Many Christian teachers teach that husbands and wives should be equally accountable to one another. We are told that neither the husband nor the wife should keep any information back from one another and that this complete transparency is the foundation for a healthy Christian marriage.
Before we get into the Scriptural arguments that proponents of this teaching make, we need to define what it means to be accountable.
Merriam-Webster.com defines “accountable” as “required to explain actions or decisions to someone”.
Dictionary.com defines “accountable” as “subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable”.
Now that we understand what accountable means we can discuss whether the doctrine of equal accountability between husbands and wives is founded in the teaching of the Bible or just the teachings of our culture.
The Husband and Wife are One Flesh
Christian teachers who teach equal accountability between a husband and wife base their doctrine on the following principle that God says a husband and wife are one flesh in marriage:
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.” – Mark 10:7-8
So, the argument basically goes like this. If a husband and wife are no longer two, but one, then there should be nothing that one knows that the other does not.
The problem with this interpretation of the “one flesh” principle is that the oneness between a husband and wife is not a oneness of equals.
The Scriptures tell us that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and Church:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:22-24
Are Christ and his Church equals? Absolutely not. One leads and one follows.
Is Christ accountable to his Church? Is Christ required to explain his actions or decisions to his Church? Absolutely not. Does he sometimes explain his actions? Yes, but he is not required to do so.
Is Christ answerable to his Church? Must he justify whatever he does to his Church? The answer again is absolutely not.
The language of Ephesians chapter five on the position of the husband to the wife is crystal clear. There is no gray area here. The husband is the head of the wife “AS” Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore, the husband is not in any way accountable to his wife even though he and his wife are one as the Church is one with Christ.
Does Responsibility Always Equal Accountability?
Does this mean a husband does not have any responsibilities toward his wife? Of course, he does!
After God addresses the duty of the wife to submit to her husband in everything, he addresses the responsibilities of the husband toward his wife:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” – Ephesians 5:25-29
There are several kinds of love in the Bible. There is an affectionate kind of love that is usually conditionally based upon what a person does for another. There is a family type of love that is instinctual which describes the love of a parent for a child or a child for a parent. There is a type of love that is sexually based. And then there is a love based in a choice and not feelings. This last kind of love is the one that is the strongest type of love and it is most often associated with God and his actions toward us. This is the kind of love God commands husbands to have toward their wives in Ephesians chapter 5.
Husbands are called by God to choose to love their wives by washing their wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God (teaching, correcting and rebuking them as necessary), they are to provide for their wife’s physical needs, protect their wife’s body as if it were their own and give their lives to save their wife’s life as Christ did for his Church.
But just because we have responsibilities toward someone does not always mean we are accountable to that person for how we fulfill those responsibilities.
For instance, a teacher is responsible to their students for teaching them the right materials they need to learn. But they are not accountable to their students for fulfilling those responsibilities, but rather their school leadership.
Another example would be parents. Parents have many responsibilities toward their children, yet they are not accountable to their children for how they fulfill those responsibilities.
But sometimes we are accountable to the person that we have responsibilities toward. We as both men and women have many responsibilities toward God and we are also accountable to him for how we fulfill those responsibilities. But women are also accountable to their husbands for how they fulfill their responsibilities to them as wives and mothers to their children.
Men and Women Were Created Unequal for a Specific Purpose
If a husband and wife were equal partners in marriage, like two equal partners in a business together then yes, they would be required to be completely transparent and there could be no secrets. All decisions would need to be made jointly and agreed upon together.
That is what the world, and sadly many Christian churches and teachers teach today – that marriage is an equal partnership between a man and a woman.
But the Scriptures are clear in multiple passages throughout the Old and New Testaments that marriage is not a partnership of equals, but rather it is a patriarchy or male lead relationship. And God did not just flip a coin as some people think “because someone had to be in charge”.
The Scriptures show us that marriage was purposefully designed the way it was as part of God’s larger plan shown in I Corinthians 11:
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” – I Corinthians 11:7-9
The passage above from I Corinthians that I have just shown you is one that you will not hear in most Churches today. Instead you will hear all the time how God made man and woman equally in his image.
Most Christian teachers today appeal to the Genesis account to teach that God made man and woman equally in his image:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” – Genesis 1:27
They teach “See it says male and female created he them. That means God created both man and woman equally in his image”. But is that really what that passage teaches? Does it say God created male and female in his image or does it just say that God created male and female? Read the passage again.
And while the Hebrew word for man (“adam”) can be mean mankind there are two reasons that we know it refers specifically to male human beings and not all mankind (men and women). The first reason is the key phrase “created he him” and this refers particularly to Adam, the man, the male. Therefore, we know that when it says he created man in his image, it is referring specifically to male human beings, not female human beings. The second reason we know he was not referring to creating both men and women equally in his image is because of Paul’s divine commentary from I Corinthians 11 that we have just mentioned. It clearly states that man is “the image and glory of God” and then uses “but” indicating that woman is NOT the image and glory of God. Woman is “the glory of man”.
So, it is NOT Scripturally accurate to say that men and women are equally created in God’s image or that God split his image between men and women.
And there is a reason man is created in God’s image and woman is not. Man was created by God to image him, or live out his attributes, and thereby bring him glory. Woman was created by God for man to help man in is primary mission to image God. It is not woman’s mission to image God, but rather it is her mission to help man in his mission to image God.
Man could not fully image God without being a husband and father. Therefore, God had to make woman to be his wife and the mother of his children. It really is that simple. A woman who fights to be equal with a man or one who is offended because she is not equal to a man is a woman who has a problem with God’s plan for her life.
The American Egalitarian Lie
I realize what I have just said here is extremely offensive to our culture’s modern egalitarian views. We are taught in America that everyone is equal and that men and women should have equal rights. And by extension we are taught that marriage is a partnership of equals where all actions and decisions must be discussed and agreed upon because men and women are equal.
The vast majority of Churches and Christian teachers have bowed to our egalitarian culture and in the process many Christian books and articles have been published over the last half century trying to make the Bible fit an egalitarian worldview. The primary passage that Christian egalitarians use to teach this view is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
Christian egalitarians use Galatians 3:28 to cancel out the rest of the Bible in regard to gender roles. It really is a very faulty interpretation of the Bible. Christian Egalitarians ask us to believe the ridiculous notion that somehow Paul changed his mind about what he wrote in Ephesians 5:22-31 and he just canceled it all out with Galatians 3:28.
And we are also supposed to believe that the Apostle Peter did not get the memo from Paul because he wrote in I Peter 3:1-6 that women were to be in subjection to their husbands and show respectful fear to their husbands and follow Sarah’s example who obeyed her husband and called him lord.
This is why I have maintained for years that you have throw the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy out the door to be a Christian Egalitarian. There are not mistakes and no contradictions in the Bible. And the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures.
I Corinthians 11:1-6 is speaking about the purposes for which God created man and woman and man’s primary mission to image God. That is why men are not to wear a head covering for worship and prayer and women are. That is also why God is always referred to in the Bible in the masculine sense as husband, father and son. It is why Christ had 12 male Apostles. It is why the priests in Israel had to be male.
Ephesians 5:22-31 and I Peter 3:1-7 are speaking to gender roles in marriage as part of God’s larger plan for man to image God and woman to picture the people of God in her submission and service to her husband.
And finally, Galatians 3:28 has absolutely nothing to do with gender roles in this world or marriage. It is speaking to the subject of salvation! The Apostle Paul was saying men and women, Jews and Greeks, slaves and freemen could all be saved and be a part of the body of Christ.
But Accountability Keeps Us Out of Sin!
Some would argue that even though the husband does not have to be accountable to his wife, because he is her head as Christ is the head of the Church, that he still should be accountable to her to keep from sinning.
I think accountability partners are a great thing to have in our spiritual life. I have several of them where we confess to one another when we fail and try to encourage one another in in our walk with God.
The Scriptures give us the following admonitions that I believe support the concept of having accountability partners.
Accountability Partners Sharpen Our Character and Make us Better Christians
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” – Proverbs 27:17
Accountability Partners Give Us Someone to Confess Our Fault To
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” – James 5:16
Accountability Partners Keep Our Secrets
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” – Proverbs 11:13
Accountability Partners Tell Us When We Are Wrong
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6
Accountability Partners Encourage Us to Keep Doing What is Right
“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
So, yes accountability partners are a great thing for us all to have as Christians. But that then leads us to our next point.
Why A Husband Should NOT Make His Wife His Accountability Partner
So, after reading all of the previous passages you might be asking “Why should a man’s wife not be one of his accountability partners?”
There really are two reasons.
The first reason is that it undermines his authority by making him spiritually accountable to his subordinate. The reason a husband should not have his wife as an accountability partner is same reason a Pastor should not have one his members be his accountability partner. Accountability partners should ALWAYS be equals, and never subordinates.
The second reason a husband should not have his wife as an accountability partner is because of the simple fact that she is a woman. Men and women are different. We have very different spiritual struggles and very different natures. A man cannot fully comprehend or understand the spiritual struggles of a woman nor can a woman fully comprehend the spiritual struggles of a man.
That is why the Scriptures even encourage gender segregated spiritual mentoring:
“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.” – Titus 2:1-6
So, again Accountability partners are great. But wives should not be accountability partners for their husbands because they are their husband’s subordinate and because they are women and cannot fully relate to the spiritual struggles of a man.
Why Women Want to Know Everything About Their Husbands
The Bible talks about women wanting to know everything about the people around them (which would include their husbands) and how they can get into trouble with this part of their nature:
“And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” – 1 Timothy 5:13-14
And just as marriage helps to keep couples from fornication (I Corinthians 7:2-5) so too we are told that marriage is the answer to keeping women from being tattlers, busy bodies and speaking things they ought not to.
Women need men to keep them in line.
To say such a thing today would be called “sexist”. But this is what God’s Word says. It almost makes you think that maybe, just maybe our post feminist world has it all wrong and the old “sexist” world while not being perfect was far more closely aligned to God’s Word than ours is today.
In fact, the very first sin woman committed had to do with her seeking out knowledge that was forbidden to her (Genesis 3:6). But it is not just a woman’s lust for knowledge, but also her lust for power that drives her to make her husband accountable to her.
In the Genesis account we read the following:
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” – Genesis 3:16
And God’s statement to Eve mirrors what he said to Cain:
“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” – Genesis 4:7
So, as we can see, in the same way that Cain’s sin nature desired to control him, but he had to rule over it, so too a woman’s sinful nature causes her to try to control her husband, but he must rule over her.
Wives, It is Not for You to Know
How many TV shows have you seen where a woman breaks up with a man for keeping something a secret? And I don’t mean him cheating with another woman. I mean any secret. Women in our post-feminist culture have been taught that they can expect their men to tell them everything. Anything held back by the man from the woman is considered a breach of trust and could possibly end the relationship.
For Christian wives reading this – what would your reaction be if you asked your husband to read his email and he said “it is not for you to know”. What if you asked him for his password for his phone or social media accounts and he said “it is not for you to know”. If you are like most American women you would be infuriated. Because you have been brought up in a culture that teaches you that you are an equal partner with your husband in your marriage and you entitled to know everything he knows and everything about him.
What if your husband decided to lock you out of the bank and manage the finances completely on his own? Most American women would completely rebel. But do you know who says to his wife “it is not for you to know”?
“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” – Acts 1:7
That’s right. It was Jesus Christ himself.
It is utterly amazing to me how many modern Christian teachers grab Ephesians 5:25’s statement “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” and then the just fill in whatever they think what that love means.
Modern Christian teachers teach that Jesus was a husband that lived to make his wife happy. But the Bible teaches that Jesus was a husband that lived to make his wife holy (Ephesians 5:26-27).
Modern Christian teachers teach that Jesus was a husband who never corrected his wife or tried to change her. But the Bible teaches us that Christ washes his wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God to make her the wife he wants her to be (Ephesians 5:26-27). It also teaches us that he rebukes and chastens his wife out love for her (Revelation 3:19).
Modern Christian teachers teach Jesus was a husband who was completely transparent with his wife and held nothing back from her. But the Bible teaches us that Christ does indeed hold things back from his wife and tells her there are things that are not for her to know (Acts 1:7).
Christian wives – I know a lot of the Scriptures and information I have given you here might be new to you. It might even be offensive to you. But it is what the Word of God teaches.
You will find absolutely no Scriptural support for a lot of what you hear and read today in Christian circles that basically teaches partnership marriage. Sadly, some Christian groups pretend that they teach male headship only to gut it making the man nothing more than a figure head leader.
This is not about a power trip. This is not about men hating on you as a woman or trying to make your life miserable. It is about God’s design.
So, what you need to do is follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul when he wrote:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:2
You need to renew your mind. You need to unlearn the feminist and egalitarian teachings you grew up with in school and church and maybe even in your own family. That is tough process. It won’t be easy and it will take time. But if you yield to the Holy Spirit you can do it with his help.
Also, before I conclude with the men, I want to clarify something for you ladies on the subject of accountability partners. While I think it is great and valuable for women to mentor and be accountability partners with other women it needs to be the right kind of women. It needs to be a spiritual woman who will not contradict your husband’s spiritual leadership. In addition, you are still accountable to your husband as well because he is your spiritual head.
In practical terms, that means if your husband wants to know your passwords for your phone, email and social media accounts you must give it to him but he does not and I would argue should not give this same information to you. Why? Because as I said before he is your authority and you are his subordinate. He is responsible for monitoring and if necessary, correcting your behavior, but you do not have that same right and responsibility toward him.
Also, if you want to find out what it really means to be one flesh with your husband and how to have unity in your marriage see my article “Why unity in marriage has more to do with the wife than the husband”.
Now to Christian men.
I advise you to follow Paul’s admonition below:
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB)
The Bible does not just call you to be a figure head leader as some churches teach today, but it tells you that you are to be “One that ruleth well his own house” (I Timothy 3:4). You are to be a ruler, not just a leader.
Do not undermine your spiritual authority by making yourself accountable to your wife. Make yourself accountable to other good Christian men, but not your wife. But realize at the end of the day the one you are truly accountable to is Christ who is your head (I Corinthians 11:3).
You are the head of your wife as Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). Your wife is not spiritually accountable for you to God, but rather you are spiritually accountable for her to God. You are tasked with teaching her (1 Corinthians 14:35) and washing her spiritual spots and blemishes with the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25-27).
And I encourage you to read Romans 12:2 as well and seek the renewal of your mind through the help of the Holy Spirit. You must unlearn what our American culture has raised you with and replace that with the truth of God’s Word. This is the only way you can truly fulfill your mission as a man to image God with your life and thereby bring him glory.