I ’m an elder’s wife. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I don’t. At times I feel privileged to work alongside of my husband and other times I wish we could both disappear and magically end up on a deserted south sea island with no responsibilities and no people. Well maybe a few people who would serve us cold lemonade while we basked in the tropical sun.
We all experience these feelings at times. What keeps us going in the work of the Lord? In reading 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Thessalonians 5, the two chapters that describe the qualifications for elders, I am amazed at the kind of man God wants for this important work of shepherding his sheep. It is a high calling. The Holy Spirit has laid this burden on our husbands (Acts 20:28) and the Lord commends them for desiring a good work (I Timothy 3:1).
Where does an elder’s wife fit in?
How do I as a wife of an elder fit into this picture? The book of Genesis provides a foundation in 2:18 that I just love: “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” God saw a need – Adam was incomplete and lacked a helper. The root word for helper is found 88 times in the Old Testament, mostly used for one who is a military assistant (from Dr. Alan Ross, unpublished notes, Dallas Theological Seminary).
The commander of an army would have a trusted right hand man who would assist him in planning and executing a battle plan. The word is also used in the Bible to describe God as our helper (see Psalms 46:1, 121:1-2). God is the “helper” par excellence. Clearly, our role as elders’ wives is not that of an “assistant elder.” However, if the first man created by a holy, perfect God and placed in a flawless environment was incomplete and needed help, then our husbands need help as well.
Setting a standard
How, then, can I be a helper to my husband who is an elder? In the same way that our husbands are to exemplify godly manhood, we should strive to exemplify the biblical standard of godly womanhood. We have homes to manage, children to teach, younger women to disciple, widows or orphans to care for.
Also there is the mission’s work, notes of encouragement, the next potluck to organize—list goes on and on. I believe God desires us to give special attention to our original calling, to be a “helper” to our husbands.
A unique role
Each marriage is unique–not every elder’s wife will help her husband in the same way. To be sure, our husbands will often deal with matters that are confidential in nature, things which they cannot share with us. But, as I look again at the character qualities that an elder is to have, it seems to me that we could assist our husbands in each one of these areas.
For example, an elder must be “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). This is paralleled with the qualification for the wives of spiritual leaders that they be “women worthy of respect” (1 Timothy 3:11). Does my life style and character support my husband being “above reproach”? Do I speak with respect about him in public? Does my character reflect well on him?
In future columns we will look at practical ways we can help our husbands in this demanding ministry. As elders’ wives, God has given us a high calling— let’s rise up to that challenge and, in so doing, glorify our Lord and Savior.
Editorial Note: This article was first published in Elder’s Shopnotes in 1999. It is re-posted with permission from the author.