Rising Number of Stay-At-Home Dads: What Does the Bible Say About This?

Stay-at-home dad

A recent study has shown that the number of “stay-at-home dads” has doubled in the last decade.

While we might expect the poor economy and layoffs among men to be a factor, many of these men who are staying at home to be the primary care-giver for the children are doing so as the result of a mutual decision made by both parents. The article cited above states: “But according to the results of a new study by Boston College, the rise may be due more to choices and evolving gender roles of parents” (emphasis mine).

In this arrangement, the wife is the one who leaves the home for the workplace and the husband either quits his job or chooses not to look for a job so he can stay home with the kids. As this becomes more common, it is important for Christians to be reminded about what the Bible has to say that relates to this issue.

Before we go further, we need to be clear about the issue we will be addressing. This issue is not about men who cannot work or those who are temporarily out of work. In this article we will be addressing the decision of couples for the wife to work while the husband stays home.

It is also important to note that this issue is not over what one is capable of doing. Men may certainly be capable of keeping the house and taking care of the kids. Women are also certainly capable of working and earning a suitable income to provide for the household. The issue is not over capability, but over the God-given roles in the home.

The Role of the Husband

God has given the husband the role of leadership in the home. “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). This is not to say that his wife is inferior to him. We can see this implied in Paul’s statement to the Corinthians: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Christ and God the Father are one (John 10:30; 5:17-18). Similarly, in the eyes of God, both the man and the woman are equally valuable (Galatians 3:28). However, the roles of the man and woman are different, just as the roles of the Father and the Son are different. The role of the husband is to be the head of the household.

Paul also gave this instruction: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This “discipline and instruction of the Lord” is part of the responsibility of the head and spiritual leader of the household. The husband is to see to it that the children learn of the ways of God.

More to the point of our question, God gave man the responsibility to work and provide for his family. To Adam, the Lord said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread” (Genesis 3:17-19). Since that time, the man has had the role of provider while the woman has had a more domestic focus for her role. Husbands must take this responsibility seriously. Paul said, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). This is not a matter of opinion or culture, it is a matter of doing the will of God and keeping the faith.

The Role of the Wife

As the husband is the head of the wife, the wife is to be submissive to him. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24). This also has its origins in the beginning. Eve was told, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Even before this, the woman was designed to be “a helper suitable for” Adam (Genesis 2:18), complementing him perfectly according to God’s design. Godly women have been fulfilling this role of a submissive help meet ever since (1 Peter 3:1, 6).

The Scriptures are clear that the wife’s responsibilities in marriage are primarily domestic in nature. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 did not have a job or career that in any way resembles what has become common for women in our society. She was focused on her home, her family, and helping those in need (Proverbs 31:10-27). Paul taught that the older women were to teach the younger women to be “workers at home… so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5). In fact, as he was discussing the younger widows, the solution to the potential of idleness which would lead to sin (1 Timothy 5:13) was not that they should go out and find jobs to fill their time that way. Rather, he said, “Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach” (1 Timothy 5:14). Why would Paul say such a thing? It is because the woman’s primary, God-given work is in the home.

This begs the question: Can a Christian wife work outside of the home? The Scriptures contain no specific prohibition. So we must look at principles in the word of God to answer the question. We can conclude that she can work outside of the home under two conditions:

  • First, if she works outside of the home, she must be able to do so without neglecting her domestic responsibilities. Again, her role is to be a worker at home (Titus 2:5). If a woman can fulfill her obligations here and work a job outside of the home, then good for her. However, it is not easy to do this. Though some mock the alleged idleness of housewives, Paul said that being a housewife was a good safeguard against idleness (1 Timothy 5:14).
  • Second, if a wife is to work outside of the home, her husband must be agreeable to the idea. Let us not forget that “the husband is the head of the wife” and that she is to be “subject” to him “in everything” (Ephesians 5:23-24). In our society, it has become so common for wives to work outside of the home that even among Christians it is assumed that the wife will work, even without any discussion with her husband on the subject. So girls are raised and taught to be career-minded, go to college, get a job, and earn a good income. While there is not necessarily anything wrong with this, it is also not necessarily good for a woman who desires to be a “helper suitable” for her husband or future husband (Genesis 2:18).

Based on what the Scriptures teach, a wife may work outside of the home if she is able to do so without neglecting her responsibilities at home (Titus 2:5) and can do so within her role as a help meet to her husband (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:22, 24).

Stay-At-Home Dads

After being reminded of the God-given roles for husbands and wives, let us return to our question about “stay-at-home dads.” Again, this not about a husband who cannot work or is temporarily out of work. Rather, this is about the couple who makes the decision for the wife to go out and work and provide for the family while the husband stays at home and tends to the regular domestic responsibilities.

It should be clear, looking at the roles God has given in marriage, that this cannot be done without completely altering these roles. The fact that the arrangement was mutually decided upon does not change this. The specific roles which God gave to husbands and wives were not merely suggestions. They were not based on culture, either. They were the roles that were divinely ordained from the beginning for both the husband and the wife. Therefore, we must respect these roles, just as we must do with every role that He has given.

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  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Role reversal is certainly undermining the home. I believe the Bible is clear enough that God indends for the wife/mother to be a worker or keeper at home.

    Stretching sound Bible teaching to allow women to be heads of companies or even just waitresses, is a dangerous trend and who is to say how far a woman can go in business once the door is opened?

    Extenuating circumstances which can’t be avoided is another matter of judgment which requires lots of prayer and soul searching.

  2. Unfortunately, what ought to be reserved for extenuating circumstances is normal behavior for many Christians in our society.

  3. You really use 1 Tim 5:8 to support this?

    At best, I would say that it’s taking the scripture out of context – 1 Tim 5:3-7 talks about taking care of widows and if they have family that those should be the ones to take care of them first (and that they shouldn’t be wasteful) and then it says in verse 8 – if you don’t take care of them, that’s worse than an unbeliever (which makes sense given that it’s not out of the ordinary for even unbelievers to do so). It says nothing about husband/wife or man/woman there – and in fact comes back to widows in verses 9-16.

    We’re to believe that out of those 14 verses, Paul pivots away from widows for just that verse in the middle of it?

  4. “Memories,” absolutely, 1 Timothy 5:8 is one of the passages I use to make the points above. That verse is talking about the importance of a man providing for his own. In the context, Paul makes a specific application to the care of widows. But the principle of verse 8 extends beyond just caring for widows.

    If your point was to nitpick about the providing being done by either men or women, let’s assume for a moment that verse 8 could be talking about men or women. Women could PROVIDE personal attention, meals, etc., in their role as “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). A man could PROVIDE by being out working “by the sweat of his face” (Genesis 3:19), earning an income that he can use to “share with one who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).

    I disagree with you that I took 1 Timothy 5:8 out of context. But even if you remove that verse from the article, the points I presented from the Scriptures remain unchanged. God gave women, NOT men, the domestic responsibility of being “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). We cannot willfully disregard His word and expect Him to be pleased with us.