Question:

"Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7).

I have some questions about this verse:

  1. If a husband is not honoring his wife, does that mean his prayers are hindered?
  2. If a husband is living a life whereas his prayers are hindered, should he be allowed to lead a public prayer?
  3. Which, if any, of these things dishonors the wife?
    • being critical
    • yelling at her
    • not leaving father and mother and cleaving to the wife
    • or something else?

Answer:

Let's address the last question first, what is meant by honoring your wife? The Greek word behind "honor" is timen. It briefly means "price, value, honor, recognition, or respect." The word basically means giving or acknowledging the value or worth belonging to someone. For example, we are to give God glory and honor (I Timothy 6:16; Revelation 4:11). God's value is far greater than all of creation, so we offer Him worship. (Interestingly, our word "worship" comes from "worth-ship.")

All people have value and thus all are to be valued for who they are. "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (I Peter 2:17). If for nothing else because each person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God saw the value in us because He bought us at a price (the Greek word time again), "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:20).

When a person is in a position of authority, they deserve honor for the position they hold. Thus we are to honor:

  • Rulers (Romans 13:7; I Peter 2:17)
  • Masters (I Timothy 6:1)
  • Elders (I Timothy 5:17)

Others we give honor because of their personal importance in our life.

  • Friends in the church who labor for us (Philippians 2:29)
  • Widows who have served others (I Timothy 5:3)
  • Wives (I Peter 3:7)

Thus the concept in I Peter 3:7 is that husbands are to treat their wives in a way that demonstrates the value they see in their wives. Peter states that a wife is to be treated as "a weaker vessel." By that he is referring to a delicate piece of pottery, such as a piece of fine china. You don't handle a piece of expensive china the same way you treat a clay flower pot. Thus a husband is to treat his wife is a way that shows the importance and value she has in his life. Secondly, he is to give her respect because she is an equal partner in salvation. She should be treated minimally the same as every other Christian is treated.

There are two variant readings to the word "hinder," but most seem to think the Greek word enkoptesthai is the proper word here. It means to hinder, prevent, or weary. In classical Greek it was used to refer to obstacles used by the military slow down an advancing army. Thus Paul uses it to refer to his being prevented from reaching Roman (Romans 15:22). He eventually got there, but not when he wanted or in the manner he wanted. Paul also used it in reference to Satan putting stumbling blocks in the way of Christians (Galatians 5:7; I Thessalonians 2:18). Again, the idea is not an absolute prevention, but a slowdown that might lead to a complete halt if something wasn't done.

Another usage of this word is in "Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us" (Act 24:4) as the word "tedious." It refers to being so boring or overbearing that it hinders someone from listening to what is being said.

Greek is a precise language and the "your" in this passage is in the second person, genitive case. It is not a direct reference back to the husbands, otherwise it would have been in the masculine case. Many commentators see this as a reference to the joint prayers of the husband and wife. In other words, if a husband doesn't have a proper respect for his wife, his joint prayers with her to God are not going to be appreciated by God because they are going to appear insincere and hypocritical. He might pray, but God might choose not to answer because of his attitude. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:1-4).

As to whether a man who is not honoring his wife should lead public prayer, it would be no different than anyone else who has sin in his life. Please note though it is not merely the wife's accusation of being dishonored, but that the brethren actually judge that he is being disrespectful and, therefore, choose not to call on him to participate in the services. I have seen cases where a wife claimed she was not honored as she thought she should have been, but either she was demanding more than was her due, or ignoring the forms of honor he was giving her because she expected something different. These are cases where elders and older women need to give aid in helping a woman see things more clearly. But when a man is clearly mistreating or degrading his wife, it would not be proper to use him in any part of the service.

This is excellent. I really appreciate your time in all of this.There is so much here that I had not given thought to, and it seems clearer now. This is going to be so helpful in my study of this, in addition to the links you have given.

Thank you very much!