Over the years I’ve met many Christians who think that a biblical, traditional position on men’s and women’s roles basically means, “Husbands are responsible for all of the work outside of the home, and wives are responsible for all of the work inside the home.”
But if that’s all there is to biblical genes roles, then what do you do with the teaching—which we explored this past Sunday—that God created Eve to be Adam’s helper? If a husband takes care of all the work outside the home, and a wife takes care of all the work inside the home, then in what sense is she actually helping him? She’s not actually going with him to lend a hand around the office or job site. On the other hand, he does come home from a day at the office or job site and “help out” around the house. So who is helping whom?
I want to suggest that the answer here lies in what we explored two weeks ago: husbands and fathers are the ones ultimately responsible for what God has put under their care.
For example, do you know who is responsible for the children in a home, according to God? “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Dads, bringing up your children is ultimately your responsibility, not your wife’s. By extension, so is your home (c.f. Luke 1:40). You really are the man of the house.
Therefore, you are not helping your wife when you load up the dishwasher after supper. Rather, she was helping you all the times she loaded up the dishwasher while you were at work that week. You were not helping your wife the last time you changed a dirty diaper. Rather, your wife was helping you all the times that she changed diapers when you weren’t around. You’re not helping your wife when you read the Bible to your kids before tucking them into bed. She was helping you with everything she did with the kids while you were at work.
Men, you are ultimately responsible for how your children are raised, for how your home is kept, and for what you and your family do here on this earth. The more you understand this, the more you will appreciate the richness of your wife’s role as your helper.
There’s two further comments I want to make about this big idea.
First, I’m not suggesting that there’s nothing to the scheme of men working outside the home and women working inside the home.
It is true that, before the Industrial Revolution, most industry happened inside the home, which means that men didn’t leave home to go to work. Much like many farmers today, home was their place of work.
Today, we live in a different world than this in which much (most?) income-generating work happens outside the home. In this new reality, it is fitting and appropriate for men to carry the primary responsibility of providing for their families by “going to work.” In other words, I don’t think being a stay-at-home dad is a biblical option.
Nevertheless, a dad must never forget that his responsibility for his wife and children is greater than simply providing for them. When he walks out the front door to go to work, he never stops being responsible for everything that’s still happening behind that door. Thus, what his wife does to care for the home and the children, she does in her role as his helper.
Second, a man must never forget that his sole purpose in life is not just to go to work. Jesus has a mission for his people: “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). And within this great mission we each have a job to do, a role to play, a particular way that Jesus intends to use our lives for His glory on this earth.
All the different elements in your life—your job, your house, your children, your relationships with your neighbours, your ministry at your church—all fit in to this mission given to us by the Lord Jesus.
It is in this context that a husband should view his wife as his helper. In other words, “helping” is about so much more than who does the chores. “Helping” is about a whole-life orientation towards accomplishing the mission that God has given to us. It includes your children, it includes household chores, it includes your job, but it’s about so much more than any one of these things in isolation.
I think one of the most important questions a Christian man can answer is, “In what particular way will I—and my family, if I have one—serve the mission of Christ in our generation?” As a man answers that question, he will be developing a vision for his life and his family. And as he leads his family into fulfilling that vision, both he and his wife will quickly realize the richness, beauty, and significance of her indispensable role as his helper.