It was time to brave Costco to get some essentials — and all the samples I could get my hands on, topped off with the lunch of champions, the $1.50 Costco hotdog. Shopping cart and stomach full, I gathered my garbage and stood up when I heard a voice behind me say, “Forrest, you better sit back down.”
Behind me was a great friend I have known over 20 years, so I happily obliged and sat with him as he ate his chicken bake. As our conversations typically progress, we make our way through different subjects with this afternoon’s discussion turned to homeschooling. He was vulnerable and shared about the difficulty of the role he had taken on to homeschool his kids, leading our conversation into our role as men and what it should look like, especially from a Biblical perspective.
What does it mean to be the man of the house? Is it okay for the man to stay home and care for the kids and handle homeschooling? Or should it be the man that is the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker? This was an easier answer in days past. Now, I think it’s harder to define. Tradition says that the man should be the one earning, providing, while the wife keeps up the home and cares for the children. Yet, is this a tradition that has roots in Scripture?
For decades, the lens of TV and movies often portrayed the American man as a rugged individual. One version was the cowboy, riding off into the west with a weapon at his hip and a cigar in his lip. There was desire for boys to become the Duke, John Wayne — a man that was tough and didn’t take guff from anyone. I remember in my grandparents bathroom was a roll of toilet paper with a cover on it that read, “John Wayne toilet paper. It’s rough! It’s tough! And it doesn’t take crap off anyone.” This was the American man. He provided, he protected, he was the man, and because of this the woman was the homemaker.
Then the rise of feminism made its way into the public arena and there was a shift, a change. Women fought for the right to work, for the right to a career outside of the home. With this have come many debates and arguments that we can’t address here, but I will say that both sides have been misconstrued.
I believe, the homemaker of the 20th century wasn’t because women were viewed lesser than, per se, but because men sought to keep women safe. They would take the risks at work. They would break their bodies for the good of the family. They would sacrifice time with family so they would have what they needed. And the women that fought for their rights wanted equality and opportunity.
I know and understand that there are extremes on both sides, and these can represent the worst among us. But as I look back through Scripture it seems to me we are in new territory. Until recent history, both men and women provided for the home. Both gave of themselves for the betterment of the family.
So I may state something that is controversial to some individuals. I don’t think it matters who is the breadwinner. I don’t think it matters who is the CEO. I have worked for both male and female bosses, and both have been good and bad. Gender doesn’t determine your character. Whatever you are using to teach, train, and transform your character, will determine the type of person you become.
Should you choose the Bible as your source, the end goal is to be more like Jesus. Yet even this source has been twisted and misrepresented for wrongful gain. While I don’t think it matters who makes the most money, I do believe Scripture makes it clear as to who the head of the house is, and who is responsible for discipleship — the husband. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus; “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
These verses have been used for the abuse and mistreatment of women. They have been used to keep women in abusive relationships, to force them to believe they are less than, and to be treated as the slave of the man. This is wrong and not Biblical. A wife is not subjugated to a dictatorship in marriage, but a partnership, where the husband is the lead.
We find the truth for this in the same letter Paul wrote to Ephesus. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” the Scripture says. The role model for which a man is to model his own life, is Jesus. What did Jesus do? He gave Himself for the church. He laid down His life for her. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is the model of a leader that thinks of himself last. A commentary I read put it this way: “If it should seem hard for the wife to be in subjection, the spirit of love, Christ-like love, on the part of the husband makes the duty easy. Christ did not merely pity the Church, or merely desire her good, but loved her. Her image was stamped on his heart and her name graven on his hands. He desired to have her for his companion, longing for a return of her affection, for the establishment of sympathy between her and him. And he gave himself for her, showing that her happiness and welfare were dearer to him than his own — the true test of deep, real love.”
If a husband were to love his wife with the action and intention of Christ, I don’t think a wife would find it difficult to follow his lead. She would know that her welfare was dearer to him than his own. Let men love and disciple his wife and family, and lead them in the ways of Jesus. This is what it means to be the head of the house. Not a paycheck or worn out work boots or a dictatorship. Our role is to love and serve one another.
Forrest White is the pastor of Life Church Tooele.