We took a marriage class last winter by a man I have known and respected for 25 years. He spoke a lot about authority during our semester: God-given authority, spiritual authority and the needs of those leaders who are in authority over us. And I HOPE that one day I have the chance to take his class on spiritual authority. But one thing he talked about that fascinated me was the two types of authority in marriage.
The husband has “positional authority” - God has given him spiritual authority over the marriage and family. This is similar to the positional authority of a king, president, manager or CEO.
And the wife has “influential authority.” The type of influence a wife has at her command in marriage is the same type of influence that a Vice President (or cabinet member) would have over a President, that an assistant manager would have with a manager or that an advisor or queen would have to a king. Rev. Weaver pointed out several times that influential authority is often much MORE powerful than positional authority.
MISUNDERSTANDINGS ARE RAMPANT
It is SO important for us to understand – the wife is not left without any authority or power in the relationship. I have had some women commenting to me saying that biblical submission is slavery. Not at all!!!! That is an incredibly twisted and warped view of the biblical concept of marriage. I am sure there must be some people somewhere who try to turn submission into some awful nightmare like that – and it makes me VERY sad that anyone would ever think such things.
There is NO WAY I WOULD LIVE LIKE THAT!!!!!!!!
The biblical model is not a master/slave relationship in any way – FAR, FAR from it! And it is not a parent/child relationship, or an owner/pet relationship. This is not a king married to a servant girl. It is a king married to a queen. The queen has a lot of power in her own right, too! I don’t want there to be confusion about this!
WITHOUT GOD’S SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES, WE MESS MARRIAGE UP BIG TIME!
The enemy and our own sinful nature would love nothing more than to get us to swing to one side or the other extreme to the left or right of God’s design for us.
- instead of loving, Christ-like, servant-hearted husbands who adore, cherish and nurture their wives and children – we end up with angry, abusive tyrants or passive-unplugged men who give up all their influence and authority in their homes – leaving their families unprotected and at risk.
- wives go to extremes, too, unless they have the Spirit of Christ in control of their hearts – a doormat/slave who gives up all of her powerful feminine influential authority, becomes 2 dimensional, loses her voice and purpose in the marriage/family and allows her husband to be a selfish tyrant or a domineering, disrespectful, unforgiving, fearful, worried woman who tries to control her husband and everyone around her. These extremes are ungodly, worldly, sinful and destructive!
Wives have authority over their own relationship with God, their children, the home, their own work lives, their friendships, their bodies, health, lifestyle, priorities, hobbies, etc… usually with very little interference from her husband. He only steps in if he believes things are unbalanced, something is wrong or she is heading down a potentially dangerous path. He is responsible before God to make the beset decisions for his family – God will hold him accountable!
HOW INFLUENTIAL AUTHORITY WORKS
When there is a decision to be made – it is the wife’s obligation, in my view, to share her perception, feelings and desires with her husband respectfully (unless she doesn’t care about the outcome of this particular decision). A wife’s influential authority works well with husbands unless they are violent, involved in infidelity, actively addicted to drugs/alcohol/gambling/serious porn addiction, or suffering from an untreated or uncontrolled mental disorder – then the wife needs to find godly help ASAP!
A wife’s greatest powers to influence her husband are in her smile, her respect, her admiration, her faith in him as a man, her willingness to forgive, her cooperation with his leadership, her pleasant attitude, her peaceful demeanor, her gentleness, her calmness and the way she doesn’t get hysterical, fearful and worried. Her power is in her encouragement, her building her man up with all those amazing verbal skills God gave her, her look of confidence in her man’s abilities…
When her husband has full confidence in his wife’s respect, faith, trust and admiration:
- HE WANTS TO SAY YES TO HER.
- HE WANTS TO MAKE HER HAPPY.
- HE CARES DEEPLY ABOUT HER FEELINGS!
- HE KNOWS HE IS RESPONSIBLE TO GOD FOR HIS DECISION, so he wants to make the very best choices.
Please understand – the converse is also true. When a husband experiences a lot of disrespect, contempt, judgment, criticism, negativity, manipulation or attempts at control from his wife – then he will not want to cooperate with her no matter what it is she wants. He will not care about making her happy because he is feeling so disrespected. And he won’t care much about her feelings because she has trampled his.
When a man feels respected and honored, he is hard-wired by God to want to serve the one who respects him.
So a respected husband will generally be very interested in hearing his wife’s opinion. He knows that he doesn’t have the whole picture by himself. He looks to her unique perspective to round out the information he has to process a decision. And usually, he will be glad to have the opportunity to make her happy by doing what she wants to do. Seeing his wife light up with delight when he does something for her is such a huge gift and blessing to a husband!
HOW POSITIONAL AUTHORITY WORKS
In the event that the husband believes his wife is NOT making a wise decision – if she is endangering herself or the family, or over-committing her resources, or seeking to make a rash decision based more on emotions than logic, or he believes something isn’t right – then he will use his positional authority to protect her, the marriage and the family. The details of how each husband decides to lead his wife and family will vary widely from one marriage to another. That’s ok! We are all different and different couples will do things different ways. As long as we are obeying God’s Word and keeping Jesus our primary focus and priority – the exact details of how we handle things are largely a preference thing.
Husbands tend to veto ideas that, in their view, will cost their family, wife or marriage too much. Most husbands don’t micromanage every little decision. But they will often step in when there is a serious issue going on:
- another family member in the extended family is trying to have too much control over his wife/marriage/family
- serious behavior issues with the children
- major budget problems
- misplaced priorities in the family
- if the wife is giving so much of herself to others that she has nothing left for him – he will probably ask her to cut out certain activities – as well he should! The marriage is more important than serving or ministering to outsiders.
- if he sees that the children are a bigger priority for his wife than he is (that is not right, and he is wise to correct this imbalance).
- if his wife is too involved in her parents’/siblings lives
- if his wife is sinning against God
Husbands who feel respected tend to say “yes” to most things – I would even say 90-95% of things, maybe even more! They love to see their wives happy. Men measure their success as a man/husband/father largely by the degree of happiness they see in their wives. Did you realize that your happiness is so important to him? IT IS!
But he also knows that he is accountable to God for his decisions and for the spiritual/physical/financial/emotional/mental welfare of his family. So he will try to make the BEST decision for everyone using all the information he has available at the time. That is why the wife must give her input – without her thoughts, feelings and ideas, her husband can’t make the best decision. He’d be missing half of the information he needs!