Skip to content

Skip to secondary menu

Skip to table of contents

Jehovah’s Witnesses

English

The Watchtower—Study Edition  |  May 2010

Women, Why Submit to Headship?

Women, Why Submit to Headship?

 Women, Why Submit to Headship?

“The head of a woman is the man.”​—1 COR. 11:3.

1, 2. (a) What did the apostle Paul write about Jehovah’s arrangement of headship and subjection? (b) What questions will be considered in this article?

JEHOVAH has established the orderly sequence that the apostle Paul mentioned when he wrote that “the head of every man is the Christ” and “the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) The preceding article noted that Jesus considered it a privilege and a joy to be in subjection to his Head, Jehovah God, and that Christian men have Christ as their head. Christ was kind, gentle, compassionate, and unselfish when dealing with people. Men in the congregation need to be that way toward others, especially their wives.

2 What, though, about women? Who is their head? “The head of a woman is the man,” wrote Paul. How should women view this inspired statement? Does the principle still apply when the husband is an unbeliever? Does submission to man’s headship require that the wife be a silent partner in marriage, having no say when decisions are made? In what way does a woman procure praise for herself?

 “I Am Going to Make a Helper for Him”

3, 4. Why is the headship arrangement in marriage beneficial?

3 The headship arrangement is of divine origin. After Adam was created, Jehovah God went on to say: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.” Following Eve’s creation, Adam was so delighted at having a companion and helper that he said: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:18-24) Adam and Eve had the marvelous prospect of becoming the father and mother of an entire human race of perfect people, who would live forever in happiness in a global paradise.

4 Because of the rebellion of our first parents, the perfect situation in the garden of Eden was lost. (Read Romans 5:12.) But the headship arrangement remained in effect. When properly followed, it brings great benefit and happiness in marriage. The result becomes similar to how Jesus felt about being in subjection to his Head, Jehovah. In his prehuman existence, Jesus was “glad before [Jehovah] all the time.” (Prov. 8:30) Because of imperfection, men are no longer capable of being perfect heads, nor are women able to demonstrate perfect subjection. When husbands and wives continue to work at doing the best they can, however, the arrangement results in the greatest possible contentment in marriage at this time.

5. Why should marriage mates take to heart the counsel found at Romans 12:10?

5 Crucial to the success of a marriage is that the marriage mates apply this Scriptural counsel meant for all Christians: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Rom. 12:10) Also, both husband and wife should work hard to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.”​—Eph. 4:32.

When the Mate Is Not a Believer

6, 7. What may be the result if a Christian wife is in subjection to an unbelieving husband?

6 What if your marriage mate is not a servant of Jehovah? Often, it is the husband who is not a believer. In this case, how should the wife treat him? The Bible answers: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”​—1 Pet. 3:1, 2.

7 God’s Word tells the wife to maintain a submissive attitude toward the unbelieving husband. Her good conduct can influence him to consider what it is that motivates her to behave in such a fine manner. As a result, the husband may look into the beliefs of his Christian wife and eventually accept the truth himself.

8, 9. What can a Christian wife do if her unbelieving husband does not respond favorably to her fine conduct?

 8 What, though, if the unbelieving husband does not respond favorably? The Scriptures encourage the believing wife to display Christian qualities at all times, however difficult this may be. For example, we read at 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is long-suffering.” The Christian wife does well, then, to continue to behave “with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering,” putting up with the situation in love. (Eph. 4:2) With the help of God’s active force​—his holy spirit—​it is possible to maintain Christian qualities even under difficult circumstances.

9 “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me,” wrote Paul. (Phil. 4:13) God’s spirit enables the Christian mate to do many things that would not be possible otherwise. For example, harsh treatment by one’s spouse may make it tempting for one to retaliate. However, the Bible tells all Christians: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Rom. 12:17-19) Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:15 counsels us: “See that no one renders injury for injury to anyone else, but always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.” With the backing of Jehovah’s holy spirit, what is impossible in our own strength becomes possible. How appropriate that we pray for God’s holy spirit to provide what we lack!

10. How did Jesus handle the unkind words and actions of others?

10 Jesus set an outstanding example in dealing with those who said or did unpleasant things to him. “When he was being reviled,” states 1 Peter 2:23, “he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” We are exhorted to follow his fine example. Do not be provoked by the bad behavior of others. As all Christians are admonished, be “tenderly compassionate, humble in mind, not paying back injury for injury or reviling for reviling.”​—1 Pet. 3:8, 9.

Only Silent Partners?

11. In what great privilege will some Christian women have a share?

11 Does submission to a husband’s headship mean that women are silent partners in marriage, having no voice in family matters or other subjects? Not at all. Women as well as men are given many privileges by Jehovah. Just think of the great honor that 144,000 individuals have in being kings and priests in heaven under Christ when he rules over this earth! That number includes women. (Gal. 3:26-29) Obviously, Jehovah has given women an active role in his arrangement of things.

12, 13. Give an example to show that women prophesied.

12 In Bible times, for example, women prophesied. Joel 2:28, 29 foretold: “I shall pour out my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy. . . . Even on the menservants and on the maidservants in those days I shall pour out my spirit.”

13 Some 120 disciples of Jesus who were gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. included women as well as men. God’s spirit was poured out on this entire group. Peter could therefore quote what the prophet Joel had foretold and apply it to men and women alike. Peter stated: “This is what was said through the prophet Joel, ‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of  my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy . . . ; and even upon my men slaves and upon my women slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’”​—Acts 2:16-18.

14. What part did women play in the spread of early Christianity?

14 In the first century, women played a significant part in spreading Christianity. They preached to others about God’s Kingdom and did things related to that preaching work. (Luke 8:1-3) For example, the apostle Paul called Phoebe “a minister of the congregation that is in Cenchreae.” And in sending greetings to fellow workers, Paul mentioned a number of faithful women, including “Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who are working hard in the Lord.” He also noted “Persis our beloved one, for she performed many labors in the Lord.”​—Rom. 16:1, 12.

15. What part do women play in the spread of Christianity in our time?

15 In our time, a large part of the more than seven million people preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom throughout the world are women of all ages. (Matt. 24:14) Many of them are full-time ministers, missionaries, and members of Bethel families. The psalmist David sang: “Jehovah himself gives the saying; the women telling the good news are a large army.” (Ps. 68:11) How true these words have proved to be! Jehovah values the part women play in declaring the good news and accomplishing his purposes. His requirement that Christian women be in submission surely does not mean silent subjection.

Two Women Who Spoke Up

16, 17. How does Sarah’s example show that women are not to be silent partners in marriage?

16 If Jehovah grants women many privileges, should not husbands consult their wives before making serious decisions? It would be wisdom on their part to do so. The Scriptures mention several incidents in which wives spoke or acted even without their views being solicited by their husbands. Consider two cases.

17 Sarah, the wife of the patriarch Abraham, kept on telling him to dismiss his secondary wife and her son because of their lack of respect. “The thing proved to be very displeasing to Abraham”​—but not to God. Jehovah told Abraham: “Do not let anything that Sarah keeps saying to you be displeasing to you about the boy and about your slave girl. Listen to her voice.” (Gen. 21:8-12) Abraham obeyed Jehovah, listened to Sarah, and did what she requested.

18. What initiative did Abigail take?

18 Think also of Abigail, the wife of Nabal. When David was fleeing from jealous King Saul, he spent time encamped near Nabal’s flocks. Instead of taking any of this wealthy man’s many possessions, David and his men protected his property.  However, Nabal “was harsh and bad in his practices,” and he “screamed rebukes” at David’s men. He was a “good-for-nothing man,” and ‘senselessness was with him.’ When David’s men respectfully asked for some provisions, Nabal refused. How did Abigail respond when she heard what had happened? Without telling Nabal, she “hastened and took two hundred loaves of bread and two large jars of wine and five sheep dressed and five seah measures of roasted grain and a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs” and gave them to David and his men. Did Abigail do what was right? “Jehovah struck Nabal,” states the Bible, “so that he died.” David later married Abigail.​—1 Sam. 25:3, 14-19, 23-25, 38-42.

‘The Woman Who Procures Praise’

19, 20. What makes a woman truly praiseworthy?

19 The Scriptures commend the wife who does things Jehovah’s way. The Bible book of Proverbs praises “a capable wife,” saying: “Her value is far more than that of corals. In her the heart of her owner has put trust, and there is no gain lacking. She has rewarded him with good, and not bad, all the days of her life.” Moreover, “her mouth she has opened in wisdom, and the law of loving-kindness is upon her tongue. She is watching over the goings-on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat. Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her.”​—Prov. 31:10-12, 26-28.

20 What makes a woman truly praiseworthy? “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain,” states Proverbs 31:30, “but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.” Included in the fear of Jehovah is the need to submit willingly to the divine arrangement of headship. “The head of a woman is the man,” just as “the head of every man is the Christ,” and “the head of the Christ is God.”​—1 Cor. 11:3.

Be Grateful for God’s Gift

21, 22. (a) What reasons do wedded Christians have for being grateful for God’s gift of marriage? (b) Why should we show respect for Jehovah’s arrangements for authority and headship? (See box on page 17.)

21 Christians joined in wedlock have so many reasons to express gratitude to God! They can walk hand in hand as a happily married couple. Especially can they be thankful for God’s blessed gift of marriage because it affords them the opportunity to blend their lives and walk with Jehovah. (Ruth 1:9; Mic. 6:8) He​—the Originator of marriage—​knows exactly what is required for marital happiness. Always do things his way, and ‘the joy of Jehovah will be your stronghold,’ even in today’s troubled world.​—Neh. 8:10.

22 A Christian husband who loves his wife as he does himself will exercise tender, considerate headship. His godly wife will be truly lovable, for she will be supportive and will show him deep respect. Most important of all, their exemplary marriage will honor our praiseworthy God, Jehovah.

Do You Recall?

• What is Jehovah’s arrangement of headship and subjection?

• Why should marriage mates honor each other?

• How should a believing wife treat her unbelieving mate?

• Why should husbands consult their wives before making serious decisions?

[Study Questions]

 [Box on page 17]

Why Show Respect for Authority?

Jehovah has established among intelligent creatures arrangements for authority and headship. This has been done for the good both of spirit creatures and of humans. It affords them opportunities to exercise their free will and to honor God by serving him in a unified, harmonious way.​—Ps. 133:1.

The congregation of anointed Christians recognizes the authority and headship of Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:22, 23) In recognition of Jehovah’s authority, eventually “the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:27, 28) How fitting it is, then, that humans dedicated to God cooperate with the headship arrangement within the congregation and in the family! (1 Cor. 11:3; Heb. 13:17) By doing so, we benefit ourselves as recipients of Jehovah’s approval and blessing.​—Isa. 48:17.

[Picture on page 13]

Prayer can help a Christian wife to display godly qualities

[Pictures on page 15]

Jehovah values the part women play in advancing Kingdom interests