Christian. Breadwinner. Wife.

December 1st, 2014

Near the end of Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book “Revival,” he brings up Wesley’s sermon “The Use of Money” which has three seemingly simple rules: Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. As a Christian (and American) woman, the “gain all you can” is the part that is hard to sort through in a society that has (I think recently) revalued a “traditional” role for wives to not work for pay and for husbands to bring home the bacon (tofu in my house) solo.

For the last five years, I've brought home more income than my husband. Over the last three years, we’ve added two terrific kids to our family. For the last year, I've brought home the decisive majority of our income as my husband pursues a Ph.D. I will continue to do so (gladly!) until he graduates, and possibly beyond. Throughout all of this, I’ve had my share of well-intentioned Christians ask me when I'm going to quit working.

It's tempting to think that something isn't "right" in our family. That we don't have a biblically-based marriage. That I'm undermining my husband and our relationship. I doubt that I'm alone in feeling that, because according to the Pew Research Center, more women are becoming the breadwinner in their relationship. According to the organization's 2013 Breadwinner Moms report, 5.1 million American women are married moms who are the breadwinner. The percentage of moms who are the sole or primary breadwinner has increased by nearly four times since 1960. There has even been a best-selling book published in the last year, “When She Makes More,” that has been covered by major media sites such as Time and Forbes.

So while we have a definite cultural shift taking place, I think it's important to look to the Bible for wisdom to discern if this shift is one that Christians should embrace or one of which we should be wary. Searching the Bible, I haven’t seen anything that says a husband should make more money than his wife. I definitely haven’t seen any scripture that says a woman shouldn’t work outside the home. (Whatever that means… I work from a home office for pay.)

Let’s explore this a bit more. Does the Bible say that women should not pursue the gifts and talents given to them by God if they result in them making more money than their husband? Or that men should not choose to spend more time raising children if that means making less money, or no money at all?

Here is some of what I do see:

Proverbs 31 - “A wife of noble character who can find?... She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 - “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

No indication that men work should for pay and women shouldn’t. Or that women should work for pay and men shouldn’t. Or even a distinction by parental status — after all, the Proverbs 31 woman does have children.

So what would a Christian and biblical example look like for the distribution of work in a marriage? Presumably it can take lots of different shapes. Here’s what my husband and I have thus far discerned, and are trying to pursue together:

• Each spouse pursues careers and vocations that allows them to flourish in their God-given skills and talents, to the greater glory of God. This could mean working for pay. Or raising children. Or volunteering. Or all of the above.

• Each spouse may make career or vocational sacrifices at this or that time in the relationship out of service to the other. And the sacrifice is reciprocated when possible.

• The needs of children are met and balanced with the needs of both parents to pursue what they have been called to do.

We certainly don’t have it all figured out, and the way that each of us “figures things out” will look different across relationships. I would love to hear what the three principles above look like in your life.

Lindsey blogs at and is the author of “Mortgage Free in 3.”

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