In Part 1 of this series, I wrote,
Spoiler alert: In future installments we will dig into the nitty gritty of what it means to “provide for your family”, but I’ll say this much now–your family needs you, first and foremost.
This is the first of the “future installments” I was talking about.
Who Should Read This
Before we strap-in to this rocket, allow me to clarify who the intended audiences are. You’ll recall from the Prerequisites page–which you all read, right?–this tidbit:
The biggest prerequisite of all is that you be committed to following the Way and willing to give your entire life to Yeshua, the messiah and Lamb of God.
Within that group, I’m clearly targeting husbands who at least make the claim of being a Christ-follower. Beyond that, however, I include wives and all single folks who would like to someday have a happy, godly marriage. Don’t check out here because you’re not a married man: This is critical material for all believers–at a bare minimum, you may want to point someone you know to this page, and if I can manage to avoid butchering the topic, I hope you do.
The engines are at full-throttle now, so we’d best make sure we understand the proper operation of this spacecraft. We happen to know the Engineer who designed this thing, and his instructions are clear, a mere six short verses that can revolutionize both you and your marriage:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.Ephesians 5:25-30 (NIV)
Step 1: Understand the Mission Objective
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve met or counseled husbands who proudly declared that they were fulfilling their calling to provide for their wives and families.
Unfortunately, they defined that provision to be merely financial. Their wives and children were living in spiritual and emotional poverty because the husband didn’t understand his role in the mission.
Although not even one husband has ever defended their actions to me by quoting I Timothy 5:8, I wish they had. At least then I would have had some assurance they were getting God’s Word into their head, if not their heart.
So let’s look at it ourselves:
8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.I Timothy 5:8 (NIV)
I am not suggesting that we do not provide for our families, even extended families. But that is part of the point here: If you look at the context of I Timothy 5, it is clear that Paul is not talking to husbands alone, but also to all members of the family, including children and grandchildren. Providing for the family is a family-wide endeavor. It is not wholly on the husband’s back, nor was it ever intended to be.
If you doubt me, go read Proverbs 31, verses 10 to the end of the chapter. That section is often entitled, “A Wife of Noble Character”. If you don’t see a strong, caring, independent, downright entrepreneurial woman in that passage, then you need glasses.
Ephesians 5:25-30, on the other hand, paints a bullseye dead-center on every husband and makes it very clear, “These are YOUR responsibilities, husbands–and yours alone.”
Sure, all husbands should work to provide for their families. That’s part of being a good family member. But the standard for being a good husband is higher–much higher.
Paul draws a direct parallel between the role of the husband to his wife and that of Christ to the church. Yeah, you read that right: We are to care for our wives like Christ cares for the church, with the end goal of presenting her to God as a radiant, holy and blameless creature.
I can riff for hours about what sacrificial love looks like in practice, as well as how every single husband who has ever used the “providing for my family” argument with me was either selfishly pursuing his own ambitions to the detriment of the family or operating in tremendous fear… or both.
Nevertheless, that’s peripheral to my thesis for today. Here’s the all-important and somewhat surprising takeaway I pray every husband takes to heart:
You cannot lead anyone down a path you’re not also walking.
My point, if you’ve not yet made the same logical leap I have, is that if you are a husband who is not actively pursuing your relationship with Yeshua on a daily basis, and if you have isolated yourself from the deeper levels of community and fellowship around you, then you have no hope of successfully completing your mission as a husband who loves his wife well. Remember that the goal of that love is to present our wives holy and blameless. You cannot lead your wife there if you are not walking that path yourself.
Our mission as husbands starts with… us. We need to be “…made new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on the new self…”:
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
The truth is that almost every one of us struggle with finding time for daily Bible-reading time, prayer, as well as regular times for discipleship and/or community groups. But if that is the case, then the reality is that we are too busy not to pray, study and fellowship. Doing those things optimizes the rest of our time.
We need to be taking the time to listen to God and to other men who we give permission to speak God’s truth into our lives.
Think of your daily Bible reading and meditating on the Word as a tithe of time, or as one of my mentors likes to say, it is the place and time where you get “…memos from the Head Office.”
The real Head Office, that is.
It is not my intent to be harsh or judgmental; I say these words with love and tremendous empathy. If you have read the other articles on this blog you know that I have lived this and was on the other side of it for far too long. And I can tell you that life on the wrong side is not a happy place. Most Christian husbands I’ve met who are chasing their careers over their family are not at peace; I certainly wasn’t.
This is a very, very deep topic and we’ve only scratched the surface. But I have every confidence that if you husbands commit yourselves to simply being an example to your wives and children through your commitments of time to God, your family, and your church body, then God will lead you the rest of the way himself.
And if you’re fearful about your career path or money or anything else like that, just push the Pause button on those and give God a chance to show you who He is. The Bible teaches us that His plans for us are good, and He works all circumstances for our good. You may find, as I did, that the doomsday scenario I had in my head actually worked to my benefit as God (eventually) turned the outcome of each fear into a blessing.
A final word: The Bible certainly has some good advice for fathers (cf. Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”), but there is no command comparable to Ephesians 5:25’s “…love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…”
I think it is because a father can provide no better behavior to model than that of loving his children’s mother well. Such love manifests the very image of Christ to them and is critical for their future relationships. The idea of “staying together for the children” is patently bogus. Not that I’m promoting divorce, God forbid, but rather a commitment to learning to love our wives better.
I have much more to write, and I will, but this entry is intended to lay the foundation of the most fundamental principle. Without it, everything else is in vain.