This Common Interpretation of Ephesians 5 is WRONG!
The following is a comment that one of our readers submitted and we thank her for it very much. (You can read the original comment here.) She accurately describes what she (and most of us) has been taught about the meaning of Paul’s words on marriage in Ephesians 5, and she is rightly realizing that something is greatly amiss with the company line. Notice that what she describes emphasizes authority and obedience to that authority. And this, in my opinion (JeffC), is where this interpretation goes wrong.
We believe Paul’s emphasis is not on authority and obedience, but on love and acceptance of that love. This lady rightly concludes that the company line we have been most often taught on Ephesians 5 is a fertile setup for the evil of abuse.
Here is what she wrote:
My church encourages wives to submit to husbands in everything except if the husbands ask them to sin. That means if there are decisions to be made, the wife can give her views but the husband has the right to make the final decision. Husbands are called to lead their wives. Wives who do not submit are called rebellious with the spirit of Jezebel.
I work outside the home and am financially independent. I love my family and work hard to support them. I will never do anything to harm my family. I will not divorce my husband for any reason. With this in mind, I am not sure why husband has to lead me. Lead me in what, apart from Bible knowledge and prayer? I am an adult and not a wayward, who needs to be brought back to the right path.
I have also found that this teaching can lead to abuse, as what I read on this site. Sometimes husbands are not overtly abusive or manipulative but when they are given the right and authority to make a decision in every matter, can this not lead to abuse? For example, I know of my close friend (also in my church) who has to ask permission to buy a handbag. If the husband says no, she does not get to buy one, even though she is working and has her own money. This same wife has to put up with inconsiderate in-laws in her home on a frequent basis as the in-laws drop in for a visit whenever they feel like it. Her husband obviously enjoys these visits but the wife feels overwhelmed as they encroach her privacy and rest time. She feels obliged to tolerate her in-laws but secretly dreads these visits. God knows her heart and how she despairs over the visits but does God expect her to put up with all this simply because the husband allows it? It may look trivial but my friend is considering a separation after years of resentment building up.
I know of another wife who wants to use savings for her children’s education. Her husband wants to use a substantial amount of savings on house renovations. Does the wife give in to the husband knowing that it will financially deplete their savings and may be detrimental to the children’s future? This is what is being taught in many churches today. It appears that a wife may give her opinions to her husband on a subject matter but the husband has the right to override every one of her opinions and make the final decision. This is as good as not having an opinion as the end result is the same, ie the husband gets to do what he wants. I am confused. I always felt that the Bible taught us about fairness and equality and justice for men and women. If I say these things in church or within Christian circles, I will be labelled a feminist, which I am not. I will appreciate what you think about this verse on submission. Thanks.
She nails it! I am sure all of you will have some good input for her. Many thanks to her once again.