Like so many other essential doctrines, the role of the woman is first established in Genesis:
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it … Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him …” So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
In the midst of our fallen world, it is important to remember that this was God’s good and original design. We would do well to reclaim as much of it in Christ as we can. God fashioned a woman to complete what was lacking in Adam, that she might become his helper, that the two of them would truly become one.
Many other passages from God’s Word reveal the role that God has designed for wives and mothers. One of the more pointed and all-encompassing is found in Proverbs 31:10–31. (This was one of my father’s favorite Scripture passages. I used to hear him quote it often in relation to his thankfulness for the gift of his wife, my mother.) The verses paint a beautiful picture of the woman God designed mothers to be. Here are some excerpts:
An excellent wife, who can find? Her worth is far above jewels … The heart of her husband trusts in her … She does him good and not evil … She rises while it is still night and gives food to her household … She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard … She extends her hand to the poor … Strength and dignity are her clothing … She opens her mouth in wisdom…
These passages reveal many virtues of a woman committed to building a godly legacy for her family. She is encouraged to be a woman of character, integrity and action. The passages even endorse her role as a respected businesswoman in the marketplace. Certainly mothers should also be involved in teaching their children spiritual truths.
I praise the Lord for my godly mother who prayed with us when we were small, and continues to pray daily for us today, standing as my father did on the authority of God’s Word. There was no doubt that Dad was the spiritual head and that our mother supported him in this role one hundred percent. Whether is was cooking for visitors, supporting school functions, waiting up for Dad to return from school and church meetings—I never had any inkling that they didn’t do everything together as one.
Mum also balanced out Dad in important ways. Steve remembers it this way:
I can recall one fairly intimate chat that I had with Mum concerning our father’s demeanor. She had told me of some of the many talks she had with him when he was in the process of defending God’s Word. Often she would be behind the scenes persuading him and reminding him to be gentle and gracious in his approach. Sometimes Dad was about as subtle as a brick-hammer (and sometimes needed to be); yet the gentle, guiding persuasion of a godly wife was always in his ear, reminding him of his responsibility to use his words carefully and constructively. Dad had his share of faults and shortcomings, and while he allowed Mum to compensate for them in many ways, I’ve often felt that he could have tried a little harder to take our mother’s advice. My father did definitely listen to Mum, but an even greater application of her gentle reminders would have sharpened his message.
I praise God that He has also given me a wife like this—a wife who loves so much that she is willing to be honest enough to help me correct my faults in a way that will enhance and strengthen our partnership in ministry. Not only should husbands listen sincerely to their wives, but we should be seeking their input and hastening their comment. Apart from Christ, they know us better than anyone in this world!
Fathers are to be the overall spiritual head. Whenever and wherever possible, the father’s leadership should be obvious to the children as it is to the wife. But the task of raising godly children in an ungodly world takes teamwork. My wife Mally and I do this together when I am home, and she covers for me when I’m on the road ministering. Overall, our children know and observe that I take on the headship role and Mally takes on the helpmate role.
That is the way we were created to function, but in the modern world we often see the opposite; where the mother is leading and the dad is following. This is even reinforced by most Christian children’s books I have seen where mention of spiritual leadership is made. Many of these books will picture a mother with the Bible open reading it to her children, or they will instruct the children to tell their mother something, or ask for her advice. Look closely at the books you have for your children and I am sure you will see that this is a characteristic of many children’s materials available for the Christian market today.
On top of this, more women are becoming increasingly domineering as they take over the position as head of the home. The more I travel and meet families around the world, the more obvious it appears to me that the feminist movement has affected many women in our churches—and this affects the whole family structure.
Over the years I have observed a number of men in the Christian ministry who have had to give up the ministry, or greatly limit what they set out to do, because of an unsupportive spouse. I have also observed that some children of pastors and other full-time Christian workers rebel against Christianity. I know there are many and varied reasons for such situations. However, from my own observations and experience in traveling around the world, I do believe that one of the major factors relates very much to the fact that their wives could not cope with the husband being away or spending so much time in the demands of Christian work.
I’ve heard such wives question their husband’s ministry in front of the children and others. The husband and wife were certainly not “one” in this regard. The wife’s discontent was very obvious to the children. (It’s also true that some men in Christian work have greatly neglected their wives and children, forsaking their priority to be diligent dads, and that is also a problem.) Regardless, it’s important for a mom to ask: “Am I fulfilling my role as a helpmate to my husband, or am I undermining his role as the spiritual head of our home?”
The old saying is true: “Behind every good man is a good woman.”
The Ham children are blessed in heritage to be able to say that of our mother. While so many women are burdened with a heart for the superficial and material things of life, God has given a much greater responsibility; that of supportive substance—the type of supportive substance that is also founded and grounded in His mighty Word and shines like a beacon as an example to wives everywhere. In our case, God has provided not only a good wife and mother, but a good woman who is a mentor for women. My brother Steve has had the privilege of seeing this for himself:
In these latter years I have had the distinct privilege of watching my mother come beside my sisters, my own wife, and younger women in the church in a soft and loving mentoring role. I’ve often smiled as women adopt my mother as sort of a “proxy grandma” in order to learn from her and soak in her years of experience. Mum reminds me of this passage in Titus 2:3–5:
The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers , not given to much wine , teachers of good things, that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their husbands that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
I’m truly blessed by the Lord every time I see committed, godly parents—those who are living according to the roles given us in the Bible. Mally also rejoices in parents who are totally committed to the Truth of Scripture and display this to their children. When parents choose to obey God and fulfil their God-given roles as described in Scripture, God’s grace and blessings abound to all around and He is glorified.
Mum’s presence was a definitive factor in our father’s legacy. My mother loved and supported him, and she endlessly cared for her children. Since Dad’s passing, she has had her share of health issues, including cancer; and I have witnessed my brothers and sisters rally to assist her—gratitude for the biblical heritage she also strove to supply. In fact, we see it as a true privilege and service not only to our mother, but our Sovereign Lord.
These words in this chapter will undoubtedly make Mum uncomfortable. She will be the first to point out that any good in her comes not from herself, but from the work of God in her and through her. Like the rest of us, she is made of sinful flesh; but she has also chosen to submit to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. His Truth and His presence in her have accomplished holy things. She has been and continues to be a supportive substance, a gentle but strong balancing presence, a defender of Truth, a godly trainer of her children and a powerful mentor of women in the Lord.
Mum may also have difficulty with these words because she has never been one to seek out or expect recognition or praise. But sorry Mum! It is only fitting. At the end of the description of an excellent wife in Proverbs 31, it says:
Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who loves the Lord shall be praised.
Let God’s Word be proven true again!