A Helper is Not Passive!

So I shared in my last article how both men and women struggle with the whole idea of submission in practice. A godly man does not just throw down the “submission card.” The governmental authority of the relationship for which he is responsible is much more complicated than that. He has to weigh these situations of disagreement with his wife, considering how God is best glorified, and how he is best serving his family and neighbor. A godly man wants what is best for his wife. Matt surely  sacrifices himself for me on a continual basis. Sometimes I have been guilty of taking advantage of this. Shame on me. Men have been given a very serious responsibility of representing Christ in their marriage (Eph. 5:22-27). Wives are to be a helpers, respecting their husband's duty. Many women have told me that they wish their husband would be a leader. However, they already are a leader. Husbands will be held accountable to God for the way they have led their family. The question is whether or not they are a good one. In that case, I love my husband way too much to purposely contribute to his failing before God. I do want to be his helper, ameliorating his role. And if we look at this conversely, whether or not we want to be a helper, that is how wives will be held accountable before God. It think this dynamic looks different in each marriage, practically speaking. But we should all be showing a resemblance to the relationship of Christ to his church. I am not always the easiest woman to lead—I know, real shocker. Matt naturally has a leader-style personality, but has often faced obstacles by my strong opinions. This is where it gets tough. He values me as his wife. The awesome responsibility he has to lead me in a godly way involves listening to what I say, weighing it against God’s word, and making the decision that he believes would be most pleasing to God when we disagree. One important way for me to be a good helper is to make sure that I am not just serving myself in my strong opinions and to always have a respectful disposition to his leadership. But I still like my strong opinions. I think they’re helpful. Every married woman should be a good housewife theologian if she is to take her role as a helper seriously. Our first lady, Eve, was made to be a helper, comparable to Adam.  These words describe both her role and her value. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” Being a helper does not indicate any inadequacy in our position, but rather it’s essential contribution. I learned that little tidbit from Bruce Waltke’s Genesis, A Commentary. But what exactly are we to help with? “God creates the woman to help Adam, that is, to honor his vocation, to share his enjoyment, and to respect the prohibition. The word help suggests that the man has governmental priority, but both sexes are mutually dependent on each other” (88). Honoring your husbands vocation goes a lot deeper than supporting him in his job as a mailman or construction worker. In Genesis 1:27-28 we read:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures and build civilizations. Doesn't this give much more significance to our careers and daily tasks? Today families are going in many different directions. The husband has his career, and the wife has a career of her own. It can be very difficult for both partners in marriage to get caught up in the “my job verses your job” scenario. To be sure, we sacrifice for each other. But everything we do should fall under the pinnacle of our common high calling in the Cultural Mandate. As Nancy Pearcey emphasizes in her book Total Truth, “In eternity, we will continue to fulfill the Cultural Mandate, though without sin—creating things that are beautiful and beneficial out of the raw materials of God’s creation. This means that every valid vocation has its counterpart in the new heavens and new earth, which gives our work eternal significance…In our work we not only participate in God’s creative activity today, we also foreshadow the tasks we will take up in cultivating a new earth at the end of time” (86). We must certainly show forth our Lord God’s beauty in this awesome task. And to properly do this, it is imperative that we are functioning appropriately in our roles. Sharing in our husband’s enjoyment doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I guess that depends on what his enjoyment is. And this is another reason women need to be keen housewife theologians. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question number one asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Christian men and women both seek to find their joy in the Lord. This is good news for sure! Joy is something that is much better shared, isn't it?  But if a husband is seeking his joy in some other idol, it is certainly not helpful for the wife to enable this. She is never to enable or follow her husband in sin. There is no true joy in sin! Respecting the prohibition sounds pretty serious. And it is. As we see in the example of the first married couple, Eve didn’t have her theology right. After Satan challenged what God really said, Eve responds, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’”(Genesis 3:2b-3).  Eve actually adds to God’s prohibition in claiming that he forbids them to touch the tree. Here we have, as Waltke states, Satan cunningly engaging Eve “into what may appear as a sincere theological discussion, but he subverts obedience and distorts perspective by emphasizing God’s prohibition, not his provision, reducing God’s command to a question, doubting his sincerity, defaming his motives, and denying the truthfulness of his threat” (91). These are serious character accusations against God! This should be a significant wake up call for us to better know our God through his Word. There are many messages flung at us every day that are contradictory to God’s Word. What are we going to believe? As we can see from Eve (and should know from our own experience) there are serious consequences for mishandling the Word of God. Even within the church we are constantly flooded with false teaching. Are we jealous to protect the truth of God’s Word? Some equate the idea of submission as simply a passive role. This cannot be further from the truth. Women are to be engaged in their role as a helper. We are to sharpen our husband’s minds with our own. We are to be good helpers. I have a mind of my own, and my husband appreciates that. But my mind is in tune to his, and more importantly, to the authority of God’s Word. Matt and I don’t disagree about major decisions very often, but when we do, I plea my case and he listens. He doesn’t just make a major decision without my input because I am his helper. And yet the responsibility for the decision lies on him, and I need to respect that as well. Even still, this kind of decision-making is just the practical aspect of submission. When we see the model of Christ and his church given in Ephesians 5, we see a picture of the gospel as the backdrop of it all.  Does anyone think of the church as a doormat? Heck no! It is Christ’s beautiful, thinking bride.