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Is it true that the man is always supposed to be the spiritual leader in the home? No, it’s not. Whoever is most spiritually mature should be the spiritual leader. A person’s gender has nothing to do with their spiritual growth. Being male doesn’t give men some automatic advantage, and being female doesn’t hold women back. Age is also irrelevant in these matters. Jesus was the ultimate example of a family unit in which the child was more spiritually advanced than his parents. We have no idea how Joseph handled this, for Joseph’s name is conspicuously absent after Jesus’ early years. Perhaps he died when Jesus was young—we don’t know. What we do know is that Joseph would have been a fool not to pay attention to the radical spiritual insights his young Son was sharing.
We don’t want pride to get in our way in these matters. What eternal significance do gender and age have, anyway? The wise Christian will want to be in a constant state of growth and will be eager to learn from any teacher God puts in their path, regardless of who that person is.
Why do we think men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders? Well, in the Old Testament, God invited men, not women, to serve Him as priests. There are some very practical reasons for this. Priests serving God at the Temple needed to be very strong and in good physical condition. As much as Satan tries to tell us the genders are equal in every way, they most certainly are not. Most men will have a far easier time dissecting a bull than most women would. Priestly work was very strenuous physical labor. Mass amounts of large animals had to be killed, anatomically divided up, and their heavy body parts had to be hauled all over the place. Today, who would last longer hoisting heavy bags of cement around for their daily occupation? Men. God was not suggesting that women were spiritually inferior by excluding them from the exhausting labor of the Temple. But He was recognizing how hard the work was by forcing the Levites to retire at age fifty, and not allowing them to start work until the age of twenty-five (Num. 8:24-25).
Throughout the Bible, we find many mentions of women serving as God’s prophets—ladies who received direct revelations from the Holy Spirit and operated as God’s mouthpiece to His people. This is the highest honor there was, and God bestowed it on both men and women. Let’s not fall into any strange delusions that God loves women less or that He only speaks through men. Our internal receptiveness to God plays a much larger role in our maturity process than anything else.
It’s usually rather obvious who is the more spiritually mature in any given group. Because God has unique lesson plans for each of us, we don’t all mature at the same pace in the same areas. Wise couples will recognize which partner has the greater spiritual insight in different areas and pass the leadership baton back and forth with ease. If a problem comes up in which the man has more insight, the woman should be happy to defer to his God-inspired wisdom. If later on another issue comes up in which the woman has more understanding, then the man should be happy to defer to her. Instead of stumbling into petty jealousies and huffs, let’s be thankful that God is giving someone direction. A beautiful, harmonious dance is what God has in mind for marriage—not some domineering situation in which everything revolves around gender.
We need to remember that as Christians, we’re not going through life following people. We’re following God. In every situation, we should be listening for His Voice and we should be open to Him speaking through a set of human lips if that is what He wants to do. It doesn’t matter whose lips they are—what matters is that we are listening for internal confirmation in our own souls that what we’re hearing is indeed from God. This will come if we are sincerely seeking God’s wisdom in life. We never do something just because of gender—we act because we felt the Holy Spirit convicting us to act. We defer to our spouse because we sense that is what God wants us to do—not because we are viewing our spouse like our master in life. Marriage is not a competition, it is a dance. Married partners need to work together to make their motions fluid and avoid stomping all over each other’s feet. The secret to a successful marriage is having both individuals putting God first in their own hearts. When both husband and wife are relying on the Holy Spirit to guide them, He will prompt them when to follow and when to lead. If we’re obeying God, we’ll all experience both roles by the time we reach our graves. No one is right all the time, and God has intentionally withheld flawless wisdom from us to keep us humble and dependent on Him.