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.
“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.
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)