole family.
This is indeed a lovely picture. But not all
husbands are easy to respect all the time.
Difficult circumstances can arise, and the
faithful Christian wife may find it a challenge
to respect her husband. When an otherwise
respectable man behaves in a foolish way, it is
a stench. The Scripture does not deny that
stupid behavior is unbecoming to a man. It is a
foul odor. What does a wife do when her husband
is behaving in such a manner, and everyone knows
it is folly? Perhaps the stench has traveled far
and wide. How can a Christian woman render
respect in such circumstances?
Folly can include financial irresponsibility,
laziness, unwise comments, irrational behavior,
poor decisions, or faithlessness in many areas.
The Scripture speaks clearly about sin and does
not require wives to pretend their husbands who
have acted foolishly haven't really. Wives must
view their husbands' folly the same way
Scripture does--as a stench. Nevertheless,
respect is still required from wives; it is not
a qualified commandment.
A wife may speak to her husband about his
behavior. She may ask him to consider what he is
doing and encourage him to put things right by
making appropriate restitution. She may do this
and still be fulfilling her duties of respect
and submission, if she speaks kindly and is not
bitter and resentful. If he persists in his
folly, she may need to speak with her pastor or
the elders about the situation. This is not
disrespectful if it is done with the proper
attitude and demeanor.
Perhaps church discipline is in order, and the
elders are unaware of his behavior. Certainly a
wife can do the right thing in the wrong way.
For example, it may be her duty to go to her
pastor or elders, but she must guard her tongue
and communicate about her husband in a
respectful manner. Often women think nothing of
telling their friends about a situation that
they would never dream of telling their pastor.
This is backwards. The friend is probably not in
a position to do anything about the problem,
while the elders are. It may be disrespecting
the husband to tell friends, but it may actually
be respecting him if the wife goes to the proper
This is not to recommend wives calling their
pastors every time a husband slips. If a woman
did that she would soon be hearing from her
pastor about her own problem. It is merely to
point out that God has a chain of command. If a
woman has appealed to her husband about an area
of disobedience that he refuses to address, it
may be her duty to apply to her pastor or
elders. This is not being a talebearer if it is
done in the proper, respectful manner. It is
merely applying respect when it isn't easy.
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