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Roles in the Family

Husbands and Wives

There are some key guidelines in the Bible that help Christians understand the different roles of men and women within marriage.


Christians believe that men and women are equal in God's eyes. The Bible says that in the beginning, God created humans to be like himself.

 'So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female.' Genesis 1:27

This makes it clear that God created men and women to be equal. He created them in his image. There is no indication here that God considers one to be better or more important than the other. They are simply 'like himself.'

We also read in the Bible that men and women are to be treated as equal:

'There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Galatians 3:28



Whilst men and women are considered equal, many Christians believe that they have different roles. They get their ideas from the Bible or Church teachings, particularly around the different roles men and women should have within the family. Some believe that husbands should be in charge, others believe that husbands and wives are equal partners.



The traditional Christian view is that husbands should be the head of the household, in charge of the whole family, including the wife. Some Christians still hold this view because:

  • Genesis 2:18, states, 'Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.” This leads some Christians to believe that men are the head of the household, as women have been created to support men. They believe that this shows women's main role is to care for the home and children.
  • Ephesians 5: 22-24 states: 'Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body.' The word 'submit' means to give in to the will of someone else. Some Christians use this verse to explain why they feel men should be in charge of the family.
  • Catholics are taught that whilst men and women are both equal, God gave them different roles, designed to fit with each other. A simple reflection upon the differences in their physical forms convinces them that men - with their physical strength - were designed to work, and women designed to help him, as the verse in Genesis states.



Not all Christians believe that men should be head of the household. Today, many feel that the traditional views of men and women are old-fashioned and that men and women are equal in a marriage. They also believe that it's acceptable for women to work outside of the home if she wants to.



  • Many feel that the verse from Genesis 2:18 shows that men and women were created to work together, with neither of them being in charge.
  • Whilst Ephesians 5:22-24 does state that wives should submit to their husbands, the verse directly before these verses states, 'Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ.' Ephesians 5:21. This makes it clear that both husbands and wives should submit to each other; meaning neither of them is in charge.
  • Further to this, is the verse that follows Ephesians 5:22-24, which tells husbands to 'love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave his life for it.' Ephesians 5:25. Christ gave his life for the Church, dying on the cross. This shows that husbands are to give everything up for their wives, even their lives if necessary. This teaching would have been radical 2,000 years ago!


You can read the full teaching about husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:21-33 by clicking here.

Reflect How do you think husbands should treat their wives and vice versa?