Biblically speaking, those who are subject to various authorities can and should be disciplined by those authorities. The husband-wife relationship is no exception to this rule. How, then, should a Christian husband fulfill his duty to discipline his wife, who is placed under God's authority? That's a question we're trying to answer here.
When we hear the word discipline related to wives, it can be a scary term for many. It evokes images of husbands hitting their wives and pushing them around or locking them in closets. It could evoke images of husbands standing over their wives, yelling and yelling at them and using all sorts of profanity. This is not the kind of discipline we are talking about in a biblical context. Men who do this will answer to God for this abusive treatment of their wives.
Arguments against disciplining wives by their husbands
Before we can consider how you can discipline your wife as a Christian husband, we need to address the arguments against any form of husbandly disciplining of their wives.
Argument Nr. 1A partner cannot discipline the other partner
The first and most common argument against disciplining Christian husbands is the belief that husband and wife are equal partners in marriage. The Bible does not show marriage as a partnership, but as a patriarchy (male leadership hierarchy). See my post "Is marriage a partnership or a patriarchy?' for all scriptures that present marriage as patriarchy rather than partnership.
Argument Nr. 2Discipline infantilizes a woman
Some would argue that when a man disciplines his wife in any way, she (an adult) is treated like a child. This couldn't be further from the truth. A woman's discipline is certainly different than that of a child and we'll get into that later in this post.
But discipline is something that applies to both adults and children. Governments have the power to discipline their adult citizens, military commanders have the power to discipline adults under their command, churches have the power to discipline their adult members, and employers have the right to discipline their adult employees. Discipline affects all of us as adults—both men and women.
No one would argue against discipline in these other areas of authority or say that it infantilizes these adults. Of course, there is also the possibility of wrongly abusing one's authority and discipline, but the exercise of discipline itself is not wrong, only the abuse of it.
Argument Nr. 3A wife's submission to her husband is voluntary, so he cannot discipline her
Even some Christian Complementaries and others who believe in male leadership in marriage deny the husband's right and responsibility to discipline his wife. They do this based on their belief that although a woman is commanded by God to submit to her husband, that submission is voluntary on her part and cannot be forced by her husband.
So if a husband cannot force his wife's submission, he cannot discipline her for not submitting to his guidance. I have shown how Scripture refutes the idea that a woman's submission is voluntary, but rather shows that her submission is obligatory and tantamount to obedience. See my previous post "Should a Christian husband get his wife to submit?' more on this topic.
Argument Nr. 4Christ does not discipline his bride
Some Christians, both complementary and egalitarian, have tried to argue that husbands should not discipline their wives, since we have no examples of Christ disciplining his bride (the church). This is actually not true.
Throughout Scripture, God presents His relationship with His people in two main ways. The Bible presents our relationship with God as individuals as that of a father and his children. The Bible presents God's relationship with His people as a group as that of a man and a woman, God being the man and God's people his wife.
In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with Israel as a nation and married her (Ezekiel 16:1-14). He later reveals that he had to divorce Israel because, despite the chastisement he brought on Israel, she did not repent of her wicked ways and returned to him (Jeremiah 3:8).
In the New Testament, God has a new bride foretold in Old Testament prophecy. But the Church (which is a new body made up of the remnant of Israel and Gentile believers) is presented as a bride engaged to her husband, who is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). The marriage and consummation of the Church with Christ is seen in the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:9.
Even as a betrothed bride, Christ disciplined his church through his apostles, who acted as protectors and guides of his bride.
“I am jealous of you with divine jealousy. I promised you to a man, Christ, that I might present you to him as a pure virgin.” – 2 Corinthians 11:2 (NIV)(Video) Seven Ways to Discipline Your Child | MisterEpicMann
"What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? - 1 Corinthians 4:21 (NIV)
Speaking to his seven churches in Revelation (chapters 2 & 3), Christ rebukes and disciplines all but one for their faults, and Christ says this to his churches:
"Those I love I blame and discipline. So be serious and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (NIV)
So my point in all of this is that those who say that God does not discipline His bride are ignoring passages of Scripture that show, both in his previous marriage to Israel and in his current engagement to the Church, that He does in fact discipline His bride .
Different types of discipline for different areas of authority
The discipline of each authority established by God is very different. The types of discipline that a government can impose on its citizens are quite different from the discipline that church authorities can impose on their members. An employer's discipline towards its employees is very different from the discipline of parents towards their children. Likewise, a husband's discipline toward his wife will be different than the discipline applied in these other areas of authority.
But what all of these areas of authority have in common is this:
In every area of authority, God has established that authority has not only the right but also the duty to discipline those under its authority.
Discipline makes us a better person
The Bible has a lot to say about discipline. These are just some of those passages.
"He who observes discipline shows the way of life, but he who ignores correction leads others astray." - Proverbs 10:17 (NIV)
"He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and disgrace, but he who heeds correction is honored." - Proverbs 13:18 (NIV)
"Those who neglect discipline despise themselves, but he who attends to correction gains understanding." - Proverbs 15:32 (NIV)
Discipline should be measured
"I am with you and will save you," declares the Lord. “Though I will completely destroy all nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you.I will discipline you, but only in proportion; I will not let you go with all impunity.'” – Jeremiah 30:11 (NIV)
As husbands, our discipline should always start out gently and then move to harder forms of discipline. For example, if your wife rarely speaks to you in a disrespectful or demeaning tone, when she makes a mistake, gently let her know that her tone was demeaning or disrespectful. If she apologizes, no further action is required.
But what if your wife behaves defiantly or publicly disrespects you as her husband? In this case, a Christian husband may be forced to use harsher forms of discipline.
Discipline is about holiness
Christ did not sacrifice himself for his bride (the church) to follow her own selfish ways, but he sacrificed himself to sanctify her.
25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her;26That he couldsanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water through the word,27That he could present it as a glorious church that has no stains or creases or anything like that; but that's the way it should beholy and without blemish."(Video) Five Ways to Dominate Your Child | MisterEpicMann
– Epheser 5:25-27 (King James Version)
As we have already mentioned, this is what God says to His churches in Revelation:
„as many as i loveI rebuke and chastise: therefore be diligent and repent.” Revelation 3:19 (KJV)
No man who truly loves his wife takes pleasure in disciplining her. Of course, as Christian's husbands, we want our wives to be happy, that we don't want to rock the boat unnecessarily. Therefore discipline on the part of a man towards his wife, if he is really acting out of love, is a sacrifice on his part. It saddens him to have to take these measures with his wife whom he loves.
Discipline is about maintaining order
I think comparing family structure to military rank is both biblical and literalhupotasso(the biblical term for submission in marriage) is a military term and also helps us understand discipline in the family.
God is like our general (4 stars). At home, the husband would be like a lieutenant general (3 stars) and the wife like a major general (2 stars). The kids would be the teams. Imagine a 4 star general walking by and seeing a 2 star general publicly disparage their 3 star general in front of other officers or the enlisted. What do you think this 4 star general's answer would be?
This 4 star general would first scold the 2 star general for being disrespectful and then he would probably scold the 3 star general for allowing the disrespect. It is the same with God when he considers the relationships between man and woman.
He gave us different positions and we are supposed to practice and play these roles that he gave us. As a Christian husband, you cannot allow your wife's demeaning or disrespectful behavior to go unchecked, as it is an affront to God's established order. You are responsible for teaching both your wife and children the ways of God. You are equally responsible for disciplining your wife and children when they rebel against God's ways.
So, having addressed the arguments against a Christian husband disciplining his wife and the intended purpose of a husband disciplining his wife, we can now look at practical examples of how a Christian husband may discipline his wife.
7 ways to discipline your wife
Disciplining your wife should always begin with the gentlest approach first, and only progress to harsher forms of discipline when the gentle approach is unsuccessful.Warnings should always be given before more severe disciplinary action is taken. You should always pray and seek the Lord's guidance before applying this type of disciplining to His wife.
Here are 7 ways you can discipline your wife when gentle rebuke doesn't work:
#1 For disrespect
If your wife speaks in public in a disrespectful and demeaning manner in front of others (whether to you or others), it may require public rebuke of her tone and actions.
#2 For overspending
If your wife spends money against your will, it may require confiscation of her credit cards and ATM cards. Of course, this can be done in measured amounts. Perhaps you could just take away a card or two that she has misused, and if her spending continues to spiral out of control, you would move on to removing the ATM card as well. That doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't have money, but you could give her a cash allowance every week.
#3 Because you don’t care about your kids or you contradict your authority with your kids
If your wife is not fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother to your children or continues to challenge your authority over the children, perhaps you can put off buying that new car for her and let her drive her older car for a while while it is safe for her to ride. If you need to buy another car, you can downgrade the type of car she can get or buy her a used one instead. Maybe you're putting off buying that new dishwasher she's been wanting.
#4 For watching too much TV
If your wife watches too much TV, you can cancel cable or satellite TV and just use antenna service.
#5 For spending too much time online
If your wife spends too much time online (e.g. on Facebook or other social networks, or online shopping), you can change your internet passcode on your router if she doesn't respond to your alerts about this, preventing her devices from accessing it have internet.
#6 For neglecting the house
Maybe your wife doesn't watch too much TV or spend too much time online, but she still neglects her chores around your home. If your wife is neglecting her responsibilities to take care of your home, you may be postponing that new living room furniture you were talking about or the new window displays that she requested.
#7 For sexual denial
If your wife is not sexually submissive and chronically refuses your sexual advances (without legitimate medical or psychological reasons for doing so), the upcoming trip you wanted to take her on may be canceled. Perhaps that wardrobe upgrade your wife has been looking forward to is downsized or cancelled. The Bible says a husband must provide his wife with clothing, but it doesn't say it has to be the expensive clothing she wants!
Some of these disciplinary procedures can affect the family as a whole, but sometimes it is necessary to do so in an attempt to convert your wife.
These are just a few examples of how a Christian husband can discipline his wife in a way that honors God and His design for the home without being abusive.
God not only gives husbands the power to discipline their wives, but also gives them the duty to do so. Men should not discipline their wives for power stumbling or proud arrogance. Instead, men should discipline their wives from a place of love to create sanctity and order in their homes. Even if a woman rejects her husband's discipline, as Israel did with God as her husband, he should still discipline her and pray that God would bring his wife to repentance. One topic I didn't cover here was the topic of wife spanking. I wanted to lay the foundation here first for the discipline of wives by their husbands. I wrote an entire article on the subject of woman spanking which you can read here -"Does the Bible allow a husband to hit his wife?”
Answers to reader questions
What if a woman works and earns her own money or even earns more money than her husband?
Many have emailed me and asked, "What if a woman works and makes her own money or even makes more money than her husband - wouldn't that pull the teeth out of most of these types of discipline?"
Discipline is about motivating someone to make the right choices.
I hear from women all the time - "Well, if you took that away, I'd just do that... and so on". Yes, whether they are young adults (teens) or older adults, we all have to choose whether to submit to the discipline and learn from what the authority figure is trying to teach us.
Wives must choose to submit to discipline—there is no question about that.I'm not saying it's optional or voluntary, God requires wives to submit to their husbands' discipline. But let's face it, there are many ways women can sinfully resist and circumvent their man's discipline.
But even in those cases where wives attempt to resist or circumvent their husbands' various methods of disciplining, the husband still must do whatever he can to bring discipline into their lives that they do shows the right way. And when a husband has done all that he can do as his wife's immediate authority, he leaves her in the hands of her higher authority, which is God Himself.
One last comment on finance. Yes, your wife could work. Yes, she can make more money than you. But if she mishandles the money, you are obligated to at least separate your money from hers so that she cannot use it for sinful or reckless purposes.
But won't a man's attempts at disciplining his wife eventually lead to divorce?
Other husbands have emailed asking, "But don't these kinds of disciplines eventually lead to divorce?"
Divorce is always a very real possibility in any marriage, whether disciplining or not.
But God is not calling us as husbands to forsake our role as head of our wives in order to keep our marriage together at all costs. Christ did not sacrifice himself for his church to enable it to sin, but to sanctify it.
If you allow your wife to believe that the threat of divorce will cause you to let her continue her sinful behavior, she will do it every time.
In fact, the two most powerful tools in the hands of most modern rebellious wives are the threat of divorce or the removal of sex.
There are many men in American and Western cultures who have been brought down to their knees by one or a combination of these two evil weapons in submission to their wives.
Now for the threat of divorce - threats of divorce are not always evil. If a woman threatens to divorce her husband because he is physically abusing their children or because he refuses to work or provide for his family, she is biblically entitled to do so (there are other valid grounds for divorce) .
But when she threatens divorce for unbiblical reasons, that makes the threat of divorce a weapon of evil.
At the end of the day, as a husband, you must stand against sin in your home and marriage, no matter what the consequences. Your wife will then have a choice between rebelling against your discipline (and therefore God's authority) or submitting to your discipline and learning from it, and the fruit of this will be righteousness in her life.
"Can't you talk to your wife like an adult? What do you need this discipline stuff for?”
I've received many variations on this question since I first published this article. The answer to that question, if you're actually reading this post, is:A husband should always speak gently to his wife at first.
So, for example, if a husband thinks his wife is mishandling the credit cards, his first action is not to take the cards away. It's best to talk to her gently at first.
For many Christian wives, all that is needed is a gentle approach.
But are we naïve enough to think that every woman will respond to these gentle talks and turn away from her sinful behavior, whatever that may be? Isn't there such a thing as an unrepentant and rebellious sinful wife who always tells her husband "where to put it" when he points things out to her?
Many Christians and even non-Christians would have us believe that there are no wives who do the things I mentioned above. The existence of these women is synonymous with big foot, it is just a myth from their point of view.
Others will acknowledge the existence of these types of women. But many Christians will say that all a man can do is pray for his unrepentant wife, God does not allow him to bring any kind of discipline into her life. I believe in the power of prayer and a husband should always pray for the discipline he brings into his wife's life.
But if you ask those same Christians if they have a rebellious child or teenager, if they should do nothing and just pray for it - they would have a very different answer. The reason for this is that many Christians have made this "cutting" into this special class for wives where they are immune from discipline.
Even a husband is not immune to discipline. But his discipline comes more from the Church or from civil authorities. For example, when a wife is being physically abused by her husband, she has every biblical right to turn to her husband's authorities in church and civil government for help and to discipline him.
What if finances are tight, is there another way to discipline a woman?
To date, this post alone has received nearly half a million views since I first published it in October 2015. I have received countless emails from Christian men asking me to clarify things and address their specific situations.
One of the questions raised is: how can a husband discipline his wife when finances are tight? What if you're on a tight budget and don't have money for the niceties she might want, or what if, as I mentioned earlier, she works and has her own money to do whatever she wants?
The answer of Christian husbands is TIME. Actually, this could be called "the 8ththway of disciplining your wife". Most women want three things from their men –Money, time and tokens of affection. Some women will forego the money, others may even forgo the tokens of affection (flowers, jewelry, and other gifts). But few women, other than those who have married solely for money, will do without their husband's time.
No matter how poor you are as a Christian husband, in most cases you give your wife a valuable and expensive asset in the form of your time. Surely God wants you to spend time with your wife. At Deuteronomy 24:5 we read that newly married men should not go to war or any business during the first year of their marriage to "cheer up" their wives, or as some translations put it, "make them happy." I Peter 3:7 tells men to "dwell with their wives according to knowledge" - you can do this without spending any time with her.
I say all this to say that I am in no way saying that you can totally ignore your wife as a form of discipline. One wrong does not make another wrong right. But you can be discreet with your time. If you give your wife 5 hours of your free time a week just for the two of you, reduce that to 3 hours. Perhaps there are some TV shows that you watch with your wife that you are not interested in, but you only watch to spend some time with her. Stop doing that. There may be upgrades around the house that will take more time than your money. Maybe it's repainting rooms. Leave handyman tasks alone unless they are absolutely necessary.
My point is that you know your wife best and know where she wants your time - use these times to show her your displeasure at her wrong actions. You'd be surprised how quickly just the removal of some of your time with her will spin the gears in her brain.
How should husbands discipline their wives? ›
It's important to always try a gentle approach first, but a slap or a light beating should be considered as a final resort if a woman absolutely refuses to listen. Sometimes you have to get loud to be heard and, as long as a man doesn't leave bruises, disciplining a woman can help improve a marriage.How to treat your wife according to the Bible? ›
1 Peter 3:7: In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.How does the Bible say a man should treat his wife? ›
Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God's gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full.What does God say about toxic marriages? ›
Ephesians 4:31 — “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” As followers of Jesus Christ, we are a new creation. It's time to put away old, sinful behaviors that create an angry marriage and tear us apart as couples.What is toxic behavior in a marriage? ›
Your relationship may be toxic if it is characterized by behaviors that make you feel unhappy, including disrespect, dishonesty, controlling behaviors, or a lack of support.