January 16, 2021

Is It A Sin To Be A Stay At Home Dad?

One gets the impression that, in some churches, a stay at home dad runs the risk of being taken out in the back yard and “dealt with” by “the dudes.”

Since the issue came up here at IM, I thought I’d send along some of what others have to say.

In this video, Grace and Mark Driscoll speak to the issue of Stay At Home Dads. They’re unanimously not in favor.

Jared Wilson writes a two-part exegetical/practical look at the issue: Is It A Sin To Be A Stay At Home Dad?

Jared has been one of those SAHDs for quite a while. He’s also a pastor/church planter/author/blogger and honorary member of the BHT.

Here’s part 1 and part 2.

Make up your own mind. I’m not here to tell you what to think. For my money, believing the Bible is laying down that level of prohibitions on family options goes right past me. And if a church sees it as a matter of church discipline if a guy and his Dr. wife decide he’s going to stay at home? Huh? Income generation according to gender? Todd Palin…..call for you on line 3.

Comments

  1. Express all the reasonable agreement or disagreement you want, but no name-calling please.

  2. Income generation according to gender, ay? I am already worth more money than guys and girls my age in the U.S. (great, non-homeschooled Nigerian education so I’m an 18 year old college senior), so that is going to play against me big-time unless I find another medical professional to marry.

    Personally, I don’t care about my future husband’s money (as long as we can survive), and thank God, I’m not in a church where they push such restrictions on women. So I want to be a medical examiner. Mr. A in the future wants to be an artist. That’s fine and dandy!

    Back to SAHDs. Jared made a great point about provision not being monetary. If only people could understand that. Like he said, it’s about doing what’s best for the family. Also, his historical analysis of work in biblical times was spot on. Women wove cloth, harvested grain and did other things rather than just sitting at home. A man staying at home to raise his kids isn’t doing anything unbiblical, unless he’s doing it out of laziness.

    Oh well, it’s been insinuated a bit, but I’m waiting for someone to tell me to drop out of college and stay at home to prepare for my future husband. I remember reading an article about that a few months ago. It “instills false independence and pride, as ‘knowledge puffeth up’ “. Eh. But that’s another can o’ worms.

  3. It is also interesting how some circles act like it is sin if a new mom has to go back to work after having a baby…

    Its seems quite legalistic to me. God does not give every single couple the luxury of the dad having a great paying job, able to go to school, and defeat the world daily while the mom stays at home and watches the baby everyday.

    It is ridiculous that people are so narrow minded. Scripture does not mandate wives to never work, for pay. I see the puffed up pride of it here in Louisville all the time. I am complimentarian as much as anyone, but when people put legalistic expectations on other couples because of the complimentarianism it makes me sick…

  4. I don’t think that “dealing with stay at home dads” is something that is within the realm of Church authority.

  5. Paul in the GNW says

    Giovanni,

    Your Catholicism rings out loud and true in that statement.

    As a SAHD and a Catholic I am glad that any of the very rare perceived or actual disapproval that I encounter in my Church has nothing to do with religion, but simply good old gender norms.

    Paul in the GNW

  6. Now that my children are grown, there are things I look back on in regards to how my husband and I raised our children. Without a doubt, the absolute best decision we ever made was for me to be a SAHM. Financially it was incredibly difficult but sacrifices were made. I did see Grace and Mark Driscoll’s video and I agree 100% with them. I really believe that moms are just better suited to be the primary caregivers for their children. Having “hindsight” now it only reinforces our belief that children benefit when moms are home.

  7. Do you agree with Mark that it should be a matter of church discipline?

  8. I believe Dricoll’s wife refered to 1Tim 5:8? Is 5:3-16 in the context of providing for widows? Please clarify. Thanks.

  9. As an egalitarian, I understand Genesis to teach that marriage is a partnership. Certainly there are male and female distinctions (men don’t give birth or breast feed). But why should not couples be allowed to freely choose the terms of their own partnership when it comes to matters like working, staying home, etc?

    I don’t get it.

  10. Why in the world would this be an issue of church discipline or even concern?

    Up until modern times – very modern times- income generation – or, more precisely, the work of sustaining a family through earning income and making and growing stuff – was a family endeavor.

  11. Depending on the exact circumstances, yes I believe there are situations where church discipline would be appropriate. I have seen too many children suffer because parents want the best car, house, clothes, etc. The kids spend hours and hours in daycare while Mom and Dad work at jobs to afford things. People can be materialistic and I think we need to distinguish between wants and needs.

  12. Debbie:

    Clearly no one was defending a lifestyle of greed. Greed is wrong whether it affects children or not.

    Do you believe Jared should be disciplined by his church? (I assume you read his posts.)

    It’s hard for me to see the scriptural teaching that would say Jared- and I assume his wife- are living in blatant sin.

    peace MS

  13. I don’t understand the daycare point. I thought this was about SAHDs.

    I don’t believe daycare (or nanny care or whatever) is sinful, but I became a SAHD almost primarily to keep our pre-marital commitment not to put our future children in daycare.

  14. That is a tough one. I see what you are saying about Jared’s situation. But maybe they should be willing to sacrifice their financial security (Jared’s post part 1) so that his wife could be home. Church discipline? In Jared’s situation I don’t know.

  15. Rob Lofland says

    No

  16. As much as I like Driscoll, sometimes I just canNOT fully track with him.

    Church discipline? If the guy’s a lazy bum, yeah.

    If, say, he can’t get a job because of the economy and his wife can…and Mars Hill Church wants to discipline them anyway…sheesh. Grace isn’t just the name of a pastor’s wife, folks, it’s also a principle by which we handle situations like this.

    What I should do if I’m in that situation is look to develop my skills to the point where I can get a decent-paying job, then earn money for the family while my wife stays at home with the kids.

    Like I said, I generally like Driscoll, but sometimes he makes me want to…grrrrrrrr….

  17. I just don’t see how this is a scriptural issue that needs disciplining procedures. This is a case of misapplied hermeneutics. We take a completely foreign context and try to say it is talking about stay at home dads, give me a break. Non-issue.

    Whether the man makes bank or not has no bearing on his first command to raise up his Children in the way of the Lord. I would much rather see a Father that is intimate in the development of his child rather than the further promotion of a culture that masquerades selfish boy-men as rugged and masculine providers.

  18. I am biased toward a more traditional model and not so keen on SAHD’s, but I don’t see it as a church discipline issue except in the case of lazy irresponsibility on the part of the husband. And even then I’d be pretty cautious.

    I wonder if Driscoll is aware that Tim Keller was “Mr. Mom” for a few years. Would he have been disciplined if he attended Mars Hill? I think he probably would have been…

  19. I half agree with both sides. I think that woman are better suited caregivers and it’s usually foolish for a father to stay home but I don’t see this as a church discipline issue. I think that it’s a wisdom vs. foolishness issue. There are lots of things that fellow brothers and sisters do that I think is completely foolish but aren’t issues that should divide the body.

    I think we often confuse issues that should divide with issues that are debatable. I don’t have to agree that a brothers decision is wise but I do need to love them and seek unity with them despite their foolish choices.

    I think we get confused about this partly because there is such an aversion in our society to taking an opinion about other peoples’ choices. It’s usually avoided. When as Christians we feel strongly about an issue we aren’t experienced with knowing what to do with our opinions.

    I think that Christians should be more opinionated but should learn how to maintain unity within the body at the same time. When things get bad enough that we form an opinion, and that can take a lot, we’re simply too used to either kicking people out or forming a new denomination/church.

  20. While I think a fairly strong case can be made biologically that a mom is the preferred stay-at-home parent during a child’s early years of life (say birth-two), I don’t think that makes it a sin issue or one for church discipline if a father is the one to stay at home instead and have several friends who employ that option. I certainly don’t understand AT ALL why a SAHD would require church discipline but a child with two working parents in daycare or cared for by a friend relative wouldn’t be an issue.

    One of the elders at our church is a stay-at-home dad to his three elementary/middle school boys (he also homeschools them) while his wife works. The father is retired from his corporate job – he clearly put in several decades of hard work, and now he’s able to mentor and disciple his sons full-time. I think it’s a wonderful situation for their family and look up to him greatly as a leader in our church.

    My husband and I have discussed switching roles when our children are older to him being the at-home parent and myself being the working one though I am the one at home with our little ones. Temperamentally, we would be well-suited for that flip in roles with older children/teenagers (right now doing the work of raising and nurturing infants/toddlers works better with me at home for some important biological reasons ;).

  21. IMHO, the Driscolls make the same mistake I have seen in so many complementarian approaches. They identify a legitimate cultural problem–men not growing up and taking responsibility–but then applies the wrong solution: an appeal to the “Biblical principle” that men were made to provide and protect, women were made as their “helpers” to stay home and raise children. The one does not follow necessarily from the other. Yes, men do need to grow up and take responsibility. They need to do so by stepping up and entering into full partnership with their wives, raising their children together to embrace and practice true Biblical virtues, not quasi-Biblical formulas.

  22. God is a stay-at-home dad.

    He provides for His kids, but He’s at home, among His kids, guiding and directing and rebuking and disciplining and loving us, 24 hours a day.

    The context of 1 Timothy 5, which Driscoll refers to, is about widows “who are truly widows,” rather than women who have been abandoned by their husbands, and those are the folks who Paul calls worse than unbelievers. It’s not about who should stay at home and raise the kids; it’s about abandoning relatives and leaving them to fend for themselves in abject poverty.

    If a man abandons his family, he should absolutely come under church discipline. That’s a proper understanding of scripture. But if he’s raising his kids in a godly fashion, and his wife just happens to work outside the house? Are you kidding me? That’s not conforming to the world’s standards; that’s conforming to the worldview’s standards. And that worldview is not based upon scripture; it’s based upon tradition, and you recall what Jesus had to say about those who nullified the scriptures with their tradition.

    The culture of Paul and Timothy consisted of people who, by and large, lived and worked in the same space, and kids who were raised by both parents. Not primarily Mom; not primarily Dad. Both parents.

    Our economy is different. One or both parents are generally expected to work outside the house. Very few exceptions. Since kids should take priority over a luxury lifestyle, both parents should cut back their work hours so as to spend as much time with their kids as possible. The kids don’t need $50 shoes; they need their parents. Parents should fight to make this as possible as they can; if they can’t, that’s life, and life can suck, and God understands. Still, kids are better than silver. Kids are our riches. We shouldn’t squander them.

  23. Interesting dicussion. I watched Driscolls video then read through Jared’s blog. I think Jared did a good job of explaining the verses in context…..I never thought of the verses often quoted in that way. I guess I am open to the idea of a stay at home dad although it still doesn’t seem ‘normal’ for me. I need to study the verses that are often quoted. I will say that Jared’s entries brought more understanding.

  24. Having listened to Driscoll’s talk about words at the 2008 Desiring God conference, I think part of where he’s coming from is dealing w/ deadbeat husbands/dads who can work but just don’t. I know he can be over the top, but it also seems he’s trying to get men to be men.

  25. As a SAHD I almost find this amuseing. Pastor’s rail about how children have no father figure in their lives. This has led to the decline of at least America, the surge in drugs, and all sorts of evil. So logically women must not be doing the job?(not my belief)

    I run my business from home, so I’m there, my office is an hour away and I’m required to show up once a week at the most. Generally an evening meeting etc. So why shouldn’t I take care of the kids. They get to work in the “field” with dad when I meet clients. They get to learn business in all aspects. They get to meet nice people and learn to interact with adults. This all seems biblical in training up a child… Me thinks that too many people judge first and ask questions later. Father’s often miss all the great moments of their childs life, first word, first step, first scraped knee, not me. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. It was not my first choice, but it works well.

  26. Hi,

    I am 30something father with a beautiful 13yr old daughter and another on the way (due Dec20th). My wife is a full-time secondary school teacher and I am a qualified nurse. Both my wife and I have, with much forethought & prayer, decided that for purely financial reasons I will stay at home with the baby until she is ready to start pre-school.

    During this period of being at home, I will be doing an open university degree whilst taking care of the baby. I will also be responsible for maintaining the housework, the school run, dinners etc… I have always taken care of the “household” chores. My wife is a very organised person and she deals with all the paperwork, finances etc… It is a system that works for us. I appreciate it is not for everyone. I can work flexible shifts as and when I want to and we are both very happy with this choice. I cannot escape the fact that my wife is the main breadwinnner. She brings home more money and is happy to go back to work after her maternity leave. I do not feel any less of a man because my wife earns more than me. She is both an incredible mother and vey supportive wife.

    We have had nothing but great support from everyone with whom we have shared our plans. No one has been critical of this choice and as a man who grew up without a father, I am very much looking forward to the prospect of spending quality time with our daughter and being there for her from day one.

    Thanks

  27. I am flabbergasted that this would even enter the radar of church discipline! I applaud Jared and his wife for making in what was clearly a very considered way what they believed was the best decision for their family – and a very self sacrificial decision for both of them. What an example to their kids of what a Christian marriage should look like!

    I would ask Debbie – what would you suggest that Jared and his wife do? Is it better for a family to struggle financially ( and I mean really struggle, not just be unable to afford two cars and a pool) in order to make sure that the husband goes out to work and the wife stays home – or do we use our God given common sense and work out what is best for our family at each given point in time.

  28. Jared,

    Work three jobs so your wife can stay at home. I am just kidding. People should stop trying to speak authoritatively on issues that Scripture does not address directly.

    Matt

  29. The Jared commmenting 3 or 4 comments up is not me. The previous “Jared”s were me.

    I totally understand the concern about sacrificing financial security to do what’s right. If you’ve read my posts, you see that was on the table.

    We are not wealthy, and our choice was not made out of greed.

    The idea that we did this so we could have nice cars (we don’t) or buy our kids $60 shoes (we can’t) doesn’t factor.

    What’s weird to me is that we essentially made this decision so that our family could be provided for! And yet I will be criticized for not providing for my family and told that we should sacrifice financial security to obey Scriptural commands we don’t believe are there in the first place.

    Does not compute.

  30. I think the Driscolls have in mind a man who is essentially hiding behind his wife and shirking responsibility because he can. But surely that is just a matter of laziness. Responsible financial decisions to stay home don’t really fall under that banner. Sure, in our culture it is not the norm, and that creates the ‘ick’ factor for some people, but get over it. Money is money, it is not ‘laundered’ by being brought home by a man instead of a woman. ‘It just feels right’ is not a robust hermenutical principle.

  31. I am grateful for the theoretical conversation but no one has justified 1Tim 5:8 referring to anything other than helping widows. In fact, in verses 3-16 the word “widow(s)” is used 9 times and is refered to with the words “They” or “she” or “who” “herself” another 20 or so times. I was always taught context determines meaning. I have to beg the question. Did Pastor Dricoll and his wife use this scripture out of context or not? Any clarification would be helpful. Thanks again.

  32. As a 50-something empty-nester, I have to say I’ve shied away from both attending and working at a particular TR denominational church that tended to espouse this type of thinking. Sometimes it seems the whole “family life” model is elevated above the command to seek the kingdom. If we can present the pretty little packaged family, we are closer to godliness. Who stays home and cares for the children is a matter to be decided between the husband and wife. There are variables here such as education, income level, medical benefits, career track, even natural inclinations. It may be difficult for some to accept, but there are men who are better in the caretaker role than their wives. It goes against standard gender typing, but I’ve seen it work. I’ve also seen the attitude within the church that he is seen as somehow less than a man for not being the sole supporter.

    Bottom line: unless the man is refusing to provide for his family and is causing problems, the church has no business meddling.

  33. Neither here nor there – but with my current off and on state of mind, and basically being a stay at home Dad, I’d hate to see some “dudes” come visit me to “discipline” me about this. They might have to further discipline me for kickin’ somebody’s ass. Or not, depends on the day.

    I used to be downright hardcore about women staying home and men being breadwinners – very legalistic about it, very unbending. I’ve mellowed quite a bit. I still think it’s ideal for Mothers to be home with very young kids – infants and toddlers. Listen, ideally, it would be preferable if our society hadn’t evolved to the point that either parent, or both, needs to be away from home all day long in order to make money to live. It wasn’t like that in non- or pre-industrial cultures. Kids had both parents around almost all the time and had to eventually share in their work.

    So, “ideal” is something we don’t get much in our world when it concerns this issue. Think about sending kids to a strange building, with strange adults and a herd of unknown other kids, to spend about 7 or 8 hours away from both parents and the familiar surroundings of their home at the age of about 4 or 5. What the hell!?? That’s wacky! But this is how we live. That’s the way we educate our kids in this society. There are a lot of these non-ideal situations. We have to make the best of them, love our kids, and each other, as best we can, try to make up for whatever lack there is in a system like this, and pray a lot I guess.

    OK, I had no intention of saying anything past that goofy first paragraph – that’s what you get from bored, stay at home Dads. 🙂

  34. Steve in Toronto says

    I have an egalitarian marriage (we both work short staggered weeks) one of my sisters has a traditional marriage and my other brother in law is a stay at home dad.
    If you saw our children and there cousins playing together at our family’s cottage I defy you to tell me who come from a traditional home is who the product of a more unconventional arrangement.
    It’s important to understand that the so called “traditional family” really only dates from the Victorian period and only became the dominate model in the post war period. My father was raised by his widowed mother and some of my mothers fondest memories where helping her mother make meat pies in there family owned Bakery.
    What is most striking about Grace and Mark Driscoll Video when Mark says that stay at home husbands are not supporting there families. Do you think that Grace thinks she is not supporting Mark and their children?

  35. + Alan,

    I’m with you. Misplaced idealism can so destructive. I was convinced by the church I attended as a ‘young couple’ that it was biblical, even required, to have a large family, have mom at home schooling them, and oh by the way building a self-sustaining homestead in the country would be a good idea too. Forward 15 years: mom burns out trying to do too much for too many in areas she’s not inclined or gifted to perform, the happy marriage and home disintegrates, and I’m left wondering why God didn’t bless us for following what was ‘obviously’ His will. A quote I’ve held on to coming out of all that: “The surest way to disillusionment is to trust God for something He didn’t promise.” Or require.

    I would have loved to be at home and homeschool the kids; I think I have the ability and temperament to do it. My wife did not. I even tried a ‘work at home’ arrangement for a while so I could help with schooling. The effect in my job was not good. I convinced myself that I was ‘sacrificing for the good of the family’; I now thank God He did not allow me to experience the full consequences of my own bull-headed stupidity.

    We need to stand by Godly principles and sacrifice if necessary to do so, but we need to know what those Godly principles really are!

  36. Michael,

    What if my wife stays home and she doesn’t clean up or wash the dishes. Can she be disciplined? I would like that, maybe I am going to take her before the church because I said over easy and she scrambled my eggs hard! Shoot, I am about to get spoiled!

  37. As I learn more about New Covenant grace, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the details in our daily lives aren’t as black-and-white as many Christians would want them to be. While you can make black-and-white judgement calls from the extremes of any situation, the reality is more often various shades of grey.

    This is definitely one of those grey areas. It’s certainly a sin to be lazy. It’s certainly a sin to be greedy. But how do you quantify laziness and greed? It’s very difficult and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis rather than as a blanket axiom. Are some SAHDs lazy or greedy? Probably. But so are some SAHMs. Each family has a responsibility to take care of itself in light of its own circumstances. Whether the father should work or stay at home is between the family and God, not the family and the Church.

    Why do religious people have such a tendancy to turn our faith into simplistic checklists?

  38. I think people confuse the idea of the father being the spiritual head of the family with the father being the major breadwinner. The two are not synonomous. I can’t imagine why people would object to a stay-at-home dad. Perhaps a stay-at-home mom might be more ideal, but if financial issues do not allow that, the stay-at-home dad is certainly preferable to daycare with a stranger where the children get little interaction with their parents.

  39. Talk about straining a gnat and swallowing a camel!

  40. I don’t have either children, or a wife. But should this ever happen I’d be happy to stay at home. Working from an office sucks the life out of me. . . . 😉

  41. A tragic example of the neo-fundamentalist resurgence. Watch out people, some evangelicals are trading their Hawaiian shirts for flak-jackets.

  42. This is where the wisdom of a guy like Roger Olson is needed. I wish everyone would read his book “How to be an Evangelical Without Being Conservative.” More light than heat, grace than judgement. A much needed corrective to the fundamentalist surge in evangelicalism.

  43. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    One gets the impression that, in some churches, a stay at home dad runs the risk of being taken out in the back yard and “dealt with” by “the dudes.” — IMonk

    [Removed by moderator]

    What if my wife stays home and she doesn’t clean up or wash the dishes. Can she be disciplined? I would like that, maybe I am going to take her before the church because I said over easy and she scrambled my eggs hard! — Lionel Woods

    “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee…”

    A tragic example of the neo-fundamentalist resurgence. Watch out people, some evangelicals are trading their Hawaiian shirts for flak-jackets. — Scott

    Make that turbans and correct-length beards. I’d have more respect for them if they would quit the watered-down stuff and just convert to full-strength Islam.

    “Woman! Do as I say or I beat you!”

  44. Actually, Jared’s original articles are not that bad. He makes his best point when stating that that work used to be a family affair in an agrarian culture; everyone took part. And he does seem to hold up SAHM as the ideal, not law.

    I know cultural relevancy is the buzz word these days, and those churches which are not rushing head-long into it are running from it in a reactionary sort of way; both are in their own ways slaves to the culture. One of the great weaknesses of the church over the span of history is not cultural relevancy but knowing how to discern the times. The country is facing an economic crisis unlike anything since the Great Depression that my parents grew up in. This may not be the time to make dogmatic statements about how a family puts food on the table. During the depression, families did what they had to do. In many cases, family members were dispersed among friends and extended family. For my dad’s family, providing an income and keeping the family farm took some creative economics, especially because his father died when my dad was very young.

    Prophets foretold of the Jerusalem famine in Acts chapter 11, and the Antiochian believers responded with assistance. This is the type of discernment that seems to be missing these days. Rather than defending and helping people, the church is busy defending jargon words like, complimentarianism. Time is short for churches to distinguish themselves from the dirty money of Wall Street and Washington and actually show compassion to their neighbors. The parallels with 1920’s Germany are getting a little too unnerving.

  45. I’m new to this site, so I’m sure I’ve missed discussions on this, so please bear with me on my question: is the neo-fundamentalist movement a response to the Emerging Movement? I bumped up against some very legalistic thinking from some friends of mine at my former church and it pained me. While I was there, there the church had a performance bent, but not like this. The pastor preached last Sunday on being deceived and had a list of 10 books that were full of deceit, The Shack being one of them. And my friends were decrying the “heresy” of the Emerging Movement. I cried and cried because I grew up fundamentalist and have been so hurt by it I and am so glad God brought me out of that to understand his grace. I don’t see life and faith as black and white but so many shades of gray. Sorry to get off topic here, but just wondering about this neo-fundamentalism stuff that was mentioned.

  46. Current pronouncements of the new Calvinists are definitely aimed at what they perceive as the emerging church, which appears to me to be about 3 people and an imaginary rabbit.

    Go to a different church. Don’t do that to yourself.

  47. I find it interesting that Mark’s wife misquotes Titus 2:5 in making her point. Paul gave these general directives in order that “the Word of God may not be reviled.” Paul is not saying that they are reviling the Word by any sort of misconduct, rather he is talking about the Word being reviled by the public. Rhetorically, he’s using the categories of honor and shame. This is made more explicit in verse 8.

    The irony here is that Paul is appealing to the cultural expectations for household management by the general public within the late Roman empire. The larger point is that, while there are certainly biblical norms in various lifestyle decisions we happen to make, we must conduct ourselves in a way that our lifestyles themselves do not become a stumbling block to the gospel.

  48. Oh, I don’t go there now. I go to a great church now. Steve Brown (whose show I know you’ve been on) is a frequent speaker. I was talking to these out of state friends on the phone. Boy do I have a lot to learn. What’s a “new Calvinist”? I guess I’m an “old” one?

  49. I don’t get it. I really don’t. How can you legitimately make an argument that a sociological reality that came into being only after the combination of the industrial revolution and the rise of the middle class is the Biblical truth?

    Stay at home “anyone” didn’t exist until a point in the relatively recent past.

  50. Current pronouncements of the new Calvinists are definitely aimed at what they perceive as the emerging church, which appears to me to be about 3 people and an imaginary rabbit.

    Go to a different church. Don’t do that to yourself.

    -Lionel says: LOL, especially the imaginary rabbit!

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