Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Should A Husband Expect His Wife to Earn a Living When He is in Christian Ministry?

Faith, by Arthur Hughes. (1832-1915)

This is the subject today, which will be answered. You probably know some of the things I will say, and why.  It is a question that appears often on my search area.

As usual, this is my opinion based on experience,  observation, Bible study and the testimonies from other women.

Preachers of the past considered the ministry a career, just like any other job, and as such, made certain to raise sufficient funds in order to support their families and pay for their cost of the work they provided. As it was back then, preachers must have the money to provide for the house and the family.

As in any job in the self-employment category, be it a house-builder, private truck-driver, farmer, piano teacher, personal accountant or anything else, there are supplies and expenses involved. In addition to the family support, preachers  must have a working fund to provide the supplies they need.

If you marry a man who is already a preacher, he is probably supporting himself, and if he is not able to do that with preaching, he may have other jobs on the side. 

 The woman who marries into the ministry understands she will not be married to a very rich man, and adjusts as best she can when she believes she should be home and really wants to fulfill that role in a natural way. She knows beforehand of her husband's career choice and can make plans to adjust to it. When he begins his preaching career at the start of the marriage, it allows the family to mold to meet the financial challenges.

Painting by Victor Gabriel Gilbert, French 1847-1943

There is another problem, however, when a woman marries a man who has a regular job with a decent wage, and then later in the marriage he decides to give up secular employment for a lower pay job in ministry, or even a no-pay job in ministry. The family has adjusted to the income the husband provides, and when he becomes a minister, this changes drastically and can cause a lot of problems.

A decision like this should be weighed carefully if it puts the wife at risk of having to give up her home and children while she goes out to work full-time to support her husband. There is nothing in the Bible that says a woman should be the provider when her husband chooses to go into a low, or no-paying ministry.  Therefore, he has the duty to  make sure that he can raise or find a source of income, before he disturbs his home life by making the woman be the provider. If he cannot get support or make an income for his ministry, he should get a paying job with wages that are paid regularly.

In a previous post I wrote, "Should Christian Husbands Send Their Wives to Work?" (the most popular post next to "How to Adjust a Sewing Pattern" (which amuses me even though the two are not really that unrelated), it shows  scriptures such as Titus 2 and First Timothy 5:14 which give women at home the wonderful opportunity to be busy and pursue the important things of the home and family.  The posts tells why a man cannot contradict scripture to fulfill his own "calling" or ambition.

These days I have heard of all kinds of preposterous things being called ministry, such as  beating the drums in a band, ballet dancing, oil painting, singing performances and entertainment, all which require a substantial income to conduct full-time.

It is interesting how many times people will call something  a ministry while violating the very reason for the ministry. A scriptural ministry will not require the wife to become the provider. If the scriptures are our guide, then no ministry should be taken up in contradiction to other scriptures. 

I doubt you can find any of these talents I mentioned being used as paid ministries in the Bible. Preachers were paid, and maybe Dorcas was given donations when she sewed for the poor (we do not know), but ministry was understood to be the preaching of the Gospel for the conversion of souls to Christ. Most of the new "ministries" I hear about are not like this at all, nor is anyone hardly persuaded to  obey the gospel.

The above list is quite a bit different from ministries like food distribution (Gleaners), providing housing and shelter (Shelters and local Missions) and feeding the homeless (Soup Kitchen).

The soup kitchens, shelters and gleaners are places where volunteers donate their time while keeping their regular jobs. Financial donations from people will pay for the food and shelter. Individuals or families  who want to minister full-time in them, will have a pension to live on or are supported by another job.  Homemakers sometimes contribute portions of their time to these ministries. These things do not require personal artistic talent or skill
as much as personal sacrifice, time, donation of products, or money.

On the other hand, a man who is in a music or entertainment ministry serves a different purpose that is not as desperate as described in the previous paragraph.  It is not even as desperate as the service a preacher provides. It is something else, completely. A music ministry, for example, is personally fulfilling to the person with musical talent while sharing it with others. The only difference between someone who wants to do it for a church and someone who wants to do it for the public, is the way the money is earned. The one who does it for ministry expects to be supported on church funds, like a preacher does. 

Many preachers I know who serve small congregations raise their own support, by sending out a "support letter." They contact all their friends, fellow church members in other places, and relatives, and ask for monthly support to be sent. They raise this support in order to pay their bills and stay in the ministry, and allow their wives to continue to be full time homemakers.  This is a wise way to make provision for the family when a small church cannot fully provide a monthly salary. If they cannot get support or a living wage from the church, they should get another job that guarantees wages for time spent at work.

If a man whose wife is home is insisting she "go to work" to support his ministry, he is not following the way  the prophets and apostles were supported. There is no evidence their wives became the breadwinners to enable their husbands to be ministry.  These preachers lived on the support of the congregations and individual Christians they ministered to and served. Although women could donate to the support of a preacher, there is nothing in scripture to show wives going to work so the husbands could preach.

 Preachers and people in ministry should get regular jobs if they cannot be supported by individuals or a church. There can be an advantage in this, as the church is less likely to be offended when the preacher buys something or seems to be getting ahead or living beyond the way the members of the church (who support him with their hard earned money) live. Another advantage of having a secular job is it makes the preacher less isolated and gives him more contacts for ministry. 

Booker T. Washington, who began Tuskegee Institute (b.1856, d.1915) wrote that he was disappointed in the men who wanted to become preachers. He said too many of them were just doing it because they thought preachers lived an easier life and did not have to work. The preaching was harder because there was very little pay. The salary then had to be raised, which was another full-time job going around talking to people and soliciting their donations. After gathering support for a year, a man had to then go on another fund-raising tour to reinforce the previous support, a trip which took more time away from his ministry.  Booker T. Washington advised them to get some training in a skill so they could provide for themselves if they went into ministry.

Booker T. Washington

Today it is the same. When a preacher raises support, he can then devote time to  teaching, preaching, visitation,  weddings, funerals and such, but he has to take time out to revive his supporter's interest in supporting him. He has to send out newsletters of his progress in the local church . Sometimes his supporters will want to come and check him out, stay a few weeks and visit to discern his needs. So much time is spent on fund-raising that very little real ministry is accomplished. That is why churches often give a set wage to preachers.

Raising funds seems like a lot of trouble but in any self-employment, there is a certain amount of the same activity. The man who owns his own business will have to take time to keep investors interested, erstwhile actually doing the job he likes.  It is certainly more trouble than having a secular job that guarantees a certain wage, which I think is brilliant and very Biblical.  But raising support or getting the local congregation to support a man in ministry is far more noble than insisting the wife provide the living so the husband can be a minister.  

If a man cannot provide for his own in ministry, he should wait until he is retired and has a pension to live on. If he does not want to burden a small church  to provide him a salary, he should raise support. If he is working in a large church, he should insist on a normal wage if they can provide it, but he should not look at his wife as a resource for funds for the following reason:

*It puts more stress on the wife, which will bring more uneasiness and stress into the home.

*It turns the woman's focus away from the home and on to making money. At the end of the day, the real emotional support she should be giving to her husband and the praises and admiration he needs from her, will not always be available. Her emotions and her time will be "spent."

*It contradicts God's command for women in the church to be busy at home. (See Titus 2 and 1st Timothy 5:14. 

*Also, look at New Testament examples where the evangelists worked as tent makers or other things to provide for themselves, or gathered money from churches for their travels.

*Instead of developing the soft, feminine personality that comes from being a relaxed and happy keeper at home, the wife who is sent to work against her will and against her religious convictions, may form a caustic, snappish, hard-edged personality, impatient with her family. Denied the leisurely time it takes to really manage a home with thought, and unable to concentrate on her housework, she may begin to hate the house and hate housework. As she goes to work each day and fights the world, she loses her femininity. In the previous post is a link to a radio broadcast where my guest explains how little attention can be paid to detail at home when there are other demands on a woman's time. She shares how going to work hampered her ability to care for her home in the way she really needed to.

*The husband cannot and should not hold his head up in society or in church or the family if he has required his wife to go to work outside the home to support him. Unless his back is broken or he has severe brain damage, he should not expect this.  God made a man to work and be a provider for several reasons. Some which I can think of are: It builds him as a man--increases his masculinity, and it gives him personal dignity. It also gives the wife a feeling of security and well-being so she can more naturally attend to home living  and giving the house a wonderful atmosphere.

*If he is in ministry but his wife is in business to support him financially, there is less chance she can have the time and energy to provide the social life and hospitality in her home that is so necessary for ministers. As a preacher's wife, I have always had to keep this in mind. Keeping the house ready to receive visitors is part of supporting your husband's ministry.  If you are out working, you will always be pressed for time, and your interest in having company will diminish.  

*A minister who sends his wife to work is contradicting the Word of God he claims to be ministering, in order to gain his position.  I do not even believe the wives should get jobs when the husbands are in preacher's colleges. If a man wants to go to college to study preaching, he should raise his support first, and then enroll.  A woman can be a housewife in every stage of life if she is determined to do that, but a man must support her role, as well.  As Mr. Knightly told Emma,  "I cannot have my happiness while destroying your Father's happiness," a man would be wise to fnd a way to  fulfill his dream of being a minister without destroying his wife's dream of being a keeper at home.

*Regarding the lame excuse that being a "helpmate" means to help her husband by providing the money: This only applies in helping him to determine how to manage the money and wise ways to use it.  Too many ministers are using the helpmate-clause of the Bible as leverage to send their wives to work.

*Sending his wife to work may cause them to "lose" their children. Though they may grow up in the home, they suffer a spiritual and mental detachment from the values of their parents when a mother is not home because she is supporting the father's ministry.  A father in ministry is hard enough (he will often be absent from the home while helping others), but losing their mother from the home  during the most impressionable years is worse. When a man goes into ministry, he should make provision for the family and make sure it will not cause a lot of upheaval in family life or in the marriage.

It is different when the children are grown and the older couple decide to take the retirement and go into ministry. In this case, neither one of them will have to get a secular job, and both are free to aid the church without asking for money. However, men need to consider the consequences of sending their wives to work, whether for ministry or not. It can affect the woman so deeply that it will put her emotions off-kilter.  It can affect the children, as well. The bonds of the family are developed in the home, and these bonds are too casually broken when money becomes more important than the home life.

All that being said, the Bible states that a laborer is worthy of his hire, and that the ox should not be prevented from eating while treading out the grain.  A man in ministry should make sure he can get a living from it and not expect to provide it "for free" and then send his wife to work to provide for it.  The money should come from the church he serves or from personal support he has raised. He can use his own investments, or an income from a retirement fund, but he should not use his wife as a support source for a life he has chosen. She can support him in many other ways, through providing hospitality to others and spiritual encouragement to him.

While discussing the aforementioned reasons, an objection invariably arises that a man's profession should always be given priority. To that, I say that a man's family should come first, even before his business, but to the modern mind it is interpreted as saying he should quit work and stay home with his children. On the contrary, he should choose work and be able to support his family financially, but not choose a work that will destroy the loyalty and trust of his family. If he chooses a ministry and requires his wife to get a wage, his children will lose respect for him, and for her, as neither parent will have time for the children or the home.  Ministry has to be monitored carefully, too, so that  it does not absorb all of a man's time, and so that he will not "lose" his own children while trying to save the souls of others.

There are also the usual arguments about ministry being first;  in other words, a man's devotion to the Lord will always come before anything else, but obviously, if a man really loves the Lord and knows he will be accountable to Him all his life and at the end of it, he will take care of his family first and not use ministry as an excuse to quit earning a living. Your family is the greatest and most neglected mission field and your marriage and children are your first ministry.  If ministry harms the family, it is not really preaching the truth.

A man is not really serving God Biblically when he puts his wife in conflict with Titus 2 and the keepers at home scriptures. He is neglecting his most important ministry of providing for his family when he pressures his wife to get a job or spend a lot of time at home trying to make money. That does not mean she is totally forbidden to find ways to make money, but it must not become first in her life.

As the Bible says, two are better than one, and if you as a wife are being challenged and confused by a man who is using ministry as a reason to send you to work (or, in reality, a second job), then you need to make sure of some things before he goes in to ministry. 

A wife is supposed to be a good helpmate; that is, to be a helper to her husband. And to do so, you must become a good counselor and adviser and be able to see danger ahead, like the ship's captain's first mate. The first mate will not take over the ship unless the captain is gone, but he will help the captain succeed in his own job.

 A man's first job is to provide for his family.  You must insist he raise a family support fund and a working fund before he quits his job.  If he is already in ministry and pressuring  you to work, he should show you that he, too, is willing to go work at a second job to support his ministry. It is his responsibility to replace his income with either a part-time job or raised support, and not depend on the wife being the provider.

As for myself, my family has and is living on different sources of income all at the same time, through part time secular jobs, donations, church funds, and private enterprise. Here in the US people do not depend on their jobs for their entire source of income, since those jobs might not last a person's lifetime. So, whether or not a man is in ministry, he makes sure there are back up plans for financial plans. 

The wife should not be considered a source of income beyond what she contributed from the home, by her frugal ways and intelligent management, as preventing expensive damage to things, and selling things when there is no longer a use for them. However the wife needs to be careful not to be so obsessed with money that she turns her life toward it even in the home, for money-making can take over home living to the point that real home life and real homemaking is neglected.

  This is one blessing of a husband's provision: it allows the wife to devote herself to taking care of things at home. One blessing of the wife being a homemaker is that it allows the husband to devote himself to his success at his work, while his wife helps him by providing for him at home. The two of them work together for each other's success.


Anonymous said...

Here in NZ most preachers are paid from the Church they are accepted in to. And they can make big money by the time the cost of the house they live in/ hospitality/fuel allowance/electricity/telephone is added on top of the base rate. I have seen lots of churches in the last 5 years not replace their preachers as they can no longer afford to pay them what is expected and in most cases the members of the churches are getting older and older with no young ones coming in to back them up so to speak. Personally, I like the way the Amish run their churches whereby the man appointed still works his farm and supports himself financially as he sees it as God's calling on his life. The Amish do support their minister in many other ways.

Lydia said...

That method of support sustained preachers back in the day when the congregations were large and when gas and housing were cheaper and before people were forced into debt. Today the local church cannot do it, so the ministers live on their own support they raise or on a pension or investment or a side job. Whatever way they support themselves, they should not push their wives to get jobs to support ministry. Sometimes there is some intimidation involved when it comes to ministry, as people will think the wife isn't a believer and does not love God and is not willing to make a sacrifice to support ministry. I just wanted to set the record straight that ministry is not some special job that allows men to contradict scripture by sending wives to work.

Blessed Homemaking said...

This is excellent, Lydia. Thanks so much for going to such lengths and detail to share on this subject. I'm very thankful for your wisdom and experience in this area.

Amelia said...

Excellent article. I just sent this to my entire family to keep on file. Many don't seem to understand the sweet office and ministry of a homemaker is truly a full time job.

It makes me sad that wives are under such pressure but is it any wonder coupled with today's society... Oh, the beguiling deception that is out there.

Blessings to you for taking the time to write this article.

Lydia said...

Thank you. I left out a few things that I had hoped to include on a video but have not had time for. One thing that happens is a man's ministry does not include his family. He spends too much time away from home and developers a bonding with a lot of other people and his family really notices. He forgets that the family was created by God before any "ministry". Men should only choose ministry if it embraces the entire family, but the family itself should be his ministry. If he wants to be a preacher, it is a great advantage to him to be a good father and husband. Ministries are often unrelated to hime and family, and rarely teach women their great importance in the home. Men take off on these ministry careers with such fervor they sometimes leave their families in the dust. It becomes apparent that the minister has reinvented the family, and has created his own version of the home.

The wife is fixed to work to support this ministry and is intimidate by people thinking she is not really sold on the ministry (which people think comes directly from God and cannot be refuted) if she sees how bad it is for the home. After all, it is believed a man gets a special calling outnof Heaven and the woman has to go along with it. If a man is supposed to have a calling that breaks up the family like that, he should have gotten the inspiration before he married.

The other thing that is a problem I would like to write about is the Ladies Day speakers the churches often invite. So many young women will go to these, hoping for encouragement in their home life (marriage, chikdren, home) and the speaker is a woman who has failed at home with her own family and is a career speaker. She never speaks about Titus 2 or marriage or anything. While the lunch tables are beautifully done, there seems little reason to have a women-only celebration when nothing is ever said about what the Bibke teaches concerning women and their great woek of marriage, chikdren, hospitality, food preparation and health, clothing the family, teaching younger women, training their children to know the Truth, keeping a multigenerstional family, caring for parents, and a host of other things. Instead they talk about things you can't really describe in concrete terms, amd some of them just perform a singing or art show.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lydia for your reply in clearing up how the church fully supporting their ministers came about. I agree with everything you have written.

Anonymous said...

Lydia wrote.......The other thing that is a problem I would like to write about is the Ladies Day speakers the churches often invite. So many young women will go to these, hoping for encouragement in their home life (marriage, chikdren, home) and the speaker is a woman who has failed at home with her own family and is a career speaker. She never speaks about Titus 2 or marriage or anything. While the lunch tables are beautifully done, there seems little reason to have a women-only celebration when nothing is ever said about what the Bibke teaches concerning women and their great woek of marriage, chikdren, hospitality, food preparation and health, clothing the family, teaching younger women, training their children to know the Truth, keeping a multigenerstional family, caring for parents, and a host of other things. Instead they talk about things you can't really describe in concrete terms, amd some of them just perform a singing or art show.

My Reply to this: I am hearing what you are saying. A few years ago now there was a women's only Homeschool Conference here in NZ and one of the topics that was going to be discussed was the "marriage bed" but they advertised it more crudely than that. I told my friend I would not attend such a thing but she went along and later regretted it. There is no difference between the way the world is and the way some of the "Christian" meetings are run. How I long for the days of the "old time" type of preaching and worshipping of the Lord. In NZ most churches are run as a social club and as I said before there is nothing to attract the unbeliever to want to come into the church. Back in the day when hellfire and brimstone was preached fervently and often by a circuit preacher and in a tent many were saved because the truth of living without Jesus was told to them in no uncertain terms and man was not scared of what other men would think of him.
A lot of church now is " show time". I used to go to a camp that encouraged all the things of being a wife/mother when I was much younger and it had very good honest teaching.

Lydia said...


It seems that a trend has taken flight with the normal things we do in churches, and some of it is through feminism, where women are not wanting to strengthen the home by staying home or encouraging the men to provide honorably for the home. Ladies day classes are sometimes designed to get women to lose confidence and get out of the home.

Rain San Martin said...

Such amazing wisdom here!

Polly said...

I saw this play out not long ago. I was at a coffee shop several years back and noticed a man and his wife and their two young children sitting at the next table. Soon an older lady came in to meet them. I wasn't trying to overhear, but they were talking loud enough so I couldn't help but overhear. They were interviewing her for a nanny position. The wife was a physician, and the husband had just been hired as pastor at one of our town's churches, and had not yet begun. They needed a nanny to care for their children. The stress that the couple was showing was thick and clear, before he even started work. The pastor-to-be in particular seemed almost panicked at finding some help. They impressed upon the nanny the importance of her job, of the fact that they needed someone to help with the family, because the overwhelmed husband said "I can't be a pastor and take care of them all the time." The wife would be working full-time in the city as a doctor.

I remember going home in a haze of amazement and telling my husband what I'd heard.

A few years later, that pastor had to step down from his job and leave the ministry because of emotional breakdown and physical exhaustion.

Lydia said...

Prolly I cannot help but think part of the reason this man became so distraught and upset and unable to handle his job was the nagging thought of the chikdren not being cared for by their own mother. I have heard men say it is easier to work when they know the mother is there livimg out the family's goals and values.