I was lazily scrolling down my Facebook timeline the other day, when I read a quote that said:
“There was a time in the greatest country in the world, when if you worked 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, your wife did not need to work, and you retired at age 60 with a pension. Today, 40 hours a week is barely enough to pay for rent and utilities, your wife also needs to work just so you can eat. This is a reality for over 20 million families.”
I pondered this notion for a moment and the domino effect it has on so many social issues; including marriages and the traditional family structure.
Somewhere in the back of our minds, we’re vaguely aware that we are going through a global economic recession, but we don’t realize its effects past the loss of buying power an average working wage has lately. We all just want a comfortable lifestyle for our families, but it seems the standard keeps rising every time we gaze longingly at the lives of social media celebrities, every time an iPhone is released, your child makes a friend with a cool new toy and our neighbour gets a new car. If we’re both living in the same complex, or if I went to school with that Facebook friend who is now flashing their ‘baecation’ in Dubai, we reason that we should both be on the same level, so I too should be able to afford what he has… and so the cycle continues…
The new normal keeps getting mad expensive.
We wake up before the sun to sit in traffic, frustrated and half asleep, to face a computer screen, appease people we see every day but barely know or care about, just so we have enough in our accounts for our debit orders not to bounce, get home stressed and burnt out and have to keep our marriages from falling apart and our children from turning out to be complete and utter strangers.
When both man and wife are caught up in the rat-race of making just enough to afford this thing we call LIFE, it’s pretty easy for us as a society to place an inordinate amount of value on someone’s ability to earn a lot of money.
We have somehow bought into a quasi-Marxist view of the world where we see our worth in economic terms; which is why little girls are raised being told that they are not aiming high enough in life if they don’t have ambitions of being so independent that they don’t need a man… As if a man is something a woman needs when they can’t make ends meet?
Like, “Oh girl, you can’t afford your life, you need to get a man.” Or, “Girl, you’re a senior partner at a major law firm now, you don’t need him…”
Don’t get me wrong, the Proverbs 31 Woman was a fashion designer, a real estate mogul, owned vineyards, she was a BOSS. But it feels like it’s no longer just equity we want. This “sameness” women are fighting for almost stems out of feeling inadequate unless we are like our male counterparts and we beat them at whatever they do.
That’s never been a challenge I was keen to take up, because I believe the feminine and masculine were meant to balance each other out. I want to bring what he can’t bring to the table, and trust me; women have a lot to offer without having to compete on a male standard.
I recently heard one woman confessing that when her husband lost his job and she became the main breadwinner in the house, it gave her a whole new perspective on life. All of a sudden, she questioned if she had initially married for the financial security her husband once provided and now that he was no longer providing it, she expected him to do more housework and childrearing. After all, she would be the one who came home tired every evening, whilst he had been at home all day.
The husband is likely to be going through somewhat of a depression over his inability to make the kind of money that their lifestyle demands and he might feel that it is an extreme demotion to be relegated to doing house chores and serving his wife in the home.
She could walk out of that marriage and say “he wasn’t providing” and she has a need to be provided for.
He could do the same and say she was emasculating him and he has a need to be treated a certain way as a man.
The bible states that: “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. ” 1 Timothy 5:8
Even in households that aren’t particularly big on the Bible, you still find that ladies generally prefer well-to-do men. Likewise, boys learn at a young age that sometimes; to get the hottest girl, you might not need good looks or to recite poetry. Sometimes you just need to have enough money.
For many years, the quaint model of two parents, with the male looking after the female, proved successful — but new studies reveal that with the rise of the feminist movement and the fact that more girls are educated and competing for top careers, husband-providers have become somewhat of an endangered species and I have witnessed plenty of pastors and marriage counsellors starting to modify their message to suit the current trend.
It used to be simple enough to preach to newly engaged couples about gender roles. Nowadays, it requires a lot of tact not to offend the bride-to-be with a degree marrying her artist boyfriend with nothing to offer, but a mixtape and a dream. It’s either you let them work it out between themselves who wears the pants around the house, or you exercise the kind of wisdom that is now imperative for a modern pastor.
According to the “2014 State of Dating in America” report published by Christian Mingle and JDate, 59% of Christians on those dating sites said they couldn’t be bothered who the primary breadwinner of the family is. Basically, whoever is good at providing should provide.
However, the Bible is unequivocal. The husband must provide.
My father’s generation often had to work in cities that were so far away from home, that they hardly ever made it home – but their money did. They provided notes and coins that sent children to school, put food on the table and clothes on their backs.
But what the Bible means is a lot deeper than that… It requires more from Heads of Households.
The husband is expected to lead the home… a lot like a project manager.
He is expected to be a man who is purposeful. A man of vision, who approaches a woman with this vision and she gets behind it, not out of subversion or coercion, but because she believes in it and it resonates with where she also wants to be.
Call it a proposal.
I don’t know why people can accept that if you submit a proposal to a business or a financial institution, you’re supposed to know where you’re going and how exactly you’re going to get there; and yet they submit proposals to take people’s daughters out of their family homes all the time to try things out and see where they end up?
He then starts to plan and directs resources to accomplish this shared vision. Sometimes, this does not require him to be the sole provider. It does not even require his salary to be the biggest. It does however, require his leadership and resourcefulness; his ability to make a plan. That sense that you are doing your best and you will never cause your loved ones to suffer is what makes your family feel secure.
If we look at the etymology of the word “provide”, the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us:
early 15c., from L. providere “look ahead, prepare, supply,” from pro- “ahead” + videre “to see” (see vision)
To which the Etymological Dictionary of the English Language adds:
“Lat. to act with foresight, lit. to foresee”
Instead of making a man’s identity and worth based on the zeros on his bank balance, his ability to provide hinges on whether is able to look ahead and prepare for the storms of life.
In primitive times, looking ahead took the form of scouting for the tribe. Men were the lookouts. As scouts, they navigated the terrain and travelled ahead (and behind) the women and children, scanning the horizon for dangers to avoid.
Men have an innate need to look ahead, to plan, to prepare, to strategize. Or in other words, men have an innate need for vision, for providing.
So wives can definitely, absolutely work and have high-flying careers. It’s totally up to them how they will make use of their skills and talents to the best of their abilities. Their financial contribution is in support of what the husband provides, because for the man, it’s actually a calling. Biblically speaking, the man is not given a choice to do it or not to do it, because he needs to account for how he provided for his home. However, his wife can support that calling on his life in any way she can.
Likewise, no matter how well a woman is doing outside of the home, ultimately, she has to account for whether it was a positive and conducive environment for her family to thrive in. If she can do both, more power to her!
Ephesians 5:25 – 30 says: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy (that speaks of sacrifice…)
cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (spiritual provision)
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. (nourishing and caring for – physical/financial provision)
That’s my take on it…