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Beware the yeast of the mother-in-law: Unless she compliments your leadership

mother-in-law

Recently my malevolent mother-in-law uttered a profundity that surprised me. She was spending a couple days at our house (what sin have I committed to displease you, oh Lord?) and I was vacuuming the floor of all the dog hair shed by our fell beasts when I overheard her say to my wife: “It must be nice to have a husband who does housework.” Granted, my mother-in-law is in her eighties and hails from a bygone era (think Jurassic period) when male and female roles in the home were more strictly segregated. But things have changed since then, right? It depends.

When I was a lad, almost fifty years ago, it was a regular occurrence around our house to see my father engaged in domestic labor such as washing the dishes (by hand) and doing the laundry, in addition to his other duties around the yard and his full-time job as a professional logger. Apparently he was ahead of his time as the feminist movement had just begun to gather steam in America. Fast forward to today when I hear many professional women bemoan how they have achieved greater equality with men but not greater equity of job distribution in the home. In other words, many women today are married to men who still expect their wife to take care of all the domestic duties in the home, raise the children, and have a career . . . oh, and be a seductress in the bedroom, as well. Unfortunately many Christian men still embrace this nonsense as somehow biblical.

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting that men need be more feminine or women more masculine. God clearly made men and women different in many ways. For instance, I like to hunt, but my wife, Cindy, is unlikely to join me in the woods, shoot a buck, gut it, butcher it, and serve it for dinner. And I am unlikely to join her at a women’s retreat where the ladies and I sit around the table and do arts and crafts. Even so I think a lot of Christian men have misused verses like Ephesians 5:23 where men are told that we are the head of our wife; a verse which establishes a system of authority in the home. But what type of authority? Authority and work are two different things, right? Certainly there are verses in the Bible that describe labor responsibilities along conventional gender roles almost two thousand years ago. But since when was Christ and his followers conventional? Take for instance the washing of feet. Jesus clearly acknowledges his own authority. His disciples recognized his authority. But Jesus also got down on his hands and knees and served his disciples by washing their feet. This was much more than a symbolic act. It was both practical (their feet were filthy from walking long distances in sandals on dirt roads) and it demonstrated God’s definition of what leadership looks like—leadership serves, often in menial ways.

Guys, if you want to receive the blessing and responsibility of leadership in your homes, do the dishes, do the laundry, iron your own shirts, pick up after yourself, clean the toilet, parent your children, get the kids ready for bed, and learn to cook. These are the ways you wash the feet of the precious people in your home. This principle also applies to leadership in your occupation, as well. If you can’t humble yourself to do these things, you risk becoming one of those guys who can only get your family to do your bidding by barking orders because you have the unholy attitude that your word is final. Period. End of discussion. That’s called lording it over others and it has no place in God’s plan for leadership in the home. Many guys want to be leaders, but they don’t lead by example. It is counter to the Kingdom of God leadership model to demand that family members under your authority do things you are unwilling to do. I’m just saying.