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As we consider some common sins committed in marriage by both men and women, remember the context of federal headship. The responsibility for all these sins lies with the husband. A woman can and should recognize her individual sins before the Lord; her husband’s overarching responsibility should in no way lessen her sense of personal and individual responsibility. Properly understood, it should have precisely the opposite effect.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (Jas. 1:23).
On Seeing the Back of Your Head
The Word of God is given to us in order to enable us to see ourselves. Apart from this, we cannot really see ourselves. When we examine our own hearts, there are many parts of it which we cannot see. In order to see ourselves properly, we always have to hold up the mirror of the Word. This is particularly true in marriage.
Common Sins of Husbands
First is refusing responsibility. As we saw last week, the man is the head (1 Cor. 116 ). His only option therefore is whether he will accept or refuse to face that fact of headship. Many Christian men refuse, and it shows in their marriages.
A second problem is that of refusing to be masculine—In 1 Cor. 16:13 , Paul charges the Corinthians to be courageous in their sanctification. The word he uses is literally act the man. Especially in the arena of marriage, men need to learn to be men.
Third, a common problem is infidelity in the heart. Jesus’ words are well-known. “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). This includes, but is not limited to, lust provoked by magazines, co-workers, daughters and wives of friends, Internet images, movies, songs, daydreams, or anything else you might be able to come up with.
Then there is the problem of harsh bitterness. Paul goes out of his way to tell husbands that love includes a refusal to be embittered by the behavior of their wives (Col. 3:19). Fifth, we cannot leave out the common problem of being a blockhead. Women are complicated beings. Peter requires husbands to treat their wives according to knowledge (1 Pet. 3:7). The Word of God does not permit you to fail this course. Men must study their wives.
Sixth, there is the problem of poor provision. Paul says that poor financial provision for one’s family is tantamount to apostasy (1 Tim. 5:8). This is the case regardless of the reason how the provision failed. An essential element in provision is forethought. And when there is a genuine hard providence—a meteor landed on your business—remember the first principle above.
And last, laziness—one particular reason why many men do not provide adequately for their wives is laziness. “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4). This is followed by the close second of excuse-making.
Common Sins of Wives
A very common sin is that of disrespect. God commands that a wife respect her husband (Eph. 5:33). Many wives do not read all those marriage books because they are zealous for righteousness; they read them in order to get more ammo to use on their husbands. Further, they want their husbands to love them unconditionally, but they then return their owed respect conditionally.
Second, there is resentment. While men tend to harsh bitterness, women tend to hurt bitterness. In the emotional realm, women bruise easily (1 Pet. 3:7). Some have concluded from this, falsely, that women have a right to any offense. But in Eph. 4:31-32, Paul tells us what we must do with the sins committed against us. It is as much a sin to be offended as it is to offend.
Third, a common sin is to think as the foolish women do. Many men struggle under numerous temptations for a time, only to have the wife join the dogpile. For example, Job’s wife encouraged him to let go of his integrity, to curse God and die (Job 2:9).
A fourth problem is the “little helper syndrome.” The Bible says that woman was made for the man (1 Cor. 11:8), and she was given to him to be a helpmeet (Gen. 2:20). But nowhere does the Bible say that the Holy Spirit needed a helpmeet. “Let’s see. Where can I find someone to help convict this man of his sins. . . ?”
Another is poor sexual responsiveness. Paul teaches us that one of the purposes of marriage is to provide protection against the manifold temptations out there to immorality (1 Cor. 7:2). But not only are many Christian wives not a help here, they are a positive hindrance. Remember though, the model is to be the Shulamite, and not the latest survey results in some bizarre women’s magazine.
In conservative circles, there can be the problem of pseudo-submissiveness. Many wives want their husbands to take the initiative, seize the leadership… as long as they do what the wife would have wanted them to. But see Eph. 5:24.
And last, there is carping, whining and quarreling. Solomon tells us that the contentions of a wife are an ongoing pain-in-the neck (Prov. 19:13). “But I just wanted him to hear my concerns. Just one more time.”