The following post was written by Jeffrey Klick (Ph.D., Trinitiy Evangelical Divinity School) and first appeared on his website, www.JeffKlick.com. This is one part of a multi-post article.
A wife plays a crucial role in helping her husband grow and mature in the Lord (discipleship). She has the ability to build him up and help him become a strong man of God, or to destroy him. Solomon, who knew a little bit about wives, states it this way:
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. Proverbs 14:1
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Proverbs 12:4
Proverbs also states, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” (Proverbs 18:21) and a wise wife will understand that what she says to her husband will help or hinder his maturing. If the wife is older in the Lord, she should encourage her husband’s growth by gently sharing insights she has learned from the Lord, and encouraging any efforts the husband displays in spiritual leadership. The principle is to fan into flame any spark, not to pour water on it because it is small. The wise wife will praise and encourage her husband when he leads in prayer or Bible study and resist the temptation to comment about how immature or short it may have been. Husbands often have fragile egos and they need their wife’s support not criticism. Men do not like to be “slapped” or put down by their wife’s comments and will often retreat into work, sports, or hobbies when they do not feel respected.
If the wife is younger in the Lord, she should encourage her husband by asking him questions and thus helping him to reinforce his leadership role. Something rises up in a man when he feels like he is fulfilling the role of being the leader, and this will spur additional desire for growth. A wise wife will help her husband become the man of God she desires rather than tear him down verbally.
In addition, the wife needs to be careful when discussing her husband with others. She will “bring shame” to him by exposing him to ridicule or by not protecting his reputation. Solomon stated that this will result in “rottenness to the bones,” and this is an apt picture. When a man finds out that his wife is talking about him behind his back to others, he feels undermined and the foundation is attacked. Bones hold the frame of our body up and by shaming her husband, she is causing damage to the structure. If she is complaining about his lack of leadership or perhaps some personal fault, once he knows that he is the subject of the discussion with others, all motivation to change has been lost. Love covers a multitude of sins and so will a wise wife. The husband that trusts in his wife will grow into a much better leader than the one that does not.
If both husband and wife will seek to be mature and to continue to grow in their own discipleship, they will ultimately end up assisting their spouse. The husband and the wife play a major role in the discipleship process to one another, and when a child arrives, the roles even expand.
All Scripture references are from the ESV – English Standard Version