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Eric Myers' Man of the House - What Did Paul Say?

April 17th, 2014 12:37 pm by Eric Myers

Eric Myers' Man of the House - What Did Paul Say?

We are looking these days at some of the scriptural references I have heard cited at times by both men and women to provide the reasoning in their minds for why men should be working outside the home. Last time we discussed Genesis chapter 3. "But, that's in the Old Testament," some may say, as if any Old Testament reference is not applicable. Well, there are a few in the New Testament also. One is what the Apostle Paul mentions in his second letter to the Thessalonians.

10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." -- 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Context is always important in understanding a verse of scripture. The context of this statement is verses 6-15 and the issue is easy to see -- idleness. This problem of idleness is mentioned in verses 6, 7, and 11. Paul's intent here is to instruct his readers toward the pattern of gainful daily labor which he modeled while he was with them so that they would not be a burden to others. He was not, as some have suggested, establishing a principle that men are to work in order to be the financial providers for the home.

Idleness had to be an issue in Thessalonica because he states it again in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 4:11-12). The general principle here is the recognition to provide for one's own needs so as not to be a burden to others. Quite specifically he says in verse 12 that people are to "earn the bread they eat".

Most likely these people would have been men because in Paul's day men did nearly all of the work outside the home. But nowhere here or in any of his other letters does Paul expressly state that men are to always work in order to provide financially for the family.

Conversely, there are places where Paul encourages young widows to have children and manage their homes, such as in 1 Timothy 5:14. But, as the larger context of that chapter explains, this instruction could be interpreted to be less of a universal principle that women are to "stay home and care for children" and more of a situational reality given that they are still young and are misusing their free time.

Our conclusion from this text can be simply to strive toward the pattern of gainful employment for ourselves so we will not be a burden to others. From the at-home parent perspective, it is my feeling that if your spouse is financially providing for your family then your family is honoring Paul's instruction. Your spouse happens to be in the role of breadwinner and you happen to be in the role of caregiver and homemaker. There's no shame in this role and there need be no sense of guilt either. After all, anyone who has stayed at home with kids will echo this truth - you're working just as much!

There is one other reference cited on occasion and we'll tackle it next.

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