Monday, June 30, 2008

Is the Husband the Priest of the Home?

I had a conversation recently in which someone said, "What is with this 'priest of the home' stuff that I keep hearing?"

What a good question! All right then, where is the scriptural basis for the husband serving as priest of the home? Have I missed it?

I am about to run the risk of being considered an arrogant feminist witch at worst, or a misguided and nitpicking female at best. I am speaking to my relatively conservative peers of an "evangelical" persuasion who pride themselves on being biblical and holding scripture in a high regard--our "all sufficient rule for faith and practice."

I must confess that I once taught this "husband equals priest of the home" idea. Actually I blush to recall that one of my "best" sermons included this concept. I preached that particular sermon in more than one place. Oddly, it was a long time before I noticed that this particular point of my sermon (about marriage) had no scripture reference. I am ashamed and embarrassed to note how easy it was to simply teach what I had been taught.

I just did a search for the topic of husband as priest of the home. I found numerous articles that stated "The Bible teaches the husband is the priest of the home" and NOT ONE listed even one scripture for this assertion. Is this "rightly dividing the Word of Truth?" Hardly!

The Old Testament speaks of the Aaronic and the Levitical priesthood. The priests were appointed to serve the Israelites. There is one instance of a priest in a home, but that is a rather bizarre story that shows just how mixed up things were during the time of the judges, a time when "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" (sounds like today). In Judges 17 a man named Micah appoints himself a young Levite to be his personal priest. The two men speak of "the Lord God' but Micah also casts an idol to worship. This is the only instance in scripture that speaks of a priest in the home. It did not go well.

In the New Testament, Peter writes about a holy priesthood that offers up spiritual sacrifices (I Peter 2: 5) and a royal priesthood that is a chosen generation and a holy nation - the Lord's own special people (2:9). In both passages it is clear that the writer is speaking of all believers, not just the husbands. The introductory words of Revelation speak to those who were " loved and washed from sin...made...priests unto God..." Wouldn't you say that includes more than husbands?

When I ask about this concept of husband as priest, I am never given a scripture that states such a thing (because there isn't one), but I am usually told, "The Bible says the husband is the head of the home" or "God's plan is that the husband is the spiritual leader in the home." Those are questionable concepts, but I'll let it go for now except to note that the idea of husband as head of the home comes from Ephesians 5 where the husband is spoken of as the head of the wife.

I highly recommend "The Head of the Epistles" by Berkely and Alvera Mickelsen.

We from the "free church" tradition can be vehement in our denunciation of the idea that we need someone to stand before God on our behalf, usually citing the Epistle to the Hebrews for our belief that their is one mediator between God and mankind, and that is Jesus Christ. Since, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently demonstrates, we have Jesus as our High Priest, is there any need for a single priest in the home representing the family to God? Why should a husband functions as a "priest" for his wife and children? Can they not stand before God in the same way as he can?

A pastor friend recently remarked that he tells husbands that they should expect to be the first to have direction from God regarding family decisions or changes, since they are the priest and the head. Clearly this places the wife in a secondary and subordinate position. To place a wife in such a position threatens her growth, both spiritually and personally.

As Christian apologist Cheryl Schatz noted in an article on her blog, Women in Ministry: "By believing in the faulty doctrine that men are the sole priest in the home, many women have been taught that their husband is spiritually responsible for them. They think that if they love God and follow their husband’s spiritual lead that they will have no responsibility in the decisions made by their husbands.

Can we find an example in scripture for this? No!

Ms Schatz goes on to note something interesting about accountability. "In two of the best known examples of a husband not making wise spiritual decisions, Adam and Ananias (Acts 5:1), the wife was judged for her actions equally with the husband. There is no example of a husband called to account for his wife’s actions or a wife freed from spiritual responsibility because her husband made the original decision... God did not ask Adam what Eve had done even though Adam was there with Eve during her temptation (Genesis 3:6) and Sapphira was held equally responsible for her acceptance of her husband’s plan to deceive the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:9).

Christian wives are adults, not grown-up children. We need partners who will together guide the home and make decisions. Many tired and frustrated wives have said to me over the years, "I wish my husband would take his place as the spiritual leader." Upon further questioning it often becomes clear that the wife doesn't so much want a leader as a partner--a husband who will stand beside her as joint heirs of the grace of God (I Peter 3:7), a husband who is not afraid to be a strong man--in the best sense of what that can be. That doesn't mean she needs to be constantly led--as though being friends and lovers and partners is not enough.

A Christian husband has a responsibility to his wife. If he is a father he has responsibilities for his children. He is instructed to love, to be gentle and understanding, to be a man of godly character, to be sober and wise and to provide for the needs of his family.

Being the family's priest is not part of the biblical job description.

43 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

And there is one of the reasons my first husband is my ex-husband.

Well said S.O.

truth said...

Amen! I belong to a Christian women's board and it gets so frustrating to hear women throw all responsibility onto their husbands and they are just following. I think most of the time it is an excuse for them to not have to make decisions-even when they believe what their husband has decided is wrong. They just go along because he is the head.

Grrr...that one gets me worked up for sure. They have no idea what submission actually looks like or what is meant. Anyway, I could ramble on, but it is late and my words probably don't make a lot of sense. I really just wanted to say amen.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Very interesting. I had never looked into that assertion because I've never been taught it or believed it. You are right that it is good to have the husband as a believer and partner in faith. There was a big difference in the way faith matters, church matters, etc. were conveyed to our children after my husband "got his faith back." His words.

We have a woman at church who had moved back to Mn after being out east. There she had been taught about getting more jewels for her crown. Finally our Bible study group asked more about this concept and did a scripture search for that, it IT WASN'T THERE EITHER.

There are many concepts that are based on proof-texting as well that we need to examine.

Diane said...

I'll be back later! want to say that M. Luther taught that parents are priests for their CHILDREN, which I kind of like, because it gets us off the "the pastor does everything" issue.

Singing Owl said...

The pastor is a priest, and sometimes ministers in priestly-type functions, but that does not negate the responsibility we ALL have to offer spiritual sacrifices to God, etc. I guess we could say the same for parents and children in that we teach them God's words, how to pray, and so on. Is that what Luther was speaking of?

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

I've been taught the "priesthood of all believers" so I would have a hard time thinking that any prayers, etc. have to "go through" anybody else.

Singing Owl said...

Well, to be fair, I don't think that those who are teaching this unbiblical concept believe that the wife's prayers must go through the husband. It is more the idea that the husband has responsibility to stand before God on behalf of his family (including the wife). I don't have a problem with the husband being a priest in the home, so to speak, since the priesthood of the believer would indicate he is a priest. It is the idea that he is a priest in some sort of way that the wife is not. Don't know if that made sense!

Br. Cody said...

I see what you mean, Singing Owl. The Husband CAN be the priest of the house, since according to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, the Husband is a believer and therefore a priest. You are saying, I think, that that role as a priest is not his by virtue of his being a husband, but by virtue of the before stated doctrine? Right?

I agree with you totally. I think it is faulty theology when a husband thinks that he is spiritually superior to a wife, by simple virtue of his gender. That doesn't fly with this kiddo.

Singing Owl said...

Yes. And the wife is also a priest in the home. And for that matter if the kids are believers they are priests too! They may not know how to offer "spiritual sacrifices" yet, but that is part of growing and learning.

This "The Husband is the Priest of the Home" topic seems to be included in EVERY men's conference or gathering lately. Every sermon about marriage or husband-wife relationships hammers on it, all without a scripture except Eph. 5. We can talk about just what it means that the husband is "the head of the wife" but to extrapolate "head" to be "priest" is a bit much, to say the least!

Iris said...

Thank you for this very Biblical post! So much is taught in the name of our Beloved Lord regarding men and women that is just flat wrong. I think so much is laid on the men that the Bible never burdens them with; that is one of the reasons for so much struggle.

Truth really does set us free -- men and women. I would love to see us get back to what the Bible says and not what someone else says the Bible says.

Again, thank you!

Anonymous said...

The man is the head. Which means he has the job to lead the family. Just becaue the bible doesn't say the husband is the priest doesn't mean the idea is not in there. Maybe you need to read your bible some more. I hope your not married.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Wow, that last comment: I believe this and it isn't in the bible, but maybe if we read the bible more, it will pop up. Wow.

Perhaps the men's conferences are trying to over compensate for the lack of spirituality in society in general and the lack of men's expressing spirituality in the home. He doesn't have to be the "head priest" to be a priest in the home.

Men, in general, go to church less than women. Women, in general, are the ones that teach their children about God. Men who are believers need to realize that if they don't speak about their faith, to their children it can be like they have no faith.

Luther's teaching and catechism was, overtly I seem to remember, directed at the father making sure that certain things were taught in the home, and the prayers were said EVERYDAY. If you read the old stuff, that is there. I haven't heard it taught in any churches I've attended.

IF the father worked out of the home and the mother worked in the home, then it would make sense that the father's schedule might dictate when the family devotions would take place. Well, even so if he were a farmer on the home farm.

I read once that it is the mother that teaches the children about God and faith, but it is the father that teaches the children about the importance of worship. The children watch the father to see what his priorities are on Sunday morning. These days, with mothers also working outside the home, the mothers are also part of the reason why the family stays home on Sunday morning: time to sleep in, time to be together as a family. Just had this conversation with a woman who hasn't brought her family to church for quite awhile.

Obviously, a woman can be the spiritual head in a home because many women are the only adult in the home due to widowhood or divorce.

Kris said...

Amen Mom!! :)

Kris said...

See Anonymous' comments just shows you should have at least put a link in for the "head" part. People always get that mixed up. Head doesn't mean leader. If it did, Paul would have used Leader.

Ivy said...

Amen. I followed my first husband's poor money management into bankruptcy and a foreclosure--oh, and a car being repossessed. To give him credit though, he did want my input, but did as he liked. Thanks for nailing this misinterpretation of scripture. Peace.

Singing Owl said...

I did! It is the article by the Mickelsens. Here is a whole page of articles

http://www.godswordtowomen.org/headship.htm

just copy and paste and read and read and read. :-)

nightmare said...

I'm already walking on thin ice wearing cinder block shoes, anyone marrying me could be in for a world of hurt if I were to be a Priest of the home. Might have better luck putting me in charge of watching a tray of hot wings and not expecting them to disappear.

Ruth said...

I'm sorry. I was going to reply to anonymous's comment then realized what I had to say was naughtier than would be appropriate on your blog. Self-editing is really boring but makes for less trouble-making. I'll try to think up a less naughty response later.

much2ponder said...

This is good Pastor. Thank you for taking the time and again as you told me not too long ago that the word head translated in Greek means something else.

Singing Owl said...

Ruth, I bet I can guess. LOL!

the reverend mommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the reverend mommy said...

Anonymous also has a wonderful grasp of grammar. That always lends veracity.

I would also be curious about exactly what conditions the writer of Ephesians was writing TO in this verse. I like the way the Message translates it, "The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing." This is free of the human perversion of hierarchy; in fact I might call any interpretation of this verse that encourages any form or denigration or oppression as sinful, as that is definitely not present in the Greek.

the reverend mommy said...

Note to self: when bashing another on grammar, check your own. The "or" should be "of."

Crimson Rambler said...

noticed this phenomenon at a church women's conference on feminist theology, years and years ago. The young women (both of us) were enthusiastic; the 80-year-olds were enthusiastic; and the poor gals in between primmed up their mouths and said, "My husband would never allow that..." -- not "I don't agree with that"...great post, Owl, and I thank you.

Sally said...

...AMEN! Thank you for this

lorna (see throughfaith) said...

This is so good to read singing owl. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

This is Bearded Eagle, Singing Owl's spouse. I am VERY glad she is married. I am also VERY glad she has choosen to follow God before she follows me. I use to tell people she was following my directions, because I told her to use the gifts that God had given her and if she did not use them would she would not be in submission to me. Now I don't I just ask for chapeter and vwerse for that "Husband as Priest" role. I also ask if that means I don't have to take out the trash.
I hope that Anonymous Quits reading into the Bible based on his cultural bias, as has been done for centuries.

Singing Owl said...

****Smoootch******

Egalitarian husbands have more fun. Wink wink.

SASC said...

Hi. I am so glad that someone knows and speaks the truth. I have prayed and cried many times because of this teaching that husbands or men somehow had leadership and more spiritual authority than woman and wives. I knew God's heart did not match this false doctrine, but I could not explain it as well as how they could manipulate the scripture to support their well developed false doctrine. It's so difficult when you are married to a husband who chooses to believe this false doctrine because that is all he and everyone he knows to have been taught. I pray he let's God change His heart. If I can see the truth then he should be able to see it as well, but I know he chooses not to because then he would have to stand against his family, church, and everyone who believes this false doctrine. But, if he could only see that he wouldn't be standing alone when God and I would be standing on the side of truth. When you know the truth the truth sets you free. And, I thank you so much Singing Owl for taking the time to let the truth to be made known to all. Not many have the education and expertise to understand all of the greek and hebrew meanings for the bible and I am glad that someone wih the truth in their spirit has chose to do so for the freedom of both women and men.

SASC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hello all,
IN an attempt to find scriptures that support what I have been taught, I find none that supports the man being the priest of the home. However, I do notice that when God told the family not to eat of the tree, he spoke directly to Adam. When sin first entered the world, it entered into the family by disobedience. It was not a woman problem but yet a family problem. The blame game began and they tried to run from God and hide, creating a divide in the intamacy with God. To focus on the isssue of whether there is a priest in the home or not is not an issue at all, the issue is to keep the family/God relationship intact. To play the blame game or to argue over the leadership role is like giving the enemy exactly what he wants.
A house divided cannot stand!!
How can two walk in unity unless they be agreed.
Allen

SingingOwl said...

Hi Allen, Nice to see that someone still is reading here after all this time. I agree that the to focus on whether the husband is or is not the "priest of the home" might be counterproductive. Yep, it is a family problem, and yep, the blame game began early. My intent is not to blame or point fingers. But it seems divisive to me, and counterproductive to genuine unity and walking together, to use phrases, and even concepts that are not biblical as tho they are.

Grandpa said...

Might you have some comments on the duties of a husband?

SingingOwl said...

Grandpa, I just saw your comment, and that is a reasonable question. I am going to write a new post about it. Thanks for giving me a little poke about this--been meaning to do it for a long time.

Jo Royal said...

Thank you for this blog - over the last few years I have cringed as my Pastor has proclaimed this 'husband is the priest of the home' - especially at weddings! Having always been taught this - I never really questioned it and its implications until fairly recently - and now - well - what nonsense!! It really has NO theological foundation and, as you said, is something that is usually quoted without even a hint of scripture. Time to bring it up with my pastor before the next wedding I think!!

Jo

Dorcas said...

Jo, I was so excited to see yet another comment on this post, which was written three years ago! I'm praying for you right now. And your pastor as well.

Anonymous said...

Good article on husband as priest of the home. However, further down you seem to disbelieve that the husband is the head of the wife even though its recorded in scripture. Have I read that right? Im not saying a wife should follow her husband into sin or unbiblical situations but are you saying a Christian husband does not have the decision making power in the household? As I said maybe I read it wrong or missed something?


UK reader.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

UK Reader,
Wow! I LOVE it when I get a comment on a post I wrote years ago...and interestingly enough the times when that happens are just about always on my posts about gender and church or about marriage. In answer to your question, may I refer you to the link to "The Head of the Epistles"? There is a link to this in the blog post. Secondly, I tried to post a link and it wouldn't work, but you might visit the link in my sidebar to "Egalitarian Marriage." It will take you to a series of posts that were taken from sermons, but one of them is fairly detailed on why I DO beleive that the husband is the "head" of the wife, but I do not believe that means he gets to always lead or make decisions. Take a look at the posts. I hope they will help you. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comment. God bless.

Anonymous said...

I go back to Genesis:
"Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you."

This form of desire is NOT a sexual desire, but a dominating desire.
With this in mind, the way we interpret Scriptures on the subject suddenly take a different light, no?

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

That is what the KJV, and several other English translations say, yes. But the original word for "desire" is (Anglicized version )TESUQUA. Tesequa means "turning toward." The wife will turn toward her husband, and he will dominate her (who is dominating who?) Scripture here seems pretty clear about who is going to dominate, and we have sen this over the centuries, all around the world. So what does this "turning toward" mean? Tesuqua is used in different ways in different passages, one of which is the Song of Solomon, "desire" and clearly sexual in nature. There are many interpretations. Calvin, for one, believed that this "turning toward" meant that the wife would seek to please her husband rather than God. I tend to agree. The MAN, not the woman, will dominate, and the woman will want to please the man--and neither is GOOD. This is all the result of the Fal, of sin, and is damaging. Is it wrong for a wife to want to please her husband? No, of course not. But I have many, many woman turn to their husbands in a way that was not healthy, godly, or right. Yep, it sure does matter that we look at what Genesis says. On that we agree.

Anonymous said...

Whoredom=Adultry=Homsexuality=What we have now. Eve was not responsible for the fall of man. Eve was God's gift to man. Woman is still God's gift to men. The whole lesson of undermining women is the advesaries attempt to destory the love of God. You can tell a man's love of God by his respect or disrespect for women. The lesson of "Woman caught in midst of adultry" was how the minister's found themselves limp at the presence of Christ in the woman. The woman was accused of adultry by the men who could no longer use her for their purpose.Go home raise you children love yourself and your family, for everything else is what we have now.

Doug Martin said...

Hey Allen...
So when "God told the family not to eat of the tree, he spoke directly to Adam." How's that since Eve wasn't even created yet...
Genesis 2:16-18 "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.""
Read your bible friend...