My husband values my opinion. When he has a big decision to make, or a serious idea weighing on his mind, he seeks my counsel. When he is working on a sermon, like he has been the last two weeks, he asks what I think about the text. There are a thousand little decisions that he makes throughout his days without talking to me about them, but when big things are on the line, we talk because he cares about what I think.
Because my husband values my opinion so much, I often think about what I say to him and how I influence him. What I say matters to him. And while he is the leader of our home and the buck ultimately stops with him, I never want to use my influence to manipulate him or influence him negatively.
I’ve been reading through Kings and Chronicles the last few weeks. Usually I’m struck by the sad commentary on the life of the kings in Israel and Judah. With the exception of a rare few, many of them turned away from God and worshipped the idols of the land. But something else stood out to me more forcefully this time.
The influence of their wives.
Solomon was the wisest king who ever lived. But as we now know, he didn’t end well. He disobeyed God’s law and married foreign women—women who drew his heart away from God. For the rest of the history of the kings of Judah and Israel, they repeatedly married women who were idol worshippers and against God and his people.
And Solomon was not alone. The first marriage was no different. In the Garden of Eden we see Eve believing the lies of Satan and dragging her husband down with her. And when God’s people begin to grow and are living among idol worshippers, he repeatedly reminded them to flee from unholy marriages—marriages that united them to the surrounding nations. Why was God so concerned about who they married? God knew the power of the marriage relationship, because he created it. The Old Testament repeatedly plays out this theme of marriages that were outside of God’s design, and therefore led to problems for his people.
Obviously, the influence of an unbelieving spouse goes both ways. So a husband could just as easily lead his wife astray. But I think women have a unique ability to influence their husbands unlike anyone else in his life.
Proverbs 31:11 says that the heart of a husband trusts in his wife. He trusts that she will do him good. He trusts in her love for him. He relies on her as his helper and companion. There is no greater bond than the marriage relationship. God knew what he was doing when he commanded Christians to marry Christians. So when we see marriages like Ahab and Jezebel in Kings, we feel the tension of her overwhelming influence over him and his complete abdication of responsibility. She used her power to influence him to love what she loved—the gods of this world.
So what does this mean for believing women? Can we still influence our husbands in ways that are not helpful? Obviously, by God’s grace we won’t be drawing their hearts away to worship idols, but we might use our power in less obvious ways.
Women can be master manipulators. We can twist a story, use emotion, use our knowledge of our husband’s weaknesses and strengths, and use his love for us to get what we want. So here are a few questions to ask ourselves:
Do we withhold information?
I know I am prone to do this. I might not “lie”, but I might keep out important details to influence my husband to do something that I want him to do.
Do we use sex?
This is fairly self-explanatory, but we can use our sexuality and bodies for our own gain, rather than giving our bodies freely to our husbands as a gift, not leverage.
Do we use the power of affirmation?
Men want to know that they are doing well. I’ve seen my husband be empowered to lead more boldly and fulfill his responsibilities with greater strength all because I’ve encouraged him in what God is already doing in his life. The flip side of this is that we can easily use the power of words for our own advantage to get what we want.
It’s easy to look at the sinful women in the Old Testament and think that this has nothing to do with us. In some senses, that’s true. They were unsaved idol worshippers, we are trusting in Christ and saved by his righteousness. But do our husbands trust us because we do them good all of our days? Or do they trust us because we have learned how to use our role as wives for our own gain?
A wife has tremendous influence in her marriage relationship. Women have been using this influence since the beginning of time. The real question is how we are using this influence. As redeemed women, bought by the blood of Christ, let us use our influence to do our husbands good all of our days.