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“Do I Have the Right to Punish My Husband?”

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First, let’s define “punish” so that we are all on the same page.

Merriam Webster defines “punish” as:

transitive verb
1
a : to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
b : to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation
2
a : to deal with roughly or harshly
b : to inflict injury on : hurt

I think we can all agree that God does not give believers  the “right” to  “deal with roughly or harshly,” “to inflict injury on,” or to “hurt” someone else. The two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40 are to love God with all our hearts and to love others the way God does.

Love does no harm to others (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Romans 13:10).

What about imposing penalties? Do I have the right to impose or inflict penalties on my husband or to seek retaliation if I am hurt by him in some way?

WHO HAS AUTHORITY TO DISCIPLINE OR TO PUNISH OTHERS? (There is a discussion about the difference between discipline and punishment at the bottom of the post.)

According to God’s Word, God has the ultimate authority to punish or discipline people. God alone has the right to decide what is right and wrong. God decides what punishment a person, city, or nation deserves. God also delegates certain human authorities who have the authority to punish, discipline, and/or lead certain people according to His design for order. (For more detail on this, please check out Spiritual Authority.)

Note. For more about husbands’ responsibilities, please see the section at the bottom of the post (for some of you, this is a trigger, so please don’t read the very last section). For more about wives’ authority, please check out “A Husband’s and a Wife’s Authority in Marriage.” Wives do have authority to address their husbands’ sin, please see below. However, the farther a husband is from God, the less he can hear his wife’s words about spiritual things. If my husband is far from God, God’s command for me is I Peter 3:1-6.

“SHOULDN’T MY HUSBAND TRY TO MAKE ME HAPPY MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE?”

A husband’s primary responsibility is to honor, please, and obey God – that is every believer’s primary responsibility. A wife’s primary responsibility is also to honor, please, and obey God. Ideally, we can please God and please our spouses, but if we must choose, we must choose to please God. 

Most husbands truly want their wives to be happy whenever possible. Many husbands measure their success as men by their wives’ happiness. (This is not always an accurate measurement – by the way – of a man’s success. God is the only one who can accurately measure a man’s “success.”) A wife’s happiness can be wonderful when she is happy about godly things. But a wife’s happiness must NEVER come before a husband’s obedience to God, God’s will, the Spirit’s leadership, and His Word.

A wife (or any believer) who is walking in the power of God’s Spirit can and will have joy, peace, and a thankful heart no matter what her circumstances may be at the time.

“I KNOW GOD’S WILL BEST!”

Sometimes, we think we know what is best for us and we think if we had our way that everything would be great. We may think we have more wisdom than our husbands and more wisdom than God. Sometimes God will lead our husbands another way, give them wisdom we cannot see at the time, or prompt them in ways we don’t understand until later. I pray we will not attempt to insert ourselves between our husbands and God and attempt to derail our husbands from doing what they truly believe is best, right, and most honoring to Christ. We can do incalculable damage if we do this! And, please keep in mind, that God can and does lead believing wives through unbelieving husbands. God is sovereign. We can rest in that. 🙂

Human happiness does not come first. God MUST come first. Always. We are no longer seeking to please people, but to please God! (Galatians 1:10)

WHAT DOES GOD SAY WE SHOULD DO WHEN SOMEONE SINS AGAINST US?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14, 17-21

We, as followers of Christ, can trust God with vengeance and retribution for those who sin against us. Ultimately, all sin is against God. Revenge belongs to Him alone. And we must trust the government to act on God’s behalf to carry out punishment for criminals.

Verses about God taking vengeance

If I assign myself authority to judge someone, to take vengeance, and to execute punishment – I am putting myself in God’s place in a sinful, prideful way.

I DO NOT HAVE AUTHORITY FROM GOD TO PUNISH MY HUSBAND

God does NOT impart to me the right or authority to punish anyone – including my husband. As a believer, I am not the judge or executioner for anyone (unless that is my job with the government and I determine or administer punishment for criminals who have been convicted by a court of law – and even then, I would be disqualified from judging or punishing my own husband in our society, at least).

IF MY HUSBAND WON’T DO WHAT I WANT HIM TO DO

If my husband is not asking me to clearly sin or to condone sin, God commands me as a wife to honor my husband’s leadership, to respect him, and to biblically submit to his decisions – even if I disagree with him. This does not mean my husband is “always right.” It means I am submitting myself to God and obeying Him because I love, respect, and reverence Him and because He is worthy of my obedience.

My recourse is to take this issue to God in prayer. It is my responsibility to share my heart, my desires, my perspective, my needs, my wisdom, and my emotions with my husband respectfully. If he decides not to do what I think is best, and he is not asking me to clearly sin, I cooperate with his decision because I want to walk in obedience to the Lordship of Christ in my life.

God can change my husband’s heart if a change is necessary. God is sovereign, and He has the power to lead me through my husband in ways I cannot begin to imagine. Will I hold my will loosely and seek God’s will above my own? Will I trust God? Will I submit to Him as LORD? Am I willing to die to myself?

I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO JUDGE MY HUSBAND’S GODLINESS

If my husband doesn’t do what I want him to do right now, I may be tempted to think “he is ungodly,” “he needs to change,” or “he is unloving.” I can sometimes see fruit in his life accurately – but I am not God and I am not privy to all of my husband’s motivations or to God’s view of my husband’s heart. I may be tempted to think I am the only one who can rightly interpret Scripture and that I know so much better what God’s will is than my husband does. How I must guard against such pride and self-righteousness! I may not be able to judge properly. Only God can truly know and accurately judge my husband’s heart and His will in a given situation – unless something is clearly explained in God’s Word. If I want something that goes against God’s Word, I do not have to wonder if that thing is God’s will. It is not.

I used to judge and condemn my husband constantly. 🙁 I know now that I was very wrong so many times. May we not judge our husband’s “godliness” by measuring whether our husbands will submit to us or do what we want them to do. Let us allow our husbands the freedom to seek to do what God calls them to do and let us place our happiness and our will on the altar before Christ. This is what it means to die to self and to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

CHECKING MY MOTIVES

If I am doing something with the purpose of:

  • hating my husband
  • desiring to hurt my husband and cause him pain – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually
  • desiring to punish my husband or take revenge
  • acting out of unforgiveness, bitterness, or resentment
  • holding a grudge
  • being jealous
  • turning others against my husband
  • causing division, contention, arguments, strife, and factions in my home, marriage, or family

… I have major sin in my heart. These are the fruit of the flesh God describes in Galatians 5:18-21.

WHAT A WIFE MAY DO IF HER HUSBAND IS SINNING AGAINST HER (A husband would have the right to do these things, as well, if his wife is sinning against him.)

A wife attempting to punish her husband is very different from a wife handling her husband’s sin according to God’s Word in such a way that her motives, words, and actions honor Christ, honor her husband, honor her marriage, honor her children, and honor herself:

1. A wife may respectfully ask her husband not to sin against her. (Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 18:15-17)

2. A wife may confront her husband humbly, gently, respectfully, and firmly about his sin with godly, loving motives, desiring to see him restored to fellowship with God and with herself (a husband may do this, as well).  (Matthew 18:15-17) She may need to involve church leaders if he doesn’t respond to her approaching him privately about her concerns first.

3. A wife may need to remove herself from a dangerous, blatantly sinful, truly abusive situation or a wife may need to remove herself from a situation where a husband is an active drug/alcohol/sex addict or is involved in unrepentant infidelity. (Matthew 18:15-17, I Corinthians 7, “Do I Condone Marital Rape and Abuse?“)

RELATED:

“I’ll Show Him!” Why Revenge Kills Relationships

What Does It Mean to Be an Ungodly Woman?

Godly Femininity

When My Spouse Is Wrong

Confronting Our Husbands about Their Sin

Are We Responsible for Our Spouse’s Happiness?

Why Should I Have to Submit to My Husband in the Little Things?

If your husband is asking you to sin, please check out Spiritual Authority.

Greg and I don’t find Scriptural justification for a husband to punish his wife physically. We do not ever condone “domestic discipline.” In our view, it is warped, abusive, and unbiblical.

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Extras…

PUNISHMENT IS DIFFERENT FROM DISCIPLINE:

www.biblestudytools.com defines “discipline” in detail here and how this concept is used in Scripture in the Old and New Testaments

Let’s talk about discipline from a biblical standpoint because God does chastise and discipline those who belong to Him. He also punishes sin and sinners.

God punishes sinners –

His motives are to execute holy, fair, perfect, and righteous justice. He is the Judge. God is love, but God is also completely just. He will not tolerate sin. He does not make excuses for sin. He does not ignore sin. All sin offends God and is primarily against God. As Creator, God, and Judge He has the authority to correctly and rightly judge each person against His Laws and His standards and He alone has the right to execute punishment against sin.

And the Lord God commanded the man (Adam), “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17

The wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a)

This death that we eventually earn with our sin (our wrong doing) is both physical (we are separated from our body) and spiritual (we are separated from God now and after this life in hell).

Thankfully, Jesus suffered the punishment that we deserved for our sins. Jesus took God’s punishment for our sins on Himself. If we receive the gift of His death in our place and we give our lives to Him to be our Savior and also our LORD (the One in charge of our lives from this point on), we do not face or experience God’s punishment for our sins. (We may still experience earthly consequences or discipline, but not punishment.) THIS IS GOOD NEWS!

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

God disciplines His children –

His motives are His incredible love for that child and the child’s greatest good. God makes a distinction between those people who belong to Him and those who do not. As a parent, I have the responsibility to discipline my children, but not to discipline someone else’s children. God disciplines us to help us mature in our faith (Hebrews 12, James 1, I Peter). Just like a loving father disciplines his children and does not allow them to destroy themselves with poor choices, God disciplines us. Discipline is about God training and teaching us His righteousness and holiness. Discipline is about correcting our mindset, our motives, and our behavior. It is about sparing us from death and disaster. God’s discipline of us is designed for our ultimate good and God’s ultimate glory. His Spirit has the power to convict us of sin, to bring us to genuine repentance, and to give us victory over sin.

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. Proverbs 19:18

————

SOME WAYS WIVES MAY ATTEMPT TO PUNISH THEIR HUSBANDS TO TRY TO HURT THEM IN SOME WAY

  • withholding sex
  • shaming them on Facebook
  • telling other people things that their husbands desire to be kept private
  • withholding affection
  • refusing to cook
  • thinking, “I’ll show him!” or “I’ll teach him not to mess with me!”
  • refusing to clean
  • refusing to work
  • complaining
  • arguing and being contentious
  • purposely making a mess for him to clean up
  • spending more money than the couple can afford to spend, willfully driving her husband into deeper debt
  • humiliating him in front of other people
  • attempting to turn other people against their husbands (in the family, the extended family, at church, at work, in the neighborhood, etc…)
  • refusing to take care of the children
  • refusing to eat together
  • refusing to talk
  • refusing to cooperate with their husbands’ God-given leadership when their husbands are clearly NOT asking their wives to sin or to condone sin
  • disrespecting their husbands
  • trying to control their husbands
  • attempting to get their husbands fired
  • yelling, screaming, cussing
  • violence (throwing things, hitting, pushing, slapping, etc…)
  • threatening divorce
  • leaving (with the purpose of causing pain)
  • throwing all of his belongings out the window or putting them by the road
  • having an affair in retaliation

————–

  • I cannot love God and hate my husband.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:20-21

  • I cannot cling to a desire to hurt my husband and obey God’s greatest commandments.

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

  • I cannot cherish unforgiveness in my heart and follow and love Jesus and be forgiven by God.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:12-15

  • I am not my husband’s judge or executioner.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister ? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:“ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. Romans 14:10-13

As the head of the home and marriage, a husband (for more, please see “Spiritual Authority“):

– may give directives as long as he is not asking his wife to condone sin or participate in sin (“Please do this/Please do not do that…”)

– may give consequences within limits of Scripture (i.e.: “because you cannot control your spending, I don’t want you to use your credit cards anymore”)

– has the final say in decisions (I know that you really want to do X. I have taken your feelings, desires, and needs into account. But I believe that it would be most honoring to God for us to do Y right now.”).

– may lovingly correct, confront, or rebuke his wife if he sees sin in her life – as believers, we do this for each other humbly, graciously, gently, respectfully and only after we examine our own hearts for sin first – Matthew 7:1-5. (I am concerned that there may be some bitterness in your heart toward your mom. Let’s talk about what’s going on, Honey. Bitterness is so toxic, I don’t want to see you consumed by that poison.)

– has the responsibility to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her – this does not mean a husband must love a wife in the way she wants to be loved or that a wife must always “feel loved” the way she wants to feel, but that the husband seeks to truly love his wife the way Jesus loves His people by the power of God’s Spirit (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).

22 thoughts on ““Do I Have the Right to Punish My Husband?”

  1. I was wondering why a wife has to respect her husband the way that he desires; but a husband does not have to love his wife as she desires?

    1. Shy,

      A husband can ask for respect in the way he desires – if he is not asking his wife to sin. And she can seek to honor him by showing him respect the way he prefers. A wife can ask for love in the way she desires – if she is not asking her husband to sin. And he can seek to love and honor her by showing her love in the way she desires.

      The sticky issue is that we cannot force our spouse to love or respect us in the way we desire to be loved and respected. Does that make sense? So, I can share what I desire. But then, I can learn to understand and receive love the way my husband shows it instead of demanding that he do things exactly as I want him to. Ideally, both spouses would be seeking to learn to understand each other better and both would want to meet each other’s needs. But even if my husband is not meeting my needs, I can be the wife God calls me to be. I only write for wives – so I only talk about our side of the marriage. But, husbands are called to die to self, be filled with God’s Spirit, not sin against their wives, and love selflessly as Christ loves, too. If a wife is not properly respecting or submitting to her husband, he may suffer just as much as a wife who doesn’t feel like her husband is showing her love the way she wants to experience it. He cannot force her to do what he wants either. He can ask her to respect and honor him. He can gently, humbly confront her about her sin, just like a wife could gently, humbly confront her husband about sin in his life.

      But no grown adult can force another grown adult to do something he/she doesn’t want to do. We do have free will. And we will each be accountable to God for our choices – whether they honor Him or are sinful. Husbands are accountable to be godly husbands no matter what their wives do or do not do. Wives are accountable to be godly wives no matter what their husbands do or do not do.

      1. Yes, makes perfect sense, thank you. I’m still learning, and trying to grasp these major concepts of godliness. I have a long ,long way to go.

        ♡♥ you April!

  2. whoa April, it’s like you’ve been following my online reading! Somewhere I found that this has been called intimacy anorexia. I couldn’t believe there was such a thing! One spouse with holds affection, sex, time together, verbal praise, etc. and basically starves the other spouse emotionally, typically, as a punishment or means of control because of wounds from childhood, addictions, or didn’t experience healthy intimacy via family example, etc. I believe the most common response from the other partner is to ultimately leave or totally shut down unless something changes. It can go on for years. I understand the desire to make a spouse feel your pain if he seems oblivious to how a sin is hurting you. However, with this strategy of revenge in our hearts, we end up hurting ourselves with downward cycles, hurting our chances of healing and missing God’s best.

    1. Refined,

      Hmm.. That is an interesting definition. Intimacy Anorexia. Starving intimacy by withholding affection, sex, and life-giving words.

      That is an apt term, because, if left to grow, that bitterness and hatred and revenge will kill our marriages – or any relationship.

      Thank you so much for sharing!!

  3. Thank you for the reminder that I need to put my trust in Jesus. His addiction is something that comes up just about everyday. We have taken measures to lock Internet access in our home. However, it has simply come down to his contious choice to say no to the enemy. He is honest and transparent with me and has some accountability with a couple of his close friends. We have also sought the help of one of the pastors/close friends at our church. At this point all I can do is give it to Jesus, trust that He has is all in his control.

  4. daughter,

    It is so wise to understand that your husband may be upset about something else. I know that men think differently and need time to process things, but sometimes I forget and want to talk about a problem or stress that has come up instead of realizing he needs time and space to process the problem first. Right now we’re in the midst of dealing with an unexpected heating issue in the large house we recently purchased. My husband has been irritable, and finally just asked me to trust the issue to him, that he needed to “get his head around the problem” and figure out what he needs to do. He said he wasn’t annoyed with me, as it seemed, but was annoyed with himself for not doing something three months ago. I thought I had been comforting and a good partner by discussing the issue and possible resolutions, but it just got in the way of his thinking. I smiled then and told him I had total confidence in his ability to care for it. Then I didn’t mention it again. Now he has decided what he needs to do and is doing it.

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