23 August 2012

Submission and Service

In a prior post, CaneCaldo stopped by to respond to a criticism I had made, and had this to say:
In fairness to me: in your linked post "The Theology of Game" you make basically the same point on not serving two masters. Game writers very much have a focus on serving themselves; as does Feminism, and since non-Christian Game will readily use--and exort [sic] others to use--Feminist claptrap in the course of their Gaming...this is surely what I was referring to.
There is much to be said here, but first I must point out that there are two modes of thought regarding serving a woman’s desires.  There are some who posit that it’s okay to serve a woman’s desires as long as you serve her true desires (don’t do what they say, do what they respond positively to), whereas others save that one must never serve a woman’s desires (thus, Game is wrong because it is merely a nuanced version of feminism).  Athol Kay, Roissy, and the rest would lean toward the former camp, of giving a woman what she truly wants.  Aspie MGTOWs would be an example of the latter.  Of course, the two positions are extremes, and most people fit in along the continuum between the aforementioned extremes.  At any rate, this seems like a good time to figure out the nature of submission and service, from a Biblical perspective, of course.

To start, let’s consider the following parable:  there once was a young man, around the age of twenty-five, who was hired to work at a large department store.  On the first day of training, the manager came to the young man and told him that his number one job was to serve customers.  The reason why the company continued to be in business was because of its service, or at least that’s what the manager claimed.  Thus, the young man’s paycheck was going to be primarily dependent on how he served customers.   Once the young man’s training was completed, the manager again came to the young man and reminded him that his paycheck was contingent on the quality of his customer service.

On the young man’s first day of work, he went to the store and, once he clocked in, was immediately besought by a customer who needed help picking out a suit.  The young man did an excellent job helping the customer find a suit, and the customer thanked him for his help.  The manager happened to see all this, and when the customer was gone, the manager went to the young man and complimented him for his customer service.  The question, then, is this:  Who did the young man truly serve?  His employer or the customer?

Now, the meaning of the parable is this:  there are some times when service to one being necessarily includes service to another being, and that we should not assume that service rendered to one being is actually rendered on that being’s own behalf.  To reference the parable, the young man was truly serving his employer, yet it was his service to his employer that caused him to serve the customers.
In like fashion, it is one’s service to God that paradoxically* prompts one to serve others.  In the marital relationship, then, service to God can take the form of a husband serving his wife or a wife serving her husband.  Thus, a husband that serves his wife may not necessarily be rendering service to her, as a lesser being to a higher being, but rather he is rendering service to God through his service to his wife.

Lest this seem like higher-order feminist rationalizations, consider the example of Christ:
And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Now, it would be absurd to suggest that Christ served the apostles because the apostles were his superior.  Christ was and is the son of God, and therefore all humans are his inferior (save those who are joint heirs with him through the spirit of adoption, cf. Rom. 8).  Therefore, this begs the question:  to whom was Christ’s service truly rendered?  I would argue that Christ’s service was truly rendered to the father, for later in that context he claims that he is indeed their superior (“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.”), and that he washed their feet in order to leave an example (“I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”).  From whom did his mandate to be an example come from?  Not the apostles, obviously, nor anyone else who would be his inferior.  Obviously, the mandate that Christ be an example had to come from God.

Thus, it is clear that one can render service to one party on another party’s behalf.  This principle is borne out again in Paul’s writings, specifically, Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-25.  In both passages, Paul exhorts servants to obey their masters.  Interestingly, he tells servants to view their service as something due not to their earthly masters, but rather as something due to God.**  Interestingly, he makes a parallel exhortation to masters in Ephesians 5:9.  In both cases, though, the general principle stands:  it is possible to render to service to one being on another being’s behalf.

There are some necessary caveats to this.

First, it is helpful to remember that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”  As such, the proper application of the principle of dual service can be subverted by man’s tendency to rationalize.  One could, presumably, find a way to rationalize service to one’s wife as service to God.  In this case, one would be “worshiping Eve,” to use a phrase, yet refer to the worship of Eve as worship of Jehovah.  To be more specific, if a man’s highest goal in life is to please his wife, than ultimately that man is not serving God but rather his wife.  Therefore, if he seeks to argue that he is truly serving God when trying to make his wife happy, he is lying to himself, and failing to note who his real god truly is.

The Bible is unmistakably clear about marital roles.  A man who takes his role as husband seriously is a man who lead his wife as he should.  As noted in a prior post, this does not mean that he will seek to continuously antagonize her, nor does it mean that he will never render any service (heh) to her, nor does it mean that he will never concern himself with satisfying her sexual needs.  However, a man that understands his role in marriage will understand that that is the head of his home, and that he cannot submit to his wife’s rule and authority (because it does not truly exist in the first place).  The heart being deceitful, though, means that husbands must continually examine themselves to see whether they worship Eve or whether they worship God.

Second, the nature of the service that one renders to God is contingent on the God-given role that one occupies in life.  Service can be rendered through leadership as well as submission.  As noted before, the service rendered to God by servants is submission.  The same is true for wives.  The service rendered to God by masters is through their leadership.  The same is true for husbands.  The same dynamic is at play for fathers and children:  children render service to God by submission to their parents, while fathers render service to God by leading their children properly (cf. Ephesians6:1-4).  More broadly, this extends to church hierarchy (men render service through leadership; women through submission) and even to the political realm (cf. Romans 13:1-7).

Thus, the service that God expects husbands to render to their wives is such that it should never cause a husband to shirk or abandon his role as the head of the home.  Again, this is in part because the service that the husband renders to his wife is the service of leadership.  Husbands are expected to love their wives, and the general concept of love in scripture is not merely a fleeting emotion, but rather a sacrificial love, wherein one constantly seeks what is in the best interest of others.  Sometimes doing what is in the best interest of others requires denying them of that which they desire (to pick a random example, partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and good and evil), firmly, if necessary.  Loving one’s wife, then, means making decisions that are in her best interest, and ensuring that she abides by them.  It also means providing for her needs (spiritual, material, sexual, and otherwise).  The concept of love is far-reaching, and is, for the husband, embodied in the role of the head of the home.  Therefore, the service that husbands render to their should never cause them to forsake their role as leader.

Ultimately, common sense informed by the reality of human nature is a decent guide.  One need not view women as an enemy to be thwarted or as a god to supplicated.  Women are simply helpmeet for men.  They are to live in submission to their husbands, trusting their husbands to provide for them, and helping their husbands in whatever way they can.  Husbands, in turn, are to lead their wives, provide for their wives’ needs to greatest extent of their abilities (including sexual needs, obviously), and to enjoy the companionship of their own personal helpmeet.

* Remember from Matthew 6:24 that no man can serve two masters, and yet here God is expecting his followers to serve other masters.  It is one of the many paradoxes of the Christian faith, and so its resolution must be carefully considered.

** As a side theological point, I’m inclined to argue that this justifies a certain amount of wrongdoing among servants.  If a master commands his servants to do something wrong and they do it obedience to him as service rendered to God (i.e. the servants act in good faith by trusting their master to command them to do what is right), then it will be the masters who are responsible for the actions of the servant, and not the servants themselves.  I think a parallel argument can be made for marriage.  If a wife completely submits to her husband as service to God, and in her submission follows her husband into sin (assuming, of course, that she is acting in good faith), then the penalty for her sinful actions will be on the husband since he led her there.  Thus, women who submit to their husbands in good faith no longer need an escape clause for submission (and here I refer to those women that argue that they don’t have to submit to their husband if their husband commands them to do something sinful).  Cf. James 3:1 also.


  1. Oh, this was awesome! I think you just nailed down the most slippery contradictions in the Christian battle of the sexes. Bravo.

  2. @Suz- thanks. Paradoxes are always fun to consider.

  3. Another good post. If I keep saying things that are wrong, or misunderstood, and this is the result each time: I'm more than fine with this.

    The comment you springboard from was meant in the context of serving God (love and good order) or man (sheer pleasure).

    Thanks again.

  4. @Cane- It should be noted, though, that serving the both are not necessarily in opposition. It's one of the paradoxes of Christianity? How can we serve our fellow man if we can only serve one master (that is, God)? We solve this paradox by noting that our service to man must be subordinate to our service to God.