What Does the Bible Say About the Man Being the Breadwinner?

Must The Man Provide or Is Headship Not About Salary?

More than half of Christian singles say it does not matter who the primary breadwinner in the household is, but a large minority still believe the man should be the economic provider. A Bible scholar and a bishop disagreed on whether or not the husband should provide for the household, but both used Scripture to argue for male leadership.

"The American man is struggling – I think we will have a monument for the modern 21st Century man, and he will be on a couch, etched in stone, playing an X-Box," said Owen Strachan, vice president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and assistant professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Kentucky's Boyce College. In an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday, he argued that "men are called by God to take responsibility for provision for their families."

Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church and presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, disagreed. He argued that the biblical leadership of a husband does not require him to be the primary breadwinner, but rather the ship's captain of the home. "If your wife has a higher capacity, you have to act like the leader of a team, even though one of your teammates has an advantage," Jackson said.

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The Biblical Calling to Provide

"There's a script for our sexuality in the very design of our bodies," Strachan argued, outlining the roles of men and women in the family and the church. "Men are called to be the primary leader, protector, and provider of the home – you see that in Genesis 2 and you see that even in the curse," the professor argued.

Strachan explained that God's curse for Adam and Eve's disobedience after The Fall applied to their primary work. "For Adam that means his work and for Eve that means her childbearing," he maintained. "It's not merely the act of childbearing that is cursed, it's the entire domestic field that's going to work against her, just as the plants of the field are going to work against Adam."

The Theology professor also referred to specific passages of Scripture tasking women over the home. "In Titus 2:5, women are called to be workers at home, while men are nowhere called to be workers at home," Strachan argued.

The Value of Women's Work

The theologian insisted that a woman's work at home is not less valuable, however. "My wife uses a ton of gifts every day, and wears herself down to the bone working," he explained. "God has set it up that women are designed to be physically and spiritually nurturers of their children," and this, Strachan stressed, is the most important work in the world. He also referred to Proverbs 31, noting that the woman contributes to the financial stability of the home.

"Evangelicals have bought into a quasi-Marxist view of the world where we see our worth in economic terms," the professor said, explaining why many women desire to work outside the home. "To be human is not simply to be a marketplace worker, but it is to be a worshipper of God, a member of the church, to care for others, to spread the gospel and human flourishing."

He argued that "Gospel freedom is not the freedom to do whatever you want, but the freedom to obey Jesus, and do all that He has commanded you." This means that fulfilling the male and female roles in the home – and in the church – is part of our spiritual worship.

Strachan also argued that there are many areas where women are supposed to contribute in church, but that being elders and pastors is not one of them. "I do find it reductive when it comes to our discussions of women in the church, focusing on what they can't do," instead of what they can do, from leading worship to mentoring to teaching, and of course, childcare.

Headship Is Not About Salary

Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Hope Connexion Orlando in Florida, is seen in this file photo.
Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Hope Connexion Orlando in Florida, is seen in this file photo. | (Photo: Hope Connexion Orlando via The Christian Post)

"I think the church has got to teach that the value of headship in the home is not about ownership or about the level of a salary, but that the husband does work hard at providing," Jackson commented. He, too, emphasized the importance of male leadership in the home, but argued that this leadership can take many forms for the good of the whole.

Wisdom in leading the home under God is the man's primary responsibility, the pastor explained. "In the modern family where two people can have major careers, you have to ask yourself when you do childrearing, and whose career is prioritized," Jackson said.

"I think the man should be the head of the house, but a wise 21st century position would be consultative leadership," the pastor said. He referred to I Chronicles 12, when King David consulted with the heads of tribes after becoming king. "He consulted with them because they had functional authority because of their experience, their knowledge of warfare – he was wise enough to get help." Jackson argued that a wise man would "utilize a wife who may be a medical doctor with a multimillion earning potential."

Quoting Ephesians 5, Jackson argued that the order for wives to "submit to your husbands and to the Lord," is a military term, which means for a wife to align herself to the strategic goals of her husband. The husband, on the other hand, is told to love his wife as his own body. The pastor argued that this means "he's going to have to take into account her career, her passions, her desires, and put them on at least the same level as he would put his own career and personal aspirations."

Leadership in the Church

Jackson also argued that women can lead in the church. He pointed to the example of Priscilla and Aquilla as evidence that some women can have "a stronger gifting in terms of the church." Strachan, however, said that this example does not work, since Priscilla and Aquilla were discipling Apollos, rather than leading a church body. Strachan differentiated strongly between leading a church (an exclusively male role) and discipling a fellow Christian (not exclusive).

Bishop Jackson, meanwhile, stated: "I don't exclude women from preaching or leadership or higher administrative role. I just believe most of the senior leaders in the Bible have been men, but I don't see it as an exclusivity issue."

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