Who Is Head of the Household? - A Russian Priest Explains

"Do you know how you can determine who is the head of the family? The one to whom the first bowl of soup is poured. And today in most families this is a child..."

Many modern women smirk when they hear that the husband is the head of the family. They receive education and work on a par with men, and often earn more. And this is not only because they want to be independent — indeed, not every man today can fully provide for his wife and children.

To many people today, it seems that modern family relations are not as simple as they were in more patriarchal times. 

However, the Holy Scripture says: 

Wives, submit to your own husbands as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22) 

as well as: 

There is wrath, insolence, and great shame when a wife [financially] supports her husband. (Sirach 25:22, OSB)

In the following interview, we will talk with priest Andrei Evstigneev, rector of the church in honor of the "Consolation in Grief and Sorrows" icon of the Mother of God, in the Russian city of Saratov. We will discuss what family relations should be from an Orthodox point of view.

Fr. Andrei Evstigneev

- At the time of the wedding, the priest performing the Sacrament reads an excerpt from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which says: "... let the wife fear her husband." It bothers many; some consider it to be discrimination against women.

- So it may seem to a person unfamiliar with the Holy Scriptures, which says: "There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). It was Christianity that equated a woman with a man, elevating her from the position of a slave to an independent person. Prior to this, in many countries, and in the East to this day, a woman was completely subordinate to a man. However, the equivalence of man and woman before God as members of the Church of Christ does not mean equality in everything —  each one has his own responsibilities and his own role in the family. 

It so happened historically that men's responsibilities have always been harder, more responsible, and more dangerous than women's responsibilities. It was the man who was the breadwinner and protector of his family, as a physically stronger person. And the woman was the keeper of the hearth, the creator of family comfort. Like a tree, there are roots and branches. With its roots, it draws water and clings to the ground, which allows the tree to survive and stand in any wind. And on the branches leaves and fruits appear.

- Why should a wife fear her husband?

- The words of the Apostle Paul do not mean that the wife should be afraid of her husband. Rather, she should respect and honor him — not as a despot and tyrant, but as the head of the family who bears responsibility for her, cares, helps, and protects her.

- Today you hear from some women that they don’t need husbands: They can give birth and raise a child, and if they need companionship, they can always call some man, who is called “husband for an hour”.

- The destruction of the family and its traditions leads to serious consequences. Today we have a huge number of single-parent families where children are raised without fathers. And once they grow up, they themselves don't know how to establish the correct hierarchy in their families. 

Even with intact families, everything is often mixed up. A woman takes control of the house, while the man lies on the sofa and watches TV. In such situations, not every man agrees to obey his wife, and thus there is conflict. The family becomes like an ugly tree, upside down, where the branches try to take root in the ground, and the roots come out into the air. But even if the branches manage to break into the ground, they will not be able to feed the tree, and fruit will never grow on the roots. 

Do you know how you can determine who is the head of the family? The one to whom the first bowl of soup is poured. And today in most families this is a child. It is he who becomes the center of the family, although physically he cannot fulfill this role, since he still does not know how to answer for himself, nor for others. 

Such distorted relationships often lead to the collapse of the family — when the children grow up, and the parents understand that nothing else binds them.

- What should be done to save the family?

- The Christian foundation of the family is love — sacrificial, patient, thoughtful, and responsible. The head of the family should be the husband, and the wife should recognize this, and the husband should responsibly fulfill his role. Even if a wife earns more, understands everyday issues, and knows how to make good decisions — an intelligent woman will never try to take control and put her husband on the sidelines. Everyone should be in their proper place, not fighting for power, but doing what is necessary for the good of the family. This is the only way to save the family.

Interview by Olga Novikova

Source: eparhia-saratov.ru (Russian)

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