The High Calling of Christian Husbands
Article by Greg Morse Staff writer, desiringGod.org
As our cultural moment seems to spiral into greater disorder, men of God do well to ensure that they attend to their own households. With so much happening beyond our walls, the temptation can be to neglect what happens within them.
We can fail to realize that our homes are precisely where many ungodly arrows are aimed. The attempts to redefine marriage, maleness and femaleness, and what constitutes a “modern” family are swings of the ax at the same trunk. The Christian household, in glad submission to God’s design, has been secularism’s target all along. Our churches will be strengthened, and the trajectory of culture helped, when more of us resolve with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
While new and noisy paths are laid in Sodom, we should heed the prophetic voice: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Progress, for us, will look like a return to an ancient path: the path of rebuilding a spirit of worship in our homes, of reclaiming and defending the Christian household. And godly men will lead the way.
As for My House
Men, no one influences the spiritual climate of our homes like we do. If we are lukewarm and careless, we send a spiritual draft throughout the household. If we burn as a furnace for the Lord, even the most antagonistic child within our walls will not but feel the warming influence.
“Our great aim is to lead our families in a way worthy of God. Why else are they put under our care?”
Our great aim is to lead our families in a way worthy of God. Why else are they put under our care? To help us think through how to do this, I believe it helpful to borrow from the classic categories applied to Christ: prophet, priest, and king. We are prophets who speak the word over our households; priests who give ourselves to intercessory prayer, speaking to God on behalf of our loved ones; and kings who govern, defend, and provide for them.
As prophets in our homes, we have the great privilege to speak the words of God to our family. We are spiritual shepherds. Too few today know the joys of hearing a father earnestly, joyfully, humbly giving voice to the words of God in Scripture. But what many of us did not experience as sons, we can give as fathers, God helping us.
We speak to exhort, encourage, and charge our children to a life worthy of God. Paul recognizes this when he says, “Like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12). We not only exhort, but encourage. Not only encourage, but exhort. This extends to our most beloved companion as well, as God charges us to love her like Christ did his church, washing her with the word (Ephesians 5:25–27).
As priests in our homes, we get to intercede for our family before God. In a heart-stirring account, John G. Paton, the great missionary among cannibals, recalled his upbringing:
How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend. (21)
Kneeling together, pouring out our souls in supplication for our family, our churches, our nation, and the lost world — this is a mighty inheritance to leave our children. Whether before them or in the secret place, we get the high privilege to labor in prayer to God on their behalf.
God has firmly written into the nature of every man to lead, provide for, and defend those in his charge. As societies descend into ungodliness, this category of the three is the last to depart. It is a groveling existence for any man — Christian or non-Christian — to abdicate his kingly duties; indeed, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
Though under attack from all sides, the man, as head, makes decisions for his family (both popular and unpopular). Because he loves those affected by his choices, he considers their perspective before steering to the left or to the right. He does not micromanage, but he does actually drive from the driver’s seat. He leads his children and his queen as he follows Christ, his head (1 Corinthians 11:3). Mature masculinity governs its household well (1 Timothy 3:4).
He also leads in ways many kings of the world, untutored in the lordship of Christ, wouldn’t dare. He doesn’t just take up the privileges of authority, but its responsibilities, bending low to carry physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens for the family, and doing so with joy. His sacrifice extends, if it is necessary, even to a cross in the imitation of his Savior. And he leads his family in other unflattering tasks such as confession and repentance. His glorious crown is one of thorns.
Three Men in One
Considering these categories, I find it all too easy to play to my strengths and avoid the discomfort of being seen as weak in the other areas. Isn’t being a prophet of the home sufficient? I have found that those around me are affected when I am weak in any of these three callings. None can be safely neglected.
Consider, then, what we need to hear if we simply content ourselves to operate in one office to the neglect of the other two.
Word to Prophets
What happens when we speak God’s word to our families as prophets, but do not take up the mantle of king or priest?
We might seem faithful in teaching the word. The atmosphere in our homes will be filled with godly content. We will remind them of the immortality of their souls, the great danger of sin, the need for Christ’s righteousness and regeneration, the bliss of union with our Lord, and the joys of a coming world with him in glory. But the great danger for us, if we teach much but pray and govern little, is to lose spiritual power and respect in the home.
First, we will lie in danger of becoming a teacher lacking unction. Our words will lack the heavenly taste, the gravitas, the indescribable influence required to make your teaching most profitable. Teaching good theology while praying little is akin to a heavy bird flapping with small wings. The word of God will not return void, yet do not forget, “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).
Second, we will risk not being taken seriously in the home. If we do not make decisions to govern well on behalf of the family, how can we really oversee souls? “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:4–5). For the bookish among us, what if we learned how to do things around the house, how to be more decisive? What if we worked to attain competencies beyond our study? If we spend more time on our knees and more time engaged in the concerns of daily life, might our excellent words be better received?
Word to Priests
What happens when we pray much, but fail to lead and instruct?
It cannot be denied: if we pray, we do well. But if we seek only to bless them with secret words in our closets or with hurried prayers before meals, will we not soon find our prayers becoming shallower and our exhortations weaker (if we attempt them at all)? Would you be a man “praying at all times in the Spirit,” yet stripped of the Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17–18)? We will not be content to merely exhale our family’s concerns to God, but also inhale God’s word and speak it to them.
“Whether before our families or in the secret place, we get the high privilege to labor in prayer to God on their behalf.”
And if we neglect governing, perhaps we will fail to see how we can be the extension of God’s arm in our family beyond prayer. Their concerns are our prayerful and practical concerns. We do not send them off to be warmed and filled elsewhere, but we pray and then turn to do what we can for them. We take our wife on dates, throw the football around with our son, listen to our daughter’s anxieties and dreams. We endeavor to bless their minds and bodies along with their souls — inside our closets and out.
Word to Kings
What happens when we serve as king, but not as prophet or priest?
We may govern an orderly home. We may labor admirably for our family and pride ourselves in our self-discipline. But ours will be a spiritually impoverished household. For all our earthly forethought and provision, we will have left those under our care exposed to unseen foes — the most dangerous enemies — and failed to fill their plates with what Jesus calls “the good portion” (Luke 10:42).
And if we are not given to prayer and God’s word, our self-resolve will grow thin, our strength will fail, for “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isaiah 40:30). We will not know what it is to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31) because we won’t wait on the Lord, nor cry out like that king of old, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
But add to our kingliness the speaking of God’s word over our family and prayerful intercession for them, and we will rain down blessing upon their heads and fortify them against the evil one. We will grow in stature in their eyes and be kings worthy of the name.
Of Prophets, Priests, and Kings
Acting as prophet, priest, and king in our homes is a simple way to consider what it means to be a Christlike head of the household. We imitate (not replace) Christ, who is our mediating Prophet after Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), our Great High Priest who intercedes for us (Hebrews 4:14–16), and our Anointed King of Psalm 2, to whom all must bow and kiss his ring.
Lastly, then, I commend family worship as a great place to exercise the two most neglected offices of our day: priest and prophet. One simple structure for family worship is to pray (priestly), read Scripture and share a thought from what you read (prophet), and pray again. Consider also singing a song of praise together. This could take ten minutes, or you could linger longer. Consistency is key.
As unbelievers go from bad to worse, both society and the church are in need of God-fearing, Christ-loving, and Spirit-filled households. And men, it has been given to us to be Christlike leaders — in the word, on our knees, and over our homes — as we care for the immortal souls entrusted to our headship.
Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their son and daughter.