“That she reverence her husband…”

Often in books and teaching about the Biblical roles of husband and wife, we learn about husbands loving their wives and wives submitting to their husbands. We don’t hear as often about another responsibility of wives: Ephesians 5:33b says, “the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

We don’t live in an age of reverence. Husbands and fathers are often portrayed as inept buffoons on sitcoms. Humor seems to be regarded as a higher virtue than respect, and everyone from the president on down can be the subject of belittling parody (I am not against humor or even parody, but there has been a viciousness to much of it in recent years that I think goes too far). “Speaking our mind” takes precedence over balancing our words with respect for another individual. It is important for Christians to get back to treating people with grace.

What does reverence mean? Dictionary.com defines it as “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration; the outward manifestation of this feeling: to pay reverence; to regard or treat with reverence; venerate.” One of the definitions from Strong’s Concordance of the Greek word this is translated from is “to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience.” That same Greek word is translated “fear” in I Peter 3:1-2: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” It is also translated as “fear” in a servant’s responsibility to his master in I Peter 2:18, (also Col. 3:22 and others. Most translate this into the employer/employee relationship for our time), and as an attitude we should have towards the Lord in I Peter 1:17, and as “be afraid” in our regard to rulers in Romans 13.

Other translations use the word “respect” in Ephesians 5:33. Of the myriad definitions in Dictionary.com, the ones that seem most applicable are, “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability, deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: to hold in esteem or honor.”

One of the first thoughts that comes to some minds is, “Well, he doesn’t always act in a way that I can respect. How am I supposed to respect or reverence him then?”

Well, let’s look at it from another angle. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loved the church. Do we as wives always act worthy of love? Is our husband’s love conditional on our behavior or performance? Don’t we want our husbands to love us no matter how we act? Isn’t that, in fact, exactly how Christ loves the church?

So, too, our respect of our husbands is not based on their performance or attitude or demeanor. Just as we want them to show God’s grace, forgiveness, and forbearance toward us when we are not all we’re supposed to be, so we should show the same to them.

How can we show them reverence? I think reverence would avoid nagging and scolding. We need to allow them to be human, to be imperfect, again, just as we would want them to allow the same for us. Proverbs has a lot to say about the brawling woman (21:9, 25:24) and the contentious woman (21:19, 27:15). I don’t think that means we can never express a preference, for instance, that dirty socks go into the hamper rather than next to it or in the middle of the floor. But once we make that request, it doesn’t do either of us any good to fuss about it (or to seethe in silence). We need God’s grace to exercise forbearance and the love that “covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8, Proverbs 10:12).

Reverence would also avoid talking to a husband as if he were one of the children. And I think it would also be careful about humor. We live in an age where almost anything is accepted if it is funny. But though humor “is the oil in the friction of life,” as the saying goes, it can sometimes be caustic, and some people are more sensitive to it than others. Everyone can laugh at something that is said, yet the subject of the joke can be left wondering if there was a hidden meaning. In the Quieting a Noisy Soul series, Dr. Jim Berg said the word “sarcasm” comes from two Greek words meaning “to tear flesh.” We need to be careful that we’re not “tearing,” “cutting down,” or disrespecting even in our joking and teasing.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” We need to be careful to apply this not only to what we say to our husbands, but also what we say about them. All the verses about talebearers and gossip apply to our conversations about our husbands, and our respect needs to shine through there as well.

I don’t think reverence means an unrealistic view of our husbands. Abigail was very frank about what kind of man her husband, Nabal, was, yet she intervened and interceded for him (I Samuel 25).

I wrote earlier about a session at one of our ladies’ meetings on how to love our husbands, and I think that respect is a part of Biblical love.

Perhaps the idea of reverence can best be captured this way: think of someone whom you would be awed to have in your home, for example, the president or a great hero of the faith like Hudson Taylor. The ways that come to mind to act (and not act) towards and treat a person like that are ways that we can show the same respect to our husbands. If I had someone like that in my home, I would be attentive, seek to anticipate and meet their needs, prepare what I think they would like. If I had to ask them to do or not do something, I would take care how I worded my request, assuming they meant well.

Do I always act that way toward my husband? No, I’m afraid not. I am instructing myself here and inviting you along through the process.

In one of those sermons that has stuck with me for years, Dr. Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., as a guest speaker at our church, made the point that all of the instructions concerning the home in Ephesians 5 and 6 come after the command to be filled with the Spirit in 5:18. Only when we are filled with the Holy Spirit can we manifest love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.

16 thoughts on ““That she reverence her husband…”

  1. Oooo, that thought of treating my husband as I would treat Hudson Taylor struck a chord with me. Thanks. I have some work to do!

  2. Very good post, Barbara. A wonderful reminder to me. Sometimes the busyness of life makes me apathetic to giving effort towards this very important area. Thanks for the exhortation.

  3. Amen! Amen! Amen!

    This is something I was convicted about several years ago. I still have a huge, long road to travel on with this, but the big truth I’ve found is :

    The more I apply it the more blessed I am in my marriage.

    I don’t think my husband has minded either. 😉

    Awesome post. Thank you, Barbara!


  4. Thought-provoking post, Barbara. If only couples understand this, their marriage will be deeply enriched. God’s model is never wrong. He never says it’s easy but with His help (if only we are humble enough and willing to accept it), it can be done. We need to think WE and not ME. I think the source of problem in marriages this day, besides the lack of communication, is lack of respect for each other.

  5. Great post, Barbara! Thanks bunches.

    Thanks for the kind comment on my grape leaves plates – I hope you can still find them! 🙂 They always add so much colors to my table…

  6. Ohhhhhhh boy… Dennis and I were working on our first “homework” assignment from our Marriage study tonight – and of course THIS is the topic it begins with!!! Women respecting their husbands, submitting… reverencing… OY! Men LOVING, cherishing… seems to me they get the easy part! They get to be Lord & Master … I have such a hard time with all this! BUT… it did bring about in the discussion the fact that I would have a MUCH easier time of it IF I had a godly husband… and I know that’s not supposed to matter… but to me, it does….

  7. It may seem like men have the easier part — but they are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which is a tall order. Also with their position comes responsibility and accountability — they will have to stand before the Lord one day as head of their households and give account. That’s scary to me!!

    Though it’s not easy even in the best of relationships, I can see how it would be harder with an unbelieving spouse. But so many of the instructions given to us say to do them “as unto the Lord.” Maybe keeping in mind that it is ultimately for Him helps. I Peter 3:1-5 comes to mind as well, specfically written to wives of unbelieving husbands. I do pray for Dennis to come to faith in Christ and for grace for you to live as a godly wife in your situation.

      • Sure. The general rule of thumb is that we obey those in authority over us unless they ask us to do something contrary to God’s Word, per the example of Peter when told not to preach Jesus any more (Acts 4:18-20). There are times, like in that instance, to take a stand. But there are other times to make a quiet appeal, like Daniel and his friends did when they were in captivity and couldn’t eat the things they were given (Daniel 1:3-16). Neither of those have to do with marriage, but the principles apply in any situation with a leader wanting someone to do something wrong. One Biblical example in marriage, however, is that of Abigail, who didn’t stand up to her husband but just quietly did the right thing (1 Samuel 25).

  8. I read this one this morning and have thought off and on all day about “reverencing.” Thanks for exploring it here.

    Sometimes it’s hard to sort out how much my reaction to the idea of reverencing is being shaped by the age, and how much is just me and my personality/sin nature.

  9. I’ve been working on showing more reverence to my husband because I began to see that as an area I needed to work on. I was writing about it in my blog and doing a little research when I found your wonderful article. I am going to reference others to it in my blog. Thanks so much for your superb writing and the wisdom you share that could only come from God. Here’s my website if you’d like to check it out. I write Christian fiction and my website is about my books. http://www.reginarussell.weebly.com

  10. I am a Christian man who just turned 30 in Oct., a loving husband to my amazing Wife (married 10/12/2014 after almost 10-years of being together), and a stay-at-home-father to our 4 beautiful children. I am seeking God’s heart, and wish that the storms in this life were easier. I know God has a plan for all the seasons in this life. I know He goes before me through all the easy and hard times. I was reading Ephesians 5, and stumbled on the word Reverence, and what it might mean. I Googled it, and found your post. I will be bookmarking you and following your thoughts, as a part of the body of Christ, I enjoy your fellowship and pray that God continues to bless you as I know He already has.

  11. Hi there.
    Not so sure if my comment is welcomed but here goes anyway. I am a Christian man saved by the Grace of God. My wife also is a believer. I am struggling in our 10year marriage with the same issues from year 1. Every so often my wife simply seems to go down this self pity trip, where she feels that I do nothing around the house and she is stuck with all the hard work. This of course is not the case as I often , in fact every evening clean the kitchen and tidy up after she cooks dinner. We have two children one 9 and the other1 year old. Granted she is busy with the little one but that’s the reason we got a full time helper. My wife works a full day as well which is why I try to help out where I can. Over and above her motherly duties she cooks and makes lunch for work the next day. The rest is done by me and the helper. But still she feels the need to attack me from time to time when she may have to do some dishes on the odd weekend, which I have have offen done myself alone to help out. It almost seems that she simply needs to fight about something and will use the silliest thing as a trigger. In the 10 years of marriage we have had roughly 1000 fights all of which she is angry at me for being lazy. Which I firmly believe is not the case. I cut the grass maintain the household service the cars pick up the dogs droppings take out the trash help in the kitchen every night I even do the laundry from time to time. How much more do I have to do? I love my wife dearly and want to keep her happy. How do I get this message to her without rocking the boat. Sometimes one sees only the messanger and not the message.

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