Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

“My husband spanked me and then grounded me because I wanted a break after having 6 children in the first 5 years of our marriage. Do I have Biblical grounds to divorce him for treating me like a child instead of his wife?” This was part of an email I received from a young Christian woman name Kathy.

The emotional response that most non-Christian Americans and even many Christian Americans would have to this woman’s question of divorce would be a resounding YES! No thought should be needed on her part, she should just pack her bags and leave. Not too long ago I would have considered myself in this crowd had the same reaction without ever giving it a second thought.

The reason for this knee jerk reaction to wife spanking is twofold.

The first is because in our modern culture we automatically associate the physical punishing of an adult (whether male or female) with physical abuse.  Most people cannot conceive of any type of physical punishment toward an adult that would not be abuse.

The second reason many would have a knee jerk reaction to this takes both the spanking and grounding into account.  The worst sin that can be committed in our culture is for a man to do anything that could even be remotely conceived as him acting like a father figure to his wife. Words like “incestuous” and “infantilizing” are raised if a man attempts to teach or discipline his wife.  The common phrase “You are not my father” that many American women use with their husbands when their husbands exercise authority over them comes to mind. We will see later in this piece that Kathy uses that language toward her husband.

Wife spanking may be wrong, but we need to look at it from a calm and Biblical perspective to discover why it is wrong if in fact it is wrong. But then we have some secondary questions posed by Kathy.  Can a Christian woman divorce her husband for spanking her even it is wrong? Can a Christian woman be forced to constantly be pregnant by her husband?

Last month I wrote a post entitled “Do Christian wives have to submit to bondage and sadomasochism requests from their husbands?” and I made my position clear there that I believe bondage violates the Biblical principle of free will that God has given to us all.  He always presents us with a choice and then we face the consequences of our choices but he never removes our ability to choose in this life.

I continued that same theme in my last post “Is it wrong for my Christian husband to make me wear a chastity belt?” There again in that post I stated that a husband forcing his wife to wear a chastity belt violates the Biblical principle that God has created mankind(men and women both) with free will.

Honestly I was so ready to move out of these issues of discipline into the topic of jealousy which will lead me to a much larger topic I wanted to cover in more detail(it is still a secret but I have spoken on it briefly before).

But God seems to be pulling me back into this subject of men disciplining their wives with emails I am receiving that I just can’t ignore and I feel I must address another discipline practice here.

In the past I have written many positive articles articulating how husbands not only have the right, but they have the duty to confront wrong behavior in their wives just as they have both the right and the duty to confront wrong behavior in their children.

I call this confronting of wrong by husbands toward their wives discipline. Why do I call it discipline? Because that is exactly what it is.  It is one thing for equals to confront wrong doing in each other. If you tell your friend you think they are wrong that is not discipline – it might be rebuke or it might be correction but it is not discipline.   But when a manager tells his employee they are wrong, or a parent tells their child they are wrong and yes even when a husband corrects or rebukes his wife this is also a form of discipline.

I have said before that I think the discipline of a child and the discipline of a wife while sharing some similarities should not be identical and I think this issue of wife spanking really will allow me to show this distinction between the two types of discipline.

God has really lead me, because of this email from Kathy, to have to really work out my beliefs about this uncomfortable and controversial top of wife spanking from a Biblical perspective. But before I do that let me share Kathy’s complete story.

Kathy’s story

“My husband spanked me and then grounded me because I wanted a break after having 6 children in the first 5 years of our marriage. Do I have Biblical grounds to divorce him for treating me like a child instead of his wife?

I’m a 26 year old female and married 5 years ago to a wonderful Christian man- the problem is we have 6 children under the age of 5 which as you can imagine is quite tiresome as I’m at home looking after them all day and then I need to prepare for my husband’s return from work and by the time I’ve finished settling the kids and cleaning up after dinner I’m just totally exhausted. My husband seems to think I should be sexually available to him whenever he touches me but for the past few months I’m just so tired- so tired in fact I went to my doctor and got a prescription for birth control pills to prevent another pregnancy- I didn’t tell my husband because I know he feels it’s his choice whether I am pregnant or not.

He had begun to get suspicious as to why I’m not pregnant again as we never had a problem before and our youngest is now 6 months old and we usually have three months between delivery and subsequent pregnancies, I had begun to avoid him sexually and there was a pretty tense atmosphere between us until it all exploded after a Sunday service a few weeks back when my parents in Law took the kids for the afternoon and my husband said he wanted us to spend time together alone which I dreaded.

Anyway to cut a long story short he took me home and started to quote scripture about how I was being disrespectful and disobedient, he said in his 37 years on earth he never witnessed a woman treating her husband with the disregard I was treating him except on one occasion when his mother back answered his father, he then told me having spoken to his father about our situation and after much prayer he felt it was time to pull me back into line, he then proceeded to spank my behind with his hand while I screamed and begged him not to- he stopped and I thought it was over but he then removed his belt and gave me 20 more lashes which he said were for the birth control pills he had found.

He then told me how much he loved me and wanted to save our marriage but for the moment he has forbade me to leave the house unless accompanied by one of his parents.

Do I have grounds for divorce because of what he has done to me?

I am still young enough to start again but don’t want to live with the fear of being seen as ungodly for seeking divorce or should I let him seek divorce based on irreconcilable differences, I have been much kinder to him since he disciplined me out of fear of it happening again which he has warned me it will if I step out of line and I don’t think he has any right to spank or whip me- he is not my father.”

My Response to Kathy’s dilemma

First let me say I can completely understand how exhausted you have felt after having 6 children in only 5 years of marriage. My first wife had our five children in 8 years and it was tough on her (and she was a stay at home mom too).

Your body does need recovery time between pregnancies while it is debatable how long that is in young women. I think it also depends on your mental situation and how you are feeling about having children.  My niece lost her first child (a daughter) a few days after she was born and wanted to get pregnant as fast she could again and ended up having another child just under a year later and both she and the baby did just fine.

As far as women having children back to back – that was actually very common not too long ago in decades past.  My father-in-law comes from a family of 13 children all from the same mother and I have worked with many Catholic people who came from families of 10 or more children.

I am not saying every woman has to have that many children, but I am saying that God has given women the ability to do that under the right circumstances.

What both Kathy and her husband have done wrong from a Biblical perspective

I think in order to answer your questions we first need to apply the three following Biblical principles to your situation:

Principle #1

Wives are to submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING

“24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

Principle #2

Husbands are to love their wives by protecting their wives and caring for their wives physical needs as they would their own bodies

“28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:”

Ephesians 5:28-29 (KJV)

Principle #3

Husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge

“7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

I Peter 3:7 (KJV)

God always starts with those under authority (like servants, slaves, children and wives) and then goes to those in authority (governors, pastors, fathers, husbands).

So first we have the Biblical principle that wives are to submit to their husbands in everything and yes I believe it was wrong for you to go out on your own and make that decision to take birth control. That is something that should first have discussed with your husband.  I know you might say that you already would have known his answer but going and doing it secretly was not right.

I do believe your husband from a Biblical perspective has the final say in all matters.  I also think you have to come to the realization that you allowed some bitterness to grow in your heart toward your husband because of his lack of considerateness toward you in regard to you getting pregnant.   So you have two areas to apologize for – one for being deceitful and going behind his back with the birth control pills and the other in holding bitterness towards him.  Yes he was wrong to (and I will get more into how he was wrong), but two wrongs never make a right.

Now let’s deal with what your husband did.

God calls husbands to love their wives as their own bodies and to dwell with their wives according to knowledge.  I do not believe your husband has been loving you as his own body by him not being considerate of your physical and mental condition as it relates to your pregnancies being so close together.  He should of as a loving husband being looking out for your physical and mental well-being which apparently he was not doing.  I am sure he honestly thinks he is but he is blind in this area to what is really going on.

Is wife spanking a sin?

Wife spanking in and of itself is not sinful but it could quickly become sinful if it is done under the wrong circumstances or done in an improper way.

The issue of whether a particular act of wife spanking is right or wrong hinges on the Biblical concept of free will and consent. Contrary to the views of my critics, I actually do believe that a husband should seek his wife’s consent on some things.

God’s respect for our free will and consent is clearly shown in this passage of Scripture:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

God does not force himself upon us but rather he knocks – and in his knocking he is asking for our consent to come in.  Now should we all give our consent to God and is there a consequence for us not giving our consent to God in this situation? Absolutely! The consequence of not consenting to God’s request to come into our lives is hell! But contrary to what some Christians believe, God never forces himself on us in this way – we must freely choose, we must consent to let him in.

In the same way husbands should learn from God’s example.  When it comes to our wife’s body and her very person she must give her consent before we touch her either in a sexual way or in a disciplining way.

For instance in the area of sex I do not believe a husband should ever force himself sexually on his wife but should only do so with her consent.  Now should the consent be given except for rare medical issues that would prevent any sexual contact? Absolutely it should be given.

Now this brings us into how a wife’s consent connects to wife spanking.  I regularly correspond with some Christian couples where the husband spanks his wife.  But in each case they talked about this before marriage and she agreed to this form of discipline.  She also freely consents to it again each time even after they were married and without this consent he will not spank her. These women feel that this is a powerful tool to bring them back into submission to their husbands.

Now other Christian women see this as dishonoring to them and a violation of the Biblical principle that a husband is to honor his wife:

“7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

I Peter 3:7 (KJV)

The question that everyone will be asking now is do I spank my wife or did I spank my ex-wife? The answer is no.  I personally have never spanked either my first wife or my second wife and it was not an issue of me asking for consent and it being declined.  It is a matter of my personal preference in regard to discipline methods.

In fact I have not even spanked my children once they reached the teen years. I personally feel this is the beginning of young adulthood and I understand how it might feel humiliating to them because of the culture we have all been raised in. There are plenty of other forms of non-physical discipline I can and have used.

The Bible tells us as fathers not to provoke our children to wrath and I believe forcing physical punishment on a young or pre-adult (which is technically what a teenager is) could very much be a case of “provoking your child to wrath”:

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

Colossians 3:21 (KJV)

But even if a Christian husband feels his wife is wrong in objecting to being spanked on the grounds of it being humiliating and dishonoring to her he cannot violate her consent to her body in this way.  Instead he will have to use other non-physical forms of discipline.

But isn’t wife spanking abusive?

Wife spanking is not automatically abusive. As I previously said if a wife consents to this type of physical discipline then there is no sin and there is no abuse. But even if she does not consent this does not automatically make wife spanking physical abuse but instead it may be a husband abusing his authority.

You might be scratching your head now so let me try and explain the distinction.

If a husband spanks his wife without her consent, but does not cause any serious or lasting damage to her body this is not physical abuse, but rather an abuse or misuse of his authority which is still sin. If a husband spanks his wife with or without her consent but in the process causes serious or lasting damage to her body then this would be both an abuse of his authority as well as the act of physically abusing his wife’s body.  If a man physically abuses his wife this is a clear violation of the Ephesians 5:29 principle that a man is to care for and protect his wife’s body as he does his own.

So what is the distinction between the discipline of a wife and child?

The next question that someone might ask is “if spanking is not automatically treating your wife as a child then what is?”

In many ways especially when it comes to the discipline of teenagers the discipline of a wife by her husband and the discipline of children by their father will often look similar.  But there are two key differences between the way discipline occurs between a parent and child and between a husband and his wife.

The first difference is honor.

“7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

I Peter 3:7 (KJV)

The Bible tells husbands in I Peter 3:7 that they are to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel”.  A husband must give proper honor to his wife’s position when disciplining her.   This means whenever possible a husband should not verbally, physically or in any other way discipline his wife in front of his children to whom she is also an authority.  He should discipline in her private wherever possible.  Now there may be some instances where public rebuke is called for by a husband toward his wife if she is publically disrespecting him or undermining his authority with their children.

The second difference is consent.

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

Proverbs 29:15 (KJV)

A parent does not need a child’s consent to physically discipline them. Children don’t get to make choices over their own bodies – parents make medical and all decisions regarding their children’s bodies except in the area of sexuality.  A parent has no right to touch their child in a sexual way – this is a sin before God.

A wife on the other hand must give consent to her husband for him to physically access her body either for sexual pleasure or for discipline and this is a key difference between the discipline of children and the discipline of a wife.

And now leaving the topic of discipline and specifically wife spanking let’s move on the topic of a husband forcing his wife to get pregnant.

Is a husband wrong for forcing his wife to get pregnant year after year?

Again we come back to consent.  In the same way a wife must consent to any physical contact including sexual or disciplinary contact she too must consent to getting pregnant. Should she consent? Just as with sexual relations I think in most normal cases she should.  But a husband must also love his wife as his own body and care for her physical and mental needs and not force her to get pregnant if this would not be mentally or physically healthy for her.

“He is not my father”

Kathy – I think you need to be careful with the attitude of “he is not my father”, I know where you are coming from because you think he is treating you like a child by grounding you and spanking you. But realize your husband actually has more Biblical authority over than your father because of his sexual access to your body.  I do think husbands can under certain circumstances take away certain privileges from their wives, but ultimately I don’t think a husband can keep his wife a prisoner in her home.   He could take away credit cards and access to money so there is little you can do when you go out.

I know it is a tough situation to be in with the pregnancies so close together and him expecting more children. But while I do see sinful behavior on his part in his neglecting to love you as his own body considering your mental and physical wellbeing with having so many children together I don’t see it as rising to the level of allowing for divorce.

And you really need to consider that you have five children that will grow up in a divorce situation.  I have been there.  I have five children and I had to divorce my wife for unfaithfulness (she had an affair with an ex-boyfriend) and I had to raise them in a divorce situation.  It is not easy. And don’t think second marriages are easy because they are not.  Your next husband may not ever spank you or ground you or want you to have kids every year but he will have other problems that won’t come out until after you are married.

However even though I think divorce is not warranted, I think separation might be.

Kathy – It is one thing if your husband is doing things that might upset you, but don’t affect you in such a personal way.  For instance maybe your husband gambles but he still provide food, clothing and shelter for you.  Maybe your husband looks at porn privately but never makes you watch it and he regularly has sex with you. Maybe he drinks too much, but he never drives drunk and he only drinks in his off hours at home. Maybe he is a workaholic.  You get my point.  These things affect you but none of these things have to do with your consent.

You husband Biblically speaking does not have to get your consent to do things for himself (whether they be right or wrong in your view).  Whether he works too much, looks at porn, drinks, or does a host of other things he does not have to have your consent in any of these matters.

However he DOES have to have your consent to your body and your person.  He cannot go against your consent in this way even though in many cases God requires that you give him your consent.

If your husband is making you have children every year that affects you and your body and mind in a very personal way.  If he is spanking you without your consent that type of discipline affects your body and mind in a very personal way.

It is because his behavior in these areas so profoundly affects you in these personal ways that you may need to show him that through separation.  If he fails to see that he must have your consent in these areas then perhaps he will just divorce you. I hope it does not come to that and that your husband will see the error of his ways.

If God does not force himself on us, but rather he knocks and asks for our consent how can we as Christian husbands think we have more power than God?

Does I Corinthians 7:4 contradict the concept that a wife must give her consent to her body?

Some of my fellow Christians to the right of me might say I Corinthians 7:4 contradicts my teaching here about husbands needing the consent of their wives in regard to their bodies.

“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” I Corinthians 7:4 (KJV)

I have used this verse often on this blog to show that the Bible say husbands and wives should not deny each other sexually.

However I Corinthians 7:4 does not remove consent either on the part of the husband or the wife. Let’s look at the larger context:

“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

I Corinthians 7:3-4 (KJV)

Notice that the word “consent” actually occurs in verse 5. But really in these three verses there are two types of consent. Verses 3 and 4 show a REQUIRED consent.  I know that seems like a contradiction but it really is not.

Let me show you why the concept of required consent is not a contraction. If a police officer pulls you over thinking you might be drunk driving you are required to give your consent to a breathalyzer test.   If you fail to consent to that the consequence of your failure to consent is that you get arrested and taken to jail.

In marriage yes a wife must give her consent to her husband for him to have sexual access to her body as she must get his consent to get access to his body.  But make no mistake this type of consent is required. Failure to give consent to sex over a long period of time may result in the injured spouse exercising their Biblical right to divorce for sexual denial – both men and women have this right.

The second type of consent where the word “consent” is actually used in verse 5 is talking about a mutual or optional consent as opposed to a required consent. A husband and wife must mutually agree to periods where they will not have sex for various reasons but then they need to come together again soon to avoid sexual temptation.

So in conclusion – no I Corinthians 7:4 does not cancel out the fact that a husband must have consent to his wife’s body especially in the areas of sex, discipline and her getting pregnant.

UPDATE: 8/21/2016

After reading my post on her dilemma with her husband Kathy wrote me back with this response:

“Thank you for your reply,

I have read your answer and you have made some very good points about areas I should look at. I guess taking birth control without discussing it was a bad move as the only reason I didn’t really want another child was not because I didn’t feel mentally or physically able but because I wanted control of the choice even though prior to our marriage we agreed we would not use any form of birth control and let nature decide.

We also agreed that I would be sexually available to my husband as required so he has never actually taken me without consent as he has never asked for permission.

I have never and would never refuse him but I have being grudging and unwelcoming to his advances.

I have found your advice excellent and I guess the spanking was a last resort for him as his words didn’t seem to be having the effect on me he wanted- he is a wonderful father to our children and excellent provider for us and he works so hard to ensure I don’t have to work or worry about finances which I’m sure would be very stressful if I had to worry about work and bills and such things.

I will pray on this situation and ask my husband for forgiveness for my disobedience and shameful behavior and I will thankfully and joyfully position myself under his rightful authority again as the head of our home and bedroom and hopefully this will return us to the peace and calm that reigned in the early years of our union.

Kind Regards

Kathy”

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Why the movie “Fireproof” offers unbiblical and BAD marriage advice

One of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage. Fireproof was released in September of 2008 and it became an instant hit in churches around the country. The “love dare” and many other books and marriage teaching materials spawned from this movie and some churches to this day still use this movie to teach advice about marriage.

Movie Synopsis

Fireproof features Kirk Cameron in the lead role as a firefighter named Caleb Holt. The movies shows right from the beginning a strained relationship between Caleb and his wife Catherine. He is short with her and she is disrespectful with him.  Eventually Catherine says she wants a divorce and they go through the divorce process during the movie. Caleb talks to his father who had become a Christian in recent years and his father tells him of marriage troubles his mother and he had.  He offers to send his son something that he wants him to try before he gives up on his marriage.

It must be pointed out that neither Caleb nor his wife Catherine are Christians at the beginning of this film.

Caleb receives a handwritten journal that is later referred to as “The Love Dare” and it gives Caleb 40 days where each day he must working on his marriage with most days asking him to do something kind for his wife.  In the middle of the movie when Caleb feels his efforts with the love dare are not working his father uses his failed efforts to bring him to Christ.  Then after becoming a Christian he redoubles his efforts despite his wife basically spitting in his face the entire movie only for her to accept him back at the end of the movie.  She becomes a Christian because of the change she saw in him and they renew their wedding vows as Christians.

So now we will dive into the problems that make “Fireproof” a movie that Bible believing Christians should reject.

The chain of events that lead to the breakdown of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

Most Christian reviewers of the movie as well as the people who produced the movie itself want your primary focus to be on Caleb’s wrong behavior and not Catherine’s. There is only one small scene in the movie where a Christian nurse confronts Catherine’s sinful emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital. Catherine’s behavior is seen simply as a wife’s natural reaction to a mean and self-centered husband and we are supposed to believe Caleb’s behavior came out of thin air.

Caleb says the problems started about a year earlier. So now I will present what I think were several problems that lead up to breakdown of their marriage based on several key statements made in the first two arguments of the movie.

Here is the chain of events that eventually lead Catherine to seek divorce from Caleb:

  1. A year earlier Catherine comes to Caleb asking for him to use part of his savings for his boat to pay for a new hospital bed and wheel chair for her disabled mother who is living in a nursing home and Caleb refuses to part with any money from his savings feeling that he works hard as a firefighter and after saving for years deserves to get his boat.
  2. Catherine reacts to his refusal by going to work full time as an administrator in a local hospital. Caleb tells her that if she is going to work full time then she will need to help pay the bills in the house while he will continue to pay the house payment and their two car payments.
  3. Catherine begins spending much more time with her mother on the weekends in addition to working full time and Caleb becomes frustrated by his wife’s neglect of him and her home.
  4. Caleb begins looking at porn at some point and Catherine starts sexually denying him and tells him that she won’t give him sex while he looks at that “smut” and she would not compete with it. She later tells him that he has lost all honor in her eyes because he looks at porn.
  5. Catherine’s bitterness toward Caleb over her feelings about him being selfish with his savings, his looking at porn and his not doing enough in helping with the affairs of the home leads to a very disrespectful attitude toward Caleb.
  6. As could be expected in any marriage that has experienced these types of issues there is also a complete breakdown of even the most basic communications between the couple.
  7. Caleb gets frustrated with Catherine’s disrespectful attitude and he finally let’s her have it. He yells at her in frustration and gets in her face telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she has been after she has spent several minutes smarting off to him.   She goes from being a defiant and disrespectful wife all of sudden to a fearful victim who begins to cry in fear.  She tells him “I want out” and thus begins Caleb’s and Catherine’s journey into divorce.

It must be noted that beside Catherine’s neglect of her home, her sexual denial of her husband and her highly disrespectful attitude toward him she compounds her sinful behavior by beginning an emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital where she works.

The sins that Caleb and Catherine each committed

Caleb acted selfishly in not wanting to part with any of his savings for his boat to care for the legitimate needs of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair.

Catherine began to grow bitter at Caleb for his selfishness with his savings and at the same time decides to put her mother’s care ahead of her duties to her home and her husband.

Catherine’s comment acknowledging she has been sexually denying her husband and that she would not “compete with that smut” (the porn he had been looking at) also reveals a sinful heart of pride on her part.  While much our current culture (including Christian Churches) teach that a man must have eyes only for his wife this concept is not supported by the Scriptures (see my post “10 Hard Truths Christian Wives must accept about their husbands and porn”).  Even if it were sinful for him to be looking at porn and it was required by God for him to focus all his sexual thoughts and energy on her it still would not be right for her to sexually deny him.

Could Caleb have helped more around the house with his wife working full time and helping to care for her mother on the weekends? Probably.  But there is an argument to be made that unless a husband asks his wife to work to help support the family and if she decides on her own that she needs/wants to work then he has no obligation to help her with the duties of the home.  In essence she as decided to pull “double duty” – to work outside the home while fully keeping up with her duties to the affairs of her home.

In either case it appears that Catherine has also been woefully neglectful of her home.   There is also another question regarding whether or not she should have been spending all those weekends with her mother at the nursing home.  Did they not have nurses to care for her mother?

Even though Caleb was not a Christian man he worked many hours as a firefighter and expected and had grown accustomed to his wife being the keeper of the affairs of the home. This is a natural instinctive expectation for any man in regard to his wife even without knowing anything about the Biblical commands for wives to occupy this role. Our society has tried to reprogram men to be “joint keepers of the home” with their wives but this reprogramming has still not taken affect with a lot of men. The refrigerator and cupboards being stocked, meals being made and his laundry being done were all things Caleb had come to expect from Catherine.  Then when she went to work that began to change.

I believe this change in Catherine’s neglect of her home was due to several factors.  She believed that since she had to work due to her husband’s selfishness with his money that she was no longer going to take care of all the affairs of the home.  He was going to have fend for himself – he deserved that for how he had been treating her.  She also decided that her mother’s needs were more important than her husband’s wishes. Even if she was right about all the wrong things he had done – her wrong behavior in reaction to her husband’s behavior caused a destructive spiral of sinful behavior in their marriage that eventually lead to their divorce proceedings.

Right behaviors that could have prevented the collapse of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

First Caleb could have realized the true need of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair and sacrificed his dream of a boat to help her mother’s real need. This would have strengthen her love for him. But rather than do what was right Caleb acted selfishly and refused to help her mother.

However, Catherine could have chosen to act to both preserve her marriage and at the same time help her mother at the same time.  She could have taken the difficult road of fully taking care of the needs of her home and working full time at the same time.  Would this be tiring for her? Absolutely.  But then she would have been fulfilling her duty to her home while at the same time helping her mother. Another thing to remember is Catherine and Caleb had no children so really Catherine’s duties to her home would not have been as burdensome as if they had children.

Caleb could have chosen to be more discreet about his porn use and least given his wife the perception that he was not looking at it anymore after she caught him the first time knowing how much it hurt her feelings.  He seems to be have had little regard for being discreet about his porn habit.

Catherine felt great emotional pain regarding her husband’s porn use as she felt she was to be center of all his sexual thoughts and that she should not have to compete with images or thoughts of any other women on the part of her husband. But even with her hurt she could have decided to act in a right way and not drive him to look at porn further and also increase his frustration toward her by sexually denying him.

Caleb tries to save his marriage

At first both Caleb and Catherine just want to pull the eject level because of hurts they each feel they have suffered at the hands of the other.  But then Caleb’s Dad convinces him to fight for 40 days to save his marriage using the love dare journal.

Caleb while not being a Christian yet out of respect for his father decides to give it a try. In the beginning he is doing these things expecting his wife to notice and then apologize for her behavior and they could make up and cancel the planned divorce.  But as he does each kind thing toward her she becomes more and more hostile instead believing his actions are not based on genuine changes she would like to see.

This is where we get into some unbiblical concepts and misapplied biblical concepts that are introduced by the love dare and Caleb’s father.

Fireproof confuses God’s unconditional love with God’s conditional affection

Many Christian men and women do not know that God has two kinds of love for us. There are certain actions God performs toward us that are completely based on God’s unconditional love for us. His salvation for us is chief among these actions and this passage is used in the movie to refer to God’s unconditional love:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

This passage is used as central theme in teaching Caleb to unconditionally love his wife.  Now should a man unconditionally love his wife? Absolutely.  That is what all men vow to do when they take a woman as their wife.

However when a man vows to unconditionally love his wife he is vowing to unconditionally provide for her, protect her, care for her when she sick, lead her, forgive her when she sins against him, show her kindness, teach her, discipline her and sacrifice himself for her.

When Caleb refused to take money out of his savings he was not sacrificing himself for his wife’s true needs as he should have.  When he became a Christian he realized what that meant to sacrifice himself for his wife and took the money out of his account and paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair.

But the Bible shows that God’s affection for us is in fact based upon our affection toward him:

“No, the Father himself loves you BECAUSE you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” – John 16:27 (NIV)

The word here in the original language for “love” is different than the word used in Romans 5:8 in regard to love.  This word could be translated as “affection” so it could read as this:

“No, the Father himself shows affection for you BECAUSE you have shown affection me and have believed that I came from God.”

See my post “Why doesn’t my husband love me anymore?” for more on this subject of unconditional love and conditional affection in regard to both God’s love for us as individuals, his love for Israel and a husband’s love for his wife.

Getting back to Fireproof – they teach that God only has one kind love and it is always unconditional. In the view of fireproof a husband is not only to unconditionally love his wife by providing her, protecting her and sacrificing himself for her but is also called to perform unconditional acts of affection toward her.

The message we get from Fireproof is that a man should do things like buy his wife flowers, make her romantic dinners, clean the house and a host of other acts of affection despite his wife’s continued sinful behavior including complete and utter disrespect, a generally critical and hostile spirit, neglect of her duties to the home, sexual denial and even an emotional affair.

The Biblical truth is that while God calls husbands to unconditionally love their wives he does not call them to unconditionally perform acts of affection toward them in spite of their rebellious and sinful behavior or to cause them to turn from their sinful behavior.

What did God do in the Old Testament when his wife acted in rebellion against him, disrespected him and she became unfaithful like Catherine did here in this story?

“41 They will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women. Then I will stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers. 42 So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord God, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.” – Ezekial 16:41-43 (NASB)

From Ezekiel and many other Old Testament passages we can see just how God handles a rebellious wife.  He brings her conduct on her head. He disciplines his wife.

Notice in this next passage from the book of Isaiah how God removes his blessing from Israel because of her rebellion:

““What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?

Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?

5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:

I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;

I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.

6 “I will lay it waste;

It will not be pruned or hoed,

But briars and thorns will come up.

I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” – Isaiah 5:4-8 (NASB)

God did not continue to bless Israel and do even more for her and perform unconditional acts of affection toward her while she was in her rebellion. God’s example as a husband to his wife Israel is in DIRECT contradiction to what Fireproof advices husband’s to do with a rebellious and unfaithful wife.

But didn’t God show that he would “allure” Israel back to him?

Often times Hosea and the prostitute God called him to marry are brought up to bolster Fireproof’s approach to the rebellious and unfaithful wife. But if you closely examine the story of Hosea you will see that God had Hosea take a prostitute as his wife who was later unfaithful to him and he took her back to show that AFTER Israel repents and turns from her wickedness God would remove his discipline and restore her blessings and her rightful place as his wife.

For more on the subject of a husband disciplining his wife see my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.

Fireproof does get it right about a husband confessing his sin to his wife

God calls husbands to confront sin both in themselves, their wives and their children. But before a husband can confront his wife’s sin he must confess his own and make it right.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Luke 6:42 (NIV)

Caleb did do this with his wife in the movie after he became a Christian. This is something the movie actually gets right.

I do though think it was silly in the movie that he paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair and he did not tell her about it. He could have used that as a powerful moment to let her know how sorry he was for being selfish with his money and that he had paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair to demonstrate his repentance.  It could have avoided prolonging their problems and if she would have never thought to ask who actually paid for it they may have continued with the divorce.

Fireproof teaches the false doctrine of “Happy Wife Happy Life”

During an exchange early in the movie before Caleb’s conversion he is talking about how is respected everywhere he goes except in his own home.  His fellow firefighter tells him that he has been there before his wife not feeling respected and it was a rough place to be. His friend tells Caleb that ultimately his marriage problems were not about his wife’s disrespectful attitude toward him but rather it was because of his mistreatment of her.

He offers this advice that he learned in marriage counseling “Your wife is like rose, if you treat her right she will bloom but if you don’t she wither and die”. This is the essence of “Happy Wife Happy Life” that is taught in both secular marriage counseling and sadly in most Christian marriage counseling in our society.

Today marriage counselors often say that most marriage problems come down to the husband’s treatment of his wife. If the husband would just love his wife as she desires to be loved and do whatever she wants their marriage will be great and in return she will love him and be the best wife to him.

But this is blatantly false.

God calls Christian husband’s to make their first concern to honor God with their lives and to model the relationship of God to his people in their marriages. In keeping with that primary goal of marriage husbands are called to sacrifice themselves not for their wife’s happiness – but rather for her holiness:

“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.” – Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

In most Christian churches when they teach on the sacrificial love that God calls Christian husband’s to emulate with their wives they stop abruptly at “gave himself up” but they never explain for what purpose a husband is to give himself up for his wife. The primary purpose of a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife is to make her holy not to make her happy.  In fact often times a husband will be called to make leadership decisions that his wife disagrees with but he believes are in the will of God.  This might make her unhappy. He might have to confront his wife for some sinful behavior she is doing and this will definitely make her unhappy.  But the goal is his wife’s holiness, not her happiness.

Now is it wrong for a husband to try and make his wife happy where he can? Of course not.  If what his wife is asking for would not conflict with what he believes God would have him do then by all means he should do it.  If a husband were presented with the same scenario with saving for some boat or other unnecessary thing and a true need arose for a close family member he should sacrifice his wants in these kinds of cases.

Now there is also the case of a selfish wife where is she is very demanding of her husband’s time and money on a regular basis and not for legitimate needs like a hospital bed and wheel chair for her mother.  Men need to be careful in these cases to not spoil their wives.

See my previous post entitled “Does the Bible teach “happy wife happy life”?” for more on this subject.

I have personally seen the damage that the Fireproof movie has caused in marriages

When Fireproof was released in September of 2008 I was in the midst of my divorce from my first wife. My story in many ways mirrored the story of Caleb but in some ways it was different.

First let me state the biggest difference is that my wife and I were both professing Christians and we both had attended church for most of our lives. When I say “professing” I don’t mean that I did not truly believe because I have truly believed in God since I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior at the age of seven years old.  But by “professing” I mean in my opinion I am not sure that my ex-wife was ever truly a genuine believer.  I cannot say for sure that she is not a Christian as only God knows that.  But the fact that she has rarely graced the door step of a church in years and the way she has lived her life since our divorce has not given me any cause to think her faith is genuine.

But the reasons for the breakdown in our marriage were similar in some ways to Caleb and Catherine and different in many other ways.

My first wife thought I worked two much – I worked a full time job and a part time job to support our big family with five children. Unlike Caleb though I was not tight with the money and pretty much anything my wife wanted she got if we had the funds. In fact in many ways I was too soft on her as she was an extremely lazy woman with a princess mentality.

Like Caleb I also had a habit of viewing pornography although it did not affect my desire for my wife in the least bit and for all of our marriage until the last year of it we had sex several times a week. At the time though and for most of my life I condemned myself on a regular basis for viewing porn and I ask God’s forgiveness and her forgiveness on a regular basis. After my divorce from my first wife God finally revealed to me that my self-condemnation for viewing porn was misplaced and that I could view some type’s porn guilt free as long as it did not lead to obsessive behavior or affect my desire for my future wife.

Now the reason that our sex life decreased rapidly in the last year of our marriage was not due to my porn habit or any decrease in desire on my part for my wife.  The decrease came because for the first time in our marriage she began to sexually deny me.  At first it was only a decrease in our relations and then eventually she started to flat out deny me.

What I eventually came to learn is that she had been having an affair with another man for the past year (which completely explained the change in our sex life). She cited my working too much and my history of viewing porn as her primary reasons for the affair. She felt that she should have been the only woman that I desired to see naked and she should have been the center of all my sexual focus and really my life’s focus.  She wanted to be number one in all areas of my life and she felt she did not occupy that position based on me putting so much into my job and my viewing porn.

I started attending a support group at a church for people facing the possibility of divorce or actually going through divorce. The director of that group was a huge fan of what was at the time new “Fireproof” approach to handling the wayward wife.

He actually told me that I needed to do what Caleb did in the movie and compete for my unfaithful wife. He convinced me for a time that my porn use was just as unfaithful to my wife as he being unfaithful to me with this man she had been sleeping with for the past year.  Many good Christian men have fallen for this false comparison as I once did.

I did what Caleb did and I apologized to my ex-wife in tears on my hands and knees.  I begged her to return to me and that I would treat her like the “jewel” she was if she would just give me another chance while I knew she was still seeing this other man.

For a time following this horrible Fireproof advice I was given I convinced myself that my ex-wife was not truly the lazy and the self-centered princess that she truly was.

But then I realized very quickly what this man from this church support group was saying was wrong and that I was trying to convince myself of a lie. Was I the perfect husband? Certainly not. Did I work too much at times and was I neglectful of her at times? Yes. But what I did certainly did not justify what she did.

Did God win back his unfaithful wife by performing acts of affection? No way! He brought down the house on Israel because of her sin. My ex-wife and other Christian men who had unfaithful wives saw their wives emboldened in their unfaithfulness by the example of the Fireproof movie.

It was their husband’s fault not theirs and their husband’s needed to win them back.  What heresy! What an utter and complete false teaching this is!

Yes the story of my first marriage did tragically end in divorce and with her quickly marrying the man whom she had the affair with.  It was interesting that not long after our divorce before I married my first wife she realized the mistake she made and this guy was not all he acted like he was and she wanted me to consider taking her back but of course there was no real repentance for what she had done. I told her NO WAY and even if I remained a single Dad for the rest of my life that would have been better than being with a wife like her that I could not trust.  About two months after that I met the women who would later become my future wife.

As I have written on this site in other places my second wife is a good Christian woman and she certainly has more character and is a far more trust worthy person than my first wife ever was. She truly loves my children and has been a great step mother to them.

But I came to realize that she was indeed a “rebound relationship” not long after we were married and I realized all the differences between us we had overlooked even while both being Christians with her feminist upbringing being a big red flag I overlooked.  But I have learned a lot from my first marriage and this second marriage has taught me a great deal as well.  We have our rough days and she and I both struggle with certain sins.  I still struggle with working too much at times as my wife will attest to. I have tried to carve out some time together and we try and schedule date nights (something I did not do in my first marriage).

But we do love one another and care for one another and we try to do our best to make it work despite there still being many conflicts of marriage philosophy in our marriage. And to answer the question everyone will ask in the comments – is my wife still a feminist? Yes but not as much as she was when were first married.  Over the years through our many discussions (some more gentle and others more heated) God has worked through me trying to teach her God’s Word on this subject and she is not the same person she was when we were first married.  But we still have a ways to go and sometimes my wife will have relapses and revert back to her old feminist attitudes and it gets tough during those days.

In my first marriage I never disciplined my wife and I did not confront her sinful behavior until the end of the marriage when it was too late. I provided for my family but I did not lead in all areas the way I should have. But in this marriage I have learned to stand up and lead and sometimes do the difficult task of confronting my wife’s sinful attitudes and behaviors while admitting I have some sinful habits and behaviors myself too.   It’s not that I don’t still struggle with disciplining my wife and my kids – because I certainly do – but at least now it’s happening.

Conclusion

We have demonstrated that one of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage.  God does NOT call us to enable sin to save our marriage.  Our faithfulness to God and his will and design for our life is the most important thing.  Some marriages cannot be saved due to unrepentant behavior on the part of one or both spouses.

Do I think Kirk Cameron and those who produced this movie had good intentions toward helping couples to save their marriages and stem the tied of divorce? Yes I do. I think Kirk Cameron is truly a man of faith and so are the people who produced this movie and they were sincere in the beliefs about what they thought love in Biblical marriage looks like. But sometimes Christians can be sincerely wrong.  Egalitarianism is evident even in the movies theme phrase “Never leave your partner behind”.  Despite modern misconceptions about what Christian marriage looks like the Bible never ever refers to marriage as a partnership.  It calls a wife a husband’s companion but never his partner.  Instead the Bible refers to marriage as a patriarchy.

Contrary to Fireproof’s motto “Never leave your partner behind” – God did in fact leave his wife Israel behind after he disciplined her and  she failed to repent of her rebellion and unfaithfulness toward him and then he divorced her.  He tells us in the New Testament that he has taken on a new wife in the form of the Church to make his first wife Israel jealous and one day Israel will repent and be restored as his wife in addition to the church.

I am surprised it took me so many years to write my feelings about this movie but now I am glad that I have.  I hope that Christians will realize that while there is some good in Fireproof the good DOES NOT outweigh the bad.  It completely distorts how God’s unconditional love works and neglects the discipline of God and his conditional affection.

7 Steps to Dealing with a Lazy Wife

You come home from work to find piled up dishes from dinner the night before. Clothes are everywhere and nothing in the house has seemed to move while you were gone – including your wife. Your wife says “Honey I don’t feel like cooking – how about you run and get us some takeout?” How does God want a Christian husband to deal with this situation? Is laziness something that God wants men to confront in their wives or do they need to leave this between their wife and God? Even if they think they should confront this how can a Christian man go about this?

Before we answer these questions from a Biblical perspective I want to share a real life story that I received in an email.  The man who sent me this story goes by the name of Tom.

Tom’s Story

“First off, Thank you so much for seeking to dispel so many paradigms through your thorough study of Scripture.  I’ve spent too many years halfheartedly trying to be a “spiritual leader” in my home, and finally I’m just stepping up to be THE head of my home (as Christ is my head in everything).

I’ve had my share of struggling times, and a couple of the most recent ones I’ve started writing you drafts on!  However, after I get fed up, things seem to turn around before I have the chance to finish.

I’d like to ask of your wisdom when it comes to achieving a well-managed home.  My wife has stayed at home for our marriage, aside from a couple of brief casual jobs, and a part time one that lasted a few months.  We got married as egalitarians I believe, and though both of our parents were fairly traditional (both our moms at home, dads working), they never taught us about egalitarianism or complementarianism.  I think we absorbed a lot MORE than our parents taught simply through church and the culture around us.

Our house is usually messy.  We’ve had periods of incredible organization and tidiness, but it doesn’t seem to last.  I’ve gotten grief from believing / hoping that one day it could be habit for dishes to be cleaned up after a meal, rather than later in the day, or the next day.

My wife has made me some amazing meals, and gone to great lengths a few times to do so.  But more often, some frozen piece of food will be taken out and warmed up (starting at “supper time”) when there is fresh food in the fridge.  I’ve had to learn to shut up and get out of the kitchen more – I enjoy food, and when I have the time I’m willing to cook it.

Today was my “day off”, and my wife was booked away for lunch (a small job we agreed on).  As I’m ordering my kids around to unload/load the dishwasher, set the table, and help out a bit I started to get angry.  Cleaning a day or two of dishes so that I have space simply to make some noodle soup (my wife neither asked me to cook nor provided an idea/plan).   The last 2 days I’ve worked (while with kids for a couple hours) in my home office, and at a regular job.  I bought us a takeout meal on Friday, and cooked part of the meal yesterday.

My whole marriage I’ve resisted complaining, so though we’ve had arguments I’ve never gone to someone else to ask “is this normal”, or “can I not expect more in my marriage”, etc.  When we talk she gets grumpy, or complains that I’m micromanaging her, or if she sees that I really am getting fed up by something specific, she’ll say “Fine.” and go do it with an emotional cloud that I’m positive even the kids can feel in the room.  I come home, or come up from my home office and have to remind her about things that still haven’t been done – it makes me feel like a housewife; except I’m also working pretty full time.  When business is slow I will take a little time off, relax a bit, but also help tidy or put things away, cook, etc.

So many stupid little details that I’m sorry to bother you with, but the backlash I get from talking to her about any expectations is almost as wearying as living in this mess, and wishing I just had time to relax, to play with my kids (rather than stepping in when I can tell they’ve had no attention, few boundaries, or TV/tablets for much of the day). “

We’ve had bigger issues before, and got through them.  We have some great sex, some incredible days together.  But when it’s time to get back to work, I feel we should both work (me in my career, her in our home).  Then we can play together, rather than working in the house together to catch up by the time my work begins again.

After reading the manosphere, I’ve come to realize that idealism and self-awareness is something I’ve naturally pursued, and the fact that she doesn’t seem to pursue it (at least in her role as I do in my role) seems naturally “female”.

For the sake of my sanity, of my love for my children, and desire to have space & peace at home, what can I do?

We do have so much positive, but I’m tired of getting angry at home.

We’ve only ever had one full time income, so she’s noted (many times) that she doesn’t have a “budget” for much furniture (we may buy a few small pieces, or one large piece per year), or other home things.

I had to prioritize my business, and she wanted to start a family, which we began in our first year.  We love our kids, but definitely live simply.

I know you’ve mentioned discipline, but as we don’t have much discretionary income, it’s hard for me to see how I can withhold anything from her.  Family allowance etc. goes straight to her (which is good, she has become better at managing it).  It’s like my personal authority has its limits, and positional authority is better known than mentioned!”

My response to Tom and other men who face the issue of laziness in their wives

While both genders struggle with all types of sins including laziness there are some sins that are more prominent in one gender over the other.  For instance men often struggle with having a lack of empathy, grace and mercy in their personal relationships including their relationships with their wives and children. But on the other hand, one of the greatest struggles for many women is the struggle against the sin of laziness.

The reason for this is because women can often times allow themselves to be completely controlled by their emotions.  For many women if they feel like doing something then they do it and if they don’t feel like doing something then they don’t do it whereas most men are creatures of duty so whether they feel like doing something or not men will do their duty.

So if it could be said that men could learn or thing or two about empathy from women it could equally be said that women could learn a thing or two about duty from men.

Does a Christian husband have the authority to confront his wife’s laziness?

Imagine that your son or daughter left their bed a mess and left toys and clothes all over their room. Would you go in and make their bed and clean up their clothes and toys? If you did this would this be showing your child kindness, empathy, grace and mercy? I think we could answer this question with a resounding “no”.

Why? Because if we go and clean up their room we are not teaching them that it is THEIR responsibility to clean their room. We are in essence enabling the sin of laziness in our children when we allow them to keep their rooms messy.

But somehow our modern culture has a different standard when it comes to a woman keeping her home which is something the Bible clearly commands:

“4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” – Titus 2:4-6 (KJV)

“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” – I Timothy 5:14 (KJV)

Today we make excuses for women that we would never allow with our children to make when it comes to their chores. If a man complains about his wife being lazy a list of excuses and possible reasons for her not doing her duty are given.

We are told today that all of sudden in the age of dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, conventional ovens,  microwaves, refrigerators, electric irons and all of the other household tools women have at their disposal that they simply can no longer do the things women have been doing for thousands of years even now that they have these tools.

I wonder how many women would complain that they just “can’t do it all” if they were taken to some third world country with no electricity and they had do everything by hand. The fact is women today are spoiled and you know whose fault it is? It is the same person’s fault if a family has spoiled children – it is our fault men!

The Bible says “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23) and Christ tells us regarding his churches that “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).

It is true that some leaders only have the power to influence those who follow their leadership but they have no authority to discipline those who follow them. Some falsely claim this how a husband leads his wife – by influence only.  But this is contrary to Biblical teaching. A husband is not only his wife’s leader but he is also her authority and she is subject to him in all things.

Consider these Scriptural teachings on the subjection of wives to their husbands:

“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives…

5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” – I Peter 1:1 & 5-6 (KJV)

God’s Word is clear that he has established men not only as leaders of their wives but also as authorities over their wives and with all authority comes the power to discipline those who are under that authority. A husband has the authority to discipline his wife and his wife’s submission is NOT voluntarily but rather a husband can and should compel his wife’s submission.  For more on the subject of the Christian duty of husbands to discipline their wives see these posts “Should a Christian husband make his wife submit?” and “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife“.

So when it comes to laziness or other sinful behaviors by your wife, you as a Christian husband have not only the power but the responsibility to discipline your wife. In fact the act of a man disciplining his wife is a sacrifice on his part in much the same it is a sacrifice for a parent to discipline their child. No loving parent enjoys disciplining their child and no loving husband enjoys disciplining his wife.

The sacrifice of disciplining your wife

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” – Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

Many Pastors, teachers and Christian women point to Ephesians 5:25’s phrase “and gave himself for it” as a way to dismantle everything the Bible tells wives about submission.  We are often told in churches across America “Sure women are told to submit to their husbands but men are told to sacrifice themselves for their wives”.  But this is only telling half the story.

What all these Pastors, teachers and women neglect is what it means for a husband to give himself for his wife.  This is explained in the next two verses:

26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:26-27 (KJV)

A man is to sacrifice himself for his wife’s holiness and not to enable her sinful behavior. If a wife is acting lazy or selfish in some way a husband is not to enable this sin by doing what she should be doing or giving her aid where no aid is truly needed.

Men let’s be honest. Sometimes we just pick up after our kids because we want to avoid a confrontation and we don’t want to disturb the peace of the house at that moment. In the same way and really to a greater extent we “pick up” after our wives for the same reasons.

We come home from work and see the house in disrepair and when our wife asks that question about getting takeout we take the easy way out – we say yes and we go get it.  But what have we taught our wife in this situation? We have enabled her laziness and taught her it is ok to neglect her duties to her home when she does not feel like it.

Your wife’s laziness sets a bad example for your children

If your children see their mother leaving her house in disrepair what example does it set for them? There is a saying about how children learn things from their parents. With children things are often more “caught than taught”. What that means is if you say one thing and do another most likely your children will do what you do and not what you tell them they should do.

So in the case of allowing your wife’s laziness to go unchecked there are two things that you are teaching your children no matter what you say to them otherwise.  In the short term you are teaching them to leave their room a mess and not pick up after themselves.  Why? Because mom does keep up the house why should they keep up their room?

Think about how hilarious the following scenario is and it occurs in homes all across America each and every day. A mother yells at her children “your rooms are a mess – go and pick up your clothes and put your toys away” while right behind her as she says this there is a sink full of dishes that has sat there for two days and a laundry room with a pile of clothes that stands as tall as her children.

But there are even worse long term influences from allowing unchecked laziness in your wife to continue. We must remember as Christian parents that we are raising other people’s spouses.

If you don’t confront your wife’s laziness then you are teaching your sons that they should not confront their future wife’s laziness if that were to occur.  If you come home and constantly bail your wife out of her responsibilities by getting takeout or cooking yourself or doing the laundry you are teaching your son that it ok for them to enable sin in their future wives instead of confronting it.

If you don’t confront your wife’s laziness then you are teaching your daughters that it is ok for them to be lazy wives too. A lot of women follow the pattern of their mother.  So it is up to you to confront this laziness in your wife so that your daughter can see that the way her mother has been neglectful of her duties is NOT an example that God wants her to emulate.

Disability is not the same as laziness

Now I need to stop here and give the obvious exceptions. If your wife is sick or somehow physically unable to keep up with the affairs of the home then this is not a matter of laziness on her part but rather the inability to do these things.  In this case God has called us as husbands to lovingly step in and aid our wives.

For instance in the weeks before a woman gives birth she may be bedridden or she may be bedridden for weeks after giving birth or after other surgeries.  Of course in these instances we as loving husbands need to step in and render aid wherever it is needed.

My wife was in a very bad car accident 3 years ago that left her permanently disabled. She suffers from PTSD, depression and anxiety in addition to chronic pain as a result of that accident. She cannot physically do everything she used to do. So I have no problem as her husband stepping in and helping wherever that help is needed.

I have been asked to write on being a “caretaker spouse” by many Christians who deal with this situation and I plan on doing that very soon. But I will just say that even if we as husbands have a disabled wife – it is our duty as husbands to both help them and also push them to do what they can be reasonably expected to do.

For example – my wife for some time did not do much in the months that followed her car accident and that was completely understandable.  In the beginning I did not want her lifting a thing.  But as the months progressed and we got into a year from the car accident after physical therapy her doctors said that her lying around all the time was not good for her.  She needed to get up and move around and even force herself to engage in some light housework where she could even while enduring some pain.

I had to push her and sometimes we got into fights about it. But it needed to be done for the benefit of her spiritual and physical condition and the benefit of our home. Overtime as I saw she was able to do more I pushed her more. This is a tricky area when dealing with a disabled wife – but even in this case God wants us as husbands to exhort our wives to do whatever their best is in their current condition.

Grace and mercy should always accompany discipline

Guys – remember what I said about what we struggle with verses what our wives struggle with? Sure your wife might struggle with laziness but perhaps you may be struggling with grace and mercy. You truly need to look at the pattern of your wife’s behavior to know for sure how you should handle the situation.

Ask yourself this question – is it the norm for your house to be in disrepair or do you eat out every other day of the week because your wife does not want to cook?  Or are these things the exception? If they are the exception then you probably should consider showing your wife some grace and mercy during these rare times and give the woman a break.

Now that we have discussed the fact that husbands not only have the right but also the duty to discipline their wives for laziness now let’s discuss some practical steps men can take to accomplish this.

7 Steps to dealing with a lazy wife

Step 1 – Know beforehand that this will hurt her

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6 (KJV)

Very few women if any will take it well when their husband tells them he believes they have been lazy and neglectful in their duties to their home. But it must be said.  This is the sacrifice of discipline that you must make as a husband.

Step 2 – Speak the truth in love

“14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” – Ephesians 4:14-15 (KJV)

The “L” word is not a swear word. In some Christian circles a man saying his wife is acting “lazy” is akin to him calling her a cuss word.  The KJV uses two words for laziness – one is “slothfulness” and the other is “idleness”:

“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” – Ecclesiastes 10:18 (KJV)

So yes speak the truth in love – but speak the truth.  If it walks like a duck and acts likes duck – it’s a duck. In fact the Bible says that a godly wife is NOT a lazy wife:

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27 (KJV)

There is no sugar coating this gentlemen – if a wife is not keeping up with duties of her household she is being lazy and she must be called out on this.

I think that initially you should try and handle this in private with your wife away from your children and with most other issues.  But at a future point if she continues in this sin of laziness it will become evident to the children that mom is doing something wrong.  I will talk about this more later.

Step 3 – Make the consequences for her laziness clear

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

At first give her a warning. But let her know that if you come home and see the house is a mess, laundry is not done, the home is not clean or dinners are not being prepared there will be consequences for her laziness.

I have talked in more detail about how men can discipline their wives in my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.

Step 4 – Follow through on disciplinary consequences if she fails to change her ways

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12:11 (KJV)

If you thought confronting your wife about her laziness was the hardest part you would be wrong.  Following through on the consequences you promised will be the most difficult part.  But remember why Christ sacrificed himself? It was to make his bride holy and so to you must do this to try and yield the fruit of righteousness in your wife’s life.

Step 5 – Attempt private discipline first

Once you have examined “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” you will notice that most of these methods could be instituted in a way that does not draw attention to your wife from your children.  I would suggest you try these kinds of private discipline first.

One method of private discipline that I added as an update to “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” is using your time as a husband as a method of discipline.  This is especially important to men in Tom’s situation where finances are tight. Many women value their husband’s time more than almost anything else.  A man can use discretion with how much of his free time that he allocates to his wife as one method of discipline.

Step 6- Move to more public discipline if private discipline does not work

An example of public discipline would be turning off the internet or cable in your home. Perhaps you might lock these things out with a code only you know. If you need the internet for work or children need it for school you could put the new code only in your computer and theirs and not your wives so she will have no access while others can still use it.  If you have to do this to shake your wife from her laziness this will get the attention of your children as it affects them.

Contrary to what some Christian teachers may teach – you do not have shield your children from your correction and discipline of your wife especially if she puts you in the position to have to do things that are more publicly visible to the rest of the family.

Some might say that this type of discipline undermines a mother’s authority in the eyes of her children and dishonors her before them in direct contradiction to I Peter 3:7’s admonition for men to honor their wives. But this could not be further from the truth.

The mother has dishonored herself by placing her husband in the position to have to elevate his discipline of her from private to public. Matthew 18:15-17 teaches us this principle that first correction is to be attempted privately but if the person remains in unrepentance their sin is to be made public.  Wives and mothers are not an exception to principle.

Step 7 – If she spurns your discipline then bring her before the Church

“…How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;” Proverbs 5:12 (KJV)

An now we come to the most public form of discipline a man might have to bring against his wife.

As husbands we have a duty to discipline our wives for sinful behavior. But whether it comes to our wives or our children there is only so much that we can do to discipline them and try and get them on the right path. If they despise our discipline and rebel then we must leave them in the Lord’s hands.

It is only when we have exhausted what we can do and if they continue in steadfast rebellion against our attempts to discipline them that we then should bring them before the church (Matthew 18:15-17).

But again they may not even listen to the church.

We must face the fact that discipline does not always yield the results that we want for those we love that are under our authority and spiritual care. But discipline requires two active parties for it to be successful. It requires the authority to perform the discipline and it requires the one under authority to learn from the discipline and change their way.

However, even if the wife does not learn from the discipline and change her ways this does not mean removing the disciplinary measures.  Once all measures have been taken those measures should stay in place until repentance is made.

How will things get done around the house while her laziness continues?

This is a very practical question and one we must carefully consider.  The laundry is not going to do itself, the dishes are not going to clean themselves and the meals are not going to make themselves.

The way you would handle this if you have no children and have plenty of money and the way you would handle this if you have children and little money are going to be very different.

If you have money then as a form of discipline you should have confiscated your wife’s credit cards and not given her weekly money. Hire someone to come in and help with the laundry and house work.  As far as meals go out to dinner by yourself and do not take your wife.  Make sure there are is some food for her in the house as that is something you are required to supply her with as her husband.  But it does not have to be fancy food.  Make her eat sandwiches.

If you don’t have money and especially if you have children then you won’t be able to hire a house keeper and you won’t be able to eat out.

Wash your clothes and wash your children’s clothes but purposefully leave your wife’s clothes for her to wash.  When you make dinner for you and your children do not make your wife a plate and be sure to discard any extra food at the end so she will be forced to make her own meal.

What if my wife works outside the home?

If you both work outside the home then the dynamics of who does what around the house may be slightly different. But it is still possible for a wife to be lazy in regard to her duties to her home even if she works outside the home.

The first question you need to answer is – did you approve of and agree to your wife working outside the home? If you did then you may need to pitch in and help out with things around the house.  But even in helping out your wife still needs to care for her home.

If you did not approve of this and she did this on her own against your wishes then she is responsible for all of the domestic duties of the home. You do not have to aid her going against your wishes by doing half the house work while she works outside the home against your wishes.

I find it interesting how many women point to Proverbs 31’s virtuous wife planting a field and selling clothing she has made in the market as proof that God is OK with women choosing to have careers outside the home. I have discussed why this does NOT in fact show a career woman in my post “Can a woman work outside the home?” What they miss is this woman did those things outside the home and then came home and did EVERYTHING inside the home.  Her husband came home to find a house where everything was in order.

Conclusion

These methods may seem harsh but really they are not – they are necessary.  Remember that your wife has brought this on herself and if you love her it will grieve you to have to do these things.

The sin of laziness is a serious sin before God – we as husbands must treat it as such even with our wives whom we love.

“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” – II Thessalonians 3:10 (KJV)