Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Leading Together in the Home

[This article is also available in Urdu here.]

I was reading Leviticus recently and I came across this verse: “Every one of you shall reverence his mother and father. . .” Leviticus 19:3a (NASB.)

I was intrigued that “mother” was mentioned before “father” so I decided to search for other verses in the Bible that might also mention “mother” first. I couldn’t find any. But what I did find surprised me.

I found over a dozen verses which command honouring, respecting and obeying your father and mother, with both the father and mother always mentioned together.[1]

I had anticipated that in Bible times, when the culture was predominantly patriarchal, the Old Testament authors – even more so that the New Testament authors – might have written verses that just mentioned honouring and obeying the father – leaving out the mother. However it seems that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they were careful to always include honouring and obeying the mother as well.

The only exceptions that I could find (please let me know if you find others) is in Malachi 1:6 and Hebrews 12:5-10. Here “mother” is not mentioned because God is using the example of honouring and respecting fathers as an analogy of honouring God as “Father”.

I then decided to look at the book of Proverbs because I knew that there were verses there about heeding a father’s teaching. Again I was surprised.  While I did find two passages about paying attention to the father’s instruction with no mention of the mother,[2] I found two others which included the mother’s teaching also:

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 1:8-9
“My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Proverbs 6:20

So what is the purpose of pointing out these scriptures? To try to address the imbalance that over-emphasises the husband’s leadership in the home and family while under-estimating the wife’s leadership.

These verses, as well as verses in the New Testament such as Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20, show that, even in patriarchal times, God’s view was that the father and mother were equally worthy of honour and obedience, and that mothers as well as fathers were to teach their children. Thus the biblical texts do not prescribe a gender hierarchy between fathers and mothers.

Leading Together in the Home

There is no scriptural reason to suppose that a mother’s teaching is necessarily less important than a father’s teaching. A mother’s teaching can, and should, include important and valuable life lessons, including spiritual instruction. Moreover, the Bible shows that a woman can teach her adult sons valuable lessons, even if they are the king!  See Proverbs 31:1-9 cf Song of Solomon 8:2a.

I firmly believe that God’s ideal is that families and households are to be led by the husband and wife; where the family responsibilities and resources are shared, not according to rigid gender roles and cultural expectations,[3] but according to each person’s skills, abilities and temperaments; where neither the husband nor the wife is “the boss” because the real leader is the Lord Jesus Christ, leading and guiding through the Holy Spirit.

The overemphasis on subordinating wives (and women in general) is still too prevalent in many Christian circles, and I believe goes beyond what the Apostles Paul and Peter envisioned when they were writing about family relationships.


[1] Genesis 28:7: . . . and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram.

Exodus 21:17: Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.

Leviticus 19:3a: Every one of you shall reverence his mother and father. . .

Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus:20:12;Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20: “Honour your father and your mother . . .

Deuteronomy 21:18-19:If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will “not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.

Deuteronomy 27:16:Cursed is he who dishonours his father or mother.’

Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10 “For God said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’

Ephesians 6:1-2a: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” . . .

Note that these verses were not just given with small children in mind. In biblical cultures, adult children were expected to honour and obey their parents also. More on this here.

[2] In Proverbs chapter 4 the author seems to be the father, and he is talking about himself, which may be why he did not mention the mother.  The other verse is Proverbs 13:1.
The intertestamental writings (non-biblical writings that were written between Old and New Testament times) only refer to fathers (not mothers) teaching their sons (not their daughters.)  See 2 Baruch 84:9; Jubilees 7:38-39; 8:2; 10:8; Testament of Levi 9:1, 6-9; 13:2; Ben Sirach 30:3; 4 Maccabees 18:11-12.  These writing reveal a low view of women that is largely absent in the Bible. [My article on The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration here.]

[3] Many traditional gender roles are not actually prescribed in the Bible, but are the result of cultural and societal conditioning.

© 27th of January, 2010; Margaret Mowczko

Related articles:

King Lemuel’s Mother: The other Proverbs 31 Woman
Paul’s Masculine and Feminine Leadership
A Suitable Helper
The Women who Protected Moses
Advice to Newlyweds
Power Struggles in Christian Marriage?
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority

Posted June 19th, 2012 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Marriage, , , , , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

17 comments on “Leading Together in the Home

  1. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

  2. Thank you. This is especially meaningful to me today.

  3. Marg says:

    My pleasure. <3

  4. […] all I am saying is that it is actually easier to show from the Bible that godly women can teach, advise and lead men – even powerful men such as kings, an army general and a preacher on his way to becoming one of the “super-apostles” – than it is to show that women can teach other women and children. […]

  5. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

  6. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

  7. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

  8. […] Some Christians believe that being a leader is a man’s role, and that it is unfeminine for women to be in leadership.[1]  These Christians dismiss female leaders mentioned in the Bible as rare exceptions and anomalies.[2]  They maintain that God does not generally allow women to be leaders in society, in the church or even in their own homes. […]

  9. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

  10. Martin Ward says:

    There are a few more places where “mother” is mentioned before “father”:

    Lev 20:19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to lay bare one’s own flesh; they shall be subject to punishment.

    Lev 21:1a-2: No one shall defile himself for a dead person among his relatives, except for his nearest kin: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother;

    Lev 24:10: A man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was an Egyptian came out among the people of Israel;

    Jeremiah 16:3: For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bear them and the fathers who beget them in this land:

    Mark 10:29: Jesus said, `Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news,

  11. […] Children are also mentioned in the household codes, where they are told to obey their parents, both their fathers and mothers (Eph. 6:1-3; Col 3:20). (Note that there is no gender hierarchy here between fathers and mothers.) […]

  12. […] Leading Together in the Home […]

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