God’s Design for Fathers and Work

I recently posted a Twitter poll. The question was: Is it biblical for a man who is able-bodied and married with children to be a stay-at-home dad while his wife goes to work as primary provider? After over 1,100 people weighed in, the results and responses were varied. Including many comments from Facebook, it became obvious that there are still numerous people who don’t think the Bible speaks on this issue. I hope this article will help provide some food for thought.

How should a Christian father approach work, leadership, and providing for his family? Some would argue that the culture has changed since the “old days” and the modern man should be happy with whatever method or arrangement he and his wife agree too. That may mean him staying home with a baby strapped to his chest and a casserole in the oven while his wife climbs the corporate ladder. It also may mean the income-driven approach. In many of today’s households, money drives the agenda and the “have to’s” abound. We “have to” have this, “have to” have that. Even if both spouses didn’t have to work, many couples choose to both work in order to maximize income. As for the kids? Well, some would argue that’s what daycare is for.

Is this God’s design? Did He call fathers to a passive existence when it comes to work and provision; viewing “homemaker” as a role fit for men? Is His will that mother and father work for retirement, home ownership, and more comfort while their young children are farmed out to others during their formative years? Does God want the burden of being primary provider placed on the wife’s shoulders? Are we to chase a cushion in our bank account at any cost – even if that means our kid’s well being? The picture we see in Scripture is a resounding “no.” You may be thinking, what about special circumstances and seasons where it’s not as black and white? What about married couples who don’t have kids – can’t they both work? What about people who work from home so they’re able to be with the kids? What about women who work night shifts and Saturdays while their husband plays with the kids in order to not abandon their role in the home? Isn’t it fine that a mother go back to work when her children are old enough to go to school? The nuances are endless, and like the ones above, some are valid, but each couple will have to decide whether or not to follow God’s design – even if that means tough decisions. God’s will for fathers and mothers is that they be serving in their primary roles – especially when young children are in the home. I’ll repeat that one more time so we’re clear: especially when young children are in the home. Let the reader understand, this is no broad brush of every life stage and scenario. A topic like this takes a great a deal of level-headed, biblical thinking. We must consider all that Scripture teaches.

In today’s world, many Christian men need to step up as fathers and stop bowing to culture and cowering in fear of feminists. Yes, life is hard and some decisions might make you public enemy #1, but Christian men are called to lead by example whether it’s easy to or not. To spur you on as you discern God’s word in relation to work and roles, here are 3 truths to remember about a godly father and his work:

  1. Godly fathers are called to work

In Genesis God established the working order for husband and wife.  The Bible is not unclear about God’s design. First, God modeled work in creation (Genesis 2:1-3). As an image-bearer of God, men must remember that work is part of their pre-fall design. Work isn’t bad or to be avoided by men. Work is to be embraced, and by work, I mean employment and labor because God means employment and labor. God gave man his first job (Genesis 2:15). God didn’t employ a woman to manage the Garden of Eden, He employed man. That should be noted.

After the Fall, the nature of work changed, but man’s call to work didn’t. God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17a), told Adam that toil was now to be expected and that hard work was required to provide food (Genesis 3:17b-19). The work environment would be hostile and unforgiving as it produced thorns and thistles in addition to good crops (Genesis 3:18). As the nature of work changed, God laid out clear roles for men and women. He was not silent on the specific areas that husbands and wives would be impacted. For women, it would be childbirth and the desire to dominate their husband (3:16). For men, it would be difficulty in laboring to provide.

Furthermore, Jesus was a divine example of work. He was sent to accomplish spiritual work (John 9:4-5) which, of course, caused Him to constantly exert Himself physically. Beyond that, what did Jesus do until His ministry began at 30? Historically speaking, as the son of a carpenter He would have been apprenticed in carpentry and no stranger to hard work. Your Savior had the calloused hands of a carpenter long before having the nail scared hands of a Redeemer. Christ was a worker in every sense. We should be too.

  1. Godly fathers are to provide

Being a provider is a vital part of biblical manhood.

On the order of a Christian home the Bible explains that while husbands and wives are spiritual equals (1 Peter 3:7), they are to function in distinct roles. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23-27). Just as Christ is the head of every man, the man is the head of the wife (1 Corinthians 11:3). Therefore, a simple question can be asked when it comes to men providing for their wives: Did Christ provide for the Church or did Christ command the Church to provide for Him? From our salvation, to our future glorification, we are provided for by Christ! So also, a man must care for his wife and children by providing for them. 

In the Paul’s writings, we see strong words regarding men providing for their homes: if anyone 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). Some will try to dismiss gender roles here and argue that the context is limited to the care of widows (which Paul certainly has in mind), but Paul broadens his language to include a man’s household and immediate circle. To “deny the faith” and be “worse than an unbeliever” means your actions are contrary to what you say you believe and that there are even unbelievers who do a better job prioritizing provision than you! This can be tough for a man to face, but a man was, and is, biblically expected to provide.

A word to those feeling shame or tension over this topic: There is no need to feel shame for missing the mark in this area if you’ve never been taught biblically on it. Study further (resources below), pray through the next step with your wife, and walk confidently forward knowing God always honors His word. It may be a difficult season shifting to a more biblical approach, but trusting and obeying God will lead to joy and peace.

  1. Godly fathers don’t capitulate to culture

It doesn’t matter what culture may demand, a godly man will stand. The Word of God is the godly man’s decree. Christ, not culture, is the head he submits to. Whatever the nuances that come up in relation to his wife, his children, and work, his leadership stays under the Lordship of the Master. He knows his role requires the provision and protection of his family. He studies and helps his family understand their roles as well, leading his wife to be one who loves her husband, loves her children, and diligent keeps home (Titus 2:4-5). This will, of course, include accurately handling the Scriptures so not to dismiss or misinterpret passages he must apply. For example, the question will often arise: Why can’t a mother work full time like the woman in Proverbs 31? He must know that there is nothing wrong with a wife who emulates the industrious woman of Proverbs 31 in order to create income for her home. Yet still, a Christian home should be structured in such a way that the mother is not abandoning her primary responsibilities in order to climb the corporate ladder. It is against God’s design for a household to rally around a mother who is pursuing a career outside of the home when young children are present. Especially when God has called her to fulfill one of the greatest roles in the history of the universe for a short number of years. While many will cry, “cruel patriarchy!” and view God’s design as oppressive, their perspective is short-sighted. A woman gets to birth and nurture God-glorifying children (1 Timothy 2:15) while her husband gets to care for her and provide for her needs. She gets to influence the next generation. She gets to shape the minds of her little ones in a world gone mad. This is God’s design and godly men must work to allow their wives the opportunity to fulfill this high calling.

Christian men do well to read a book edited by Piper and Grudem called, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. On wives and work, George W. Knight III writes:

Since Scripture interprets Scripture and its teaching is consistent and unified, we realize that the picture of Proverbs [Chapter 31] is not contradicted by the Apostle Paul. Furthermore, we must realize that the emphasis on the home is the very point of the Proverbs passage. The woman in Proverbs works to care for her family and to fulfill her responsibility to her family (cf., e.g., verses 21 and 27). She does this not only for her children but also to support her husband’s leadership role in the community (verse 23). She is seeking the good of her family. Furthermore, she seeks to aid the poor and needy by her labors (verse 20). Here, then, are keys to the question of a wife and mother working outside the home: Is it really beneficial to her family, does it aid her husband in his calling, and does it, in correlation to the first two, bring good to others? Can she do it while still being faithful to her primary calling to be a wife and mother and to care for her home? It must be noted that even though the woman in Proverbs has not sought to “find herself” or to make her own career, but rather serve her family, in the end she receives praise from her family (verses 28, 29) and recognition for her labors (verse 31) because she has conducted the whole endeavor in obedience to the Lord she reverences (verse 30).

Much more can be said on this topic that space and time do not allow here. Whatever your view at this point in time, remember this:

Every Christian father will give an account to Christ one day for how he led, served, and nurtured his wife. Will she be battered and worn down from this world because you sent her to fight in a battle that was yours? Will your children have experienced the beauty of God’s design before their very eyes or will you have squandered the chance to help them relish in the joy and blessing of obedience? Will your hands be calloused from labor like Christ?

Men of God keep their work boots by the front door and their Bible close by.


Recommended Resources: 

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited By John Piper and Wayne Grudem

The Grand Design by Gavin Peacock and Owen Strachan

The Fulfilled Family by John MacArthur

Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur

The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

11 replies
  1. Jaeson
    Jaeson says:

    Hi Costi,

    Great article.. I do have a couple of questions though, what if a couple is unable to afford rent? Do you suggest they move to a place that is affordable in order for this to be possible? I’m just wondering. Living in southern California is extremely expensive. With the average rent hovering around $2,000/month for a 2 bedroom in a not nice area, how is a family of 3 or even 4 able to really survive on one income, particularly if you factor in trying to send those kids to college (which is projected to reach $100,000 per child by 2036 to go to a public institution), etc.? I 100% agree that a man should work, it just is that most people aren’t earning enough to be able to afford a wife that is stay at home or a child, let alone children (plural) if they are planning long-term and trying to think about both their future as a couple (such as retirement costs) and that child(ren). Particularly here, if a man is lucky enough to have a job earning $70,000 a year, they can expect to maybe see $4,000 a month after taxes…. that realistically is not enough to afford 2 cars, the $2000 a month in rent (which increases every year), food, saving for your child’s college + retirement, etc. You’d be short by at least $3,000 a month to make those goals or ends meet.

    • Khoi
      Khoi says:

      Yes, God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect such that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. He knows what we need and supplies our need, so that we may know Him, grow in godliness and conformity to Christ, and live for His glory,

      It’s encouraging to hear that you are willing to surrender everything and be led by God. As you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, pray and ask the Lord where He would lead you and your family to live and further glorify Him in all areas as a living sacrifice. He is faithful to lead you by His Word and Spirit. Trust and obey.

      God bless, brother.

      • Jaeson
        Jaeson says:

        Hi Khoi,

        It is a legitimate question, just since cost of living is so high…although some of us can’t really move easily either (so it is a bit of a lose-lose situation). Jobs in other parts of the country are equally scarce, or like myself we have family here in California (aging parents) so what is one really to do? Sometimes I think the best approach may be not as conventional, like having less children (if mutually agreed upon), or perhaps none (again if mutually agreed upon), and volunteering to help kids out, and widows as you can…. I 100% agree though that a man should work – just sometimes the option to be a high earner or provide everything is not really there for many of us. I think when things were during past eras were much different than they are in 21st century USA, although it doesn’t negate the man’s imperative to work.

    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Hi Jaeson,

      Really appreciate your thoughts here. Your questions are good ones, but much of what you’re saying pertains to first world entitlements (not saying you are entitled, of course!). Retirement, Kid’s college, two cars…all things that can be put on hold for a season while a couple shoots for God’s design in the early years. My wife and I live in Orange County so I have a few ideas about cutting costs and surviving on one income. We have three kids, and paid off 33k in debt during the first three years of marriage using Financial Peace University…it can be done. We’ve chosen to live on less, not have a retirement savings right now, and not have college funds right now. We did one car for a season too. My wife and I may both work once the kids are beyond their formative years and perhaps her income will help their college payments and retirement. Or, I’ll work until I die (nothing wrong with that) and they’ll have student loans like we did and have to put Dave Ramsey’s debt pay down plan to work:) I can honestly say that God has not left us hanging one bit.

      By the way, if you want to chat more and you’re in SoCal, I’m happy to do lunch and exchange tips, strategies, more thoughts. I can share some ways that God has come through for us and many in our church who have made these tough decisions in the early years. Email me at chinn@missionbible.org.

  2. TulipGirl
    TulipGirl says:

    Hi, Costi!

    I know you seek to compare everything to the Word of God and to be discerning. And you have experience with how the doctrine of God, the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit have had negative ramifications on the broader Christian culture.

    You may not be aware that both Grudem and the CBMW have had some problems with a faulty teaching about the Trinity, especially Eternal Submission of the Son.

    I would encourage you to do some research about ESS, look to Scripture, and reevaluate using materials from Grudem. This is directly related to your post in that sooner of the ESS false teaching is used to bolster up their teachings about men and women.

  3. Angie
    Angie says:

    “Did He call fathers to a passive existence when it comes to work and provision; viewing “homemaker” as a role fit for men?”

    In other words, the work of the home and children is passive and inferior, thus beneath men. It was hard to take anything serious after that.

    • costiwhinn
      costiwhinn says:

      Not quite, Angie. In other words, it is passive for men to send their wife to work to be the primary provider for the family while they cower in the home and abdicate their role. That does not mean “homemaking” is beneath men. It means that abandoning their leadership role is. Homemaking is a glorious role and one that Christ honors. It is just as important as providing. I’m arguing for role distinctions based on Scripture – not demeaning homemaking.

      • Angie
        Angie says:

        In healthy relationships, a husband and wife often make decisions together about the logistics of provision–child care, education, housing, financial. There is no “sending” of one by the other. The provision of training and care for the family’s children by the father is no more an act of “cowardice” or “passivity” than it would be if the mother is providing the same.

  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    It is nice to see someone discussing how a man needs to work! I meet so many people (particularly men) under 35 who just don’t want to, or refuse to put in the effort to learn a trade, finish school, etc, to get (some) financial stability and it is really sad! I’ve been to countless churches where this is not really talked about. I think women should do what is necessary (due to high cost of living- such as working full time or part time), but if you do have kids, you kind of have to make them priority for 10-15 years or they will turn out weird and whacky (just need to look around to see that this is the case). Not everyone may have that option (to have children) but if you do, then it is part of the package. I think a lot of couples are delaying having children or not having them (or also may be biologically unable). If you are a guy and Christian you need to set an example – both to your wife (so she knows she can rely on you-regardless of if there are kids in the picture) and if you do have kids, to them. That means working, hustling, finishing school/ a trade/ etc so you can exist – not living on a couch while you play video games all day. Depending where you live in the country, it may mean living with relatives longer, or even forever in a multi-family unit while you accomplish your goals or even after you do, but you still have to go out and work!

  5. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    It’s hard to comment because I’m 80 and have so much stored inside to let out. I was a “stay at home” mom in the 70’s and 80’s in spite of Gloria Steinheim doing her best to cast me as a failure. People say, “well, our culture has changed”. I believe that God created a culture with roles for males and females. Because of the Garden, we lost any contentment we might have had with our roles and the world is a mess. Sadly, women have a lot of control in this area and they just don’t get it.


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