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John Piper to Wives: Submission Does Not Mean Leaving Your Brain at the Altar

John Piper to Wives: Submission Does Not Mean Leaving Your Brain at the Altar

Theologian John Piper explains what it means to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. | (Photo: Screenshot/DesiringGod)

What does it mean for a wife to submit to her husband? Since the definition of the concept may vary from person to person, based on individual experiences, Pastor John Piper helps to define submission by identifying six things that submission to a husband in marriage is not.

In a post for DesiringGod.org, a website with the purpose of glorifying God, the pastor outlines those parameters:

1. Submission is not agreeing on everything

Submission does not mean a wife turns into a "yes" woman. Piper explains, "It's possible to be submissive and refuse to think what your husband says you should think."

The pastor uses the example of a husband who doesn't want his wife to practice Christianity. Piper urges wives to use the good sense God gave them.

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"Submission does not mean you must agree with the opinions of your husband, even on things as fundamental and serious as the Christian faith," says the pastor. "God has made you with a mind. You have to think. You are a person, not a body and not a machine. You're a thinking being who is able to process whether the Gospel is true. And if it's true, you believe it. If he says, 'You can't believe that,' you humbly and submissively do not submit to that."

2. Submission does not mean leaving your brain at the altar

Here, the pastor addresses men who take authority way too far. "Any man who says, 'I do the thinking in this family,' is sick and has a sick view of his authority."

To these men, Piper says, "You don't understand the Bible. You're taking a word like 'authority' or 'leadership' or 'submission,' and then you're stepping away from the Bible and filling those words up with stuff you want to do."

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He goes on to say, "Leadership does not mean you do not listen. Leadership doesn't even mean always getting the last word. Good leadership often says, 'You were right; I was wrong.'"

3. Submission does not mean you do not try to influence your husband

Trying to change one's spouse can actually be a good thing, especially in the context of a wife or husband who is a non-believer or is living in sin.

"If your husband is living in sin or your wife is living in sin or unbelief, you want them to change, and you wouldn't be a loving person if you didn't — if you stopped wanting that. That may sound insubordinate to some. It's not, biblically."

4. Submission is not putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ

Here, Piper explains that in a marriage a wife should submit to her husband, but he is not her Lord. If ever a wife must choose between the two, she chooses Jesus.

5. Submission does not mean getting all of her spiritual strength through her husband

While husbands and wives may lean on each other for spiritual support, their hope is in God, explains Piper.

6. Submission does not mean living or acting in fear

While a wife should be God-fearing, submission to her husband does not mean she should live in fear.

Piper believes that in marriages men are called to "a unique kind of leadership," and women to "a unique kind of submission."

"It's a beautiful thing — the way those two roles complement and serve one another. If we probe the depths and keep digging into the Scriptures, even though they're written in another time, they will shape a marriage today into a beautiful thing."

Having stated everything that he believes submission is not, Piper shares his actual definition for submission in marriage: "Submission is the defined calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership, and so help to carry it through according to her gifts."

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