When Roles Get Reversed… {Men, Step Up and Lead! Part 1}

By Chris Cartwright, Contributing Writer

Imagine a world  in which there is no authority. Students in a 5th grade classroom have the same authority as their teacher. Children have the same authority as their parents. A world where a murderer has the same authority as the judge and jury. Imagine if we as created beings had the same authority as our creator. What would it be like if the law breaking citizen had the same authority as the law enforcement officer?

Men! Stand up and lead your family!

Photo by kelsey_lovefusionphoto

A world like this would be even more chaotic that the world in which we live. Anarchy would be the law of the land. In fact, we get a glimpse of what such a world might look like in the book of Judges. Because there was no King in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes, we see heinous acts of murder, rape, mutilation, homosexuality, and much more taking place in Israel.

Therefore God has designed authority in many different areas of life including: Government Rom 13; The Parent child relationship Eph 4 & Col 3; The workplace Eph 4 & Col 3. The first part of 1Cor 11 even shows that there is an authority structure within the Godhead!

But What about marriage? it is no different. God designed for the Husband to be the leader in a marriage relationship. 1 Cor 11:3, 8-9 shows that this is based upon God’s created order, and was in effect before the fall. Eph 5:22-33 shows us that this leadership is to imitate Christ’s relationship with the church. Therefore the Husband is to lead in a loving, tender self sacrificial way.

But what happens when roles get reversed? Sadly today we see many Christian men who either (A) step aside and allow their wives to dominate the home, or (B) are so passive that they leave their wives feeling as if they have no choice but to step in and lead for the wellbeing of the family. This is not new by any stretch of the imagination. in fact, it has been going on since the beginning of the human race. While there are many such examples given in scripture, let us just take a look at two of them:

1. Adam: (Gen 3:1-6)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman: “indeed has God said, ‘you shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat of it, or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” for God knows that in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; she gave also to her husband with her and he ate.

  • Eve took God’s Word, and added to it. In Gen 2:17 God told Adam (before he had created eve) that if he ate of the tree, he would die. In her dealing with the serpent, Eve then added to that command “or touch it”. Whenever we add to God’s Word, it becomes much easier for us to be deceived when someone raises questions about it.
  • So where was Adam in all of this? was he off tending the garden? no! the end of verse 6 shows that he was right there with her! Adam should have led his wife by lovingly saying “no honey, God told us not to eat of this fruit…we must obey Him over anyone else.” Rather Adam followed the lead of his wife, ate of the fruit, and thus plunging the whole human race into sin.

2. Abraham (Gen 16:1-4)

“Now Sarai, Abraham’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So, Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold the Lord has prevented me from baring children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.”

  • God had promised Abraham offspring in the covenant which he made with him in chapter 15. However, 10 years had passed and now Sarah was getting impatient.
  • Sarah blames God for her barrenness.
  • Sarah tries to convince Abraham to use the world’s methods to fulfill God’s promise (it was common in that day for a barren woman to give her maid to her husband to bear children in her stead)
  • Sarah doubted God’s promise
  • Abraham should have reassured her of God’s faithfulness…leading her out of doubt.
  • In stead, Abraham followed Sarah’s lead
  • Therefore, there was strife in the household
  • Through Abraham and Hagar came Ishmael, the father of the Arab race

These are just two of many biblical examples of men stepping aside and following the lead of their wives. Both cases have lasting consequences which are dramatically felt worldwide today. In one case, the whole human race is thrust under the curse of sin. In the other case, a people group out of which would come the most hostile religion to Jews and Christians.

As men, we are called to step up and lead in our families, or risk severe consequences when we dodge that responsibility. There are many Things which can distract a man from leading his household, some of which you can read more about by clicking here. However there is too much at stake for us to get distracted from our God-given duty of leading our households. Let us step up men! and rise to the calling of lovingly leading our wives as Christ does the church!

(Read Part 2 of this series: When He Won’t Lead… {Men, Step Up and Lead! Part 2})


  1. Hi Chris,
    It is funny. My husband are in a discussion about this right now. About his lack of responsibility in the relationship and my need to pay dual roles. I am not saying that he is not responsible in a lot of ways in our relationship but I feel that he should be more in change of some of the basic things and I am not taking laundry. I was raised in Texas where the man was in charge of the home and the wife had his back so I did not sign up for the woman rules the roof and the husband well he is just there with the wedding band on.

  2. And I say to the women, “Step aside and let them lead!” It is very important for the men to take the lead, but some have tried and been trampled over by over zealous wives. Our culture today does not encourage men to lead or women to let them. It is time to forget culture and embrace our God-given roles.

  3. I am trying to encourage my husband to be the man of the house and it is hard because he prefers to play video/computer games and spend money foolishly. I really hope that he will step up the plate and do his job because it is tiring just to do pretty much everything around the house.

  4. Hey Cynthia,

    You’re right, The man certainly has far more responsibility in a marriage than to wear the wedding band and then step aside. That is certainly not an easy situation in which you find yourself. While I cannot relate from personal experience, I know several women who find themselves in your shoes. I actually just posted a followup post to this one which deals with some suggestions for women in your situation in some helpful ways in which to address this issue. I hope you find it helpful! God bless!

  5. Hi Niki,
    You address another critical issue which many Christian married couples face in this day and age as well. It is a sad result of the curse, but just as many men are stepping aside, many women make it very hard for them to take up leadership. You are very right, it is so important for all of us to embrace the roles which God has ordained for us, regardless of what culture says.

  6. Hey Tabi J,
    I’m sorry to hear that your husband is choosing living for pleasure over fulfilling his God-ordained role as leader of the home. I actually posted a followup post recently to this one, which touches on some ideas of how you can address this critical issue with your husband. I hope you find it helpful!

  7. Great post!

    God revealed to me in December of 2008 that I had not been respecting my husband or following him. I began to see that I had taken over and usurped his control, thinking he “wouldn’t” or “couldn’t” lead. But as I stepped down from control and just waited… a LOT… on God and my husband, and as I stopped my negativity, pride, contention and disrespect and began to praise, encourage, admire and build up my husband, he did step into the leadership role. Now he is the strong man of God I always knew he could be. But I had to stop my lecturing, nagging, criticizing, preaching and telling him what to do and stop trusting in myself and trust God to lead me through my imperfect husband. It was the greatest test of faith for me. And it has brought me such joy and peace!

    Thank you for this post!


  1. […] Last month we looked at the vital leadership role which God has designed for men to carry out within marriage. But what if he won’t lead? I have been asked before to share from a man’s perspective what is the best way for a wife to bring this problem to the attention of her husband in such a way that will encourage him to step up and lead. More important than my own personal thoughts, though, is what God’s Word says about the matter. I will try to go about answering this both from a guy’s perspective and a biblical perspective. […]