Col 3:18-21 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
In verse seventeen, Paul leaves this instruction: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” We cannot hope to give reasonable thought to verses eighteen through twenty-one without this counsel firmly fixed in our hearts. Wives submitting to their husbands should never conjure up an image of a woman groveling at the feet of a man.
A wife’s submission to her husband should be done according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in her heart. That submission should be offered to God through Jesus Christ with thanksgiving. This admonishment to submission is very specifically to a wife’s own husband. She is not expected to be submissive to every man she encounters. Further, she is to be submissive only as “it is fit in the Lord.” There is no requirement for the wife to be submissive in anything that Jesus Christ has not taught to be proper in His sight.
Husbands should only expect submission if they love their wives. A husband that loves his wife is not going to be harsh or abusive towards her. Also, if we look closely at the word rendered “bitter,” Strong’s defines it as “to embitter (literally or figuratively): – be (make) bitter.” I believe this admonishment has two edges. Husbands are not to be abusive, nor are they to do or say things that are going to make their wives bitter towards them. Again, husbands are to love their wives in the name of the Lord Jesus, with thanksgiving to God.
When was the last time that any of us told our children that it pleased God for them to obey us? Many, if not all of us, have been guilty of giving our children instruction, and when they ask why, we have told them (often with irritation in our voice), “Because I said so!” I look back and mourn at all the times I missed the opportunity to tell them “Because it pleases God.” This would also be a good check for us as parents to examine our reasoning and be sure it is pleasing to God. Instead of using those moments to direct them to Him, we often did the very thing that next verse tells us not to do.
It is difficult to gauge how many times we make our children angry. This is not speaking to those times that our children chose to be angry because they did not want to obey. The admonishment here is against deliberately provoking our children because we have allowed ourselves to become angry. Oftentimes the actual cause of our frustration may not even be our children or their reaction: they simply became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. When we provoke our children to anger, we have completely lost sight of doing in the name of the Lord, and there is certainly no thanksgiving in the matter.
For those of us whose children are grown and perhaps have children of their own, it serves no purpose to wallow in guilt at our past failings as parents. Even though our children may be grown, it is not too late to practice not provoking them to anger. It is not too late to love our wives and be good husbands. It is not too late to be good wives as it is fit in the Lord. It is also not too late to see how this relates to Christ and His bride (us).
It is fit in the Lord for us to submit ourselves unto His holy will. It is fit because He has proved to us that He will never abuse us, and He has certainly never given us any reason to feel bitter toward Him. He does not provoke His children to anger. Moreover, as we follow Him, He may be pleased to give us “sons and daughters” in His kingdom here. We need to always point to Him as the reason for obedience, and we should never be a discouragement to God’s little ones.
May we be careful to do all that we do in the name of the Lord Jesus with thanksgiving in our hearts to God for the joy of serving Him!