I recently counselled a single mother about the authority she was able to operate in within her own home. She had been uncertain (double-minded) about how much authority she had and what she would be able to do in leading her home, since that role is set aside for the husband.
In order to clarify her situation I reviewed God’s authority structure with her, then pointed out how she fits in to that structure, as an abandoned wife raising her children. For the benefit of others in a similar situation I am sharing my instruction here. I trust it is helpful.
Authority Out of Order
When we do not live in the authority God has given us we are easily overcome or at least sidetracked by obstacles and challenges. We can even be made to feel out of order if we are too confident or assertive about what we believe and what authority we have. When we face constant opposition we can weaken and compromise our authority, giving up the rights God has given us. Many mums can find themselves in such a place, especially if they are challenged by their children who resist their authority. Some mothers give up their claim to responsibility and relegate themselves to the caring domestic servant, unable to speak into the lives of their children.
God’s Authority Principles
God has created authority principles which we are to live in. We need to be single-minded about where we stand and what God requires of us.
There are two principal places of authority revealed to us in God’s word. These are not the only places where authority operates, but they are key places, as revealed in 1Corinthians 11:3.
“But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” 1Corinthians 11:3
God’s authority hierarchy, then, is first God, then Christ, then the husband and next his wife. We know that the children come under the authority of both the father and mother, from the commandment to “honour your father AND your mother” (Exodus 20:12). I the husband has abandoned the home that may tend to undermine people’s respect for the wife and even her own self-esteem. But God does not have a separate authority structure in that case, where the children can live as they please or boss their mother around. The mother remains a head over her children, whether she has a husband or not.
Two Key Places of Authority – Heaven and Home
The 1Corinthians text shows that the two principal places of authority are God’s Throne in Heaven and the Domestic Home. Note that the King’s throne is not in the list, nor the Houses of Parliament. Priests and power-brokers do not end up on that summary of divine authority. God and Christ have their seat of authority in heaven and the husband and wife have their seat of authority at the dinner table (so to speak).
All other expressions of authority must be either put in place by the will of God or by the will of the people. If not, then those other contenders for rule do not have true authority. No other authority can violate or overrule each person’s authority to stand before God’s throne or to take their place of godly authority in their home.
For people to properly operate in the authority given them by God they need to be sure that they have first set themselves right in the two principal places of authority. They must be bowing the knee to God’s authority, doing what He wants them to do, since God’s throne is the source of all authority.
Then they must properly exercise authority in their home. If they are under authority, as a wife or child is in a home, then they must not violate that. If they are a husband then they must not have abdicated or abused their domestic authority. If people fail to be under God’s authority in heaven and the authority which God has placed in their home, then they are out of order and are disqualified for any other authority.
Widows and Abandoned Wives
Now, here is a special word for widows and abandoned wives. The husband is the head of the domestic home, under Christ. However, if the husband has abandoned his post or has died, the responsibility for domestic authority falls to the wife.
An abandoned wife or widow can exercise the same authority in the home as her husband would otherwise have done. Her two authority challenges are to be under God’s authority, obeying all that God requires of her from heaven, then standing firm in those things that she believes are important for her family.
Her authority in the home is thus firm. She can stand in it and rule the home as God directs her, without fear of censure and without regard to the opinions of others.
Resisting Invalid Voices
Well meaning or just domineering people can take it on themselves to push their way into a home and start giving orders. They may think they are doing the wife a favour by filling the void left by her husband. However, those voices, whether well meaning or wrongly motivated, are invalid. They do not have the right to speak with divine authority into the home.
Suggestions, encouragements, advice and godly counsel can be helpful, but when an advisor asserts their advice as an imperative in the home, they are outside their jurisdiction.
Wives who must lead their home can choose whatever support and counsel they see fit. There is safety in counsel from a wide range of people. A wise wife will seek out godly advice and prayerfully weigh up the counsel given, since she is responsible for the outcome of her decisions.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
Wives have God’s authority to resist invalid voices which try to speak assertively and dictatorially into the home. They also have God’s authority to stand firm in the face of their own child’s defiance or contentions.
A Prayer for Single Mums
“Lord God, I present before you the single mums who are reading this article. I ask You to place Your hand upon them and lead them to Your wisdom for their situation. I pray that You protect them from the evil one and from the weaknesses and folly that may be a part of their life. Deliver them and their children from evil, lead them in Your righteous paths, and keep them in places of blessing and protection. Encourage each mother to rise to the place of full exercise of their divine authority under You. Give them fearlessness in standing up for righteousness. Give them boldness to lead their homes as You direct. Pour out Your love and grace upon them and their children. Be a husband to the widow and the abandoned wife and be a Father to the fatherless and abandoned children. I ask this in Jesus’ powerful and lovely name. Amen.”