Limits to Submission: Immoral or Illegal Requests

What does Scripture say about Submission when someone asks us to do something immoral or illegal. This devotion explains.
Addressing another important aspect about submission...

If a wife doesn’t agree with her husband’s decisions, should she keep quiet?

No. She has an important role of influence in the family, and she should respectfully share her wisdom and advice. But the final decision and the responsibility for that decision rests on the husband. See Women's Intuition.

But what if the husband asks his wife to do something dishonest or immoral? Should she submit? No. Never. 

Colossians 3:18 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” 

This tells us that it's fitting for a wife to submit to her husband because it's part of God's design. But it isn't part of God's design for any Christian in any situation to submit to things that are against God's commands.

This truth is confirmed in Acts 4:1-21 and Acts 5:27-32 when Peter and John disobeyed the Jewish authorities because they commanded them to quit preaching in Christ's name. 
Scripture commands several types of submission: wives to husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24); citizens to government (1 Peter 2:13-15Romans 13:1-7); parishioners to church leaders (Hebrews 13:17); and children to parents (Ephesians 6:1-3). But in none of these relationships should those in submission be expected to disobey God's commands.
What does Scripture say about Submission when someone asks us to do something immoral or illegal. This devotion explains.

Bible Love Notes


  1. Once again, Gail, thank you so very much for speaking out on this topic of "submission'. I am of the belief that many, many women suffered so greatly by the false teachings that had been prevalent in the churches decades ago. When 'Women's Lib' became popular in the 70's, many women left their marriages and even children often because they had been 'counseled' in many churches that they were always to submit... no matter what. If they did leave their home because they were either being physically abused or because their husbands demanded that they submit to sinful activities, yet were being told by authority figures in the church that they were disobeying God by not submitting to their husbands in such situations, the result was spiritual abuse that caused deep wounds in such women. I can still recall a time when I went to a Pastor's wife to confide in her regarding all the physical abuse and adultery of my husband and being asked: "Is there anything YOU can do better?" All that did is reinforce in me the lie that I was somehow responsible for his abuse and unfaithfulness. It took me years to understand that God never called me to be a punching bag and that I was not the reason for my husband's adultery. I do not know if women are still counseled to stay in such situations, but I truly hope they are not. I do know that God hates divorce. However, He also hates such violence against women and adultery.

    1. I'm so sorry, Jude, for these things you experienced. It makes me sad to hear that any church would blame a wife for her husband's physical abuse or adultery. I remember years ago hearing someone I respect say that any problem in a marriage was always a mutual problem. But he was wrong. Sometimes problems are mutually caused, and sometimes one spouse is the problem. And no relationship problem justifies abuse or adultery.

  2. Thank you Gail, for this insightful blog post! It's important to understand the balance between submission and standing up for what is right, even if it means going against someone in a position of authority.

    Regarding the question of what is dishonest and immoral, it can definitely be influenced by culture. For example, in the past, slavery was a sin, but accepted as a normal practice in many cultures, but today we recognize it as inherently immoral. Similarly, some cultures may condone certain types of work that are considered "black market" or illegal in other parts of the world.

    So my question is: how do we navigate situations where what is considered dishonest and immoral varies from culture to culture, while still upholding God's commands and values?

    1. Such a great question, Aritha. And I think it's a question we are facing in Europe and the North America in ways we never faced it before. For example, Christians have a responsibility to speak out against Abortion and share God's loving commands about LGBTQ+ lifestyles because those things damage people's hearts, minds, and souls, and God wants us to help people find freedom from sin and new life in Him. But the U.S. and many European countries are beginning to call such things hateful and in some cases illegal. This is when we answer to God, not man.

      In contrast, if a country makes a law that we simply don't like, perhaps for financial reasons or some other reason that isn't moral, we need to obey it.

      But we must never obey laws which demand that we quit sharing Christ or violate God's commands.