So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:28-30)
Now, what does it mean to love your wife as your own body? Well, it’s a very simple concept. We take care of our own body. If it’s sick, we put it down in bed so it can get better. If it’s hungry, we feed it. If it’s thirsty, we give it something to drink. If it’s disheveled, we clean it. We take care of it — feeding, clothing, and comforting it. And that’s the essence of this.
The issue here is to give attention to meeting your wife’s needs, fulfilling each requirement with great alacrity and devotion. We are called to treat our wives with the same preoccupation we give to ourselves.
When you got married, you became one body. If you want real happiness in your marriage, care for your wife and all her needs with the same devotion you give to yourself, because you are inseparable. That’s how Christ cares for His church; He meets the church’s needs.
Men, we are the providers, protectors, and preservers. That is our responsibility to our wives and families. And when their needs are met and we care for them as we would care for ourselves, then we have the kind of relationship that God wants us to have.
So if you want your marriage to be blessed, take care of your wife. When you know she has a need, seek to meet it. When you know she has a secret longing in her heart that will add to her virtue and her well-being and her happiness and her ability to fulfill her role, do everything you can to meet that need. She is a God-given treasure to be cared for, cherished, and nourished.
Notice those two terms, “nourish” and “cherish,” in verse 29. “Nourish” means to feed. It’s a word used primarily of bringing up children.
When we think about bringing up our children, we think about nourishing, feeding, developing, and nurturing. But do we think of that with regard to our wives? I think most men just disregard that responsibility, seeing the wife as responsible for the kids and charging out into their own world. But we are responsible to nourish her so she, in her marvelous role, can effectively nourish the children.
Then the word “cherish” literally means to warm with body heat. It’s sometimes translated “to melt.” It means to soften. It is used of a mother bird who pulls in all the little baby birds and keeps them cozy and warm in her feathers. It means to provide a nest, warmth, and security — to soften her to a meek and quiet spirit, to support her, and to care for her.
She is not the nourisher. She is not the provider. That is the man’s responsibility. And if a man doesn’t do that, according to 1 Timothy 5:8, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Throughout Scripture, the man is always the provider as Christ is the provider for His church. That’s key. The church provides nothing. We just receive Christ’s provision, protection, preservation, care, nourishing, and cherishing. It comes to us. In a sense, it’s very one-sided. Men, we are to provide that in our homes.
You say, “Well, I’d have to sacrifice my career to do that.” Then sacrifice it. Maybe you can’t climb as fast and as far up the ladder as you would like. But in the end, you’re going to be so richly rewarded in the bliss of that home that it will be well worth every sacrifice.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1996, titled “God’s Pattern for Husbands, Part 2.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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