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Scenario #1 – Dad comes home to his refuge. He had a long day at work and can’t wait to get to his castle so he can kick it into neutral and have some “me time.”
Scenario #2 – Dad comes home to continue his primary job, which is leading his family. He had a long day at his vocation but realizes his career is only a component of his primary responsibility.
In the first scenario, the dad sees providing for his family as his primary responsibility. He interprets the word “providing” as working a job. He has a narrow and sub-biblical view of providing for his family. He sees “provision” as making money so they can have a beautiful home, plenty of food, more than enough clothes, and a few other American-centric benefits. We call this the American dream.
When the Bible speaks to us about familial provision, it takes a different approach from what most Christian-Americans think. The reason for this is because the Lord wants to release us from the “job trap” while teaching us to trust Him primarily for what we will eat, wear, and where we will live.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
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
Christ instructs us about His ability to provide what we need but does not expect us to stop working, as though we are to become passive receptacles of the Lord’s bounty. What Jesus is doing is helping us to think rightly about our vocations—to live well in the tension of His provision and our effort. 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 work so hard at our jobs that we under-provide spiritually. 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 most unfortunate 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 that others will see all that they are doing on the job and maybe not require as much from them at home.
This error in judgment raises the question, “What does it mean for a man to do his job?” You could ask it this way: “What does a man providing for his family 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 with my children.
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. I would meander to the downstairs couch to nap for a while. I was a beached whale.
My children would jump on me, crawl on me, and generally use my body as a plaything while I snoozed. As they grew older, they became larger, which meant that they were able to crack my ribs and give me bruises. To survive, I needed a new plan for “family time” on my off day. Mercifully, the Lord intervened and gave me another idea. The first part of His plan was for me to repent from my sin. I had a messed-up way of thinking about work and family.
I saw providing for my family as bringing home the bacon. If I were honest, I would tell you the whole truth: I loved my job, and it was more than bringing the hog to the house. Though I could intellectually spin my reasons for working, by framing it as a “provisional thing,” it was not the whole truth. For example,
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 active repentance, there were some questions I began to ask myself.
The first thing I had to think through was this idea of providing for my family. When most people think about this concept of provision, they immediately think about food, clothing, and shelter. This response is ironic in light of what Christ told us in Matthew 6:33. Why would our first thoughts go to food, clothing, and shelter?
Providing means more than bringing home the bacon and the beans. Provision also has a spiritual component to it. It’s more than clothing—what goes on the body. It also means soul care. My 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 reality 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 elements of their lives.
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 consider his day as done. The Christian man comes from work to continue being a hard-working follower of Christ. He does not see his day as done.
He continues working because of the opportunity to glorify God and benefit others. 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 while He’s doing nothing productive.
You see Christ reclining, mouth wide open, TV on, and drool running down His jaw. It’s a caricature that I’m sure has never crossed your mind. Why? Because He was a 24/7 Jesus who came to serve rather than others serving Him (Mark 10:45). He would put the bacon in the refrigerator and tend to the 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
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 responsibility 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 your career when the Father has promised to give you what you need? He releases you from these pressures while freeing you to think about more important things like the spiritual condition of your family members.
Isn’t this a kindness from the Lord? You work hard, but even in your work, you are resting in Sovereign God’s provision. You can now be a proactive spiritual assessor and advisor for your family. This worldview is far better than jettisoning your children off to the church meetings and activities 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
His main job was to save the world—quite the arduous task, but He was always in tune with the surroundings. He was not a lazy man, but He was not so focused on His primary job—saving the world—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
The majority, if not all of the people I counsel, live in enough material provision. Some have more than others, but it is rare to counsel a person who has nothing at all. The sad thing that 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 give their kids all the perks of the culture, but they are spiritually deficient. This result is an all-to-common commentary in the counseling office. It is as though people think money and material provision will solve their problems.
Listen to your friends.
Listen to yourself.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1
The reason David was having a brag-fest about His shepherd was because of the careful and comprehensive physical and spiritual provision that God gave to him. He was content, the real sign of a well-cared-for person.