Bringing Home the Bacon & Distributing the Bacon | What Does the Bible Teach About Husband and Wife Financial Roles?

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It’s been a while since I’ve had a reader question I wanted to address publicly in a post, but a few days ago I was asked a question I thought would benefit all of us and stimulate some discussion.

Does the Bible say anything specifically that the husband is to be the financial provider for the wife and family, or is it correct for the husband to expect the wife to “contribute” ( employment-wise) and always pay the husband back when he makes purchases for her such as prescriptions, car parts, etc.? I feel not protected or that he is my provider as I’ve always grown to understand from bible teachers/authors.

As you can tell, there is a lot going on behind this question.  However, in order to answer the question, I think we need to remind ourselves of three general principles about money and marriage.

1.  Fiercely protect your marital oneness.

The Bible teaches that when we get married, we are no longer two, but one.  Two entities are joined into one.  While there are definitely physical overtones to this statement ,this is a holistic statement that relates to all elements of marriage.  What once belonged to the husband is no longer his alone, and what belonged to the wife is no longer hers alone.

My responsibility is not to protect the interest of Craig.  My wife’s responsibility is not to protect the interest of Jeri.  But, we are one and ought to act (though don’t always) in ways to pursue and protect us – not either individual spouse.

Unfortunately, in marriage we often become fiercely protective of our own interests.  That is a sign that marital oneness is breaking down.  It’s a sign that your marriage is ready for a loving counselor who can help guide you through this season of your marriage.

2.  Share everything.

In our home, I work for a profit and my wife works as a labor of love for our family.  I earn an income for what I do, and she does not.

For now, we’re perfectly happy with how we’ve decided to structure our home in terms of our working responsibilities.  We love the fact that she gets to stay at home.  As a family, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day (unless there is a church, friends, or family function).  That is a tremendous blessing to our family.

However,  the money I earn is not my money.  It is our money.  I couldn’t earn this money without the support of my wife.  It is mutually beneficial for both of us.  When I get a payment for something, that money goes into a bank account that has both our names on it.  We sit down and decide how much money we’re going to spend on certain categories (we call it a budget), and we agree beforehand how our money is going to be spent.

In the past, we’ve even had certain dollar amounts (about $50 a month) that was our own to spend in any way we wished.  

3.  Husbands, Love Your Wives as Christ Loves the Church and Wives Submit to Your Husbands.

Here’s me walking in hot water.

In our home, we take this verse literally.  This verse guides our decision making process and home management styles.  My role in the family is to submit to Christ and to love my wife in the same manner as Christ loves the church.  My job is to be sure that our home exists for the honor and glory of Christ.  

I’ve got my plate full with that short teaching.

My wife is very involved in every decision made in our home, but ultimately, she submits to me and supports my efforts to glorify Christ as a family.  We’re both actively involved in submission.

Submission is not the dirty word we’ve made it out to be.  

As a church, we seek to submit to Christ.  What would a church look like if they decided that submission was bad and they weren’t going to submit to Christ.  All I know is that I wouldn’t place membership there.

Indeed, we can all point to teachings or situations where submitting has been disastrous and dangerous.  But these exceptions need not nullify the Biblical teachings.

What submission does not mean:

It does not mean a person cannot protect him or herself from an abusive person.  It does not mean that a person cannot or should not share her opinion.  I know that many, many of you are in situations where this is hard.  I’d need to pastorally talk about those things and your alternatives with you in person, but in general, healthy situations, I believe that this is how God wants the Christian home to be managed.

If you are in an abusive situation, then you need to talk to a leader at your local church about the situation.  Submission is not a license for abuse.

Still, your situation does not negate the value of the biblical teaching. 

Guess what?  

It doesn’t matter who brings home the bacon.  To be a spiritual leader doesn’t mean you must be the income earner.  I don’t think the Bible speaks against stay at home dads or working moms.  As your family and marriage develops oneness, you can make a collective effort to give God glory in all you (plural) do.  

What do you think the Bible teaches about the roles of husband and wife when it comes to finances?


Comments

  1. JD says

    Nice article. One thing that has really helped us it to write out our goals for the year and break them down into points that can be checked for progress quarterly. Whether it is saving, making purchases or reducing debt it helps to have a plan that we both agree on and see as beneficial. Unfortunately it has been easy to get off our goals when we don’t have it in writing so this has been a real asset to us.

    • says

      JD,
      What a great idea about writing goals together. When husbands and wives work together the result is powerful. Setting goals with family and your spouse is absolutely important.

  2. GayleRN says

    I think you are quite correct that submission to Christ is the ruling principle in this situation. Not to mention all situations. If either party is not properly submissive to that authority there will quite predictably be strife. There are however many mixed marriages, that is one submitted (usually the wife) and one who is possibly only nominally submissive. This results in a situation where the unsubmissive partner is acting out of self- centeredness and possibly taking advantage of the other partner in some fashion. Examples could include husbands who refuse to support their families and wives who refuse to adhere to the budget and spend excessively. My point is that life will be unnecesarily difficult if the underlying principle of submission to the highest authority is not in place and in practice. The question here is how does one cope as a submitted partner in a relationship with the other partner is acting in ways detrimental to the relationship. I don’t have an answer to this, but know that it is extremely destructive as evidenced by the divorce rate and number of broken homes all around us.

    • says

      Galye,
      Thanks for the great reminder that there is often a lack of submission on the part of one partner. That does break down the marriage and it breaks down the home.
      In addition to the general principles mentioned in the post each couple needs to know when they need a counselor to help them address problems in their relationship where one or both parties are not honoring Christ through submission.

  3. Marie says

    Thank you for writing this. I am getting married soon and these are good principles to keep in mind as my future husband and I start our new life together and start to merge our money.

    I think the Bible always stresses that we should be good stewards of what God has given us – whether we are a landowner or the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, and whether we have a little or a lot. That can be challenging to keep in mind every day (I certainly think so!), but it is what we are called to do.

  4. Ric says

    I am the main breadwinner in my home as my husband is a asst pastor at small church and I have a skill that pays well and insures me and my family. It was hard for years to be in this position but God has given me the permission to be a help mate to my husband as he helps those in need and keeps a number ministries flourishing.

  5. says

    In my family, I am employed and my wife works hard at home, raising our daughter. My wife hasn’t been employed since she quit her last job while pregnant, about a year and half ago.

    Since then, we’ve been keeping an eye on our assets, watching them go down almost every month (the month I got a bonus at work, it went up). The general plan is to watch our net worth go down farther and farther until it hits the point that all we have is our emergency fund. At that point, my wife would seek employment, even if just part time. My hope is that I actually earn enough money that we won’t get to that point. My projection is that we will get to that point in about two years, by which point I also expect we’ll have a second child.

    Do you think this is an okay financial practice? We generally don’t spend money on anything unless we think it’s necessary, and I don’t see any place where we could spend less, unless we bought (or rented) a smaller house so our mortgage payment would be lower.

    • says

      Mark,

      Thanks for the question. At the heart of the question is the question of your family preferences and values. If having your wife stay at home is the most important thing to you right now then I think generally you have a good plan. The only suggestionI have is that you might consider setting your deadline for one of you to get some part time work. It may take some time to get a job so probably when you’re a month or two a way from your ‘emergency fund only’ point you should start looking.

      If I were you I’d also be seriously looking at ways to generate more income so you can enjoy have more time before you’ll exhaust your funds.

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