While I ran this morning, I was listening to a podcast. The preacher was speaking to husbands about an old term called headship. He said he likes headship better than the word lead because there are plenty of wives who are better leaders than their husbands. Leadership doesn’t necessarily make for headship. I’ve been thinking about this all morning, so this blog may be more or less a way to work out some thoughts. Hope you don’t mind.
What’s the difference in headship and leadership? Headship is a term derived from Ephesians 5:23 where Paul instructs that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. So a distinction needs to be made between headship and leadership, or else if the wife is a stronger leader than the husband, the husband may passively crown her the head of the house, or the wife may take that responsibility out of a sense of urgency. Headship doesn’t mean you are the strongest leader in your house. And consequently, headship is not a title that can be transferred to the wife. The husband is the head, whether he operates in that role or not, and will be held accountable to that level whether he believes he should be or not.
Headship is a spiritual position. This is one reason a husband cannot simply give his wife the position. The position is conferred to the husband by God, it isn’t a position that you somehow earn through hard work. It is bestowed upon the husband when he enters into marriage, therefore it cannot be given away to the wife. The pastor in the podcast said that it doesn’t necessarily play out that the husband must be the bread-winner of the family. If a man marries a woman who is better educated, more successful, he should not feel compelled to work toward out doing her, and neither should she feel as if she needs to make less money than her husband. He said in fact that being the head means you can’t be lazy just because your wife makes more money than you do. I think this is because of the spiritual nature of headship. To be active as the family’s head, a husband needs only to demonstrate spiritual maturity that loves Jesus above all, love his wife as Christ loved the church, and to work as one who works for the Lord.
Headship recognizes spiritual gifts and natural talents. A husband who is being the head of his family defers to his wife in her areas of expertise. He recognizes the needs of his family, and meets them as best he can. This can be summed up in the verse that precedes the whole wives submit to your husbands section: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) In fact, many people miss this, but every verse that follows verse 21 of Ephesians chapter 5 and on into 6:1-4 is a breakdown of how we should mutually submit to the needs of one another in our family relationships. When the husband sees the gifts and talents of his wife and children, and allows them to function in those gifts and talents as a part of the family unit, that is headship. Headship doesn’t hoard the leadership within the family, but delegates that leadership to the ones with the best gift or talent for the job.
Finally headship may be a permanently bestowed role upon the husband, but the effectiveness of a husband’s headship rises and falls on his delight with Jesus. There are plenty of church going husbands who know the Bible, are hard working, who love their families, but take little delight in Christ, demonstrate no gladness in worship, and display dim interest in sharing the Gospel. Biblical headship sets the spiritual pulse of a family. If the husband is too busy, or not interested, or has no passion for Jesus, the family will usually follow suit, even if you drag them to church every week! The head of the family sets the tone for all things spiritual, so rekindle your passion for Jesus!
I guess I need to finish that podcast. I only heard the first 10 minutes or so. I’m sure there’s much more to say on this topic. Headship is way deeper than simply being a leader. It’s about following Jesus and calling out your family in that pursuit. The barometer is not how well behaved your children are, or how modestly your wife dresses, or how much time you spend in church, or that you homeschool; those are all works and if they become your barometer, you’ll become enslaved to those standards.
The barometer is simple. How much more Gospel freedom are you living today than you did yesterday? If you’re growing in your love for Jesus, and walking in the freedom of the Gospel, then your headship will be constantly unleashing your wife and children to do the same. Personally, I believe husbands will be held responsible for how much Gospel freedom we unleashed as the head of our families. If Christ came to set us free – our Liberator (big L) – then as husbands, we are the liberators (small L) of our families. We build homes where the Gospel is our Declaration of Dependence and the freedom that Christ set us free for is protected and cultivated through dependence on the Holy Spirit’s power and provision.
And continuing that thought might make a great post for next time. 🙂