When asking how to be a godly husband, one of the first truths to recognize is that no one is naturally godly. Neither men nor women can be everything God wants them to be in their own strength. So to be a godly husband or wife requires that we first surrender our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. To be “godly” means we must have God. When His Spirit lives in us, He empowers us to live godly lives (Galatians 2:20; Titus 2:12).
Philippians 2:3–4 lays a foundation for all godly relationships, including marriage: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In marriage, this means that a husband and wife are no longer their own bosses. Each has willingly surrendered to the other the right to do whatever they want whenever they want. This can be particularly hard for men, especially if they had been single for a long time. It may never cross a man’s mind that his wife is not as passionate as he is about spending the weekend at the football game or hunting cabin. But this passage instructs us to intentionally consider the feelings and ideas of others, rather than assume that they think as we do.
First Peter 3:7 says, “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” The term “weaker vessel” has often been misunderstood. It does not imply inferiority, since the verse continues by stating that a woman is a co-heir with her husband. Within the context of this verse, “weaker” means that a woman is not to be treated as “one of the guys.” She is created differently, in both body and spirit. “Understanding” is key. A husband must study his wife, learn who she is, and make choices that highlight her strengths and beauty. Physical confrontation, verbal bullying, and emotional neglect have no place in a Christian marriage. To live with her in an understanding way means that a wise husband controls his own needs and desires so that hers are met. He does not belittle her, minimize her contributions to the family, or expect her to do what God has given him to do. He makes the study of one woman a lifetime endeavor, and he wants to be an expert at it.
Ephesians 5 continues this description of a godly husband. Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” This comparison with Christ and the church says a great deal. Husbands are to show sacrificial, unconditional love for their wives in the same way that Jesus loves us, His bride, even when we are unruly, disobedient, and unlovable. Verse 28 goes on to say, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Men usually have no problem loving their own bodies. Sexual fulfillment, muscular prowess, and other physical needs are often top priorities. God is instructing husbands to give their wives the same priority that they give those physical needs. Jesus willingly subjected His own body to abuse, humiliation, and need for the sake of His bride, the church. That is the model this Scripture gives for husbands to follow.
Christian wives desire godly leadership, not dictatorship. However, a man cannot lead where he has not been. A leader goes first, forging the way, wrestling through spiritual issues and then presenting God’s instruction to his family. An ongoing personal relationship with Jesus is crucial in order to lead a family spiritually. God holds men responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of their families (1 Timothy 5:8). Even if the wife may be better at teaching and leading, the husband is still to be involved in teaching their children. He must lead by example in church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, and spiritual disciplines. It is difficult for a Christian wife to respect her husband in other areas when he has not been consistent in leading her spiritually.
Both single and married men can benefit from these traits of a godly leader. A leader is:
• First a servant (Matthew 23:11)
• Teachable (Proverbs 19:20)
• Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)
• Enthusiastic about his role (Ephesians 6:7)
• A model of humility and forgiveness (1 Peter 5:6; Ephesians 4:32)
• Loving to those he leads (Matthew 5:46; John 13:34-35)
• Ready to admit his failures and areas where he needs growth (Philippians 3:12)
More specifically, a man can become a godly husband by considering the following:
1. Does your schedule indicate that your family is a top priority in time, energy, and focus?
2. Are you heeding the counsel of 1 Peter 3:7 and really studying your wife?
3. Are you taking the initiative to lead your wife spiritually by sharing the things God is teaching you?
4. Are you sensitive to your wife’s physical state and sexual needs? They will be different from yours, and a godly husband respects that without pouting or trying to “punish” her.
5. Are you accepting equal responsibility for the children? Even if your wife is better at some aspects of parenting, your children are your responsibility. Your wife needs a partner who willingly shares the load with her.
6. Examine your tone of voice. Have you fallen into a habit of harshness, blame, or subtle disapproval?
7. Do you ever resort to physical or verbal abuse in any form? If you need anger management help, get it.
8. In areas where your wife is weak, are you helping her to grow rather than criticizing or shutting down?
9. Are you a good listener? Wives need to share their hearts, and you must be the safest place for her to do that.
10. Are you the guardian of her heart, dreams, and self-worth? You cannot be God to her, but you can encourage her to connect with God in such a way that her deepest emotional needs are met in Him.
Men often measure themselves by externals, which are outside their control. Money, fame, physical ability, and power are fleeting and temporary. However, a husband can choose to define success by how well he has followed God’s command to cherish his wife and lead his family. A happy wife is a testament to her husband. While he is not responsible for the way his wife responds, every husband can control how well he is following Jesus’ model in loving and leading the ones God has entrusted to him.