Scenario #1 – Dad comes home to his refuge. He had a long day at work and can’t wait to get home so he can kick it into neutral and have some me time.
Scenario #2 – Dad comes home to continue his main job. He had a long day at work, but realizes his vocation is only a component of his main job.
In the first scenario, the dad sees providing for his family as his primary responsibility. He interprets the means for providing as coming from his vocation. He has a narrow and sub-biblical view of providing for his family.
He sees provision as making money so they can have a nice home, plenty of food, more than enough clothes, and a few white-collar privileges. It’s also called living the American dream.
When the Bible speaks to us about familial provision, it takes a different approach from what most Americans think. The reason for this is because the LORD wants us to be released from the job trap, while primarily trusting Him.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV)
Christ encourages us about His ability to provide, but does not expect us to stop working. He appeals to us to think rightly about our vocations. We are called to work and we are called to think biblically about how and why we work.
The tendency for many of us is to over-steer the car. We either don’t provide for our families or we over-provide. The LORD wants to protect us from both errors. We are to work hard, but we are to place our primary trust in Him to take care of us.
Even during the poorest days of my life, the LORD provided for me. I have survived on far less than what I have today. I think if we were honest with ourselves and others, we would admit the way we think about our jobs is more than just providing for our families.
There is a particular temptation for men to hide behind the provision claim, hoping others will see they are doing their job and, thus, require less of them, especially in the home.
Faking out the family
This raises the question, “What does it mean to do your job?” You could ask it this way: “What does providing for your family really mean?” I will answer these questions, but first I want to share with you how the LORD revealed these things to me by telling you a story about this game I used to play.
I called the game the beached whale game. It went like this. When I was a pastor I took off every Monday. When my kids were younger I used to get out of bed late on Monday only to meander to the downstairs couch to nap. I was a beached whale.
My children would jump on me, crawl on me, and generally use my body as a play thing–while I slept, snoozed, or slumbered. As they grew older, they became bigger. This meant they were able to crack my ribs and give me bruises.
In order to survive, I needed a new plan for family time on my off day. Mercifully, the LORD intervened and gave me another plan. The first part of His plan was for me to repent from my sin. I had a screwed up way of thinking about work and family.
I saw providing for my family as bringing home the bacon and the beans. If I were really honest, I would tell you the whole truth: I loved my job and it was more than bringing home the bacon and the beans.
Though I could intellectually spin my reasons for working, by framing it as a provisional thing, that was not the whole truth. For example,
- I knew God would ultimately provide for my family. The Bible is clear on this point.
- I was using my job as a way to skirt around responsibility in the home.
- I hoped others would see my provision and give me a pass while at home.
- I rationalized my situation to deceive myself into believing I was doing my part.
No matter how you sliced these things, I was lying. I had to repent. I was not living up to my potential as a Christian man, husband, and father. God was not calling me to check out at home, but to check in.
As I worked through repentance, here were some of the questions I began to ask myself.
- What does it mean to be a 24/7 Christian to my family?
- What does it mean to provide for my family?
- Am I gaming the system in order to get what I want? (Read: Am I selfish?)
- Does my job serve me or am I a slave to my job?
The first thing I had to think through was this idea of providing for my family. I think when most people think about this concept, they immediately think about food, clothing, and shelter.
This is ironic in light of what Christ told us in Matthew 6:33. Why would our first thoughts go to food, clothing, and shelter? To be honest, it really doesn’t matter why we are tempted to think this way.
What really matters is if a person does think this way, will he change his thinking? Provision means more than bringing home the bacon and the beans. Provision also has a spiritual component to it.
Provision is more than raiment–what goes on the body. Provision is also about soul care. My individual family members are a dichotomy–physical and spiritual. They have physical and spiritual needs.
I was meeting their physical needs, but I was not meeting their spiritual needs. This is where your vocation won’t help you. Your job can serve in meeting physical requirements, but your children need you, not your job, to provide the spiritual requirements of their lives.
This is why you can’t check out when you come home from work. Your main job continues after you arrive home from your vocation. Husbands and dads who have a 24/7 understanding of what it means to be a Christian man, have this kind of self-awareness and other-centered perspective.
I call this a plenary (or complete) understanding of provision. The secular man comes home to kick up his heels, hit the remote for the television, and considers his day as done. The Christian man comes home to continue being a Christian.
He does not see his day as done, but a continuation of an opportunity for the glory of God and the good of others. He has work to do. Imagine Christ coming home from work and stopped being Christ. How weird is that? Imagine walking into His home and you see His wife scurrying around doing all of the work.
Then you see Christ reclined, mouth wide open, TV on, and drool running down His jaw. It’s a caricature which I’m sure has never crossed your mind. Why? Because He was a 24/7 Jesus who came to serve rather than to be served (Mark 10:45).
He would put the bacon and the beans in the refrigerator and then tend to His family. With most of their physical provision provided for, He would be thinking about how to meet their spiritual needs.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 6:22-23 (ESV)
He would have clear-cut goals. We see a template for this in the passage from Galatians. Christ would be regularly discerning each family member, assessing their spiritual deficiencies while working His plan to help them to mature in godliness.
This means He would have a plan. Christ is all about planning. The heart of the Gospel is planning (Ephesians 1:4-5). Christ strategized our salvation long before we knew we needed salvation. He began thinking about our spiritual needs in eternity past (Jeremiah 1:5).
The Gospel-centered man is always thinking about the spiritual needs of his family. He can do this because the LORD has already promised to meet his physical needs (Matthew 6:33).
Why spend so much time thinking about work when the Father has promised to give us what we need? We are released from these pressures, while free to think about more important things like the spiritual condition of our family members.
Isn’t this a kindness from the LORD? We work hard, but even in our work we are resting in Sovereign God’s provision. We can now be proactive spiritual assessors and advisors for our family.
This is far better than jettisoning your children off to the church to get their spiritual needs met. Even as the impending death of Jesus was approaching, He had time for the children.
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. – Matthew 19:14-15 (ESV)
His main job was to save the world–quite the arduous task, but He was always in tune with His surroundings. He was not a lazy man, but He was not so focused on one thing that He could not see the needs of those around Him (Mark 8:43-48).
One of the many reasons we love Jesus so much is because He provides so well for our physical and spiritual needs. He’s not a half-provider. He’s a full-service friend. He gives us our daily bread while adjusting and encouraging our spiritual needs along the way.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? – Matthew 16:26 (ESV)
The majority, if not all of the people I counsel are well provided for as far as physical provisions. Some have more than others, but it is rare to counsel a person who has nothing at all.
The sad thing I see with these materially supplied and blessed people is the famine of their souls. Children are being groomed for college, but have grown cold in their walk with God. They are given all the perks of the culture, but they are spiritually deficient.
This is a common commentary in the counseling office. It is as though people think money and material provision will solve their problems. Listen to your friends. What do you hear them talking about when it comes to their children?
Are they more concerned about their education, college choices, and future vocation or are they more concerned about the condition of their souls? Listen to yourself. What do you talk about regarding your children? Where is your point-of-focus?
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1 (ESV)
The reason the sheep was having a brag-fest regarding His shepherd was because of the careful and comprehensive physical and spiritual provision which was given to him. He was content, the true sign of a well-cared for person.
Application for change
- Parent, are you completely caring for your family? Are you a full-service friend to your children?
- Are you focusing more on their souls than on their material needs?
- What would it profit if they gained the whole world and lost their souls in hell?
- How do you need to change after reading this article?
- Will you talk to someone so you guys can carve out a practical plan for change?
For further reading
- When a man’s job becomes everything
- A man and his job and why it can mean everything to him
- You are an alien, so live like one
- I’m a stay-at-home-mom, but I’m thinking about taking a full-time job
- Can I really glorify God as a stay-at-home-mom?
- Mommy Wars – We lay our weapons down
- A man and his job and why it is his identity