I have preached hundreds of sermons over the years, but without question, my favorite sermon I have ever preached was a lesson I did three years ago, right before Kristi and I got married. The lesson was on the biblical expectations of a preacher’s wife, and it is my all-time favorite sermon because it was precipitated by the fact that I was finally going to have a wife! Truthfully, I wanted to make sure the congregation and I were on the same page when it came to what this major change in my personal life would mean in our relationship. And
I can say that the Christians at Woodland Hills opened their hearts to Kristi and appreciated her and embraced her in a way for which I will always be thankful.
But this is not always the case. I have known many young ladies who were adamant in their determination never to be a “preacher’s wife.” And I have known of situations in which the dynamic between a congregation and its preacher was strained because of what was perceived to be a failure on the part of the preacher’s wife to live up to certain expectations. So I want to think with you in this article about what those expectations are.
Scripture is clear with regard to the qualities expected of elders (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12-13). Although there are lots of issues of interpretation involved in just exactly who Paul has in mind, 1 Timothy 3:11 also speaks about the qualities of “their wives” (maybe the wives of deacons, or both deacons and elders). In several places Paul discusses the expectations for preachers, such as in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
But what does the Bible say about the expectations for the wives of preachers?
So far as I can tell, there is only one passage that addresses this issue. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul uses himself as an example of someone willing to forfeit certain rights for the benefit of others, demonstrating the very attitude he wants the Corinthians to assume with regard to issues like eating meat from temples (which he discusses in chapters eight and ten). In making this appeal, he says the following:
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:3-5, emphasis added).
The only biblical expectation I can find for the wife of a preacher is that she be “a believing wife,” a Christian.
Otherwise, the only expectations to which a preacher’s wife should be held are those that are given for any woman who is a Christian and a wife:
- She must submit to the Lord and her husband – Ephesians 5:22-24.
- She should please her husband – 1 Corinthians 7:32-34.
- She should adorn the inner person of the heart – 1 Peter 3:1-6.
- She should help teach younger women – Titus 2:3-5.
But notice – these expectations are not hers because she is a preacher’s wife, but because she is a Christian wife. Any woman who is a disciple of Jesus and is married should be doing what is found in these passages.
Aside from the fact that a preacher’s wife should be a Christian and should conduct herself as a Christian wife, there are no other specifics given in Scripture as to her job description. Any additional notions of what she should be or should do are simply man-made traditions or opinions, not the will of God.
I have been blessed by many godly women in my life, including the wives of the men who preached where I worshipped. While all of these women were a blessing to me, each of them had very different talents and aptitudes. Some of them were excellent Bible class teachers, and were very skilled at teaching little children and other women. Others were wonderful servants who may have never taught a class but who showered needy brothers and sisters with food, visits, and other acts of service. Some were blessed with the unusual ability to do all of these things.
In other words, preacher’s wives have different gifts, just like all Christians. And based on what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, God Himself has placed these different parts or “members” in the body.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose (1 Corinthians 12:14-18).
Rather than resent these differences because they do not match up with our pre-conceived (and non-biblical) notions, we should value the fact that different people have different gifts. And the same is as true of the wives of those who labor in the word as it is of anyone else.
God expects all of us to use the talents He has given us to serve others for His glory. Peter makes that clear in 1 Peter 4:10-11 when he says:
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Holding preacher’s wives to unreasonably high standards does no good for the kingdom, and dishonors God’s design for the multi-faceted nature of the body. Preacher’s wives, just like preachers, and just like all Christians, should be appreciated for using what talents God has given them to His glory.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… (Romans 12:4-6).