OUR LAST BLOG post discussed Mr. Mom. Is it OK for another-wise healthy, capable husband to
stay home and nurture his children while his wife brings home the bacon? We suggested the general principle that God created men and women to fulfill different roles in marriage. Men are responsible to protect, provide for, and lead their wives and children. The general responsibility of a wife and mother is to “help” her husband by nurturing children and caring for her household. But how do we apply this in the 21st century North America?
It is one thing to state the general principle. It is another to apply it in a fallen world filled with multiple ambiguities. Legalisms occur when the application is too wooden and structured. So, let’s begin by talking about what this principle does not mean. First, these principles do not apply to single women. Since she has no children to nurture, or a husband to help, she is free to serve the larger culture by the pursuit of a career.
In addition, this Biblical principle does not mean that it is a sin for a married woman to work outside of the home. She is free to work outside the home as long as it does not compromise her role of “helping” her husband and the nurturing of her children.
It doesn’t mean that it is a sin for a woman to earn more than her husband. Due to training or education this may be the case, but it is not inherently wrong or evil. A fifty year old female physician, with grown children, married to a fifty four year old pastor, may out-earn him even working part time.
It doesn’t mean that it is wrong for a husband to temporarily be the primary nurturer of his children. He may do this while going to school, getting specialized training to enhance his employability, or transitioning into a different career. Or, he may be temporarily unemployed. In these instances, it is not sinful for a man to be the primary nurturer.
In each of these cases, the role fulfilled by the husband or wife is either biblical or non-biblical depending upon the violation or adherence of the important principles that follow.
The first principle is the recognition of the fundamental differences between men and women. Those differences are physical, emotional, and mental. Because of these God-designed differences, a man to bring three unique roles to marriage—protection, provision, and leadership. The implications are clear. It is not appropriate for a female to be the primary protector, primary provider, or spiritual leader in her home. It also implies that God calls each married man to serve his wife by becoming her protector, spiritual leader, and provider. The pastor with the physician wife is still fulfilling his role if he is the spiritual leader, the protector, and a provider. In this case, his wife may be fulfilling her role as help-mate with the income she earns—income that enables him to fulfill his calling to pastor the flock.
Second, the biblical teaching mentioned above should motivate and shape a Christian couple’s relationship. Christian marriage implies the submission of husband and wife to these principles. Christian marriage implies that the wife agrees to become her husband’s “helper,” not his competitor. In addition, Christian marriage calls each husband/father to love his wife and children by leading them, providing for them, and protecting them. In addition, Christian marriage implies that the arrival of children changes things. A couple attempting to be biblical will agree that his fundamental orientation should be toward providing for his family. They will also agree that her fundamental orientation should be inward toward the nurturance of children and helper to her husband.
Third, biblical Christians reject the stereotype of female passivity and weakness. Proverbs 31:10-31 draws a verbal picture of a fully competent woman. She is the biblical ideal. Her husband trusts her. She is industrious, an able administrator, a competent manager of the household servants, a take-charge lady, and a skillful business negotiator.
Therefore, when deciding whether a wife should work outside the home, female “weakness” or lack of incompetence is not a biblical assumption. Instead, love for God and man should be the determining issue. What is most loving for the family? What will best glorify God? Is the pursuit of outside employment the most loving way for her to serve her husband? Is it the most loving way for her to serve her children? Or, are ambition, greed, or escapism driving the decision? The answer to this larger question—whether and when she should work outside the home— will depend upon the number of children, their ages, and the financial condition of the family. It is a decision she should make under the covering of her husband’s authority.
In summary, it is our conviction that God created men and women different at the most basic biological, emotional, and social level. He did this to equip us to fulfill different functions in home and marriage. God created Adam to work the Garden. He created Eve to be Adam’s helper. The application of this principle to specific situations necessitates much wisdom, flexibility, and patience.