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Pick Up the Sword, Not Just the Gavel

Pick Up the Sword, Not Just the Gavel

A Call to Embody Christ in Complementarity

Cory Smith

Family Pastor

Connection Church

Published On:

January 1, 2024


“The three years that have passed have brought but few changes to the quiet family. The war is over, and Mr. March safely at home, busy with his books and the small parish which found in him a minister by nature as by grace,—a quiet, studious man, rich in the wisdom that is better than learning, the charity which calls all mankind ‘brother,’ the piety that blossoms into character, making it august and lovely.

            These attributes, in spite of poverty and the strict integrity which shut him out from the more worldly successes, attracted to him many admirable persons, as naturally as sweet her draw bees, and as naturally he gave them the honey into which fifty years of hard experience had distilled no bitter drop. Earnest young men found the gray-headed scholar as young at heart as they; thoughtful or troubled women instinctively brought their doubts and sorrows to him, sure of finding the gentlest sympathy, the wisest counsel; sinners told their sins to the pure-hearted old man, and were both rebuked and saved; gifted men found a companion in him; ambitious men caught glimpses of nobler ambitions than their own; and even worldlings confessed that his beliefs were beautiful and true, although ‘they wouldn’t pay.’

            To outsiders, the five energetic women seemed to rule the house, and so they did in many things; but the quiet scholar, sitting among his books, was still the head of the family, the household conscience, anchor, and comforter; for to him the busy, anxious women always turned in troublous times, finding him, in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and father.”1


Louisa M. Alcott delivered these words nearly a century ago giving a vivid picture to the commands of Scripture for husbands to be the head of the household. Who wouldn’t want to be described in this way. As husbands and fathers we yearn to have others “always turn(ing to us) in troublous times.” But how do we achieve this description? Do we sit and wait for the family to come to us when trouble strikes? Is that what headship is?


My purpose in this article is not to give a defense of the husband as the head and therefore the leader of the family (since this position is already assumed), but to help fathers to be described in a similar way as Mr. March — to act as the true head of the household.


In order to do that we need to consider what it means to be the head of the household. The head of the household is the leader acting as the “dynamic force” of the family “that provides its direction and unity.”2



The headship of the husband is found in a couple of passages in Scripture.


Ephesians 5:23

“Because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body.”


1 Corinthians 11:3

“But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ.”


The head of the house is the leader of the house with a purpose. That purpose is to create a family culture by providing direction and pursuing unity. This is done through being the dynamic force in the household. It is leadership.


Sometimes we water down leadership to mean the one who makes the final decisions. We may say things like, “Why do you ask your wife for permission? You are the leader.”

Making decisions is only one aspect, and a small one at that, of providing direction and unity. It is not possible to be a dynamic force creating the culture of the family if all that is done is making decisions. This may be a force, but not a dynamic one. It will take more initiative and a wider lens to be a dynamic force.



Initiative is important. We see this through the story of David and his lack of initiative in leadership.


David, a man after God’s heart, had already won many battles in the name of his God. He had taken down a giant as a little boy. He went to war against nations for King Saul. He took out the Edomites, Moabites, the Ammorites, the Philistines, the Amalekites, the people of Zobah, and even won a civil war in his own nation. Then, right after he defeats the Ammonites we get this introduction:


2 Samuel 11:1

“In the spring when kings march out to war, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem.”


For the first time, David is not leading his people in war. He drops the sword and only picks up the gavel telling Joab to go fight.


It is a tempting way to lead. Either after success or realizing the power of the gavel (making choices) we put down the sword, losing our initiative, losing the dynamic force to provide direction and unity.


In no way am I saying that men should not pick up the gavel and make choices. It is important to give voice to the direction and make choices that pursue unity. My point is to say that using only the gavel creates a static leadership.


Men, we need to learn from David’s non-example and pick up the sword.




So, get up.

Start taking initiative now. Think through what it looks like to give direction and unity in the family.


What are your aspirations for your wife? Do they mimic Jesus’ goals for the Church?


What are your aspirations for your kids? Do they pass the faith down from one generation to the next? Or are your goals passing on something else?


What are your goals for your family?


Equip yourself.

Once you have thought through such goals, learn how you are going to be the dynamic force that achieves them. Get close to God, for your goals should pursue a closeness to Him. Learn what He commands of you, your wife, and your kids. Think through what spaces in life you are not picking up the sword in order to achieve these goals and equip yourself to do so.



Start being that dynamic force. Pick up your sword, pick up your gavel, and lead your family to honor God.


We will talk about practical ways to do that in the articles to come:

  • “Put on the Tutu” - Show love to your kids, by loving what they love

  • “Don’t Lone Wolf It” - No man can lead well by themselves

  • “Focus On Your Bride, Not Your Wife” - Look to the commands that are given to the husband before focusing on the commands given to your wife.

  • “Just Do It” - Communion with God

  • “Don’t Hide Behind the Bush” - Step out into hard spaces with the confidence of Christ’s work

  • “Acknowledge Faults” - A good head of the household, recognizes he is not the perfect head

  • “Take Pride in Your Work…at Home” - Do you work as diligently at home as you do at your job?

  • “Teach Your Boys to Act Like Men” - Show the importance of leading well

  • “Consistency, Consistency, Consistency” - Don’t be tossed around by every wave or new exciting thing

  • “Create the Culture” - Create a family culture that makes outsiders think of God when they think of your family

  • “Dump the Girlfriend of Your Youth” - Video games and the way they can ruin marriages.


All of these articles will be written to help men pick up the sword, be that dynamic force, and be the head of the household “in the truest sense of those sacred words, husband and father.”

1 Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. The Saalfield Publishing Company, 1929; pg. 311-312.

2“Between 460 bc (the date usually ascribed to the first writings of Hippocrates) and ad 200 (the death of Galen, who developed Hippocrates’ findings), Greek medical science came to understand the head as the seat of intelligence. The body was able to operate efficiently only because the brain was capable of interpreting data received from the body (eyes, ears, skin, and so on), and because it was able to send out appropriate impulses to the various members of the body, based upon the data received. The ability of the brain to interpret and direct made the existence of the body completely dependent upon it…

The apostle Paul drew from the OT metaphorical understanding of the term to express the authority of God over Christ, Christ over man, and man over woman (1 Cor 11:3–16; cf. Eph 5:23). In the light of these relationships, Paul encouraged women at Corinth to wear veils in worship. The veil gave a woman the authority to worship as an equal with men before God. The term is used again with the meaning “authority” to express the lordship of Christ over the universe (Eph 1:21, 22; Col 2:10).

Paul used the image of the head and body to express the relationship between Christ and his church (Eph 4:15; 5:23b; cf. 1 Cor 12:12–27). In addition to the OT sense, the contributions of medical science in Paul’s day may provide insight into this image—for Christ is not only the dominant ruler over the church, but he is also the dynamic force that provides its direction and unity. The ability of the church to exist and the focal point of its activity are rooted in the work of its “head,” Jesus Christ.”

Elwell, Walter A., Barry J. Beitzel, H. Douglas Buckwalter, Peter C. Craigie, James Dixon Douglas, Robert Guelich, and Walter R. Hearn. “Head.” In Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

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