Is it Biblical for the Wife to earn more than the Husband?

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As a stay-at-home dad, I am in a way at the fringe of what society expects husband/father to be. Father/husband is known to be the breadwinner and the one to provide for the family.

Now, no one has confronted us about this. But once in a while, we can feel there is a subtle expectation and at times, disappointment that our family is running counter to this.

This may sound like an assumption. But I will say for those who are complementarian, this idea that the husband should make more than the wife is assumed as Biblical.

Before I continue, I will say that in most camps, there is a spectrum of beliefs. Everyone is different and believes one camp to a certain degree.

This can be between liberal and conservatives or complementarian and egalitarian or Calvinism and Arminianism. People’s beliefs tend to be spread over a spectrum. Two people may profess they are liberal but the degree of liberalism they believe in can be vastly different.

It ain’t rocket science but this is important to keep in mind because we can easily pigeon-hole people into one group without realizing they don’t fit into what we assume that group to be.

Okay, let’s get back to this.

So is it Biblical for the husband to earn more than the wife?

For me, there are no verses in the Bible to support this.

However, there are these verses, which I believe:

  1. Husband is the head of the household (Ephesians 5:23). This means also finances. Just because one person makes more doesn’t mean they have the say in how the money is spent.

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

Ephesians 5:23 (NKJV)
  1. Husband’s role is to make sure the family is not starving (1 Timothy 5:8). If the household has trouble paying bills, the husband must work to support the family.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV)
  1. Wife can work and engage in making money freely. In fact, Proverbs 31 appears to show that this is commendable.

My background is in IT and my wife is a doctor. When we got together, I was going into ministry and working as a Christian NGO. My role there was volunteer, meaning I don’t even get a salary.

If the idea is that husband has to make more than the wife, does this mean I have to stop doing ministry and earn more than my wife? Or does this mean my wife should stop working or take a pay cut, instead? The reality is that if I am in ministry, there is no way I can never make more than my wife as a doctor. I don’t adhere to the prosperity Gospel so I will never be ‘rich’.

Now, what does work mean? Does it mean I have to be in the office 9-5 or 8-6? What is the requirement? For me, this is actually not Biblical (not Bible-based). This idea of working 9-5 is based on our society’s thinking.

What if I am an investor who made a lot of money in the past year or so in one or two investments? I mean, what if I don’t work in the office 9-5 and through the investment made a lot of money? What if I spend a few minutes a day and make enough for my family and more? Is that considered as working?

What if I am pursuing a Masters of Divinity full-time? Does this mean I have a part-time job in order to fulfill the idea that the husband has to work?

When I look at the Bible, one thing that is clear to me is that it is actually not very strict in how husband and wife should work. As I mentioned before, the key is:

  1. Husband as the head of the household (Ephesians 5:23)
  2. Husband is to ensure there is enough to take care of the family (1 Timothy 5:8)

Other than that, I don’t see anything rules or regulations that are needed to impose upon husband and wife regarding working and who should earn more.

For me, I see there is a separation between work and pay. I work because God called me to work and my work glorifies Him. The pay is because God provides for me. This means God can provide for me in various ways, one of which is through a salary.

The problem is that we based our value of someone, even between spouses, on how much money we bring in. For me, this is a flaw and this is not even Biblical. The Bible never values someone based on their income or riches. Why? Because riches always point to God as the provider. To do anything less, put it as someone’s skill or talent, is idolatry.

This is why the Lord’s prayer includes asking God to give us our daily bread:

Give us today our daily bread.

Matthew 5:11 (NKJV)

Why? Because we are to trust in God as our Provider and not as money (or our skills or our talents).

One more point, why is it so important for the husband to earn more than the wife? Is this have to do with ego? If it is, then we are basing our identity on how much money we make, which is also idolatry. Shouldn’t we base our identity on our relationship with Jesus?

Anyways, it was a good discussion with my wife about this. For me, right now as a stay-at-home dad, my investment/work is discipling my kids. But that’s a topic for another post.

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By Cliff

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