Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

What a crazy question right? Of course, we all know the answer is NO the Bible does not allow a man to spank his wife. Case closed. This is the typical way that many moral questions are answered today by Christians without them even cracking open their Bible. Wife spanking might be wrong – but if it is wrong we must prove that by looking to the Word of God and not to our feelings or our culture.

The Bible tells us:

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 (KJV)

So, we are told that we are not to be conformed to what our world or our culture thinks is right but rather we are to renew our minds according to what God thinks is right.  But then how do we know what the will of God is? How do we know what is moral by God’s standards?

“10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:10-12 (KJV)

“4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4 (KJV)

The answer to the question of knowing what is the will of God is to look to his Word found in the Bible.  We need to be as the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily for the truth of God’s Word and once we find that truth we need to apply it to our lives no matter if it conflicts with our cultural upbringing or not.

What does the Bible say about Wife Spanking?

The Bible does not specifically speak to the situation of wife spanking and some believe because this is the case then wife spanking is forbidden.

But we must be careful when we come to the Bible and it does not address a specific case of behavior with either a positive example or a command.  In these cases where we do not have a situation specifically addressed we must be careful of two extremes.  One is the extreme that we can do anything we want if it is not specifically addressed and the other is if it is not specifically addressed than we cannot do it. Both extremes are wrong.

Instead we must look for general principles the Bible does teach that we can then apply to specific situations the Bible may not speak to.

For instance, the Bible does not say anything about phone sex and web cam sex.  So, would we say it is ok for a man’s wife to have virtual sex through a web cam or phone with another man because the Bible does not address this specific situation? Of course not.

Instead we would look to this general truth taught in the book of Hebrews:

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Hebrews 13:4(KJV)

God only honors and allows sexual relations between a man and woman within the covenant of marriage.  We don’t have to physically touch one another to sexually relate to one another.  We can sexually relate to one through things like web cams, phones, texting and emailing as well.  Any type of sexual relation that is not that of a man and woman within the covenant of marriage is not honored by God, but rather it is condemned.

Another area the Bible does not specifically speak to is physical abuse in the family.  We don’t see the Bible specifically condemning men punching their wives or children in the face but we have this condemnation of masters toward their male and female slaves:

“26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.”

Exodus 21:26-27 (KJV)

How would a person get their tooth knocked out or their eye permanently damaged? In most cases it would be their master either punching them in the face or shoving them to the ground where they knocked their head on something causing the injuring.  This tells us God does not approve of punching and shoving as acts of discipline.

So, while this passage in Exodus 21:26-27 does not specifically speak to marriage we can apply this as a general truth to marriage and the family.  If God condemns masters doing these things to their slaves then he certainly condemns husbands and fathers doing these things to their wives and children who have more rights under God’s law than slaves.

Now we need to apply this same method of searching the Scriptures to this area of wife spanking.

Two Biblical Principles That Allow for Wife Spanking

While the Bible does not specifically speak to wife spanking (either specifically allowing it or specifically condemning it) we must ask the question “Are there general principles of the Scriptures that would speak to this issue?” The answer is YES.

Principle #1 – Husbands Have a Right and Responsibility to Discipline their Wives

The Bible tells us that husbands are the head of their wives “as Christ is the head of the Church”:

“23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)

Not only are husbands the head of their wives as Christ is the head of the Church but God created marriage to model the relationship of Christ to his Church.  Husbands are to model Christ’s headship over his Church by loving their wives as Christ loves the Church.  One of the primary ways in which Christ loves his Church is in his spiritual washing of her:

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 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 5:25-27 (KJV)

This spiritual washing by Christ of the spots and wrinkles of his Church is discipline.  Christ alludes to this same concept in the book of Revelation after rebuking his seven Churches:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

So, it is clear from the Scriptures that if a husband is modeling the relationship of Christ to his Church with his wife he has not only the right, but also the responsibility of spiritual disciplining his wife.

Principle #2 – God Allows Physical Punishment As A Form Of Discipline

The Bible tells us that God approves physical punishment as a form of discipline in the following passages:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)

“13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Proverbs 23:13-14 (KJV)

“If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.”

Deuteronomy 25:1-3 (KJV)

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Proverbs 19:29 (KJV)

“A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.”

Proverbs 26:3 (KJV)

As we can see from these passages of the Scripture – not only is physical discipline approved by God for children but it is also approved by God for adults.

When we take these two Biblical principles together we see that God has given men both the right and responsibility to discipline their wives and God approves of physical discipline for adults.  Therefore, we can rightly conclude from these two Biblical truths that God allows men to spank their wives.

Objections to Wife Spanking

The primary objection to wife spanking is that such an action infantilizes women, or in other words it treats women as children.  I receive comments like this one I did today all the time:

“Women are no more sinful than men, no less intelligent and shouldn’t be treated like naughty children. If a husband has authority to discipline his wife than a wife should have authority to discipline her husband. They should treat each other with love and fairness. Both are adults; none is a lesser being. A marriage should be a loving partnership.”

There are several false presuppositions in the statement above.

Spanking no more infantilizes a woman than a speeding ticket from a police officer infantilizes a man. Adults can and do discipline other adults all the time.

But some will answer my police officer giving a ticket analogy with “a speeding ticket is a piece of paper and the officer is not bending you over his knee and spanking you”.  The reason for this kind of answer is because in our modern culture we look on any type of physical punishment with disdain.  We think physical punishment, especially toward adults is “uncivilized”.  But such thinking is at odds with the Bible.

Another problem we have is that we think wives are immune from discipline in the home because our culture teaches the false ideology of partnership marriage. Discipline in the home we are told is strictly reserved for children.  So it is easy to understand with these false beliefs about physical punishment and discipline how many people might think wife spanking infantilizes women.

However, the Bible makes it clear in passages like Ephesians 5:22-33 and I Peter 3:1-7 that marriage is not a “partnership” but rather a patriarchy.  It does not get any clearer than “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23).

The fact that “both are adults; none is a lesser being” or in other words that both husbands and wives are fully mature human beings is irrelevant.

Does it matter that at my job my boss is an adult and I am adult? The fact is the owner of my company who is an adult has put my boss whose is an adult in charge of me an adult.  It does not even mean that my boss is necessarily smarter than me.  It does not mean I am less of a human being than my boss but rather it means I have a lesser POSITION than my boss.

And the fact is that the Bible is clear that as Christ is the head of the Church so too God the owner of humanity has put male human beings in charge of female human beings in marriage.  It really is that simple.

I also agree that “Women are no more sinful than men” but that is not why God has placed men in charge of women.  Read I Corinthians 11:1-16 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Really read it.  These passages show it was no accident and it was not because of sin or God just rolling some cosmic dice that he placed men over women in marriage.  These passages show that God created women and the institution of marriage to help men fully image God as husbands and fathers.

Conclusion

God made man to image him and by doing so bring him glory (I Corinthians 11:7).  In order to help man fully image God’s attributes as a husband and father he created woman and by extension marriage for man (I Corinthians 7:9).  God created marriage to create a model of the relationship of God to his people and in the New Testament era of Christ to his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Just as Christ loved his Church by giving himself up for her to wash her spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God so too husbands are called to wash their wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles, in others words they are called to discipline their wives (Ephesians 5:25-27 & Revelation 3:19).

No Scriptural principle or command forbids a man from using physical discipline as method of discipline with his wife. In fact, the Scriptures show God allows physical punishment of adults as a form of discipline in Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Proverbs 19:29 and Proverbs 26:3.

I have received many emails over the years from Christian women who willingly allow their husbands to use spanking as a form of discipline. What they have in common is that they have told me this is a humbling experience for them and reminds them of two things.  It reminds them of their position before their husband that God has placed them in.  It also reminds them that their husband truly loves them as Christ said of his Churches in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

I know a lot of other women who truly believe in Biblical gender roles and try very much to submit to their husband’s leadership and even non-physical discipline.  But they struggle with this concept of wife spanking because in our modern culture spanking is only associated with children so they believe it is a husband treating his wife as his child instead of his wife.

I would encourage such women to reconsider these thoughts and not conform their thinking to the culture they have been raised in.  I would encourage these Christian women to renew their minds according to the Word of God.

A Word of Caution to Christian Men Regarding Wife Spanking

But I want to close this with some words of caution on this subject of wife spanking.

Am I saying a man can do anything he wants to his wife and call it physical discipline? Absolutely not! See my article on “What Does The Bible Say About Abuse?” for more on that subject.

But even if wife spanking is not practiced in an abusive way we as Christian husbands need to exercise caution in this area. I have stated multiple times in this article that the Scriptures show that husbands have that right and responsibility to discipline their wives.  But as in many other areas in life there is more than one way to skin a cat.  The Bible does not command men that the only way they may discipline their wives is through spanking.

We as Christian husbands who are trying to being faithful to God by fully exercising Biblical gender roles need to realize there is a great persecution going on against God’s design of gender roles and those who would exercise them.  I believe that because of the “present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26), in other words the persecution of those who would fully exercise all their rights under the doctrines of Biblical gender roles, that we should do as Paul did and forgo exercising some of those rights (1 Corinthians 9:1-15).

I am not in any way saying we as Christian husbands should forego exercising our spiritual headship over our wives including disciplining them. In fact, if we don’t discipline our wives in one way or the other we are failing to image Christ in his relationship with his Church.  Christ does not leave his church uncorrected or undisciplined and neither should we as husbands leave our wives uncorrected or undisciplined.  But there are non-physical ways that we can discipline our wives.  See my article “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” for non-physical ways that you can still exercise this right and responsibility as a Christian husband.

I think in this area of wife spanking that we as Christian husbands need to heed Christ’s admonition in Matthew 10:16 to be wise as serpents.  While we do not need our wife’s consent to spank her anymore than we need her consent to discipline in her in any other way we need to realize that the wicked culture we live in is completely hostile to the teachings and exercise of Biblical gender roles. If you were to try and physically force your wife to receive a spanking you may accidentally cause serious harm to her in the process of forcing her to receive a spanking. Even if you can physically force her to receive a spanking without bringing any harm to her the fact remains under our legal system you could be arrested and brought up on charges if she were to report you.

So, my final word on this subject is this.  Wife spanking is within the rights that God has granted to a husband as his wife’s spiritual head.  I would never condemn any man for engaging in wife spanking as long as he did not engage in truly abusive physical behavior toward her.  If wife spanking is done in a loving and controlled manner as all discipline should be done then this is holy and righteous before God.

Note: This article has been completely rewritten as of February 18, 2018 from it original posting on September 20, 2016.  Because of this I have removed the previous comments and invite new comments on this updated version of the article.

Do Christian wives have to submit to Bondage and Sadomasochism requests from their husbands?

“My husband has begun to practice your “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” plan on me because I will not participate in the BDSM activities that he desires. I want to have sex with him! Just not with BDSM.” – This is part of an email I received from a Christian wife who calls herself Olivia.

So is refusal to participate in BDSM activities as a form of sexual foreplay the same as sexually denying one’s spouse?

What is BDSM?

This is the definition of BDSM according to Wikipedia:

“The term BDSM is first recorded in a Usenet posting from 1991, and is interpreted as a combination of the abbreviations B/D (Bondage and Discipline), D/s (Dominance and submission), and S/M (Sadism and Masochism).”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM

This is another definition of Bondage from Wikipedia:

“Bondage is the practice of consentually tying, binding, or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic, and/or somatosensory stimulation. Rope, cuffs, bondage tape, self-adhering bandage, or other restraints may be used for this purpose.

Bondage itself does not necessarily imply sadomasochism. Bondage may be used as an end into itself, as in the case of rope bondage and breast bondage. It may also be used as a part of sex or in conjunction with other BDSM activities. The letter “B” in the acronym “BDSM” comes from the word “bondage”. Sexuality and erotica are an important aspect in bondage, but are often not the end in itself. Aesthetics also plays an important role in bondage.

A common reason for the active partner to tie up their partner is so both may gain pleasure from the restrained partner’s submission and the feeling of the temporary transfer of control and power. For sadomasochistic people, bondage is often used as a means to an end, where the restrained partner is more accessible to other sadomasochistic behaviour. However, bondage can also be used for its own sake. The restrained partner can derive tactile pleasure from the feeling of helplessness and immobility, and the active partner can derive visual pleasure and satisfaction from seeing their partner tied up.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bondage_(BDSM)

So in summary BDSM is when one person consensually allows themselves to be tied up and possibly punished by another person and may even endure physical pain either for their own pleasure or for someone else’s pleasure. BDSM may or may not be used as foreplay for sex.

Before I give my response to Olivia’s dilemma here is her full statement to me.

Olivia’s Story

“BGR,

My husband has begun to practice your “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” plan on me because I will not participate in the BDSM activities that he desires. I want to have sex with him! Just not with BDSM. He says my unwillingness to submit to BDSM practices is a form of sexual denial and I’m not fulfilling my Christian duty if I don’t do this for him. We have been married for 18 years. I have followed his desires and tried to even initiate sex for all our 18 years of marriage. I even tried the BDSM stuff a few times to see if I could do it. I hate it! Every possible scenario. Sex doesn’t happen until he has finished “the game”. I’m done!

I want a normal (whatever that is) sex life. No more “games”. Just us in the bedroom with nothing but skin. Mad passionate sex! Yank each other’s clothes off, can’t wait to touch you, sex – which has never happened. I’m going through menopause, he says I don’t have any sexual desires right now. I do, it’s just not what he wants. I have prayed, cried out to God for wisdom, we went to marriage counseling, nothing has changed. And now he sends me links to your site and gives me the ultimatum.

He says his “needs” aren’t being met and I’m sexually unavailable for him. I’ve already gone through the steps you have given on what to do. Talked with our pastor (with him), counseling, confront him, pray. I’m not an outspoken kind of person, just someone who is trying to save” her marriage. He is a good man, he has some control issues, but most of his actions are from a Godly heart. Any help would be great.”

My Response to Olivia and the issue of BDSM as it relates to Christians

Requests for BDSM come not only from some husbands as is the case in Olivia’s story, but sometimes they actually come from Christian wives too.  I know of a Christian man whose wife left if him for another man because he refused to practice BDSM as sexual foreplay.  She wanted to be tied up and gagged with a ball in her mouth and she wanted to act out rape fantasies with him. She wanted him to be rough with her and choke her during sex.  He thought this was disgusting and refused to act out these fantasies with her.  So she found another man who would and eventually left her husband for that man.

So how should a Christian husband or wife respond to requests for BDSM from their spouse? I believe the answers are clear when we understand the Biblical associations of bondage and pain.

Christians should not seek pleasure through bondage and pain

The Bible associates bondage and pain with this world that has been corrupted with sin.

“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

Romans 8:21 (KJV)

“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”

Galatians 4:9 (KJV)

“To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16 (NASB)

No Christian ought to take pleasure from being bound or binding someone else. No Christian out to take pleasure from causing themselves pain or causing pain to others.

Christians should embrace liberty and healing

Rather than seeking enjoyment through bondage and pain, Christians should seek freedom and healing both for themselves and those around them.

“18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4:18-19 (KJV)

 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (KJV)

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Galatians 5:21 (KJV)

What about fluffy handcuffs and silk ties?

When I talk about Christians not submitting themselves to bondage for sexual pleasure I am not talking about a wife playfully taking some clothes and tying her own hands around the bedpost or using fluffy handcuffs that she can easily get out of it.  These are playful things.  Just check out those links above and you will see the disgusting types of bondage activities I am talking about (warning some images on Wikipedia regarding BDSM are graphic).

What if my spouse refuses to have sex with me without BDSM?

I am not sure but I believe this may be the case with Olivia. If your spouse refuses to have sex unless you engage in BDSM foreplay then it is they who are in fact sexually denying you.  If this is the case and you are a husband I suggest you follow the steps outlined in my article “8 Steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal”.  If you are a wife and this is the case then I suggest you follow the steps outlined in my article “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal”.

Get counseling for people who have BDSM fetishes

If your spouse is willing to –encourage them to seek out a good Biblical Christian counselor who can help them overcome these sinful desires.  In many ways people who have BDSM desires are really no different than those who have homosexual or bisexual desires.  These desires are all sinful corruptions of the natures that God gave us.

“If you don’t think wife’s can refuse sex to their husbands you must be into BDSM!”

I can’t tell you how many times I have been accused in emails of being a person who enjoys BDSM with my wife because of my view that a wife cannot sexually refuse her husband. Let me be perfectly clear.  I have never nor will I ever engage in BDSM practices with my wife.

People write me on almost a daily basis with statements like “Why would any man want to have sex with a woman who does not want to have sex with him?” My answer to them is simple – no normal man wants his wife to be refusing him for sex.  No normal man enjoys sex with his wife when she does it grudgingly in the way he enjoys it when she gives herself freely to him. But he realizes that sex must occur in marriage for many reasons even when his wife may not be in the mood.  This is not the optimal situation and this is not what a loving husband wants.

But let me be clear that a husband accepting his wife’s grudging and reluctant consent to sex and then engaging in sex with her under those conditions is not the same as a man who takes pleasure in forcing BDSM activities on his wife. 

In the first case – the husband gets no pleasure from acting against his wife’s will, in the second case the majority of the husband’s pleasure actually comes from acting against his wife’s will.

And just for all the rape accusers out there.  When I say a husband “acting against his wife’s will” I am talking about her mood and desire for sex.  I have said it repeatedly on this site that while I do not believe that Biblically speaking there is such a thing as “marital rape” I do believe that a husband who physically forces himself sexually on his wife is engaging in physical abuse and he is abusing the authority God have given him over his wife.  When I say a husband is “acting against his wife’s will” in the first case – it is where she reluctantly or grudgingly gives CONSENT to sexual relations, but make no mistake consent is given.

And sorry rape accusers – consent does not have to be “enthusiastic consent” or its rape as you like to say.   Grownups realize that whether it is comes to sex, or going to our jobs or doing many other things in life – sometimes we consent do doing things unenthusiastically because we know we should even though we don’t feel like it.

Conclusion

If your spouse tries to do what Oliva’s husband has done and attempts to say you are sexually denying them because you refuse to participate in BDSM activities as foreplay to sex you need to let them know your conviction that these acts violate your conscious and you feel that God would not want you as a Christian participating in them. Be sure to be loving when you do this.  Especially if you are a wife you need to really do this with a great deal of respect and reference for your husband.

What Olivia so longs for with her husband – “Just us in the bedroom with nothing but skin. Mad passionate sex! Yank each other’s clothes off, can’t wait to touch you, sex” is a desire that has been given to her by God and she should feel no shame in that. Her husband on the other hand, needs to realize that his desires for BDSM foreplay with his wife are not desires that God gave him.  They are a corruption of the original nature God gave him and he needs to recognize them as such and repent.  He most likely needs to seek out a Biblical Christian counselor to help him to deal with these sinful desires to cultivate a natural sexual desire for his wife as she has natural sexual desire for him.

If her husband refuses to have sex with her until she agrees to BDSM as foreplay to sex then she practice the steps outlined in my article “4 Steps to confronting your husband’s sexual refusal”.

And just a closing note to husbands like Olivia’s. Never on this site have I ever told men they can divorce their wives for sexual performance issues – only sexual denial.  Those are completely different things.  I have men all the time writing me asking me things like “If my wife won’t perform oral sex on me can I divorce her for sexual refusal” and I always answer them with a resounding NO!

Many men and women may lack in the sexual performance area but just because your spouse won’t perform sexual acts (outside of intercourse) does not mean you can leave them.  You need to first examine if what you are asking for is Biblically acceptable sexual behavior. If it is then speak with them gently about it.  If they refuse then pray for them.

In other words as Christian husbands we should NOT punish our wives because they won’t do certain things like wear lingerie, act in sexy ways toward us or perform oral sex on us.  

However I do believe that we can use positive reinforcement to encourage our wives to act outside their comfort zones in the area of sexual performance.  Basically you let your wife see by your actions (not your words) that when she “steps it up” in the bedroom by doing things outside her comfort zone that in response you “step it up” outside the bedroom by doing extra nice things for her.

7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife

Biblically speaking all those who are under various authorities can and should be disciplined by those authorities. The husband wife relationship is no exception to this rule. So how should a Christian husband go about his duty of disciplining his wife whom God has placed under his authority? This is a question that we will seek to answer here.

When we hear the word discipline in the context of wives this can be a scary term for many. It invokes images of husbands beating their wives and knocking them around or locking them in closets. It might invoke images of husbands standing over their wives yelling and screaming at them and using all kinds of obscenities. This is not the type of discipline that we are talking about in a Biblical context. Men who behave in such ways will answer to God for this abusive treatment of their wives.

Arguments against the discipline of wives by their husbands

Before we can get into how to discipline your wife as a Christian husband we need to address the arguments against any form of discipline by husbands toward their wives.

Argument #1 A Partner cannot discipline their other partner

The first and most common argument against Christian husband’s disciplining their wives is the belief that a husband and wife are equal partners in marriage. The Bible does not show marriage as a partnership, but rather a Patriarchy (male lead hierarchy). See my post “Is Marriage a Partnership or a Patriarchy?” for all the Scriptures that present marriage as a Patriarchy and not a partnership.

Argument #2 Discipline infantilizes a wife

Some would argue that if a man disciplines his wife in any way that this is treating her (an adult) as a child. This could not be further from the truth. The discipline of a wife is certainly different than that of a child and we will discuss that later in this post.

But discipline is something that applies to adults as well as children. Governments have the power to discipline their adult citizens, military commanders have the ability to discipline adults under their command, Churches have the power to discipline their adult members, and employers have the right to discipline their adult employees. Discipline applies to all of us as adults – both men and women.

No one would argue against discipline in these other spheres of authority or say that it infantilizes these adults.   Certainly there is also the potential to abuse one’s authority and discipline in wrong ways, but the exercise of discipline itself is not wrong, only the abuse of it is.

Argument #3 A wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary, therefore he cannot discipline her

Even some Christian complementarians and others who believe in male headship in marriage reject the husband’s right and responsibility to discipline his wife. They do so based on their belief that while a wife is commanded by God to submit to her husband, this is a voluntary submission on her part and cannot be compelled from her husband.

So in their reasoning if a husband cannot compel his wife’s submission, he cannot discipline her for failure to submit to his leadership. I have shown how the Scriptures refute the idea that a wife’s submission is voluntary but rather they show that her submission is mandatory and synonymous with obedience. See my previous post “Should a Christian husband make his wife submit?” for more on this subject.

Argument #4 Christ does not discipline his bride

Some Christians, both complementarians and egalitarians, have attempted to argue that since we have no examples of Christ disciplining his bride (which is the Church) that husbands ought not to discipline their wives. This is actually not true.

Throughout the Scriptures God pictures his relationship with his people in two primary ways. The Bible pictures our relationship with God as individuals as that of a Father and his children. The Bible pictures God’s relationship with his people as a group as that of a husband and a wife with God being the husband and the people of God being his wife.

In the Old Testament God made a covenant with and married Israel as a nation (Ezekiel 16:1-14). Later he shows he had to divorce Israel because she failed to repent of her wicked ways and return to him (Jeremiah 3:8) despite the discipline that he had brought on Israel.

In the New Testament God has a new bride which is foretold in the Old Testament prophecies. But the Church (which a new body compromised of the remnant of Israel and Gentile believers) is pictured as bride that is betrothed to her husband which is Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 11:2). The marriage and consummation of the Church with Christ is seen in the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelation 19:9.

Even as a betrothed bride, Christ disciplined his Church through his Apostles who acted as the protector and guides of his bride.

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” – II Corinthians 11:2 (NIV)

“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?” – I Corinthians 4:21 (NIV)

When speaking to his seven churches in Revelation (chapters 2 & 3) Christ rebukes and disciplines all but one because of their failings and Christ says this to his churches:

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (NIV)

So my point in all this is – Those who say God does not discipline his bride are ignoring passages of Scripture that show both in his previous marriage to Israel as well as his current betrothal to the Church that he in fact does discipline his bride.

My position on wife spanking

While I do not support all the methods prescribed by Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD) movement (a group that advocates for wife spanking and other physical discipline toward wives) I do not think wife spanking by itself is sinful.  I believe it requires the consent of the wife though to use that type of discipline.  I do not practice this myself and no it is not because my wife did not consent.  I never asked to do this and I never would – this is my preference.  But I do know some godly Christian couples that use this in their marriage with the wife’s consent.  I have written an entire article on this subject that you can read “Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

Different Types of Discipline for Different Spheres of Authority

The discipline from each authority that God has established looks very different. The types of discipline that a government can bring on its citizens looks very different than the discipline that church authorities can bring on their members. The discipline of an employer toward his employees looks very different than the discipline of parents toward their children. In the same way a husband’s discipline toward his wife will look different that the discipline used in these other spheres of authority.

But what all these spheres of authority have in common is this:

In every sphere of authority God has established that the authority has not only the right, but the duty to discipline those under their authority.

Discipline makes us a better person

The Bible has a lot to say about discipline. These are just a few of those passages.

“Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” – Proverbs 10:17 (NIV)

“Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” – Proverbs 13:18 (NIV)

“Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” – Proverbs 15:32 (NIV)

Discipline should be measured

“I am with you and will save you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’” – Jeremiah 30:11 (NIV)

As husbands our discipline should always start off gently and then move toward harder forms of discipline. So for instance, if your wife rarely speaks in a disrespectful or demeaning tone to you then if she slips up gently let her know that her tone was demeaning or disrespectful. If she apologizes then no further action is needed.

But what if your wife is acting defiant or publicly speaks disrespectfully toward you as her husband? In this case a Christian husband may be compelled to use harder forms of discipline.

Discipline is about holiness

Christ did not sacrifice himself for his bride (the Church) in order for her to follow her own selfish ways, but rather he sacrificed himself to make her holy.

“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)

As we previously mentioned God says this to his churches in Revelation:

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelation 3:19 (NIV)

No man who truly loves his wife takes pleasure in disciplining her. We as Christian’s husbands naturally want to see our wives happy we don’t want to rock the boat needlessly. This is why discipline on the part of a husband toward his wife if he is truly acting in love is a sacrifice on his part. It saddens him to have to take these measures with his wife whom he loves.

Discipline is about maintaining Order

I think the comparison of the family structure to military ranks is both Biblical as hupotasso (the Biblical term for submission in marriage) is a military term and it helps us to understand the discipline in the home as well.

God is like our General (4 star). In the home the husband would be like a Lieutenant General (3 star), and the wife would be like a Major General (2 star). The children would be the enlisted men. Imagine that a 4 star General came along and saw a 2 star General publically degrading her 3 star General in front of other officers or the enlisted men. What do you think the response would be from that 4 star General?

That 4 star General would first scold the 2 star General for her disrespect and then he would probably scold the 3 star General for allowing the disrespect to go on. It is the same with God as he looks at the relationships of husbands and wives.

He has given us different positions and we are to exercise and play out those parts he has given us. As a Christian husband you cannot allow your wife’s demeaning or disrespectful behavior to go unchecked because it is an affront to God’s established order. You are responsible for teaching both your wife and your children the ways of God. You are equally responsible for disciplining your wife and children when they rebel against God’s ways.

So now that we have addressed the arguments against a Christian husband disciplining his wife as well as the intended purpose of a husband disciplining his wife we can now look at practical examples of how a Christian husband can discipline his wife.

7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife

Discipline toward your wife should always start with the gentlest approach first and only move toward harder forms of discipline if the gentle approach does not yield results. Warnings should always be given before harder types of discipline are implemented. You should always pray and seek the Lord’s guidance before bringing these types of discipline on his wife.

Here are 7 ways you can discipline your wife if a gentle rebuke does not work:

#1 For Disrespect

If your wife is speaking in disrespectful and demeaning ways in public in front of others (whether this is toward you or others) this might require a public rebuke of her tone and actions.

#2 For Overspending

If your wife is spending money against your wishes – this may require confiscation of her credit cards and ATM cards. Of course this can be done in measured amounts. Perhaps you might just take away one or two cards that she has abused and if her spending continues to get out of control you would move toward removing the ATM card as well. This does not necessarily mean she would have no money, but you could give her a cash allowance each week.

#3 For failing to care for your children or contradicting your authority with your children

If your wife is failing to do her duties as a mother toward your children or she is continuing to contradict your authority with the children then perhaps you might put off buying that new car for her and have her continue driving her older car for a while as long as it is safe for her to drive. If you have to purchase another car – you could downgrade the type of car she will be able to get or buy her a used one instead. Maybe you put off the purchase of that new dishwasher she has been wanting.

#4 For too much TV watching

If your wife is watching too much TV you could cancel the cable or satellite TV and just have antenna service.

#5 For too much online time

If your wife is spending too much time online (like Facebook or other social outlets or online shopping) then if she does not respond to your warnings about this you could change your internet code on your router so that her devices will not have access to the internet.

#6 For neglect of the home

Maybe your wife is not watching too much TV or spending too much time online but she is still neglectful toward her duties in your home. If your wife is being neglectful of her duties to care for your home then you might put off that new living room furniture set you have been talking about or those new window dressings she has been wanting.

#7 For sexual denial

If your wife is un-submissive in the sexual arena and chronically denies your sexual advances (without legitimate medical or psychological reasons for doing so) then perhaps that upcoming trip you were going to take her on gets canceled. Maybe that wardrobe upgrade your wife was looking forward to gets downsized or canceled. The Bible says a man has to supply his wife with clothing, but it does not say it has to be the expensive clothing she wants!

Some of these disciplinary procedures may affect the family as a whole, but sometimes it is necessary to do this in an attempt to bring your wife to repentance.

These are just some examples of non-abusive ways that a Christian husband can discipline his wife in a way that honors God and his design for the home.

Conclusion

God not only give husbands the power to discipline their wives, but he also gives them to the duty to do this. Men should not discipline their wives out some sort of power trip or prideful arrogance. Instead men should discipline their wives from a place of love in order to bring about holiness and order in their homes. Even if a wife rejects her husband’s discipline as Israel did God as her husband – he should still discipline her and pray that God will bring his wife to repentance.

Update 10/20/2015

Answers to readers questions

What if a wife works and makes her own money or even makes more money than her husband?

Many have emailed and asked me “What if a wife works and makes her own money or even makes more money than her husband – wouldn’t that take the teeth out of most of these types of discipline?”

Discipline is not about controlling someone and physically forcing a person to do a certain thing. Discipline is about trying to motivate someone to choose to do the right thing.  I have teenage sons and they are both bigger than me now. I gave up trying to physically make them do anything many years ago.

Now I discipline them through very similar discipline to that which I could use with my wife.  I take away their laptops sometimes for a few days, other times I take away their cell phones for a few days.  Now could my son’s physically refuse to hand over things, or work around any punishment I gave them? Absolutely.

But my sons submit to my discipline because as angry and rebellious as they can be at times, they know that God has placed me over them to look out for their spiritual and physical good and they know I love them.

I hear from women all the time – “well if you took this away, I would just do this…and so on”.  Yes whether they be young adults (teens) or older adults we all must decide if we will submit to and learn from discipline what the person in authority is trying to teach us.

Wives must choose to submit to discipline – there is no question.  I am not saying it is optional or voluntary, God requires women to submit to the discipline of their husbands. But a husband cannot physically control his wife or her actions.

However just because a husband cannot physically control his wife, he is still required to do as much as is in his power to do as her husband to bring discipline into her life that will show her the right path.  Now she can either rebel against that discipline and try and go around it, or she can learn the lesson that is meant to be learned by the discipline.

When a husband has done everything he can do as his wife’s immediate authority, then he leaves her in the hands of her higher authority which is God himself.

One last thing on the area of finances.  Yes your wife might work.  Yes she may make more money than you. But if she is mishandling the money you have an obligation to a least separate your money from hers so she will not be able to use it for sinful or reckless purposes.

But won’t discipline attempts by a husband toward his wife ultimately lead to divorce?

Other husbands have emailed in and asked “But won’t these types of discipline ultimately lead to divorce?”

Divorce is always a very real possibility in any marriage, whether discipline takes place or not.

But God does not call us as husbands to abdicate our role as the head of our wives in order to keep our marriage together at all costs. Christ did not sacrifice himself for his church to enable her sin, but to make her holy.

If you allow your wife to believe the threat of divorce will get you to let her continue in whatever sinful behavior she is doing she will use it every time.

In fact the two most powerful tools in the hands of most modern rebellious wives is that of the threat of divorce or the removal of sex.

There are many men in American and western cultures that have been brought to their knees in submission to their wives using one or a combination of these two evil weapons.

Now on the threat of divorce – threats of divorce are not always evil.  If a woman threatens to divorce her husband because he is physically abusing her or her children, or because he refuses to work or provide for his family she is Biblically justified in doing so (there are other valid reasons for divorce as well).

But if she threatens divorce because of unbiblical reasons this makes the threat of divorce a weapon of evil.

At the end of the day you as a husband must stand against sin in your home and your marriage regardless of what consequences may come.  Your wife will then be left with the choice of whether she will rebel against your discipline (and therefore against God’s authority) or she will submit to your discipline and learn from it and the fruit of it will be righteousness in her life.

“Can’t you just talk to your wife like an adult? What is all the need for this discipline stuff?”

I have received many variations of this question since I first posted this article. The answer to that question if you actually read this post is that a husband should always speak to his wife gently at first.

So for instance if a husband thinks his wife is mishandling the credit cards his first action is not to take away the cards.  It is to first speak with her gently.

With many Christian wives the gentle approach is all that is needed.

But are we so naïve to think that every wife will respond to these gently conversations and turn from her sinful behavior, whatever that may be? Is there no such thing as an unrepentant and rebellious sinful wife who tells her husband “where he can stick it” anytime he brings things to her attention?

Many Christians and even non-Christians would have us to believe that wives who do the things I mentioned above do not exist.  The existence of these wives is equivalent to big foot, it’s just a myth in their view.

Others will acknowledge the existence of these kinds of women. But many Christians will say that all a man can do is pray for his unrepentant wife, he is not allowed by God to bring any kind of discipline into her life.  I believe in the power of prayer, and a husband should always pray about discipline he is bringing into his wife’s life.

But if you asked these same Christians if they had a rebellious child or teen if they should do nothing and just pray about it – they would have a very different answer.  The reason is because many Christians have made this “carve out” this special class for wives where they are immune to discipline.

Even a husband is not immune to discipline. But rather his discipline comes from the Church or from civil authorities.  For instance if a wife is being physically abused by her husband she has every Biblical right to go to her husband’s authorities in the Church and in civil government to seek help and for them to discipline him.

Update 3/29/2016

What if finances are tight is there any other way a wife can disciplined?

As of today, this post by itself as received almost half a million views since I first published it back in October 2015. I have had countless emails from Christian men asking me to clarify things as well as address their specific situations.

One of the issues that has been raised is how can a man discipline his wife if the finances are tight? What if you are living on a shoe string budget and there is no money for the niceties she may be wanting or what if as I previously mentioned she works and has her own money to do what she wants?

The answer Christian husbands is TIME. Really this could be considered “the 8th way to discipline your wife”. Most women want three things from their husbands – money, time and tokens of affection.  Some women will go without the money, others may even go without the tokens of affection (flowers, jewelry, and other gifts). But few women except for those who married only for money will go without their husband’s time.

So no matter how poor you are Christian husband – in most cases you have a precious and costly item to your wife in the form of your time.  Certainly God wants you to spend time with your wife. In Deuteronomy 24:5 we read that newlywed men were not to go away to war or for any kind of business for the first year of their marriage in order to “cheer up” or as some translations render it “make happy” their wives. I Peter 3:7 tells men to “dwell with their wives according to knowledge” – You can do this without spending some time with her.

I say all this to say that in no way am I saying that you can completely ignore your wife as a form of discipline.  One wrong does not make another wrong right. But you can use discretion with your time.  If you give your wife 5 hours of your free time a week for just the two of you cut it back to 3 hours.  Perhaps there are some TV shows you watch with you wife that you have zero interest in but you just watch them to spend some time with her.  Stop doing this.  There may be upgrades around the house that require more of your time than your money. Perhaps it is repainting rooms.  Leave handy man tasks alone unless they are absolutely necessary.

My point is you know your wife best and where she wants your time – use those times to show her your displeasure in her wrong actions.  You would be surprised at how quickly just the removal of some of your time with her will get the gears in her brain running.