Does God Really Require Fathers to Be the Breadwinners?
Q: It seems to me that today’s dads are under pressure of all kinds as well as having to endure being the butt of the joke too much of time. Father may not always know best, but Hollywood makes dads appear weak, stupid and clueless. What kind of leadership does God require of husbands and fathers? And does God require men to be the primary breadwinners, bringing home more than their wives? My wife and I both work, and I’m not sure how God sees that.
A: Your question raises a common confusion: the distinction between leader and provider, and how God instructs men on both. God the Father – the image that we are given in scripture for the highest and best leader of all – provides us with a template for understanding what is expected of men … and what is not. In the Bible, God lays out a chain of command, which does not subjugate, but rather organizes how people work together, and at the foundation of the structure is sacrificial love by the leader who is held to the highest standard.
When it comes to organizing leadership, 1 Corinthians 11:3 puts it like this, “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” In this outline, we see God detailing who is accountable for whom in relationship. God, out of love for the world, sent His Son to die for us. He made a plan to care for all of us. He asks the most of Himself. The husband is told to lay his life down for his wife and family as well, following God’s example. Accountability does not equal tyranny, but rather describes a sacrificial relationship.
Consider that wives are told to love and respect their husbands, while husbands are ordered to be like Christ. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her," notes Ephesians 5:25. Husbands and fathers, we are called to sacrifice our own desires for the good of our family. This requirement ranks far above money. It involves time, planning, preparation and self-discipline for the goals and good of our loved ones. But does that responsibility also include the requirement to make all the money in the family?
The short answer, I believe, is no. The Bible does not indicate that a good husband and father brings home all the income or even the most, but he is required to work for it to the best of his abilities. This is not a punishment. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In the New Testament, we read in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
A husband is required by God to care for the good of all in the family. 1Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
This verse indicates that a husband and father is expected to provide for his family, to know their needs and to plan how to care for them. But there is no verse that says “Thou shalt have a larger W-2 (wage) than thy wife in this fiscal year.”
Some women do work -- even in the Bible. In Proverbs 31 for example, we read about the industrious woman, who cares for her household and contributes to the income through her businesses. God chose Deborah to rule as a judge over Israel in the Old Testament, and we know of married couples like Aquila and Priscilla who worked together as tentmakers. Glimpses of couples laboring together are woven throughout the scriptures without any condemnation of the family where the wife may have earned more.
But God does require something from those in leadership and holds men accountable for their management of their homes and families.
A husband and wife together may decide that both need to work, and may organize their resources to achieve goals for their children and loved ones. But I believe that the scripture indicates that while God appreciates the labors of all, it is the husband and father who will be held accountable for keeping the family on track.
When counseling his pre-engaged daughter who is a physician and her future fiancé, an entry-level accountant, a friend asked his daughter if she would be willing to respect her husband even though her initial income would be far greater than his. And second, in the event they were ever called to live on his income alone, would she be comfortable if that required a downgrade in their lifestyle? She said yes to both questions. He gave his blessing to the couple and they are now happily married.
The often-devastating impact of finances on marriage is such an important issue. At the end of the day, it’s important for both husbands and wives to see the good of the family as greater than any one person’s individual desires.
A great first step to setting priorities for your family is make sure that what you believe about God’s principles for finances aligns with how you actually behave with your finances. The Money-Life Indicator assessment was designed to help you identify areas of strength and weakness and provides an Action Plan for making changes. So, make it fun and plan a date night with your spouse to discuss your individual results, the impact on your family and what steps you want to take together!