Does the Bible have anything to say about “Stay at home dads”?
It is a potent sign of the depth and scope of sin in our lives that we are able to find ourselves missing all those road signs that read- Warning- perdition ninety miles ahead and then Hellfire- next exit and then Beware of falling sulfur before stopping to ask for directions. Here is a cultural phenomenon that either goes utterly unnoticed by most evangelicals, or merely raises eyebrows with the most conservative in the crowd. Yet, thirty years ago even the heathen would be ashamed to even consider such a notion. We file this under “Questions of gender roles” which sounds so neutral and scholarly, just like we like it. It is instead all about what it means to be a man.
Now I think it a wonderful thing for a husband and father to stay home. Once upon a time most husbands and fathers did just that. The notion that work is something we do out there, away from our home, is historically a new one, and on balance, an unhealthy one. For more on this let me commend Allan Carlson’s wonderful work From Cottage to Workstation. Where a man provides for his family is not in the end the issue. That he must do so is the issue.
Paul writes, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). Failure to provide for your family is not only clearly a sin, it not only is demonstrable proof that one is not within the kingdom, but it means the man is worse than the rest of the unbelievers. That is a rather potent condemnation. It is a scandal.
Now comes the rationalizations, and the qualifications. The challenge is knowing the difference. Neither Paul nor I would have any quarrel with a man who is genuinely unable to work due to illness. These are the kind of hard cases that make for bad laws. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the man who sits on his backside and sends his wife out to work for others so that he has his needs met. There is a word for such a man. In between is the man temporarily out of work, then the man who is able to provide, but not in the manner to which the family has become accustomed, then the man whose wife’s earning power surpasses his own. Because there is this spectrum we are tempted to leave the question utterly unanswered, to shrug our shoulders, and leave it up to each family’s discretion. Trouble is we therefore throw over the plain teaching of Paul, and the Holy Spirit.
Men, plain and simple, are called to provide for their families, not merely to see that they are provided for. Those who therefore live off the production of their wives, or their neighbors (through government welfare programs), fall under Paul’s condemnation here. We, if we approve, likewise fall under condemnation. What we need is plain talk, grounded in God’s Word. Househusbands are an abomination.