Throughout the scriptures we find examples of elders leading the church. In Titus we find a list of qualifications for elders, as well as I Timothy gives qualifications for elders, deacons, and their wives. As we look at all the qualifications it is the wife of an elder that we often forget about, but she is one of the most valuable qualifications of this leader in the church.
Among the many roles that we can each have as servants in the kingdom of God, there is no greater honor, respect and responsibility than that of the elders. We always see a plurality of elders in each single New Testament congregation, it is not the job for just one man. The elders who rule well are to be -“…considered worthy of double honor…” (1 Tim 5:17, NASB). We, the church are to – “…appreciate those who labor among you, and have charge over you…” ( 1 Thess 5:12). The elders also – “… keep watch over your souls, as those who will give account…” ( Heb 13:17). Great will be the reward in eternity for many faithful shepherds in the church of our Lord, but likewise great will be the punishment for many shepherds who have allowed their congregation to go astray. The position of an elder is one that holds great reward and accountability.
One of the first qualifications we see an elder is to have is his wife. He must be – “…the husband of one wife…” (I Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). Peter also having served as an elder (I Pet 5:1-4), makes clear the responsibility of the husband and his wife toward one another (I Pet 3:1-7). We see that the elders’ wives are to be – “…dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). If a woman is not to be a leader in the church (I Cor 14:34), if she is not to teach or have authority over the men (I Tim 2:12), then why is her presence such an emphasized requirement? Beyond her presence, why is she required to meet certain qualifications if she bears no responsibility herself? The answer is she does carry a great responsibility.
When I think of the good elders I have seen in the church, I no longer think of just the elder himself but often of him and his wife. One foremost word that comes to mind when I think of the elder and his wife is teamwork. Just scan your church auditorium as we are assembled, find each elder in the crowd, chances are he is not sitting next to the other elders but next to his wife. Watch as worship or classes end, she will get up and likely be one of the busier people. She is sure to be talking with others keeping up with the members concerns, she will seek out visitors and find out if they know about the church or not. Watch who is involved with the many children’s classes, the preparation for them and the coaching for new teachers. Notice how her involvement with the children link her to so many of the families in a special way. If there is any upcoming event in the church she is sure to be involved. Notice who is often working hard coordinating food for the sick, making sure needs are being met, and hosting groups for new Christians or other ladies. Some of the busiest and most involved individuals in the church are the elder’s wives. Sure anyone of us could step up and do many of the same things, but God knew that the elder’s wife would especially be involved in the church’s work. God placed certain qualifications for her because He knew the responsibility she would bear. An elder and his wife are a team in the church, they each lead in very different and very similar ways.
Another aspect of the shepherd’s wife is her counsel. If you have any clue to the elder’s work than you know they make many difficult decisions on weighty matters. If there is trouble in the church they are dealing with it, if there is a family having problems, if there is a member slowly falling away, the list could go on but there are many hard issues that each elder has the responsibility to be involved with. Many of these issues require deep thought, study and prayer. If an elder was to share many of these difficult things with other church members it could likely cause splits as groups take sides, if an elder were to talk about these things in front of his children gossip would be sure to leak out incorrectly at some time or another. An elder needs to be able to share the difficult things he is thinking on with someone intimate, his spouse. Perhaps again God knew this would take place, could any man be in such a hard position and not share his thoughts with his wife? This too is why his wife must meet some qualifications. An elder could possibly be married to a non Christian and meet the requirement of just being married, but if she were not a Christian he could not share these difficult things with her for her compassion and input. God set a requirement of her Christianity and character as a helpmate to the elder. She needs to be of solid Christian character, hence – “…faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). She too will be tried by the challenges an elder faces, she too will need knowledge of the scriptures as she counsel’s her husband, that knowledge which only comes with years of study. Her involvement in the church also might bring out facts the elder alone often wouldn’t know. Of course it is not be that the man is merely a puppet only doing what his wife tells him, the scriptures deal with this also – (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; I Pet 3:1-6), but she is his helper and most intimate friend. Men rely on their spouses’ input far more than they or others realize, God knew the elder’s spouse needed to be a faithful sister in Christ.
An elder’s and a deacon’s wife are one of the most involved individuals in the church leading in ways we often don’t think of. She holds a great responsibility that is more than just setting a good example. As I think about my own children, I would love for my son to one day be able to preach and teach and to defend the church if he is willed that capability. But as for my daughters, they may not ever be behind the pulpit or at an elders or deacons meeting. I know however that they can grow to be just as valuable in the church in ways like these if they are faithful and taught the Lord’s ways. The elder and his wife are a team in the church, how can we ever say that women are so limited in the kingdom?