The Leader"s Wife

 

Being a leader is no joke; neither being a leader’s wife. A leader’s wife may not be a star as the world expects, and need not be. Not all leaders’ wives are blessed with dazzling talents, shrinking them further under the world’s critical eyes. She could be the most ordinary woman, but probably she does more than  the leader. Who can understand her blessings and burden? “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land” (Prov 31:23). Nothing more is written about his activities  in the entire chapter. But two  thirds of the chapter describes  his wife’s activities. The world may see the man on the stage, but the Bible records the scenes behind the curtain.

 

We find the qualifications for a leader’s wife listed in 1 Timothy 3:11. “Their wives must be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”

 

1. Respectability

 

Respectability  or  being  worthy of  respect  is  not  an  inborn  character.  Nobody respects a woman for her beauty or status. Respect  cannot be demanded. It must be earned.  The  most  common  mistake  that  a  leader’s  wife  does  is  to  expect  to  be respected as a leader’s wife. If her expectation fails she demands it in several ways. She may nag or fight with her husband, demand an august office for herself or try to prove her worth. These carnal methods only backfire. Creating scenes especially in public will only strip her of any respect others may have for her. It may be irritating to her to see her husband being highly respected and herself ignored. She may even be jealous of her own husband. She should not assume that she also is a leader by virtue of her husband’s position. It takes days and months and years to earn respect.

 

A woman is looked down upon from the time of her marriage. Eagle eyes watch from all around for an appropriate moment to say, “Her husband can do better without her. It is she who spoils him. It is because of her that he failed. Before marriage he was better,” blah, blah, blah. She starts from a ditch. First of all she has to climb up to the surface. That itself takes some years. If people can say, “She is not bad,” she has climbed out of the pit. Only then can she start her upward journey. Though the road ahead is rocky for her, by her consistent goodness and good works she can continue her way up. Any ignoble deed will mar her husband’s public image. Golden years of a leader should not be eclipsed by a hopeless wife.

 

A kind-hearted woman gains respect (Prov 11:16; 31:20). Women are commanded to respect their husbands (Eph 5:33). But the more difficult commandment is to walk worthy of respect (1  Pet 3:7).  “Charm  is deceptive,  and beauty is  fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (v30). The time spent in beauty parlours may  be  profitably  spent  in  developing  godliness.  Strength  and  “honour”  are  the clothing of a leader’s wife (v25).

 

Paul writes an interesting paradox. “Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.  And those members of the body which we think to be less honourable, on these we bestow greater honour” (1 Cor 12:22,23). A leader’s wife, though a member of the Body of Christ, is indeed thought to be less honourable. But if she walks worthy of respect, on her will be bestowed greater honour. If rubies are worth any respect, this woman’s respect is far above rubies (v10).

 

A few things can undermine her respect. She should respect others and not expect to be respected. Her husband may be offered a chair and she may be asked to sit on the mat. I know an evangelist who was given a first class ticket and his wife a third class ticket by train (nowadays there is no third class). She should take it easy. If she should voluntarily take the lowest seat, then the disparity people show will be less painful. Then when people ask her to come to a higher seat she’ll be honoured (Lk

14:10). She should not expect to be treated like her husband or like a special person.

She must develop a camaraderie with the common people so that those who cannot have access to her husband can always approach her.

 

People will be ready to do anything for a leader. But she should not take advantage of their  kindness.  She  should  learn  and  practise  pleasing  manners  and be always smartly dressed. She should be more than a sweet voice and pretty face. Then respect will come looking for her.

 

It is easy to gain the respect of others. But there is no way of gaining the husband’s respect except by respecting him. What usually happens is that a leader is respected by one and all outside the home. Outside it is all glory; but inside the home it is another story! For the wife, all his negative characters stand out. But she should try to push behind  all  the negative  aspects  and  focus on  his positives,  so  she  can  develop  a spontaneous regard and reverence for him in her heart and attitude.

 

When David brought the ark of the Lord to the city he forgot himself and started to leap and whirl and dance like a tribal (and a tribal he was!) in public (2 Sam 6:14-16). He blessed the people and distributed bread, meat and raisins to all (what a task!). After this glorious experience something sad happened. “When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said: How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would” (2 Sam 6:20). David, stung by her words said, “But by the slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.”

 

In one vile moment she lost the respect her husband had for her. First she despised him in her heart. Then out of the abundance of the heart her mouth spoke. Unless a wife is extremely careful she will lose respect for her much respected husband. Her respect should be based on his appointment as head of the home by God and not on day to  day happenings.  Then  her attitude  will  be different  and  she  will gain  her husband’s respect.

2. Not Slanderous

 

A leader’s wife cannot afford to be a malicious talker. She ought to be a responsible person because she meets more people, hears more information and has to be a social person. If she twists words and facts, hurts people by her lashing tongue, poisons people’s  mind,  hinders  new  believers  or  slanders  co-workers,  not  only  will  she become unpopular but make her husband unpopular too. A leader woos people, but a malicious talker drives them away. If they have to coexist they have to forget about leadership.

 

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov 31:26). Or shall we say she decided not to say anything unkind? The less she talks the wiser her words. If she talks without restraint, slander is sure to flow out like a stream and make a fool of her (Prov 10:18). David had bitter experiences with God’s children and he recounts one of them. “You use your mouth for evil, and harness your tongue to deceit.” What was the evil and deceit?   “You sit and speak against your brother (or sister), you slander your own mother’s son (or daughter)” (Psa 50:19,20).

 

People come with absolute confidence to a leader’s wife to unburden their hearts and receive counsel. If she starts using their words as trump cards or to feed the hungry ears of lazy women, she will be reproved of God (v21). What kind of reproof will that be? “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbour, I will destroy” (Psa 101:5). Let us take God seriously before destruction comes suddenly.

 

Potiphar’s wife mercilessly slandered Joseph and sent him to prison. But what a shame when God honoured the very person before the eyes of the public. The words of a leader’s wife carry weightage and so she should be doubly careful about what she speaks about others. Her own husband may trust her words like Potiphar and make a gross error of judgment. She may enjoy a fleeting victory of her personal vendetta but ultimately God shall vindicate the voiceless innocent. “Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam along the way after you came out of Egypt” (Dt 24:9).

 

3. Temperate

 

It is a not-so-easy-to-understand word. We just read it and carry on without giving much thought to it. It has a wide meaning. Temperance is restraint or moderation, especially in yielding to one’s appetites or desires. It also means abstinence from alcoholic beverages. It is being mild, not swinging to extremes, being in between. In some languages it is translated as sobriety (clear thinking) and self-control. What a depth of meaning we get when we study a word!

 

So a leader’s wife must be a disciplined person. She must master the art of holding herself on the reins, be it emotions, appetites, slumber or any desire. She must be a balanced person with a sound mind. In other words, it is the ability to think and act instead of being controlled by emotions. Self-discipline is not an overnight miracle. It means years of rigorous training and a willingness to suffer great hardship in order to achieve our goals. She may face personality barriers like a reserved, timid disposition like Timothy or an arrogant haughty temperament. She must rise up or stoop down to Biblical standards.

 

As  she  struggles  to  bring  to  discipline  some  of her  wild  physical  and  mental appetites she may feel following Jesus is not worth the price. It is at this point she needs the discipline to hold on, to go on and to keep on.

 

Screaming, crying, emotional outbursts, anger, tongue-lashing, greed, gluttony are all exhibitions of indiscipline. Don’t give up temperance as an impossibility.  Start working on that area where  you  are most indisciplined.  There is nothing  that we cannot do. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (makes us strong wherever we are weak).

 

The  virtuous  woman  of Proverbs  31,  who  was  a  leader’s  wife,  had  overcome laziness. She was a hard worker rising up early in the morning. She was not greedy and miserly. She had her emotions under control. Though her husband was respected at the city gate, she was satisfied to be at home, in the shadows, as a silent and strong support for him. If he was not paid sumptuously, she was willing to overwork and supplement his income without grumbling. Life for her was not easy, with very little help from her busy husband. She struggled with the kids. But when they grew up they gave her the “Super Mom” title. Now it was her husband’s turn to be jealous. But instead he bestowed on her the Mrs.Universe title (v29). Does she need more? Competitive spirit between husband and wife is very unhealthy for the person, family and leadership. Instead they should praise and encourage each other.

 

4. Faithful

 

A woman without trustworthiness will undermine her husband’s position as leader. Her husband  must feel free to share with her anything  and everything.  There are people who know how to pluck words out of her mouth and she must know how to outsmart them. She doesn’t do major things without his knowledge, and sticks to him through thick and thin. She keeps herself from sin. She puts her husband’s needs before her own personal needs. She sacrifices a lot in life, her own comforts, credits and ego—but what she loses she shall gain. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life” (Prov 31:11,12).

 

It goes without saying that the leader’s wife should be a strong spiritual character in everyway. So she needs to sit up when he snores, to read the Bible and pray. Failures do not discourage her. They only lead to toughening of her texture and teach her new lessons. Though everyday she is made to believe she is inferior, she refuses to drown in inferiority complex. Though she enjoys the privileges of being a leader’s  wife she stubbornly refuses the garment of superiority complex. She knows who she is (Rom

12:3).

 

There is another aspect of faithfulness. It is being the dog and the underdog. I know of a dog which was drowned by its owner, 5 km away from home by tying a heavy stone around its neck. Around midnight there were some scratchy noises on the door. On opening the door he found the dog looking up at him with sombre eyes, belly swollen with water. I don’t mean to say a wife should put up with such cruelty. I only stress the depth of faithfulness. A leader’s wife must be aware that a leader is a plain and simple man with all human frailties.  She should not be disappointed that he is not a superman at home. She should be level-headed to discern the devil’s traps. By virtue

 

of   his   charisma   he   will   become   notable.   More   money,   more   friends,   more independence, more praise and so many mores follow. Is he turning greedy? Is he relaxing on his time with the Lord and the Bible? Is he jealous of a rising co-worker? Is he becoming proud and arrogant? Is he about to make a wrong decision? The wife must be wary.

 

She cannot preach to him. She cannot just pray and leave the matter. She cannot wash her hands off and walk off. She has to be faithful to the calling to be a leader’s wife. There can be no turning back. She should never give up her gentle influence and loving corrections. Though he may not accept them outrightly or give her suggestion due weight,  she should not feel rejected,  but have the guts to continue  her good influence anyway. When her idea works, she should not expect appreciation or kick at his ego by her “I-did-it” attitude. She should be happy to stay behind him and rejoice seeing her husband  sweep the credit. She should also be a support in his failures instead of condemning him. She is a dependable ally.

 

The responsibility of a leader’s wife is dual. She should assist him in his responsibilities of 1 Timothy 3:2-10. He is commanded to see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. Children of many leaders are rebellious because they are neglected, often by both parents. So children are her priority. A leader cannot be hospitable unless the wife is cooperative. She does some of her husband’s work too, like going to see a field to bargain and buy it (Prov 31:16), because he is overloaded with his work of “sitting” at the gate. She does not boil to see him relaxing before the TV when she slogs. She learns to go to the bank, market, shops, post office, etc. Home no longer fills her whole horizon. But she snatches a few minutes to sew his button on  to his shirt. She employs  servants to an  expanding household so she can profitably use her talents and spend calm moments with the family. She supervises the servants vigilantly to maintain efficiency. To put it crisply, she must look like a lady and work like a dog.

 

Without question, behind every successful man is a sensible woman. By doing the ordinary day-to-day duties without expecting any laurel she is promoted to her husband’s status. She doesn’t look for compliments but news of her accomplishment wafts across the city to the gates where her husband sits with the elders. “Her works bring her praise at the city gates” (v31). The world now acknowledges her and looks at them without disparity. By her silence she has silenced her critics. A head’s wife need not despair at what is expected of her. If she constantly works at becoming better, she will become the crown of the head (Prov 12:4)!


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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