Provider Role in Marriage

Straight Talk

The Question:

I grew up with an understanding (both scripturally and socially) that it is a man’s place within a marriage to be the main financial provider. I am unable as an adult to find this scriptural basis. What can be inferred from a biblical perspective on the husband’s role?

Pam from California

The Answer
Part 1: Is the husband the main provider?

Is the husband the main provider? (Part 1)

It does seem hard to find a direct command for the man to be the main financial provider in marriage, doesn’t it? Society has mainly operated on that premise for a very long time – millennia in fact. And yet, is there nothing scripturally to back it up?

If we want to understand marriage roles, a very good place to start is in Genesis with the first marriage. What does that tell us? I don’t know what would have happened if our first parents had not sinned but the truth is that they did. Thereafter they bore particular curses, passed down to the human race – and their respective sex after them.

This was the curse given to Eve: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) Now listen to Adam’s curse: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17)

The argument could be made that within those two curses, we derive our customary roles for husband and wife. Women’s role in marriage would center in child bearing and men’s would center in work and supply of family need. Let’s not be too dogmatic about that however. We should not lock into any roles legalistically as has often been done in the past.

There is room for many different arrangements in godly marriages. Remember the wife in Proverbs 31? She was quite industrious: she bought and sold her own fields and made her own decision about how to spend her earnings. She gets nothing but praise from her husband and the community.

Here are some roles for husbands worth attention which I did find scriptural basis for.

  • “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life…” (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
  • “Husband, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them.” (Colossians 3:19)
  • “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the heard of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
  • “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

If husbands perform all those roles well, they have taken the better part. Let the marriage partners decide mutually about all the other divisions of labor.