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Eric Myers' Man of the House - Does Submit Equal Homemaker

April 29th, 2014 4:34 pm by Eric Myers

Eric Myers' Man of the House - Does Submit Equal Homemaker

Today we will look at the final scriptural reference I have heard cited at times by both men and women to provide the reasoning for why men should be working outside the home. This reference has always generated some sort of response from both men and women alike. Again, there is a hugely important theme here that has a broad application but, when misapplied, can create difficulty with relationships and gender roles.

The verse is written by the apostle Paul and is found in Ephesians chapter 5. The section reads:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

What people reference this section in support of a decision regarding work it sounds something like, "Well, a wife is supposed to submit to her husband in everything and so she is to stay home and he is to work. After all, the husband is the head of the wife." The implied tone is one of control. The resulting logic goes like this: since the husband is the head of the wife, and the wife is commanded to submit to her husband, then the husband can make whatever decision he feels is best for the family and, if he believes he is to be the financial provider and she is to remain as the homemaker, then those are the gender roles that must be followed.

One implication of this logic is that if this arrangement were the decision of the husband for the household, it would not only be disrespectful to challenge his authority by his wife, but a sin. That's heavy stuff.

Whether you agree or disagree with this logical pattern is not my concern here. What is my concern is to help people recognize the tension that would arise for a family who believe this if, by some unforeseen circumstances, the man found himself caring for the kids! This is an example where a theological view can add additional anxiety to the already challenging role of being the at-home caregiver. However, I think this tension is unnecessary when looking at these verses. Let me explain.

Importantly, note that nowhere in this entire section (whose context begins in verse 20 of chapter 4) is there any mention of working to provide for a family's daily needs or who is to do that work. There's a reason for this. The reason is that this section has nothing to do with economic roles and everything to do with the character traits and behavioral habits of those who are following Christ. Because one is following Christ, Christ must therefore be leading, and those that are following are submitting to His leadership.

The whole context is discussing the general principle of spiritual submission to Christ as a reflection of our relationship with Christ and our position to Christ. Now, the specific context of these verses serves to narrow this broad focus to families and provide a general theme for family relationship. But, to use this general theme of family relationship and apply it specifically toward the idea of work or income roles for a family was not the intention of Paul.

There are several scriptures that deal directly with work and with providing for the family which are very helpful and encouraging for at-home caregivers, especially men who are in that role. We'll begin looking at these next. 

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