Husbandry: What It Means to Be a Husband

HUSBANDRY, n. The business of a farmer, comprehending agriculture or tillage of the ground, the raising, managing and fattening of cattle and other domestic animals, the management of the dairy and whatever the land produces.

HUSBAND, v.t. To till; to cultivate with good management. – Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).

Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement (I Peter 3:6).

Unfortunately, many women are led (if it can be called leading) by men who believe themselves to be nothing more than walking, talking, living, breathing impositions. How many Christian women today … could imagine calling their husband lord with a straight face? Him? But a husband is one who cultivates with authority.

Now it goes without saying that this authority must be exercised by a man with a Christ-like disposition to service. He must not wield his authority in a self-seeking way. But he must wield it; he is a husband. It is tragic that in our culture the word husband is understood as nothing more than a male legally tied (for a few years) to a particular female; but as the etymology of the word should indicate, much more is involved. Husbandry is the careful management of resources – it is stewardship – and when someone undertakes to husband a wife, he must understand that it cannot be done unless he acts with authority.

He must act as though he has a right to be where he is. He is the lord of the garden, and he has been commanded by God to see to it that this garden bears much fruit. This cannot be accomplished by “hanging around” in the garden and being nice. The garden must be managed, and ruled, and kept, and tilled. For many husbands, this is an alien concept; they certainly spend all their time in the garden helping themselves to whatever fruit happens to grow, but they always have the furtive [cautious] look of someone guilty of criminal trespass … They are unsure of their right to be there, and pulling up weeds means that they have assumed responsibility for the state of the garden – he had better not do that. Such abdication [abandonment of ones authority] is an abdication of stewardship; it is the abdication of husbandry. And the wife is frustrated because she has a husband in name, but she does not have a husband.

Some men may object by saying that their wives demand to be left alone. All they are doing is respecting their wives’ wishes. There are two responses to this. One is that whether or not the wife has demanded to be left alone does not alter the fact that Christ has demanded that she not be left alone.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).

The head of the woman is the man, the head of the man is Christ, and Christ has commanded husbands to imitate Him. This necessitates a love which does not walk away, or stand by.

Second, wives need to be led with a firm hand. They will often test their husbands in some area, and be deeply disappointed (and frustrated) if he gives in to her. It is crucial that a husband give his wife what the Bible says she needs, rather than what she says she needs.

So a godly husband is a godly lord. A woman who understands this biblical truth and calls a certain man her husband is also calling him lord [I Peter 3:6]. It is tragic that wholesale abdication on the part of modern men has made the idea of lordship in the home such a laughable thing. A man cannot get by with good intentions. He cannot get by with a pleasant demeanor. He cannot get by with a sweet disposition … In a world of spiritual eunuchs – one who is impotent in his masculinity – it is good to find a man who is more than simply male …

Many Christian men are nice guys, but they do not provide the strength of leadership that God requires and their wives need.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God (I Corinthians 11:3).

Douglas Wilson
Reforming Marriage, pages 77-80

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