Why Christian Husbands Should Always Clean the Toilet and/or Take out the Garbage
I have to admit one thing right off the bat: I don’t clean the toilet nearly often enough. I leave it for a few weeks, and my wife often becomes fed up and cleans it herself. And the garbage often piles up to ridiculous sizes before I get around to carrying it all the way up the hill to the dumpster. (It’s so far away at this apartment!) I’m only human. A very distracted, “absent-minded-professor,” sometimes lazy type of human. However, theologically I not only believe that I should be doing these chores, but I have a strong conviction that almost all husbands should be doing exactly the same thing.
I have a feeling this post will be more popular with wives than with husbands. So be it.
The logic is quite simple:
1) God calls men to be the head of their home (Eph. 5)
2) Jesus demonstrates what leadership/headship looks like. He washes feet. He says, “You call me teacher and Lord, for that is why I am. If I, your teacher and Lord, have done this, you are to do likewise.” (John 13:13-14)
3) We don’t have dirty feet anymore, and so the significance of the command is lost on us. Washing feet was the most demeaning, “bottom-of-the-rung” job for a slave (if one had one) to do. The closest equivalent we have to today is cleaning the toilet or taking out the trash.
4) Jesus cautions that the leadership of the world is like a pyramid, with the people on top being served with the people on the bottom. “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:26) That is, the leader should be the one who washes feet – or cleans toilets, as the case may be.
Elsewhere, I said there are basically four perspectives on leadership and submission in the home (from left to right): patriarchy, complimentarianism, egalitarianism, and feminism. In brief:
Patriarchy: is the belief that God made men to be leaders in the home, and should be served.
Complimentarianism (yes, it’s along word. sorry): is the belief (which I hold) that men are to be servant-leaders of their home
Egalitarianism (another long word – sorry!): is the belief (which I used to hold) that men should not speak of leading, but only of being equal with their wives
Feminism: Is rarely taught but often exemplified in Christianity. It is the belief that women should lead, and men submit.
In this post, I am concerned only with dividing between patriarchy and complimentarianism.
Theologically, complimentarians and patriarchalists look very much the same. They both have very similar theology, they both usually conduct the home quite similarly. So, how does one know whether they have the attitude of a patriarchalism or a complimentarian?
Here’s one way to find out: how did you react to the idea that you aught to clean toilets and take out garbage?
A Complimentarian: “Well, that makes sense! I never thought of it…I’m usually tired when I come home from work, and my wife does most of the house chores…but that could be a good way of demonstrating my love, and serving her as the head of the home…hm…good idea!”
A Patriarchalist: “This is ridiculous. I have been called to be the head of the home. So I shouldn’t have to get down on my knees next to the family commode with a brush in one hand and cleaning solution in the other? That would just be confusing to the children. I am the leader. My wife needs to do that to show she is submitted to me.”
Q. I consider myself equal to my wife, but we have chosen to divide our work by me working to pay the bills, and her staying home to care for the house and kids. I don’t ask her to do my job. Why should I do hers?
A. From your description, you are an egalitarian couple: you have a vision for the equality of the Bible. Great! But I would like you to catch a vision for the Biblical leadership of the Bible. It’s not enough for you to “just do half” of the work. You are the leader, and leaders do more than half. Your family is your body, and you are the head. Be proactive, be involved, and see what little things can be done to serve your kids, love your wife, and contribute to a healthy home. If not the toilet…what? Dishes? Diapers? Compost pail? Think of your best-boss-ever. Wasn’t he the greatest boss because he got out of his office so often, because he was always tuned in to his department, because he was always there when someone needed an extra hand? Be that guy.
Q. No no…you don’t understand! I am really working hard here! I don’t have time to do a bunch of housework when I come home!
A. I’ve seen marriages where the man works to support his wife all day, then comes home to clean the house, do the dishes, and care for the kids. Unless his wife is ill, this is just an unfair division of labour. In the case I saw, it was an example of a feminist marriage (but a submissive feminism, such as one often sees in the Christian church). This is not what I am advocating. The toilet takes about ten minutes once a week. Garbage? Seven minutes a day. The time commitment is not the same as promising to keep every dish spotless for life. However, a loving and engaged servant-leading husband of wife-with-littles will know when his wife is burnt out, when she needs help, and will self-sacrificially “give more than 50%” when she needs him.
Q. The example of the toilet doesn’t work for us, because…
A. Very well. Maybe I haven’t thought of your example. So tell me – what is the smelliest, dirtiest, nastiest job in your home? In other words, what is the best equivalent to washing feet? Do that. Life is crazy, but tell your wife that as her loving head, you are making it your ambition to remember to do this chore for her. I believe it will make a profound difference in your marriage, and in your walk with God!
Bruxy Cavey often says that the problem with teaching on gender is that both men and women tend to read the other gender’s mail, and not their own. Teach on the Bible’s commands to men, and the women are nudging their husbands, putting their hands on their hips and saying “yeah! yeah! exactly! Why doesn’t he ever do that?!” and putting so much pressure that their husbands clam up, hear nothing, and the end is frustration on one side, and diminished respect accompanied by frustration on the other. Teach on the Bible’s commands to women…and the roles are reversed!
This is a post to men, and if you are a woman reading it I would urge you not to take the opportunity to show your man just how far he has fallen from the standards of a Biblical manhood.
Never compare your husband unfavourably to another man.
Understand that this post does not come out of the blue. If you wish to have a husband who leads in confidence, notices you, and serves you in love, perhaps the problem runs deeper than just a dirty toilet or a pile of garbage? Perhaps you have established your marriage as an egalitarian or even feminist marriage. A feminist husband feels whipped and secretly frustrated/angry. He tries to get out of any of the dirty work he can. An egalitarian husband sees his wife completely as an equal – like a dorm-mate – and assumes that she is strong, that she is capable, and that she is able to handle her responsibilities while he handles his (this is why egalitarianism often leads to distance in a relationship). Signs of weakness frustrate and annoy him. “I’m doing my half – why can’t you do yours?” Only a complimentarian husband will catch the vision of Ephesians 5, caring for his wife and kids like his own body, being dialled in to their needs, and self-sacrificially serving. You wish for your husband to care for you like that? Are you prepared to submit to his leadership like that? Try re-reading the Biblical passages on gender roles in the home, and prayerfully consider whether you have established your marriage by patterns of Scriptures, or patterns of the world? Then consider what God calls you to be and to do as wife. Change what you can change, not what you can’t.
And to the husbands reading…I know you’re mad at me. I know I’ll hear about this one. I’m sorry.
But the big idea is this: most of us feel frustrated after a few years of marriage because the churches today are teaching egalitarianism. Which basically means we get no respect, we don’t know where our place is in the home, our wives find ways of bringing us down a notch in their humour, glances and words, and we often feel the need to “get out” of the home to find some other place to be the strong, decisive, powerful, responsible, capable, and respected leader God made us to be. If you tell your wife “look, I feel like we’re not doing it God’s way. I’m supposed to be the leader, you’re supposed to submit” – let me just submit to you…that probably won’t go over too well. Our culture is terrified of the patriarchalism which it saw in previous generations.
But if you wish to be the servant-leader of your home that Jesus modelled in Scriptures, there is nothing stopping you from just doing it. Ask God for grace to be confident in yourself. Start thinking about your home like it is “your” home, your business, your body. Start asking questions about where the money goes, what the burdens are, where things are rubbing the wrong way. And start making steps towards kind and confident leadership.
But at the same time that you do that – and in a much greater measure – find ways to lovingly serve. To assure your wife, with actions rather than words, “Look, I’m not here to beat your down and make you my servant like great-uncle sam did with aunt sue. I believe we are equal in Christ! (1 Pet. 3:7) But I also believe our marriage would work best if we do this as God intended – with me taking the lead and also tenderly loving and serving this family. Would you be up for that?”
It’s not the end of a discussion, it’s the beginning. And I wish you well on your journey.