Three Ways to Cherish Your Wife (Ephesians 5:29)

Three Ways to Cherish Your Wife (Ephesians 5:29)

Ephesians 5:29 says, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Read or listen to this material from Your Marriage God’s Way to learn how to cherish your wife.

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Ephesians 5:29 says, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Because this is a marriage passage, we must look past Christ’s relationship with the church to learn about a husband’s relationship with his wife. In other words, because Christ cherishes His bride, a husband must cherish his wife. Here are three ways to cherish your wife if you’re a husband!

First, Cherish Your Wife by Making Her Supreme

When Scripture says, “A man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife” (Ephesians 5:31), it isn’t encouraging husbands to cut their parents out of the couple’s lives. However, it is a profound command that should challenge husbands to examine their priorities. A man’s wife should be more important to him than his parents. To appreciate the significance of the command, we need some familiarity with the marriage customs of Jesus’s and Paul’s day.

A Jewish betrothal (or engagement period) typically lasted one full year. During that time, the groom’s primary responsibility was preparing a place for himself and his bride. He would then return for his bride on an unexpected day and hour and take her to the place he had prepared. For those acquainted with Jesus’s promise to His future bride in John 14:1-3, this should sound familiar:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Where is the place Jesus is preparing for His bride, the church? His Father’s house. Similarly, a Jewish groom would prepare a place for himself and his bride on his father’s property. The newly established residence might even add to his father’s residence. This kept the newly married couple under the groom’s parents’ authority.

With this custom in mind, when Jesus and Paul quoted Genesis 2:24, that “a man should leave his father and mother,” their words could not have sounded more radical to the day’s culture. Even though a man’s father and mother have been the most important earthly figures in his life up until his wedding day, he is commanded to leave them to be joined by his new bride. Because a husband is to leave his parents for the sake of his wife, he should be willing to forsake anything (except for Christ) for her. Second to a husband’s relationship with Christ, his wife must be the supreme person in his life. A wife should never feel threatened by anyone or anything. A husband should have no earthly relationship that competes with his union with his bride.

Second, Cherish Your Wife By Considering Her Perception

When wives feel like they are in second place, it’s not usually because of another woman. Women often feel like their husbands have put an activity or hobby first. It could be sports, television, cars, poker night, alcohol, friends, work, video games, education, and even children. Yes, a husband’s relationship with his wife should be supreme, even above his relationship with his children. I love my children more than I can express in words, but I still let them know— and more importantly, let Katie know—that I love Katie the most. The kids have asked me, “Who do you love the most?” I tell them, “That’s easy. Mommy!”

Note the emphasis here is on how a wife feels. A husband might insist, “My wife is the supreme priority in my life. She is more important to me than anything else.” But the wife might not feel that way. A wife’s perception is her reality. It’s not about the husband’s thoughts but how the wife feels.

I attended a friend’s softball game a few years ago and watched him make the game-winning hit. As we talked after the game, I could tell something was bothering him. He began to criticize his wife: “She doesn’t support me. I hate that she never comes to my games. I won the game, but when I go home to tell her about it, she won’t even care.”

At first, I thought he was right: Why wasn’t she there cheering for him? As his wife, she should be his biggest supporter! Then it occurred to me that she’s at home taking care of their children while he’s playing. If she’s anything like Katie (and most other wives), after her husband is gone at work all day, she probably wants him to spend time with his family and help her with the kids. She may even hope he will give her a break because she’s been so busy with the children. This same friend also played basketball regularly on other evenings during the year. I wondered if his wife was having trouble respecting a man in his forties who was spending more time with his teammates than he did with her.

Am I saying anything is wrong with a grown man playing in a local sports league? No, but I am saying there’s something wrong with him making his wife feel like she’s second place to a sports league.

Hobbies Are Okay for Husbands, But…

I will quickly admit that I have not always been successful in this area. Let me share a personal story from early in my marriage that still embarrasses me, and I would much rather not share it publicly. The experience is humbling, but I learned a lot through it, and I hope it might be instructive for you, too.

When I was an elementary school teacher, I tried to teach summer school as often as possible for extra income. One summer, the opportunity was not available, and I came up with the terrible idea of playing World of Warcraft, an online video game. I quickly found myself addicted.

At one point, I remember Katie expressing surprise at what I was doing. She was not angry or threatening, but I could tell she was disappointed and losing respect for me.

Then something life-changing happened. Our first child, Rhea, was born in July. About one week later, Katie had a breakdown. It was difficult for her to see me like this as her husband, but it was even worse for her because I was now a father. She said she was afraid for our future and how my gaming addiction would affect our kids.

I repented, and by God’s grace, I immediately stopped playing. I thought it would be difficult to quit, but it was easy. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer felt like a slave, and the condemnation and shame I had felt were gone. There was peace in my relationship with the Lord, and I could pray and reread the Word without terrible conviction about my misplaced priorities. Katie said she was proud of me and could now respect me again.

Repent If You Make Your Wife Feel Like Second Place

Husband, let me address you directly. I share this in the hope that if you have something in your life that has become a misplaced priority that you cannot imagine getting rid of, you, too, might be given the confidence to humble yourself before the Lord. Repent this very minute. Please do not put it off. If you do this, you can experience the same freedom from bondage I enjoyed and regain your wife’s respect. The conviction that constantly plagues your relationship with Christ will be gone, too.

There is a world of difference between addictions and hobbies. Hobbies are okay. Addictions are not. I am not suggesting that a husband must categorically give up all hobbies he enjoys. Still, he must give up anything that has become an addiction and hinders him from fulfilling his responsibilities as a husband and father.

Consider this example: One husband might love restoring an old car and spend only a few hours per month doing so. His wife doesn’t mind, so for him, it’s a hobby that doesn’t cause any problems in his relationship with his wife, children, or the Lord. Another husband spends every spare hour with his car. He is obsessed with it. His wife has grown tired of this. She tries not to walk past the garage because she doesn’t want to see the car. She resents her husband because the car gets so much of his time and attention, and they can’t talk about it without fighting. For him, the car is an addiction.

A husband can’t claim that just because the Bible doesn’t forbid something, it’s okay for him to do it. For example, I know two wives who felt like they were in second place to their husbands’ water skiing and horses. Because the Bible doesn’t forbid water skiing or horses, the husbands felt they weren’t doing anything wrong. While it’s true the Bible doesn’t forbid their hobbies, it does forbid making a wife feel like she is in second place. The problem isn’t with the hobby but the husband’s relationship to it. The hobby isn’t the sin; the sin is letting a hobby push the wife into second place.

A husband must pray, examine himself, develop discernment, and ask his wife what steps he needs to take to ensure she stays supreme. He needs to keep checking in with her to see how she’s feeling about what he’s doing. He might even need to make himself accountable to a mature fellow believer. With God’s help, hopefully, he can turn an addiction back into a legitimate hobby. If he can’t, it must be completely removed from his life.

Third, Cherish Your Wife By Being Ruthless with Addictions

Sometimes, a wife becomes second place to something that shouldn’t be completely removed from her husband’s life. For example, if a husband puts in too many hours at work, he should cut back on his hours or perhaps even find a new job rather than stop working completely. If a husband is overly involved in his church, he needs to serve in moderation rather than abandoning the church completely.

In some situations, this sort of balance is reasonable, but what about when a husband has a hobby that he’s unable to engage in moderately? In other words, when his hobby has become an addiction? When a husband’s actions have demonstrated that he has an unhealthy relationship to a hobby and he can’t engage in it in a balanced or moderate way, then it has become a sin that must be completely removed from his life—elimination versus moderation.

Jesus described the necessary severity: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you…And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you” (Matthew 5:29-30; see also 18:8-9). Jesus didn’t expect us to do this literally. He often used figurative language in the form of hyperbole to make a point. In this case, He described the ruthlessness with which we should deal with sin—in this case, the sin is making the hobby a greater priority than the marriage relationship. If we struggle with a certain temptation, we should completely remove (cut or pluck) it from our lives. Show it no mercy. If we have demonstrated that we can’t stop a hobby from becoming an addiction, then we won’t be able to keep that hobby in our life without our wife continuing to feel like she is in second place.

Too often in counseling, I have witnessed a wife’s pain associated with what her husband is doing. He will say, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll get my priorities in order and keep things in balance. From now on, I will do this in moderation.” The husband will start well. His wife will be happy for a few weeks. But slowly, whatever made her feel like second place would creep back into his life as an addiction, reclaiming that position of supremacy. The husband might as well have said, because at least it would be honest, “Things will change superficially for a few weeks. But before long, things will return to how they were before. And you’ll be feeling even worse because you’ll see me fail again, increasing your confidence that things will never change.” The solution is for the husband to get the addiction out of his life and put his wife in her rightful place.

What is the reward when a husband obeys God’s command to make his wife his greatest priority, second only to God Himself? The husband will enjoy the blessings of a prosperous, harmonious marriage and a happy, contented wife who respects him. If they have children, he will gain their respect too. They all will appreciate the sacrifice he has made for his family.

An Important Note for Wives

If you see your husband give up something so you can have a supreme relationship in his life, be sure to encourage him. Show him respect. Communicate how much you appreciate the sacrifice he made. Let him know that you know that few husbands love their wives and the Lord enough to do what he is doing.

28 Responses

  1. I feel like I am in second place. Maybe you can give me some insight on this. My fiancé is hosting his ex-wife (they have been divorced for more than 25 years), and I can no longer be there if she is there. He feels some kind of obligation to her. He says she is not well. He is not in the medical field in any capacity. We are registered to be married in one month. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hello Eleanor,
      I’m sorry to hear this. Without hearing your husband’s side, I would say that he should not be doing this. If she is not doing well, or if she needs some help physically, mentally, or emotionally, I wouldn’t think that he would be the one to help her. I would encourage you to reach out to your church elders so they can confront him.

    1. Hello Chris,
      Does the article encourage divorce or separation? If it encourages divorce I would say that it is unbiblical and should not be followed. But in some situations, such as those when there is abuse, separation can be warranted.

  2. This article was enlightening and enjoyable to read and helped illuminate some things I am working on in my relationships. Might I ask if you have advice for a parent who doesn’t want their child to leave and cleave? I’ve been married for over ten years, and my own mother still struggles with the concept she is not first. To give her situation, she put her own mother first, even before her marriage, for years. This is the one thing I fight over with my mother.

    1. Emma,
      Thank you for letting me know. That is very encouraging. I am always blessed to hear when God uses my material to spiritually strengthen others.

      As a father of nine children I can completely understand why parents don’t want their children to leave and cleave. I would love if all of my children could stay nearby.

      I have a recommendation for your situation with your mother. As gently as possible you need to let her know that God commands you to put your husband first. You said she struggles with not being first, and she shouldn’t be first. This will be easier for her to receive if you let her know that you love her, appreciate her, and always want her in your life. But it seems like you are going to have to spell things out for her. If you have been fighting about this with her for ten years, then it tells me that it has probably never been made clear to her.

  3. I’m sorry, but while your take on marriage counseling may or may not be true, the use of the concept in genesis 2 HAS NOTHING to do with what you think it does.

    Unless you properly understand ancient hebrew idioms you ought not to take it upon yourself to teach the public. Unknowingly you will cause more harm than good. Be a student, not a teacher.

    1. Hello Endar,
      I would like to respond to your comment and learn if I am wrong, but I need you to elaborate a little more. He said the use of the concept in Genesis 2 has nothing to do with what I think it does. What concept are you referring to and how did I use it wrongly?

      As far as being a student and not a teacher, I have been pastoring for fifteen years and most of that time I have spent 20 to 40 hours studying God’s word and using multiple commentaries. It’s not to say that I don’t make mistakes or can’t learn more, but I think it would be completely untrue to say that I am not a student. I have committed much of my adult life to studying the Bible more than almost anything else.

  4. What to do when my teenage daughter and husband are so divisive, like toxic to our family unity. How do I deal with this. He allows her to be disrespectful to me and rude to the other siblings. He is very arrogant and prideful. He is self employed and is also deceitful and lack ethical integrity. We have been married for over 20 years. I am tired of this mess. However, I can’t divorce my daughter and I am trying to honor God’s word on divorce vs marriage with regards to him. It’s hard to trust her or him. It’s like every time we get over a big hurdle of divisiveness then here we go agasin. Another situation. My daughter is very insecure and jeaslius of her younger siblings. I try to encourage her but she blames me for all of her problems. My husband has allowed her to openly disrespect me in the home. This cause upset from the other kids watching. He makes decisions a ‘ll the time without me. I feel so disrespected and unappreciated by him. I have told him how I feel and he tells me that it’s all in my head that everything is great. He justifies him and her wrong doings.

    I used to handle her behavior by cursing her out. That was because he never stood behind or in front of me to discipline her. It devastated me and I feel, thus the bad relationship she and I have started there. Now I know I was wrong back then and regret my wrong doing. I have apologized and changed, however, my daughter still lives in that past and plays the victim conveniently using it to manipulate my husband into allowing her to have her way on almost everything. Instead of him addressing her behavior, he turns it on me. I feel I am only mom and wife when it’s convenient. How do I deal with them and this positively???

    1. Hello Tiffany,
      Thanks for reading and asking these questions. I’m sorry about the problems you’re having with your daughter and husband. The difficulty associated with answering questions on a blog is I’m only able to hear one person’s side of the story. What do you think would be their sides? If they shared, what would they say are your weaknesses that contribute to the problems in the family? You did acknowledge “cursing out” your daughter. Have you asked for her forgiveness for your actions? While I’m sure it would be very difficult to seek forgiveness from someone who you’re so frustrated with, at the same time it would be a great witness to her and would go far in terms of her seeing Christ working in you.

      I’m glad that you’re committed to honoring God in your marriage. Yes, you’re right, God’s would forbid you from divorcing your husband. It’s hard to change someone else, and if your husband has been like this for years, even if he does change, it won’t happen overnight. I would encourage you to pray God gives you the grace you need to deal with his weaknesses and struggles, and ask God to give you the wisdom to know how best to respond to him.

      Unfortunately, I think the problems you’re describing won’t be able to be solved over a blog post. Is your family involved in a local church? Do they offer counseling? Can you go to the elders for help?

  5. My husband had an adulterous affair with a woman on his job. This ruined my marriage. I was asked by a friend to contact Dr. Mac for help and i did and after 3 days my husband stopped his adulterous behavior and started treating me like a queen, he loves more now.

    1. Hello Maria,
      I’m sorry to hear that your husband cheated on you. Can you elaborate a little regarding what this doctor did that encouraged your husband to stop his adultery in three days?

  6. Regarding: “Talk to your pastor, but not the congregation When you leave this church you should let the pastor know, and explain the situation. You owe it to him to be honest. As a pastor, that’s what I would want. But unless you’re asked, you shouldn’t share with the rest of the church why you’re leaving. Sometimes there’s a fine line between being the cause for righteousness and being divisive.”

    Follow me here…

    I’ve blogged before ( about when one should/shouldn’t leave a church, and tho’ I’m not an expert by any means, the conclusion that I came to is that there are few reasons one *should* leave. And most (all?) of those reasons are for a church that’s teaching is not Biblically sound. IF a church is not doctrinally sound, or clearly dead/sinful, then I’d disagree with your statement to keep it a secret why you left (I think I shared with you a long while back that it’s this teaching from Bill Gothard that always had me concerned as a child, continuing through adulthood). In fact, as good Bereans, and as Paul did, we should call sin what it is. And not fear being called divisive. One *should* divide themselves (and encourage others away) from sin.

    Does that make sense?

    Obviously, if it is a minor or personal discrepancy, or not based on the Biblical soundness, I agree completely. But then, I’d argue one shouldn’t have left. :)

    I will say here tho’ that one need be very careful, as talking badly about any church – and this is where I think the fine line lies – can be very detrimental to the kingdom and glory and honor of God. We must pray that we can all be salt & light, and be careful to keep our hearts soft, our tongues slow, and our eyes on Him through this and all things.

    1. Hi Summer,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Yes, I remember that blog post of yours, and as a pastor I appreciated it for a number of reasons. I think there are a few other good reasons to leave a church. For example, perhaps they don’t deal with sin; they’re theologically sound, but they don’t practice church discipline. Although, maybe you’d say a church that doesn’t practice church discipline is showing they’re not biblically sound? But it seems to me as though you were focusing on teaching, and a church can teach biblically without operating biblically.

      John MacArthur gave some good reasons in this article to leave a church, but most of them relate to what you said.

      You said:

      IF a church is not doctrinally sound, or clearly dead/sinful, then I’d disagree with your statement to keep it a secret why you left (I think I shared with you a long while back that it’s this teaching from Bill Gothard that always had me concerned as a child, continuing through adulthood). In fact, as good Bereans, and as Paul did, we should call sin what it is. And not fear being called divisive. One *should* divide themselves (and encourage others away) from sin.

      Well, I didn’t really say to keep it a secret. I presented two situations warranting sharing:
      1. Share the info with the pastor/elders when leaving.
      2. Share the reason you left with anyone who asks.

      But I think going beyond that and telling everyone in the church could be divisive. The pastor and elders should have time to take the person’s thoughts into consideration, hopefully be challenged/changed by them, and then make the appropriate changes in the church. But that opportunity is taken away from if the individuals leaving share their concerns with everyone else.

      Yes, I appreciate what you said about making the church look bad. Few things look worse than Christians criticizing the church. While it’s definitely warranted at times, it has to be done only when truly necessary. The devil and the world love nothing more than seeing Christians turning on each other.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      1. “For example, perhaps they don’t deal with sin; they’re theologically sound, but they don’t practice church discipline. Although, maybe you’d say a church that doesn’t practice church discipline is showing they’re not biblically sound? But it seems to me as though you were focusing on teaching, and a church can teach biblically without operating biblically.” Great point.

        As for the rest of your reply, I agree with you. Except the scenario you presented (talking to elders first and them taking it as a challenge and changing, IF it is a question of biblical soundness)… I’d hope the folks weren’t *leaving* the church, and instead grow with their family through it. :) Thus, I hope they’d only be sharing their concerns upon leaving IF the church *continued* to not be biblically sound.

        Thanks for the response!

  7. About 4 years ago, we felt God calling us to leave the church family we were a part of. It was the hardest thing we had done up to that point, but being prayerful about it all confirmed that it was God’s will. At first we couldn’t understand why, but now looking back we see how he wanted to use us, grow our faith and let us see that our church family isn’t just inside the four walls we go on Sunday. They are literally world wide.

    It’s difficult to leave and you gave very good advice as to how to approach their situation.

    1. Hi Kristi,
      Thanks for sharing. If you don’t mind me asking – since it was one of the main topics of the post – would you share why you wanted to leave? Would be good to hear another person’s thoughts on why/when people should leave a church.

      What church did you and your family end up attending? Did you feel that it satisfied whatever desires put you at odds with your previous church?

      Thanks ahead of time if you feel comfortable sharing all this.

  8. Great advice from both you and your wife! Thank you for taking the time to bless and minister to others in this way!

    You have a beautiful family. Your kids are adorable.

  9. Thanks for this post and addressing this question. I recently left my church of 7 years for various reasons which I won’t publish here, and it was a very hard decision. I ultimately knew that God wanted me to go elsewhere and when I left, I felt a great peace over it. I talked with my Pastor and his wife in private over some of the reasons that I chose to leave and still maintain a relationship with them. I had been praying on this for a couple of years with my family, and even when I thought I was sure about leaving, I continued praying for several months. This is something that needs to be discussed more.

    1. Kalinann,
      I think you handled the decision very well. I hope others who read this post see your testimony. It’s one of the worst feelings as a pastor when you’re left wondering why people left. Might not even be for any negative reasons…but you don’t know that unless people share with you.

      I think it’s a credit to you – and the maturity of the pastor and his wife – that you’re able to maintain a good relationship.

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