Why are wives commanded to submit to their husbands?

“Why are wives commanded to submit to their husbands?”

This is an understandable question when people first learn Scripture commands wives to submit to their husbands. Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…

Wives are commanded to submit because it’s necessary

We see the clear need for submission in all other areas of life. No organization can be successful without authority or headship:

  • Businesses have CEOs.
  • Sports teams have coaches.
  • Governments have presidents or prime ministers.

Just as we recognize the need for a leader, or a head, we also recognize that there cannot be two heads. We don’t see two head coaches, two presidents, two head pilots, or two head surgeons. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel:

  • Flying on a plane with two head pilots arguing over the flight plan
  • Being operated on by two head surgeons quarreling over the proper procedure

Instead we always see a:

  • Head coach and an assistant coach
  • President and a vice-president
  • Pilot and a co-pilot
  • Principal and an assistant principal

The second-in-command submits to the authority of the leader. Since we recognize this need in all other areas of life, we should recognize this need in marriage too.

Wives are commanded to submit because of disagreements

One of the most common arguments I have heard from wives who do not want to submit to their husbands is: “I would submit to my husband if I agreed with him.” Can we see the problem with this logic? If a wife agreed with her husband, she would not have to submit. Submission is in place entirely for when husbands and wives do not agree.

Perhaps a husband and wife have discussed a decision together, presented their ideas, shared their thoughts, and tried to come to an agreement. But they cannot. At this point, what do they do? How do they decide? Do they resort to arguing? Do they flip a coin or play “Rock-Paper-Scissors”? Just as in all the authority structures we have discussed, there is a clear answer here, and it is an answer God has decreed, not man. For the marriage to be able to move forward, the husband has been designated to make the final decision.

Discuss: Do you see the same need for submission in marriage as in all other areas of life? How do you handle disagreements in your marriage?

Here is the Facebook Live video with all comments and discussion:

19 thoughts on “Why are wives commanded to submit to their husbands?

  1. Such a good point that if we are in agreement then the need to submit is not really there. There are so many times in my walk with Christ I fight His will and needed to realize it was never about me fighting but me submitting instead.

    1. Hi Kristi,
      Although the post is about wives submitting to their husbands, it definitely applies to our relationships with Christ too. Like I said to Mary earlier, there are lots of relationships that require submission, definitely including our submission to the Lord.

  2. I believe the word `submission` has gotten a bum wrap over the year’s. In today’s culture of `me first`, submission means weakness, silence, you are of no worth. This is sad. That’s completely not what scriptures tell us.

    Submission means; you are implying you feel your husband is worthy of being your leader. By failing in this you imply to him, he’s not worthy of leadership, that he is not of worth. It does not mean he’s never wrong, he never makes mistakes, you have nothing to say .
    It means you don’t always get your way. It means to not belittle, nag, usurp his authority on a decision or matter to do it your way. It means not to be ungrateful, impatient, thoughtless, prideful and selfish.

    As wives to recognize our dissatisfaction with our husband stems from a self-righteous attitude, by our attitude we are actually saying that we are a better person than our husband.

    We are failing to reverence, respect and love our husband as God commanded is really a sin against our husband and against God. Our individual husbands are a person of God’s design, not our design. We are of worth, but we are required to reverence our husband. Eph 5:33 Ampl. “And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband-that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

    Submit does not mean to blindly follow without expressing your thoughts and opinion, or to ask questions.

    1. Hi Mary,
      As usual, wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

      The Bible speaks of the need for submission in a number of relationships:
      • 1 Peter 2:13–17 commands believers to submit to government (also Romans 13:1–7).
      • 1 Peter 2:18–25 commands slaves to submit to their masters; in our society this would translate as employees’ submitting to employers (also Ephesians 6:5–8).
      • 1 Peter 5:5 commands congregations to submit to their elders (also Hebrews 13:17).
      • Ephesians 6:1, Paul commands children to submit to their parents (also Colossians 3:20).

      I suspect people who have a problem with submission will have a problem with much of Scripture.

    2. Hi Scott, I thought my comment was already very long, so, I left out employers, employees, parents, children, friends. Eph 5:21 “Submitting yourselves to one an other in the fear of God.” Each should have the humility and ability to yield her or his, own way to the way of another for the sake of harmony. (Seed v Luke 9:23)That’s another subject! Ha!

    3. Hi Mary,
      Right. My reply wasn’t meant to sound at all disagreeable to your quote (if that’s how it sounded). I thought you made a great point about submission getting “a bum wrap.” I was trying to piggyback off that by making the point that people who have a problem with submission will have a problem with Scripture, since Scripture speaks so highly and frequently about submission.

    4. Hahaha, Scott I didn’t think it was disagreeable at all. Yes, your right there are many scriptures in regards to submission dealing with our multifaceted lives. Why, submission could be a book in itself! 🙂

  3. I have to admit, I’m having a hard time with this one. I “submit” to my husband, but I’m going to nitpick here, and just say that I dislike the word “submit” because its connotations are lacking the actual message needed to fully understand what God was trying to do when He gave us the guidelines of marriage. My husband is certainly the “head” and I follow his leadership, but that doesn’t always end up well for some women. Blind submission can be evil. I grew up watching this verse being played out in a very perverse way of intentional and consistent abuse. I think the reason why so many women become defensive is because of that particular word — submission. I would hope that mutual respect in a marriage initiates ACTIVE listening and results in compromise and understanding when there is a disagreement. It really does leave the responsibility on the man to lead in the most Christ-like way by always seeking to do what God tells him and not take advantage of his role. Anyway, it’s a delicate subject, and I always find it to be one mostly discussed by men. Your insight is basic in terms of only “decision making” in the marriage. I don’t think that’s the entirety of “submitting” to one’s husband. I don’t know. I don’t want to argue or sound like I don’t agree because that’s not the case entirely. I just don’t know that this message covers enough of the details to alleviate any doubts for a woman who is questioning her ability, need, or want to “submit.” It almost seems like your analogies are parallel to that as well. A co-pilot and pilot are still piloting together, and there are times when the copilot is in control to aid the pilot. When it comes down to simply “decision making” the pilot has a say so, but you see, there is an agreement already put in place, “do whatever is best for the passengers.” Essentially, they don’t have a disagreement to work out. I guess this post is really just about individual roles working together. I wish when this topic was discussed it wasn’t such a “put my foot down” kind of matter of fact tone, and more of a “let’s discuss specific roles in marriages as it pertains to mutual love and respect.”

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for reading and providing your honest thoughts.

      A few things. You said:

      I’m going to nitpick here, and just say that I dislike the word “submit” because its connotations are lacking the actual message needed to fully understand what God was trying to do when He gave us the guidelines of marriage.

      I use the word submit, because that’s the word Scripture repeatedly uses and I don’t think we should shrink back from being scriptural, we shouldn’t apologize for what Scripture says, etc. The command for wives to submit to their husbands is repeated five times in the New Testament making it one of the clearest and most common commands in all of Scripture. So my first question would be, what do you think about these commands? When you say, “I am having a hard time with this one,” would it be more accurate to say you have a hard time with God’s command? Hope that doesn’t sound too straightforward, but I’m not sure how to make it softer.

      Yes, “blind submission” can cause problems. I agree. I actually have a section in my book called, “What Submission Does not Mean…” where I outline times wives don’t need to submit (submitting to abuse, sin, etc).

      You also said:

      I grew up watching this verse being played out in a very perverse way of intentional and consistent abuse. I think the reason why so many women become defensive is because of that particular word — submission.

      I’m very sorry that you saw God’s command “perverted” and that it has encouraged you to reject the command completely, but I might invite you to reconsider what you were seeing isn’t what God commanded. I don’t think God says, “Okay, you can ignore what I said because you saw it misrepresented.”

      Also, the question is never, “Will this make people defensive?” If that’s our standard, then say goodbye to verses about hell, repentance, homosexuality, and everything else that makes people defensive.

      Regarding some points you made in the second half of your comment, I largely agree! If you look at the title of the post though, it says, “Why are wives commanded to submit?” I was trying to answer that question. Sure, I could’ve answered other questions – like those you’re wishing I would’ve addressed – but that would’ve went outside the scope of what was asked.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I have heard it explained that if the wife goes over the headship of her husband and vetos a decision and it ends up turning out poorly, then it falls on her shoulders and she has to carry the weight. God’s intention was for the husband to do the heavy lifting on his shoulders and bear the weight of the decisions that are made. It is a good thing for a wife to let her husband carry that weight. She has other things to carry. This jogged my memory to that explanation. Thanks!

  5. This is a great post. I’ve seen so many women get upset over the verses that command us to be submissive because they think, falsely, that God wants them to be a doormat! This is a wonderful explanation.

    1. Hi Kay,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, submission definitely doesn’t mean wives are doormats. I elaborate on the point in my book, and briefly tried to make the point in the post, but submission takes place when husbands and wives can’t agree after the husband has heard his wife’s thoughts.

  6. I am a submissive wife for some of the reason you listed. My husband has a different opinion on my role in our home. Nice to see other Christian families perspecties and a glimpse into dynamics.

    1. Hi De,
      Thanks for sharing.

      Would you be comfortable sharing the other reasons you obey God’s commands to be a submissive wife? You said the post touched on some of the reasons; I’d like to hear the others. Thanks!

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