In life, we spend a great percentage of our waking ours working. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we often find ourselves either feeling two ways concerning our work—idolatry or idleness. This series seeks to encourage us in our work.
Being a biblical man involves exercising leadership in all areas of life—finances included.
But can a man be the leader of his home without being the primary breadwinner? What happens when your wife makes more money than you? Is this a nonnegotiable area where no compromise is possible?
Wives who make more money than their husbands are not uncommon today. With statistically more women graduating college than men, and increased employment opportunities, many women take full-time jobs that pay well.
For those in marriages without children, both spouses typically work. When/if the wife becomes pregnant then there is a necessary break in employment. Some wives still work inside the home or outside the home, but many will pursue the full-time job of being a stay-at-home mom. In this scenario, the husband is the breadwinner, whether he makes much or little. Often times, this scenario is generally conveyed as normative, even ideal for conservative Christian households.
Interesting enough, men and women have historically worked together from childhood to death—specifically in agrarian settings. This would have been the ostensible context for the Virtuous woman of Proverbs 31. Most cultures—ancient and modern—did not have the luxury of a Leave it to Beaver household. Everyone worked to survive. Husband, wife, and kids would pool their resources together and no one was exempt from toil.
In the 21st century, where men and women compete for the same jobs but the 1950’s household still lies ingrained in our consciousness, a wife earning more than her husband might not be too alarming. Furthermore, the influence of feminism and its placing a job/career/success as the pinnacle of a woman’s flourishing might lead some men to feel defeated when their wife makes more than them. Making more money than one’s wife, however, does not constitute a biblical man.
Here are a few principles for maintaining a biblical model for work in the marriage context, specifically for a husband whose wife earns more income than him.
Your Ultimate Identity isn’t Found in Work.
As a bearer of God’s image, you find your true meaning and value as his child, redeemed by his Son, Jesus Christ. Work is part of your duty as a man, but you do not become a man, nor cease to be one, based on your job. Injury or illness can remove you permanently from this role at any time. If you could not work another day in your life, you would still be a father, husband, and leader of your home. God has given these roles to you.
Your Role as Leader in the Home Comes from God.
Scripture tells us what leadership in a marriage looks like. It has been established from the beginning in Genesis 2. It is reiterated in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:2–16; 1 Pet. 3:1–7; Eph. 6:22–33; Col. 3:18–19; 1 Tim. 2:8–14). The ideal marriage/family situation is one in which the wife respects her husband, a husband loves and serves his wife, and children honor their parents. There is no scriptural or historical reason to believe that a woman earning more means a forfeiture of leadership.
Some Jobs Just Pay More.
The fact is jobs do not always pay in proportion to education earned. Many labor jobs earn more than teachers, professors, and pastors. You may be working hard, but your job doesn’t pay in proportion to the energy and hours poured in. My wife teaches violin lessons from our home and if she made it a full-time business, she would earn more than me because the standard rate in the bay area of California is $75-$90 an hour! Many Christian women have earned degrees that lead to lucrative jobs. Employment in medical or business fields pay well. A nurse can work three days a week while earning more than someone working 60 hours a week. This isn’t to say these wives do not work hard, but they may work the same or fewer hours than their husbands and yet earn more. Greater income should not detract from the intrinsic value of any job.
Hard Work is The Only Way.
Respect from your wife, your kids, and your community will be given to you if you work hard. This message has evaded too many men of this generation. Diligent, consistent effort at any and every job is glorifying to God (Col. 3:23). A man who puts everything into his work despite the pay ought to hold his head up high. If he has given everything he has, day in and day out, then there is no reason to be ashamed. A problem arises when husbands resign to let their wives carry the financial load while they give minimal effort. This is slothful and lazy. The scriptures warn against living in such a manner (see 1 Tim. 5:8 with great warning).
Being a biblical man consists of spiritual leadership in the home, sacrificial service to your wife and children, and an industrious work ethic. A husband can find contentment by fulfilling what scripture prescribes and not fret over areas that are not addressed.
Ryan is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sonoma, CA. He is currently pursuing a PhD in historical theology at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary. He and his wife, Janai, are expecting their first child in January. You can follow Him on Twitter @RyanRindels
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