Wives, Don’t Be ‘Preachy’With Your Husbands
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands;
that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word
be won by the conversation of the wives;
While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
— 1 Peter 3:1,2
Many years ago we had a young couple in our church who were madly in love with each other. Every time I saw them, they were holding hands and looking blissfully into each other’s eyes. We all got such a kick out of watching them and were excited about their upcoming wedding. Several months after they were married, I noticed that this young husband looked downcast and depressed. I went to him privately and asked, “How is marriage?” He replied, “Why didn’t someone warn me about how terrible this was going to be?” I was shocked by his response, so I asked him, “Please tell me what is happening to give you such a bad impression of marriage.”
The husband proceeded to tell me about all the rules his wife had made for him and their household. For instance, if he didn’t read his Bible when he woke up in the morning, she refused to make his breakfast. Her rule was “No Bible, no breakfast!” He told me that many mornings he would go to the kitchen to get his sack lunch for the day, and his new bride would tell him, “Today the Lord has told me that you need to fast, so there won’t be any lunch for you today. You need to spend time in prayer.”
The young man continued to tell me that many evenings when he came home from work exhausted, his wife would order him, “Tonight we are going to sit on the couch and read the Bible together for two hours —you, me, and my mother. Then we’re going to spend an hour in prayer.” When I heard what was happening, I chuckled inside. I knew this sweet little new bride was trying to encourage her husband to be the spiritual leader of their new home, but her approach wasn’t effective. In fact, it was having just the opposite effect she desired. Instead of causing her husband to feel closer to her, this young wife was pushing him far away by constantly preaching at him and demanding that he become the spiritual leader she expected him to be. But after the couple attended a few counseling sessions with me, the wife backed off and let her husband assume his leadership role on his own terms. When she relaxed and let him lead in a way that was more natural to him, the tension left their marriage and they reentered marital bliss!
A wife who takes on the role of preaching at her husband will never find this method very effective. It is usually a huge turn-off for a husband because it makes him feel like his wife, who is supposed to be his greatest supporter, has instead become his corrector and boss. Men resent this behavior. This is why Peter told the wives, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
In the first century, women came to Christ more readily than men — a situation that has always seemed to exist in the Church. This meant that a huge portion of the Early Church was comprised of women who had come to Jesus Christ but whose husbands remained unsaved. Of course, these women wanted their husbands to be saved, so after a church service, they would often run home and begin to preach to their husbands. They saw themselves as God’s anointed evangelists to bring their husbands into the fold. But those unsaved husbands didn’t perceive this to be a blessing! From the husbands’ perspective, their wives’ preaching sounded like nagging and complaining. This approach produced such negative results that Peter told wives to stop preaching to their husbands and to instead live godly lives before them as their method of evangelizing. Peter wrote, “…If any [husbands] obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
The phrase “…if any obey not the word…” alludes to unsaved husbands, but it could also refer to saved husbands who are not living in obedience to God’s Word. The words “obey not” are from the Greek word apeitho, which emphatically refers to someone who refuses to be persuaded. This person isn’t just ignorant of the truth; he is defiant and rejecting of it. Therefore, besides referring to unsaved husbands who hear the message and reject it, as Peter was most likely writing about, this phrase could also refer to saved husbands who refuse to do what they know God wants them to do.
I can think of so many Christian wives who want their husbands to change. These wives beg, plead, nag, and pester their husbands all the time to do this different or to do that different. But no matter how hard a wife pressures her husband, he will remain stubborn, obstinate, and unmoved. If God doesn’t touch his heart and cause him to respond on his own, all the begging and nagging in the world won’t change his heart. Wife, whether your husband is saved or unsaved, the method of impacting him is the same. Peter says you can win your husband without ever uttering a single word!
Now look at the phrase “…they also may without the word be won….” The word “won” is the Greek word kerdeo, an old Greek word which means to act cleverly. It was often used in secular literature to depict someone who won a game, such as the game of casting lots. In today’s world, it could depict a person who plays his cards right and therefore walks off with the booty! Therefore, the word kerdeo (“won”) means to wise up; to act cleverly; to play the game correctly; or in today’s vernacular, to play your cards right. Peter is telling wives how to win the game of positively influencing their husbands without ever saying a word! He tells them that the most influential thing wives can do is to let their husbands see their “conversation.”
The word “conversation” is the Greek word anastrophe, a Greek word that refers to how a person rises up and sits down; goes in and goes out; and turns this way or that way. In other words, the word anastrophe gives a picture of how a person conducts his life and how he or she behaves in every situation. By using this word, we are told that there is no message more powerful than a godly life — and that a wife who lives a godly life before her husband greatly impacts his decisions and the way he lives.
The Greek words used in this text present the following idea:
“…If any refuse to comply with the Word and do what it says, you can still win the game without ever uttering a single word by simply letting your husband take note of and observethe way you live your life before him.”
I am married to a very godly woman. Denise has great influence in my life, not because of what she says but because of how she lives. I see her pray every morning. I watch as she sacrifices to follow me and how she has always done it with a willing and joyful heart. I have watched her forgive those who wronged us and our ministry. I see how attentively she takes care of our sons and how she loves our son’s wife. She stands by me, supports me, helps me, encourages me, and is indeed my closest friend.
Denise’s godly life is her greatest pulpit. I see her rising up, her sitting down, her going in, her going out, her turning this way and that way. Because I know her life and her outstanding attitude, I have great respect for her, and I listen when she speaks to me about things that concern her. In fact, of all the people in my life, my wife has the single greatest impact on me and my decisions. Her godly life has empowered her to have this authority with me. You could say that she won me and my respect because she showed me her life instead of just preaching sermons at me.
This is a good example of Peter’s statement to wives in verse 2 that husbands will “…behold your chaste conversation.…” The word “behold” is the Greek word epopteuo, which in Greek means to observe, to watch, to monitor, to scrutinize, or to keep under observation. The tense used in the Greek indicates a continual observation. This means a husband doesn’t just notice his wife’s behavior once; rather, he keeps a watch on her behavior and attitude all the time.
Wife, let me tell you a secret. Your husband may not tell you, but he is watching you. He sees and is amazed when you remain happy and content in very unhappy circumstances. He notices when you have an opportunity to be angry but choose instead to be silent and to take that anger to the Lord. Your husband observes your uncomplaining attitude when financial sacrifice is required. On the other hand, he also takes note when you blow your top and say ugly things. You can be sure that even though your husband may not tell you, he is constantly monitoring your attitude and responses to the situations of life.
This is why Peter says that you should let your husband “…behold your chaste conversation….” The word “chaste” is the word agnos. It refers to holiness, purity, or irreproachable conduct. In other words, men notice it when their wives are awesome! A wife’s godly conduct is the most influential, powerful sermon she could ever preach to her husband. Peter goes on to say, “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” This word “fear” does not refer to the kind of fear that makes a person shake and tremble because he is terrified. In this context, it carries the idea of respect. Knowing that a husband feels valued when he senses his wife’s respect, Peter urges women to live holy lives before their husbands and to do everything they can to demonstrate respect to them.
The words in First Peter 3:2 could be paraphrased to carry this meaning:
“Wives, your husbands are watching you constantly. They see you rising up; they see you sitting down; they see you going in; and they see you going out. They are constantly observing you, so make sure they are seeing you live a pure and holy life, and give them honor and respect as you do it.”
If you’ve been preaching at your husband to no effect, perhaps it’s time for you to change your method. Make the quality decision to stop talking to him about the things you’ve been wanting him to change in his life. Instead, take your concerns to God in prayer. Leave your husband alone, and let God deal with him. When you suddenly fall silent and cease to preach at your husband, I guarantee you that he will notice a change has taken place in your approach toward him. He will “behold” this change in your attitude. He will “behold” that you aren’t correcting him anymore. He will “behold” that you are leaving him alone and that you have chosen to take a different route.
As you learn to stay silent rather than preach at your husband, he will probably begin to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to his heart. And when your husband sees you maintain an excellent attitude in the midst of circumstances that aren’t going your way, his heart will be drawn to you. He’ll begin to get convicted, and his desire to do more to please you will start to grow.
You see, wife, Peter knew exactly what he was talking about when he wrote that you could win your husband without a word. Therefore, it’s time for you to get before God and ask Him to change your heart and your attitude about your husband. Learn to be clever by keeping your mouth closed and letting your godly life and good attitude do the preaching for you!
*Thanks to Rick Renner’s Sparkling Gems.