The elder and his wife will also be discreet, “not slanderers” (1 Tim. 3:11), which of course means that their words are all important. It is always sobering to remember that one thoughtless conversation or one idle rumor can mean the difference between unity or ruin. The harm that can be done to even the most vibrant fellowship by a throwaway remark is incalculable. As elders and their wives interact with others, discretion means the discernment to know what to say, when to speak, and when to keep quiet.
By virtue of his office in the church, an elder will sometimes possess sensitive information. The issue of confidentiality is a tricky one that has to be worked out by means of elders’ policy, prudent judgment, and godly common sense. There are, of course, deeply delicate scenarios that are best not shared, but these should be obvious, and a discerning wife will be content not to know what is judged unwise to divulge.
Thankfully, such situations are rare. In reality, potentially difficult situations can often be resolved early by natural interaction as the leadership, with the support of their wives, take seriously their responsibility to provide meaningful pastoral care in a visible role model of consistent Christian marriage. Healthy church discipline does not begin when charges are drawn up, but it takes place naturally and regularly over lunch and coffee, where wise words can make the difference between healing and harm, growth and backsliding. In these preemptive scenarios, the unique contribution of wives is absolutely indispensable.
Wives are also called, with their husbands (1 Tim. 3:3), to be “sober minded.” This quality describes a state of mind that is clear and levelheaded, particularly in unforeseen and difficult challenges where an important balance needs to be struck by the meeting of two minds. Wives often can provide the kind of levelheaded, objective assessment that is often vital to “sober” judgment.
Likewise, a wife who displays “faithfulness in all things” will actively share in her husband’s pastoral vision for the church and his deep and genuine concern for the people in their province. She will, along with her husband, provide the stability and reliability that will stay focused on the centrality of the church and what it represents.
In the complexities of today’s church, the combined wisdom of a husband and wife is often essential to provide balanced counsel, particularly in relational matters. While men are assigned to specific “offices” of leadership, it would be a foolish man who would not listen carefully to the wisdom of the godly spouse whom God has given as a partner in the work of the gospel.
Finally, it should be remembered that wives often bear the indirect stresses that inevitably arise as a result of the difficulties connected with church leadership. Moreover, whatever sacrifices are required of those in ministry, wives are often willing to make greater ones as they put aside their interests and comforts to support their husbands. God sees their steadfastness and patience and assures them that their labor is not in vain in the Lord.