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[Sarai] said to Abram, 'The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.' Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
Genesis 16:2 NIV
When talking about marriage, it is very popular in Christian circles to say something like, "Yes, the husband is the head, but the wife is the neck." More often than not I've heard that statement followed by something like, "She can turn her husband in whatever direction she chooses." And it's at that point, almost without fail, that everyone chuckles.
I will be blunt: I'm not a fan of such a comparison.
That's because—at least in all the times I've ever heard that comparison made—I've never sensed that it truly honored either husband or wife. Of course, it does no honor to a husband if, by referring to his wife as his neck, we are to understand that he is essentially at the mercy of moving in absolutely whichever direction his wife so determines. Furthermore, it does no honor to a wife if, by the same comparison, we are to understand that she is essentially domineering, controlling, and manipulative.
While I don't like what most Christians seem to imply when they refer to a woman as the neck of her husband, the head, I'd like to take a shot at redeeming the comparison. Here's what I propose:
Wives, you are your husband's necks. Your influence is staggering. Your strength to hold him up is essential. Your support of him is not optional. Through you flow the blood vessels that supply his very life. He rises or falls on account of your godliness. His reputation, good or bad, is inextricably linked to you. He is the direct beneficiary of your hard labor. His ability to trust in you is his joy. Your wisdom or lack thereof will either rescue him from his folly (like in the case of Abigail and David) or will plunge him headlong into a disastrous mess (like in the case of Abraham and Sarah).
In other words, "An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels" (Proverbs 31:10 ESV). The value that an excellent neck has to its head is incalculable. In fact, the head would be incapable of doing what God created it to do without its neck.
In that sense, then, I very boldly assert that a husband is the head and his wife is the neck. When the two are functioning in harmony as they were meant to, the result is beautiful. When either (or both in the case of Abraham and Sarah) gets it wrong, we only have to look at the tragic story of Hagar to see the results.
Flabbergasted by my beautiful neck,