Who owes the family the responsibility to provide? Who did God ordain as the provider for the family? Who is termed “worse than an infidel” for not providing for the family? Is it the man or the woman?
The word “provision” is subjective and can apply in many ways. A woman provides in her capacity as a wife and mother, the man provides in his capacity as a husband and father.
The Bible says:
“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” – 1 Timothy 5:8 KJV
The above verse has always been quoted to mean “a man who doesn’t take care of his family…”, we don’t have to take this and run with it without truly understanding what the Bible is saying. It is important to note that the Bible was written by humans in the language and culture of their time.
When we read it today, we should know where certain words are no longer literally valid. Valid, in the sense that the Bible was written in the language that was much more inclined to patriarchy. Patriarchy wasn’t bad but nowhere was it made a standard. Humans evolve every day and adapt to what works best for society. The core message remains the same.
For example, Paul asked that women cover their head as a sign of submission but such tradition isn’t valid in today’s world because it isn’t our culture in the first place. If couples wore ring then as a sign of commitment, Paul would obviously have written: “submit to one another, wearing your wedding rings always.” So, while women don’t necessarily need to cover their head anymore, the core message was “honour your husband” which still remains valid.
The Bible says “let us make man in our image”, the word “man” applies to every gender and doesn’t in any way make women less of God’s image. When a specific rule applies to male folks only, we usually see a corresponding rule for the women. For example, you may see stuff like
“A woman must not put on men’s clothing, and a man must not wear women’s clothing.” – Deuteronomy 22:5
We see another specified example in the New Testament. Let’s read:
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” – Ephesians 5:21-22, 25 NLT
First is a non-specified counsel which says “submit to one another” and then Paul goes further to explain how this works better concerning both gender and their psychology. For the wives, he says “submit” and for the husbands, he says “love”.
No gender was addressed leaving out the other and anytime we seem to see something like that it is always a general rule that applies to all but may have been communicated in a gender-biased tone.
Now, when we read what seems to say that anyone who doesn’t provide for “his” family is worse than an infidel we need to understand it in the light that anyone who doesn’t play his or her part in providing for the family is worse than an infidel.
In a culture where the woman stays at home to take care of the children while the man goes out to earn for the family, both are providers in their different offices, capacities and abilities. The woman provides training while the father provides resources. It isn’t necessarily an ideal though because it cages potentials inside the box of culture.
The role of “providing” is not exclusively binding to the male folks, it applies to the female folks too. A woman who doesn’t play her supposed part in the home is also worse than an infidel. The Bible wasn’t suggesting that a man who by the reason of fate who doesn’t have any means of providing for his family is worse than an infidel, the Bible isn’t saying that anybody who is trying but not meeting up with expectations is worse than an infidel.
The reason why that statement was made was to address negligence rather than inability. This applies in the case that someone neglects their duty as a father or mother which includes making efforts to meet family needs.
For example, some men and women simply do not want to take care of their families, they live a wasteful and selfish life, they rather spend on other things than take care of their families, it is in this case that the Bible says they are worse than infidels. Let’s read in another translation
“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” – 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT
The New Living Translation renders this in a language that isn’t particular about any gender, it doesn’t even suggest that one simply has to be a husband or wife to be able to provide care. A responsible son who already has a means can provide care, same can be said of a daughter, an uncle, aunt and so on.
With this understanding, we can see that the sole responsibility of providing for the family isn’t vested in the office of a husband and father alone, the woman also provides. While we do not see much details about how women provided materially to their families, the Bible isn’t silent on it. Nowhere in the Bible was it indicated that women are simply meant to take care of the kids while men provide for the family. Making provisions and training the Children is something parents do together.
Everywhere the Bible talks about training the children, it wasn’t specified as a role exclusive to mothers. Children receive instructions from both their father and mother while the father serves as the chief leader of the family, the one who heads the board. In Ephesians 6:4 we see that the word “nurture” isn’t just about mothers but something father is meant to do too. Let’s read:
“And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”
Concerning the virtuous woman, the Bible says
“Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:11-12 NLT
The wife brings something to the table too and by her contributions, the family becomes prosperous. We see an idea of how much good the woman brings to the family, let’s read further
“She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings, she plants a vineyard. She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fibre.” – Proverbs 31:13-19 NLT
Look at that again, she gets her hand busy and is likened to the merchant’s ship. The virtuous woman isn’t just a good mother and wife, she is also a good entrepreneur who is diligent! We don’t see her depending on her husband for every single need because she engages in very profitable deals.
This doesn’t mean every woman must fit perfectly into this description to be termed virtuous. However, every woman committed to giving her best in the capacity and office where she has been placed is a virtuous woman. Whether she is limited by childbirth, culture or she has her way to do the business of her dreams, she is providing for the family in her way.
The question of who provides for the family has a simple answer, it is the man and his wife who has become one in mind and purpose. Both are committed to raising godly kids and also providing for them. If you have always thought man is the one who has the exclusive right to provide for the family, think again.