“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.”
“and do not be bitter toward them”
Verse 19 expresses the second command negatively. God does not want us to become cross with our wives. He does not want us to resent them. Our wives can be handy scapegoats for our frustrations. It is so easy to shrink from taking responsibility for our own actions. It is easy to blame our wives, “It’s her fault.”
The verb “bitter” means to embitter, irritate, or to make bitter. It comes from a root meaning to cut, prick; hence it comes to mean something pointed, sharp, pungent to the sense of smell. Then it came to mean painful to the feelings and bitter to the taste. The verb has the idea of provoked to the point of anger and bitterness.
This specific negative command is a vulnerability in men. If they are angry about something the wife said or did, men tend to become hard or overbearing. Love will counter this proclivity to harshness.
The New Testament uses the noun “bitter” literally for a spring of water that is bitter or brackish to the taste (James 3:11). James 3:14 describes jealousy as bitter. Hebrews 12:15 quotes Deuteronomy 29:17 to show the harm bitterness can do to the church. Bitterness heads the list of vices in Ephesians 4:31 and is used in the sense of resentment.
Psalm 64:3 uses the word “bitter” for cruel or biting words. It is used of the misery of forsaking God (Jer. 2:19) and of a life of sin (Jer. 4:18).
2 Samuel 17:8 uses “bitterness” for the fierceness of disposition. It is used of the Chaldeans “that bitter and hasty nation” (Habakkuk 1:6). This nation was ready to take offense and act with impetuous fury (Compare Judges 18:25). Deuteronomy 32:32 uses bitterness of the moral depravity of the corrupt Canaanites. Isaiah uses this term of the subversion of the distinction between right and wrong as putting “bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
Bitterness can lurk in our hearts toward our wives. We resent our wives because they criticize us. They may not respect our thinking or actions. She may disagree with us on a close and dear subject, such as disciplining the children. You cannot find an answer and become frustrated. As a result, you become resentful (Eph 4:31; Hebrews 12:15; James 3:14).
The husband’s role is to love his wife in a way that is free from attitudinal sins.
It is harder to live the Christian life at home than elsewhere. The husband can be more courteous to other women than his wife. Wives can give more deference to other men than their husbands. Familiarity breeds contempt or at least disrespect. We take each other for granted.
How sad that we treat those closest to us with the greatest harshness. God has not called the husband to dominate the wife. God created Eve out of Adam’s side (Gen. 2:18). God did not take the woman from man’s feet to be trampled upon, nor did he take the woman from his head so that she might dominate him; he took her from his side to be his partner.
Resentment is a serious handicap in the function of marriage. This will cause great unhappiness in the wife. Her unhappiness, in turn, will cause more unhappiness in the husband. These are two reactions reacting against each other. There will be misery as long as they live if they do not address the attitude of bitterness.