I have a very detailed post about this topic as it relates to a wife and husband on my other blog here, and I go into many ways wives may attempt to punish their husbands as well as what a wife can do if she is unhappy with her husband. But let’s talk a bit about this issue for single women, because it is an issue there as well!
First, let’s define “punish” so that we are all on the same page.
Merriam Webster defines “punish” as:
a : to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation
b : to inflict a penalty for the commission of (an offense) in retribution or retaliation
a : to deal with roughly or harshly
b : to inflict injury on : hurt
I think we can all agree that God does not give believers the “right” to “deal with roughly or harshly,” “to inflict injury on,” or to “hurt” someone else. The two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40 are to love God with all our hearts and to love others the way God does.
Love does no harm to others (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Romans 13:10).
What about imposing penalties? Do I have the right to impose or inflict penalties on my husband or to seek retaliation if I am hurt by him in some way? Am I the “law maker,” the “judge,” or the “executioner”?
WHO HAS AUTHORITY TO DISCIPLINE OR TO PUNISH OTHERS? (There is a discussion about the difference between discipline and punishment at the bottom of the post on www.peacefulwife.com today.)
According to God’s Word, God has the ultimate authority to punish or discipline people. God alone has the right to decide what is right and wrong. God decides what punishment a person, city, or nation deserves. God also delegates certain human authorities who have the authority to punish, discipline, and/or lead certain people according to His design for order. (For more detail on this, please check out Spiritual Authority at the top of my home page at www.peacefulwife.com.)
- Government officials have authority from God to punish criminals and are supposed to uphold God’s standards (Romans 13:1-7, John 19:11)
- Parents have authority from God to discipline and correct under-aged children within the limits God commands
- Church leaders have authority from God to discipline and correct those under their authority within certain limits
- Believers may lovingly, gently confront/rebuke each other about sin they see in the others’ lives after examining their own lives for sin first, seeking to restore one who has fallen back into fellowship with God (Matthew 7:1-5, Galatians 6:1-2).
- Managers/supervisors at work, teachers/administrators at school have limited scope of disciplining employees and students (Ephesians 6:4-6)
- Husbands have authority from God over their wives to lead them, to instruct/correct/rebuke, to make the final decisions in the family, to love their wives as Christ loves the church, and they are accountable and responsible for this leadership to God Himself (I Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:7, Colossians 3:18-19, I Corinthians 13:4-8a, 1 Corinthians 14:35). God does not authorize husbands to be “harsh” with their wives – if they are, their prayers will not be heard (I Peter 3:7). Men and women have equal value before God (Galatians 3:28). Husbands and wives are all heirs together of the gracious gift of life (I Peter 3:7).
WHAT DOES GOD SAY WE SHOULD DO WHEN SOMEONE SINS AGAINST US?
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse… Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14, 17-21
We, as followers of Christ, can trust God with vengeance and retribution for those who sin against us. Ultimately, all sin is against God. Revenge belongs to Him alone. And we must trust the government to act on God’s behalf to carry out punishment for criminals.
If I assign myself authority to judge someone, to take vengeance, and to execute punishment – I am putting myself in God’s place in a sinful, prideful way.
I DO NOT HAVE AUTHORITY FROM GOD TO PUNISH MY MAN OR ANYONE ELSE
God does NOT impart to me the right or authority to punish anyone. As a believer, I am not the law maker, judge or executioner for anyone (unless that is my job with the government and I determine or administer punishment for criminals who have been convicted by a court of law – and even then, I would be disqualified from judging or punishing my own husband in our society, at least).
IF MY HUSBAND WON’T DO WHAT I WANT HIM TO DO
If my husband is not asking me to clearly sin or to condone sin, God commands me as a wife to honor my husband’s leadership, to respect him, and to biblically submit to his decisions – even if I disagree with him. This does not mean my husband is “always right.” It means I am submitting myself to God and obeying Him because I love, respect, and reverence Him and because God is worthy of my obedience.
My recourse as a wife is to take this issue to God in prayer. It is my responsibility to share my heart, my desires, my perspective, my needs, my wisdom, and my emotions with my husband respectfully. If my husband decides not to do what I think is best, and he is not asking me to clearly sin, I cooperate with his decision because I want to walk in obedience to the Lordship of Christ in my life.
God can change my husband’s heart if a change is necessary. God is sovereign, and He has the power to lead me through my husband in ways I cannot begin to imagine. Will I hold my will loosely and seek God’s will above my own? Will I trust God? Will I submit to Him as LORD? Am I willing to die to myself?
A single woman who is dating is not in a covenant relationship with her man and is not required to submit to him. She can leave if she strongly disagrees about something. However, if you are working toward marriage, the closer you get to marriage, the more willing you should be to follow your man’s leadership, to trust him, and to be prepared for God to lead you through him. If you cannot do this, it is time for serious soul searching – is there sin in your heart, your man’s life, or what is God revealing to you that needs to change? Remember, I am always assuming you are dating or courting only a godly guy who truly longs to live for Christ and to honor Him and obey Him in everything. If you are still living at home, especially if you are under age, you are under your parents’ authority. Seek their wisdom as much as possible and take their guidance very seriously.
I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO JUDGE MY HUSBAND’S GODLINESS
If my husband doesn’t do what I want him to do right now, I may be tempted to think “he is ungodly,” “he needs to change,” or “he is unloving.” I can sometimes see fruit in his life accurately – but I am not God and I am not privy to all of my husband’s motivations or to God’s view of my husband’s heart. I may be tempted to think I am the only one who can rightly interpret Scripture and that I know so much better what God’s will is than my husband does.
How I must guard against such pride and self-righteousness! I may not be able to judge properly. Only God can truly know and accurately judge my husband’s heart and His will in a given situation – unless something is clearly explained in God’s Word. If I want something that goes against God’s Word, I do not have to wonder if that thing is God’s will. It is not.
I used to judge and condemn my husband constantly. 🙁 I know now that I was very wrong so many times. May we not judge a man’s “godliness” by measuring whether our men will submit to us or do what we want them to do. Let us allow our men the freedom to seek to do what God calls them to do and let us place our happiness and our will on the altar before Christ. This is what it means to die to self and to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.
CHECKING MY MOTIVES
If I am doing something with the purpose of:
- hating my guy
- desiring to hurt my man and cause him pain – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually
- desiring to punish my man or take revenge
- acting out of unforgiveness, bitterness, or resentment
- holding a grudge
- being jealous
- turning others against my man
- causing division, contention, arguments, strife, and factions at home, work, church, the neighborhood, or around family
… I have major sin in my heart. These are the fruit of the flesh God describes in Galatians 5:18-21.
WHAT A WIFE MAY DO IF HER HUSBAND IS SINNING AGAINST HER (A husband would have the right to do these things, as well, if his wife is sinning against him.)
A wife attempting to punish her husband is very different from a wife handling her husband’s sin according to God’s Word in such a way that her motives, words, and actions honor Christ, honor her husband, honor her marriage, honor her children, and honor herself:
1. A wife may respectfully ask her husband not to sin against her. (Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 18:15-17)
2. A wife may confront her husband humbly, gently, respectfully, and firmly about his sin with godly, loving motives, desiring to see him restored to fellowship with God and with herself (a husband may do this, as well). (Matthew 18:15-17) She may need to involve church leaders if he doesn’t respond to her approaching him privately about her concerns first.
3. A wife may need to remove herself from a dangerous, blatantly sinful, truly abusive situation or a wife may need to remove herself from a situation where a husband is an active drug/alcohol/sex addict or is involved in unrepentant infidelity. (Matthew 18:15-17, I Corinthians 7, “Do I Condone Marital Rape and Abuse?“)
Single women have these options as well, and, of course, if they are not married yet, they can choose to leave a man who continues to sin against them. But, I would love to see women seek God’s wisdom and seek to be very sensitive to His Spirit before making any rash decisions.