By Mae Hoggatt
God has commanded that all congregations appoint elders. This was not a gentle suggestion but a command, as Paul told Titus (Tit. 1:1-5). Yet today, many congregations do not have elders, saying that they have no man who is qualified or with the desire for the office.
There have been many discussions concerning the life a man must lead in order for him to qualify to be appointed an elder in the church, but nothing is written about the qualifications of his wife.
But, Is this True?
The qualifications are there if we just take the time to search the Scriptures. First, of course, she must be a Christian. No elder could properly serve a congregation if the other half of his marriage lives in the world. As a Christian, her life must be an example to the believers “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4-12). Paul wrote this to Timothy but does it not also apply to all Christians?
1. In Word. The older women are to teach good things to the younger women — “to love their husbands, love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their husband, that the word may not be blasphemed” (Tit. 2:3-5).
2. In Love. She must love her husband (Tit. 2:4), her neighbor (Matt. 22:39), her enemies (Matt. 5:44), other Christians (Heb. 10:24), her children (Tit. 2:4).
3. In Faith. She must have faith (Heb. 11:6).
4. In Spirit. She will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
5. In Purity. Paul told Timothy to keep himself pure (1 Tim. 5:22), and he wrote to the church at Philippi to think on things pure (Phil. 4:8).
A believing woman must be hospitable (1 Pet. 4:9; Heb. 13:2), she must resist temptation (Jas. 4:7 and 1 Pet. 5-8), her treasures are to laid up in heaven (Matt. 6:19, 20, 21); her speech is to be as the oracles (word) of God (1 Pet. 4:1l) — not lying (Eph. 4:25), not being a gossip or busybody (1 Tim. 5:13), or a slanderer (Tit. 2:2-3).
She must not be “proud and cause disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions” (1 Tim. 6:4).
Her outward appearance is to be one of humility (Jas. 4:10 and Col. 3:12), reverent in behavior (Tit. 2:3), kind and forgiving (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). This woman must “adorn herself in modest apparel with propriety and moderation” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10), not with “fancy arranging of the hair, gold or fine apparel but her beauty is to be the hidden person of the heart, a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4).
She must be content with her life (1 Tim. 6:6-8 and Phil. 4:11) and not be envious or self-seeking (Jas. 3:16). She cannot have authority over a man but be submissive (1 Tim. 2:12).
This Christian must not allow Satan into her life (Jas. 4:7) but work the works of God just as Christ did while he was on earth (John 9:4).
But wait a minute — Is not this the way that all women who are Christians are to conduct their lives? Of course, and many of these commandments apply to men also. So what makes the wife of an elder different from any other woman in the Lord’s church?
Very little, actually. First, she does have to be married — an elder must have a wife (1 Tim. 3:2) and she must have children (1 Tim. 3:4); training them up as the Lord commands (Prov. 22:6). The wife of an elder must have all the same qualities of her husband (not given to wine, not greedy, not covetous, etc., 1 Tim. 3:2, 3) for how could she be a proper helpmeet for the elder if they disagree about their way of life? Amos wrote: “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
A married couple begins walking together when they say “I do” and when both are Christians they should be in unity. If this man desires the work of an elder, he must depend on his wife to support him.
The elder must have the respect of those in the world (1 Tim 3:7). His good reputation and that of his wife will set an example to those with whom they come in contact. The wife must be very patient and understanding, realizing that her husband’s time with his family will often be curtailed because of his spiritual responsibilities. She cannot be jealous of those who are taking up his time but be willing to accompany him to talk to those needing help.
Not all members of a congregation will agree with the decisions made by the elders and will grumble among themselves about this. The wives of those elders cannot respond with anger to those causing trouble but be forgiving. A wife of an elder must be able to handle the complaints and criticisms against her husband with a kind and forgiving attitude.
So, the qualifications of the wife of an elder are the same as those of all believing women with the exception of being married and having children.
All young women in the church should live as though they will one day be the wife of an elder, just as every young man should have this goal in his life — to desire the work of a bishop and focus on that as he grows in the work of our Lord. What better purpose can a young Christian have?
The most important qualifications for both the elder and his wife are: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your paths”