A husband should be a spiritual strong man protecting his family from enemies (the world, the devil, and the flesh) that seek to destroy them. Jesus said, “How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matthew 12:29). The strong man protects the entire house. Read this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way to find out how.
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I started lifting weights in college, and for years, I worked out four or five days per week, month after month, year after year. Sadly, looking back, I think I cared more about my physical strength than my spiritual strength. The constant goal was growing more muscle and lifting more weight. I wish I would have had an even stronger desire to grow in my sanctification and become more like Christ, because little did I know that only a few years later, physical strength would take a backseat to the mental, emotional, and—most importantly—spiritual strength needed to be a Christian husband and father.
When your family is experiencing a trial and they look to you for strength, the number of pounds you can lift in the gym could not be more irrelevant. At that moment, what is needed is mental, emotional, and spiritual strength the family can draw on—especially a spiritual strength that can help lift the family the way physical strength can lift a barbell.
Likewise, when a wife is discouraged, defeated, or depressed, she doesn’t need a man with big muscles. She needs a husband who says, “Would you like me to read a few psalms to you? This is a difficult time, but with the Lord’s help, I know we can make it through this. Can I tell you about these verses I read that I think will be very encouraging?”
By way of example, at the time of this writing, our youngest, Lydia, who is less than a year old, has been sick the last few days. She hasn’t been sleeping well, which means we—and especially Katie, who’s been getting up trying to nurse her—haven’t been sleeping well. When we were up in the middle of the night recently and Katie was in tears because she didn’t know what to do, physical strength couldn’t have meant less to her. What did matter to her was when I asked, “Can I pray?”
When a young man asks me whether I think he is ready to get married, I ask him, “When things are difficult and your family suffers, can you hold them up in prayer and point them to Christ as the answer to their needs? Are you ready to gather your wife and children regularly around the Word of God? As the head of the home, will you take responsibility when things don’t go well? If your answer is no, then you don’t yet have the spiritual strength necessary to get married.”
In the previous chapter, we looked at what it means for a husband to care for his wife physically, mentally, and emotionally. A man doing so may appear to be a loving husband. Similarly, many husbands work hard to care for their wives financially—and they should. There are physical, mental, emotional, and financial aspects of loving well, but if a husband doesn’t care for his wife spiritually, his love is incomplete. He’s not fulfilling the most important responsibility God has given him. Sadly, during my years as a pastor, I have seen more husbands fail with regard to the spiritual leadership and protection of their homes than any other provision.
STRONG HUSBANDS PROTECT THEIR HOUSE SPIRITUALLY
Imagine asking a godly woman, “Would you rather have a man who’s physically strong or spiritually strong?” A godly woman will take a spiritually strong man over a physically strong man any day; she knows if her husband is spiritually weak, their home will be vulnerable. A Christian woman should want a spiritually strong husband who will lead and protect the family.
When it comes to becoming physically strong, we must exercise and nourish ourselves well with the right foods. Likewise, if we want to become spiritually strong, we must nourish ourselves well with the right spiritual food, which is God’s Word, and live out the spiritual disciplines, which strengthen us— disciplines such as meditating on God’s Word, praying, serving, and being involved in the body of Christ.
We are certain to have our own ideas of what a husband should be willing to do for his wife, but God’s ideas are quite different from ours. Most husbands are instinctively ready to protect their family physically. They’ll tell you, “If someone broke into my house, I would tell my family to hide and I would put myself in harm’s way so they could be safe.” Or, “If a car were heading toward my wife or children, I would throw myself in front of it to save them.” But let’s be honest: How likely is it that intruders will ever break into our homes, or that we’ll ever have to throw ourselves in front of a vehicle to save our children? These scenarios are unlikely to occur.
But there are certain types of enemies that can break into our homes and attack our families quite frequently—not physical ones, but spiritual ones: the devil and the world. How often can this occur? Every day.
What does it take for a husband to be spiritually strong so he is able to protect his family?
Because the devil is a much greater threat to our family than any physical intruder, spiritual protection is needed constantly. Husbands may invest in locks, alarms, guns, and other protective devices to shield their family from physical enemies, but how much do they invest in spiritual means of protection? God warns us that the spiritual battles are ongoing and dangerous:
- “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
- “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons; therefore, the best protection for families is a spiritually strong man. In Matthew 12:29, Jesus told a short but profound parable that illustrates this: “How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” Once we understand the point of the parable, we can consider the application.
The strong man is Satan, the strong man’s house is Satan’s kingdom, and the strong man’s goods are people who belong to Satan. Physically there are many different kingdoms on earth, but spiritually there are only two, and everyone is part of one or the other. There’s the kingdom of God, which every believer is part of, and there’s the kingdom of Satan, which every unbeliever is part of. The phrase “plunder his goods” describes what happens when people are saved. Jesus takes them from Satan’s kingdom and makes them part of His kingdom. Nobody can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man—otherwise, the strong man would stop him.
The only way someone could plunder the strong man’s goods is if he’s stronger than the strong man. Every time Jesus saves someone, He demonstrates how much stronger He is than Satan. Let’s consider the application by taking a closer look at the parable.
A SPIRITUAL STRONG MAN PREVENTS HIS FAMILY FROM BEING PLUNDERED
First, consider the words “How can one enter a strong man’s house…?” Note that the whole house is protected by one man. The house rises or falls on his shoulders. Do you see the application? Husbands are the protectors. Our families rise or fall on our shoulders. This is why it’s so important for husbands to be spiritually strong. Consider the words “plunder his goods.” Husband, let me ask you a question: Are there goods in your home that you need to protect? Yes—your wife and children! You need to make sure they aren’t plundered. Strong husbands protect their family so they aren’t plundered by sin, compromise, the world, and ungodliness.
STRONG HUSBANDS ARE NOT BOUND, BLIND, OR MUTE
Consider the part of the passage that reads “unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” The word “he” reveals we’re talking about an individual. Every man needs to know there’s an enemy who wants to enter his house, bind him, and plunder his goods, and that enemy is the devil. Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). Satan wants to enter our homes and steal, kill, and destroy our marriages, wives, and children. First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We must recognize there’s an adversary, or enemy, who wants to devour our families. Strong husbands fight to prevent this from happening.
Going back to Matthew 12:29, notice the words “first” and “then.” There’s a progression. The enemy can’t plunder the house unless he first binds the strong man. He wants to bind husbands so he can plunder their families. If a husband is bound, the family is vulnerable. Think about the word “bound,” or “tied up” as it’s translated in the NIV. What imagery does this convey? A person who is helpless, unable to do anything. This is what Satan wants to do to fathers and husbands.
A few verses earlier, in Matthew 12:22, we read about “a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute [and] was brought to [Jesus], and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw” (ESV). The devil made the man blind and mute, but Jesus enabled him to speak and see.
From a spiritual standpoint, that’s what Satan wants to do to every Christian man. He wants to take away our voice and leadership:
- He wants to make us as husbands spiritually blind so we can’t understand spiritual truths or see what’s happening in our homes.
- He wants to make us spiritually mute so we won’t teach our family or address the issues faced by our wife and children.
Jesus healed the man so that he both “spoke and saw.” This is what Jesus wants to do for husbands:
- He wants to help us speak spiritually so we can lead in our homes and preach the gospel and teach the Word.
- He wants to open our eyes spiritually so we can learn the Word and see what’s happening in our families.
What does this look like practically? A man comes home from work and he’s tired. Satan tempts him to sit on the couch, ignore his wife, and neglect his children. Satan tempts him to avoid dealing with the problems around him and hope they go away on their own. The devil fills his mind with thoughts unrelated to his family and tempts him to find anything to do other than lead his family spiritually, including through prayer and reading the Word. In these ways, husbands become spiritually blind and mute and allow Satan to bind them and plunder their family.
An even worse situation occurs when a husband binds himself. He does this when he develops addictions to sins, such as pornography, alcohol, lying, or anger. A man in this condition is in no place to provide spiritual protection for his family because he is defenseless: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
CHRIST PROVIDES THE VICTORY OVER SATAN
While it is true that husbands should protect their family from Satan, we must understand Scripture never calls us to fight Satan. You would think that if Satan is trying to destroy our homes and husbands are the protectors, we would see verses commanding husbands to defeat Satan. But none of the New Testament epistles contain any instructions along those lines.
Why aren’t husbands called to defeat Satan? Jesus already defeated him:
• “[Christ] disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15). • “[Jesus will] destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). • “The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
When people cast out demons in the Gospels and Acts, how did they do it? They didn’t roll up their sleeves, summon all their strength, and defeat him in their own effort. They called on Christ:
• “John said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name’” (Luke 9:49).
• “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name’” (Luke 10:17).
Even Michael the all-powerful archangel didn’t attempt to fight Satan in his own power: “Yet Michael…in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 9).
In Scripture, people experienced victory over Satan’s kingdom by relying on Christ: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Only Jesus can achieve victory over Satan, which is why we must put Christ first in our lives if we want to experience victory in our marriage.
STRONG HUSBANDS PUT CHRIST FIRST
Now, even though I drew an application from the parable of the strong man in Matthew 12:29, the parable is not primarily about husbands protecting their homes. Rather, it is about Jesus being stronger than the devil. To be clear, I’m not suggesting husbands attempt to take on Satan or protect their families by fighting the demonic realm in their own strength. Rather, I’m encouraging husbands to protect their family by pointing them to Christ and speaking God’s truths to them. After all, Christ is the true leader of our homes. Ultimately, we who are husbands need to be abiding in Him so that we can protect our families.
What does it look like for a husband to do this practically? Simply put, he strives to have a Christ-centered home seven days of the week. Some couples spend Sunday morning in church, but the other six days of the week their marriage looks little different than the marriages of unbelievers. As the head of the relationship, it is the husband’s responsibility to make sure he is praying and reading the Word with his wife (and children if they have any) throughout the week.
Earlier I talked about the days when I was actively involved in developing my physical fitness. If I can go back to that season for a moment, there was a big debate at the time about cardio: Should people do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or later in the day after a meal? Should people do high-intensity cardio for a short period of time, or low-intensity cardio for a long period of time? Finally, I read an article that resolved the dilemmas: “Regardless of the time of day or length of time, the most important issue is simply that people perform cardio.”
Similarly, I have had many people ask me, “When is the best time to pray and read the Bible together? And how long should it last?” I respond, “The most important issue is simply that it takes place.” This is what spiritually strong husbands do. They put Christ first by praying and reading the Word with their family. Spiritually strong husbands who do this will be protecting their home from the greatest threats they face.
Husband, may I speak to you directly? Brother in Christ to brother in Christ? Let me encourage you to be that spiritually strong man who puts Christ first. I know from experience that it is not easy because I have failed more times than I would like to acknowledge. But let’s keep in mind that we don’t need to rely on our own strength as we do this. We can rely on Christ’s strength. It is the power of the gospel at work in our hearts that gives us the strength we need and enables us to put Christ first. We can do it, with Christ’s enablement—and our families will be blessed because of it!