Dear James,

Your letter came this morning with the cookies from your dear wife. Blessings to her for thinking of me and give her my love. You have, as the Scriptures say, found “a good thing” (Prov. 18:22). No need for apologies about the delayed reply. You have a busy schedule and a bustling home; cherish this time. We are told of king Asa that “in his days the land had rest for 10 years” (2 Chron. 14:1). These are not your restful years! But the Lord is pleased with noisy homes and busy children. Love those dear little ones now and tell them often of God’s love for them too. Of such, as our Lord said, is the kingdom of heaven.

You asked specifically in your letter about whether I had any advice for you as a husband who is also an elder. You are concerned about balancing the responsibilities of your office and your domestic life. It is good you are thinking about that! Some men do not. And, sadly, far too little has been written about the importance of the husband-wife relationship of ruling elders. The pressures upon a pastor’s wife are real and well known. But the added stress upon the marriages of ruling elders can, sometimes, be even greater. Allow me to share a couple thoughts.

The first thing I would say, James, is this: next to the care of his own soul, the most important duty of a married elder is to love his wife. I cannot emphasize that enough. You must not think of the care that you give to your “rib” (as Luther called his precious Katie) as something separate from your elder-work. No. It is your elder-work. And far too many elders forget that. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:25) is a word to all married men, but it is doubly important for the elder who, like Timothy, is commanded to be an example (1 Tim. 4:12).

It has been my sad experience to observe that when the devil wants to disable the work of a ruling elder, he will often attack him in his marriage. He did this in Eden and has been striving to do it ever since. I suspect this wicked scheme is driven by his desire to cripple the effectiveness of your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). You must therefore guard that precious relationship with your dear wife with a great jealousy. Our God is a jealous God. And if you are to be effective in your eldership as a married man, you must be a jealous husband. Guard your relationship with your wife.

Not that you need this warning, but when a ruling elder treats his wife carelessly, he ruins his own ministry and does great dishonor to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the church. When a ruling elder is, as Bunyan said of Talkative, “a saint abroad and a devil at home,”[1] he does greater harm as an officer in the church than he would do if he were not ordained. Domineering husbands make poor elders. They “lord it over their wives,” so no wonder they “lord it over the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).

Another thing to think about with respect to your marriage and your work as an elder is this: You might err in sharing too much with your wife, but you will never err in listening too much. I know a good many ruling elders, and not a few pastors, who should have shared less and listened more to their wives. Your dear Jean will neither want nor ask the details of some of the things you discuss on the session. But she will often have wonderfully wise insights which, if heeded and prayed over, will serve you quite well. We men need our wives. When the Lord God saw man alone in the garden, it was not good. To meet that need our all-wise God brought to Adam a wife, not a session! Consider this.

Let me wrap up my little letter this way: Some of the best sermons ever preached in church happen on the other side of the pulpit. I am referring to the living sermon which your love for your wife proclaims. Do you want your people to know Christ’s love for them? Love your wife. Do you want them to know Christ cares for them? Care for your wife. Develop good habits of communication, support, trust, fidelity, and tenderness for her. When you love your wife, you love the church.

James, I trust the Lord will help you pick some sense out of my rambling advice.

Your soul’s well-wisher,

An older elder.

[1] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, (a Project Gutenberg eBook.) https://www.gutenberg.org/files/39452/39452-h/39452-h.htm, location 150

Ordained Servant Online, May, 2023.

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Ordained Servant: May 2023

Missions in Romans

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