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How to Honor Your Wife

"Marriage and Men" is, by far, our most popular sermon ever. Preached by Pastor Mark in March 2009 as the tenth part of the Trial series, it is based on 1 Peter 3:7. People know it colloquially for its tone, which is startlingly severe, but, as Pastor Mark says, it's a sermon for the men and the tone specific for them. The following post, where Pastor Mark breaks down how Christian husbands are to love their wives maritally, physically, emotionally, verbally, financially, practically, parentally, and spiritually, is excerpted from that sermon, which was rereleased on the podcast this week as part of our Best of series.

Now, my tone is for the men. We speak to men differently than women. Were this a women’s conference, I would not call you all idiots and imbeciles and fools, that you’re a joke, okay? But you men, this is where it needs to go. You’ve been glad-handed and buddied up and positive thinking and you’re a winner and Jesus loves you and you can do better. And I’m telling you, you’re a joke. And the real men in the room know it and they see it. And maybe there’s one woman that you fooled and she doesn’t see it because like Eve, she’s deceived. First Peter 3:7, here’s what he has to say:

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayer may not be hindered."

In the previous verse, 1 Peter 3:6, he said that women, when it comes to marriage are prone toward, what? Fear. Fear. And you know what? Those fears that the women have about marriage are legitimate, they are. If a woman marries a man, she’s trusting him with the rest of her life that he won’t hit her, cheat on her, that he’ll work hard, that he’ll pay the bills, that he’ll love their children, that he’ll finish the race well, that he’ll walk with Jesus ‘til the end, that if she gets sick, he’ll look after her, that if she is dying, he will be faithful to her. Gentlemen, it is a terrifying thing for a woman to trust a sinful man. As a man, I don’t think I fully understood this until I had daughters, and now I have some understanding of that fear. The thought of taking one of my daughters and walking them down the aisle and handing them to a man and trusting that he will love them and protect them and serve them and care for them and look after them, it causes me fear, grave concern. The women have legitimate fears and what Peter is saying is that men need to be a particular way so that those fears are alleviated. And I love his words, "in an understanding way, showing honor." That’s a man. That’s a man. Now as I say this, many of you guys will nod your head and say, "Yeah, that’s me." No, you’re not. So let me practically unpack this for you. Every man who hears this, even the best men among us, has areas of repentance and growth that are required. And so I want to talk to you men about some things that your woman will fear.

1. Honor your wife maritally.

What this means is, gentlemen, you’re not looking for a girlfriend if you are single. You’re not looking for a roommate. You’re not looking for a cohabitation partner. You’re looking for a wife. You’re looking for a wife. If he can’t even honor you while dating, that is when he is on his best behavior. I don’t care if he apologizes, does he repent and lead? Being sorry is not enough; being Christ-like is what is necessary. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Is he selfless or selfish? Does he give himself up for you or does he take from you? When you get married, men, you are to be a one-woman man. That’s the requirement of an elder and that is the example for all men.

You’re not the flirt guy. You’re not the female buddies guy. You’re not the download porn guy. You’re not the "I got another gal on the side I always keep in case of emergency" guy. You’re not the wandering eye guy.

If you are, you’re not honoring marriage and you’re not honoring your wife. I know some complete fools, they like to take their wedding ring off when they go out to the sports bar with the boys. Do you honor your marriage covenant? Do you take responsibility as the head of the marriage covenant, take responsibility for the well- being of the woman? See, a woman has great fear. If you don’t honor marriage, she is statistically going to go into poverty upon divorce. She will become yet another single mother. She’ll have to find a way to explain to the children of why they shouldn’t be embittered against you even though you’re a loser. See, these fears are very legitimate. See the women have seen this so many times that they’re fearful of men.

2. Honor her physically.

Peter says that the woman is the "weaker vessel." What that means is that generally speaking, if a husband and a wife get in a fistfight, he’ll win. I’ll give you an example. Many of you have seen my wife, Grace. If we get in a fight, it’s not a fair fight. I have an 18-inch neck, she has an 18-inch waist. If someone breaks into our home, I’m not "Go get 'em, baby. You’re the tough one here. I’ll pray. I’ll pray. I’ll pray. I’ll pray imprecatory prayers in the closet." You know what, gentlemen? You are stronger than your woman.

Do you ever hit her? Do you ever shove her? Do you ever push her? Do you ever grab her, restrain her? Do you ever raise a hand and threaten her? Do you ever intimidate her with physical violence? Do you give her that look, that pierced, glazed, violent, angry, don’t-push-it-now’s-a-good-time-to-shut-up look? Do you tell her, "I’m getting very angry, you should just shut up right now. It’s gonna go bad for you"? Do you get right in her face? Do you intimidate her with your presence?

Shame on you. A man who picks on a woman, what a joke. What a joke. Have you ever forced yourself on a woman? You’re a rapist. You’ll say, "She’s my wife." You’re a rapist. You know, when someone is attacked, we call it abuse. As horrible as that is, what is even worse is torment. Torment is when you’re abused and you can’t get out. This is like prisoners of war and those who are held captive in slavery. For some women, their version of slavery and captivity and torment is called marriage. Their husband is physically intimidating. She’s afraid of him. She can’t leave, at least that’s what she thinks. She feels stuck, particularly if she’s got children. Some of you guys are tormentors and abusers and rapists and husbands and Christians, and that is absolutely inexcusable. Most men don’t walk around thinking about their personal safety. I know a lot of women who do. Does she feel safe with you?

Ladies, if you’re dating a guy who has ever been physically violent, run for your life, run for your children’s life, run for your grandchildren’s life. If he’s ever even threatened you with violence, there is something profoundly demonic in that man. There is something sincerely wrong in that man. He will then apologize, tell you he is sorry. He will shed a few tears, say it will never happen again and he will subtly shift the blame to you. "You know when you do that, it just makes me really angry. Don’t do that again." "Oh, okay, it must be my fault." It’s never your fault. It doesn’t matter what you say or do, if a man hits you, harms you, he’s in sin, no excuse. And there are some guys, some absolute block-headed idiots who think when the Bible says that you’re the head of the home, that it means you get to be the bully. There’s nothing uglier than a guy who then takes this same disposition toward his children, especially his daughters. The grossest, vilest thing is a man who hits a woman, and the man who hits a woman is willing to hit his own daughter. It’s disgusting.

3. Honor your wife emotionally.

Some of you say, "I’m not emotional, I don’t connect." You should. Men and women have the same emotions; they express them in masculine and feminine ways. Your wife needs intimacy. She wants you to know her. She wants to know you. She wants you to open up. She wants you to be passionate and loving and honest, and she wants to know you and she wants to be known by you. And the Bible says that Adam was with his wife, Eve, and he, what? He knew her. He knew her. There are too many guys that turn marriage into a job description. He does his responsibility, she does hers, and there’s no emotional connection whatsoever. And see, those are guys whose sins are sins of omission. "I didn’t hit her, I didn’t yell at her." Yeah, but you didn’t love her. You didn’t connect with her. You didn’t encourage her. You didn’t pursue her. So ultimately, you failed her.

4. Honor her verbally.

How do you speak to her? Do you have nasty nicknames for her? Do you raise your voice? Do you threaten her? Do you give back-handed comments? Some of you guys would say, "I would never hit a woman." How about with your tongue? How about with your tongue? Not just speaking to your wife, but about her. Not just speaking to her in her presence, but speaking about her in her absence. When you wife is not there and you’re with the boys, how do you speak of her? What do you say about her? You know what? Your children will pick this up as well. You start saying horrible things about your wife, and the children will be left in this horrible position of choosing between their mother and father and invariably some of the children will despise their own mother and speak evil of her in an effort to remain loyal to their father. See a division in a marriage includes the children, they’re stuck in the middle. They’re casualties of the war. You men could defuse this and take away this fear by honoring her verbally. Speaking honestly, respectfully, lovingly to her and about her. See, some of you guys, you forget. You say, "Well, Jesus isn’t there. My wife isn’t there. I get to say whatever I want." No, Jesus is there even when your wife’s not there. God, see God hears everything. God sees everything. God knows everything, and you’re not getting away with anything.

5. Honor your wife financially.

"If a man does not provide for the needs of his family, he’s denied the faith and worse than an unbeliever." There’s a verse. See, the woman’s curse was her children and submitting to her husband. The man’s curse was providing for his family. And what the weakest, most impish, worthless men among us do is "Oh, my load is heavy. I know yours is heavy, but I need you to carry half of mine too." Men, you gotta work. You gotta work hard. You’ve gotta out-work the other men if you want to feed your family. That’s your responsibility as a man. If you want any men to respect you, if you want your wife to respect you, if you want your children to respect you, you pay the bills. You make the money, you feed the family. We live in this day where there are guys telling their wives, "Hey, birth control, abortion," "We can’t have kids," "You make too much money," "I don’t like responsibility." Shame on you. There’s nothing sadder than a woman who loves Jesus and wants to be a mom, and the husband keeps saying, "I’m the head of the home, no." What he’s saying is "I’m in charge and I command you to sin," to deny all of your maternal instincts. Titus 2, "The woman should be homeward in her orientation."

“We’re a culture that is working hard to protect women and children, and no one has the common sense to beat on the guys who are the cause of so much of the pain.”

And I know that some of you guys are gonna hear this. You’re gonna say, "Oh, but this is outdated." Yes, and I would say look at the condition of marriages and families in our culture and ask if it’s working. The latest statistics, 40 percent of all children are born out of wedlock. It is now at the point where women aren’t even pretending they’re gonna ever get married. They go to college, get a good job, get pregnant, have a kid. They’ve lost any hope of ever finding a guy who can actually carry the load, and that’s tragic. We’re a culture that is working hard to protect women and children, and no one has the common sense to beat on the guys who are the cause of so much of the pain. I know guys as well, they’re not generous. I know one guy, he’s such an idiot. This guy makes decent money and he’s totally chintzy with his wife. She gets no spending money, can’t go out to coffee with the girls ‘cause he’s a total control freak and tightwad. Be honoring of your wife financially, and I’m not saying you’re gonna live at this lavish and high level.

But what I am saying is this: you live within your means, you make a budget, you tithe, spend, save, invest well. And I know it’s hard to live on one income. I know it’s hard. I know it’s particularly difficult in this economic climate, but for some of you boys, it’s a built-in excuse to be irresponsible. Statistically as well, if you have children, and put them in day care so mom can work, the other costs that are associated, eating out, take-out, dry cleaning, car, second phone, cell phone, things of that nature, plus the increased tax breaks and costs and burdens... The truth is very rarely does a wife go out and get a job and contribute anything to the bottom line of the family. The taxes alone eat a huge portion of it. MSNBC did a big study on this years ago and they brought the data to the mothers who dropped their kids off at the day care. "You’re providing nothing to the income of the family," and the women are bawling, having a nervous breakdown on television, saying, "Well, then why am I even going to work?" Good question, because that guy doesn’t even know how to run numbers on taxes. He’s not smart enough to find somebody to figure it out for him. He just says, "Put the kids in day care, get a job, shoulder half of my curse. Oh and by the way, I forgot to run the numbers, come to find it’s not really helping." Honor her financially.

6. Honor her practically.

Some guys, the house is a wreck. It’s never finished. The furniture’s broken. The car hardly starts. They live far away from community. They don’t have a schedule. They don’t have a budget. They don’t have a plan. She doesn’t know what’s going on. The practical stuff of life, the guy’s just a zoo, just an absolute, disorganized, unplanned, throw-it-together-at-the-last-minute, hope-that-it- works nightmare. Honor her practically. Do you have a budget? Do you have a schedule? Do you have an integrated plan? Do you have a life?

7. Honor her parentally.

Gentlemen, your wife wants you to love the kids. She wants you to help raise them. She wants you to love them, to pursue them. She wants you to get guy time with the boys. She wants you to get daddy dates with the girls. She wants you to do Ephesians 6 and be their pastor. She wants you to read the Bible with ‘em. She wants you to pray with ‘em. And you know what? You should too. So many guys who are even Christians think "I pay for Christian school, I send the wife and kids to the Christian church. I’ve done my Christian duty." No, you’ve abdicated your responsibility to others. It’s your job to love your kids. It’s your job to pray with your kids. It’s your job to teach the Bible to your kids. It’s your job to encourage your kids. It’s your job to discipline your kids.

“Christian, husband, father, employee. Those are your first four duties; it’ll take most of your life. You’re not gonna have a lot of time.”

A wife will be so forgiving of so many things if she actually knows that her husband desperately loves their children, that he serves them, that he cares for them, that he’s tender with them, that he’s Pastor Dad for them. So few children actually have a father. So few of those actually have a Christian father and how few of those actually have a dad who’s doing his job. And I’ll tell you what, guys, this is not something you have to do; it’s something you get to do. This is wonderful. I mean every night, my daughter Alexie, blond hair, blue eyes, looks like Tinkerbell, "Poppa Daddy, I need a piggyback ride and a Bible story." You know what? I do too. I need that as much as Alexie. I weep thinking of the day that I’m not gonna be giving her piggyback rides, so I give her as many piggyback rides as I can ‘cause it’s a great season and a wonderful opportunity. What this means, gentlemen, is your priorities will be Christian, husband, father, employee. Those are your first four duties; it’ll take most of your life. You’re not gonna have a lot of time. Probably gonna need to put down your tools, your hobbies, your car, your projects, your golf clubs, your Xbox and probably going to need to put down the remote control and your laptop and your iPod to honor your wife parentally. You’re not gonna have a lot of time for a lot of other things. And gentlemen, your goal is not to stand before God and tell him what level you got to on "World of Warcraft."

8. Honor her spiritually.

And all of this comes down to this point. There are between 11 and 13 million more Christian women than men. Many women go to church on their own. They have to drag their husband to church, they drag their children to church. It is your job, men, to lead spiritually. You pray with the family. You read the Bible with the family. You pick a good church, become a member of it, submit to it. You pick the community group or midweek class you will be in. You are the one to lead the family spiritually. Some guys say, "Well, I don’t know what to do." Just start by praying with your wife. There are women who will hear this sermon and deep down in their heart, this is what they want the most, "If my husband would just pray with me." There are some of you guys, you pray with all kinds of people, you don’t pray with your wife. Do you pray with your wife? Do you pray with your kids? Do you read the Bible with your wife? Do you talk about Jesus with your wife? Do you talk about Jesus with your kids? Leading spiritually is the foundation of everything else.

Watch the full sermon below:

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