HOT TOPIC: Is it a sin to be a stay-at-home dad?

OK, depending on your religious affiliation, some of y’all might be totally laughing at the absurdity of that question, but apparently this is quite the issue in some circles.  Recently, Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll (for those of my friends who are curious, this is not the church we’ve been attending since moving to Seattle) and his wife made some statements in response to a question about stay-at-home dads which pretty much said that it’s a sin and one worthy of church discipline.  The blogosphere is hopping about this one, so I figured I’d join-in and make it this week’s HOT TOPIC question.

First, watch this video:

And then, I highly encourage you to read what others are saying about this.  I’ll give you my brief opinion, but seriously, others are saying it way better than me, so I’m not gonna pretend to have an original thought about it. Make sure to check-out the comments sections on these blogs, that’s where the real conversations are happening.

Bob Hyatt: “Driscoll on Stay-at-Home Dads”

iMonk: “Is it a sin to be a stay-at-home dad?”

Jared Wilson: “Is being a stay-at-home dad a sin?”  Part 1 Part 2

72-27:  “When Gender Roles Become Straight-jackets”

So here’s what I think:

I think this is ridiculous.  Driscoll totally misinterprets the verses he uses to support his position.  Contextually, there is absolutely no relation between a man who refuses to work and allows his family’s needs to remain unmet because of laziness and a man who makes a joint decision with his wife to be the one who works from the home because of what is financially and/or relationally healthy for their family at that time.  Not only are the Driscolls misinterpreting Scripture, they’re using it in an incredibly legalistic way.  (despite their disclaimer that that’s not what they’re doing–sorry, saying it doesn’t change it)  There is no biblical mandate against stay-at-home dads, and a father who does the necessary work of raising children and taking care of the home full-time IS taking care of his family.  Just because he may not be bringing home a paycheck (or maybe he is working part-time and is bringing home a smaller paycheck) doesn’t mean that he isn’t working or doing his part in contributing to the health of his family.  As a stay-at-home mom, I’m a little offended at the implication that a man doing my job is considered to be lazy and not contributing to the family.

What about the mom who has a well-paying job with great healthcare who is married to the dad who is a student?  Or has a lower-paying job like a part-time minister?  What about the mom who is incredibly passionate about her job and is doing great work in the world and the dad who really hasn’t figured-out his long-term career path yet or is working at a job he hates?  Is it really wrong if that couple decides together that for this season in their lives the dad will stay home with the kids and the mom will work full-time?  Of course all kinds of questions about mother/child attachment and the idea that women are “better suited” for child-rearing come-up, and those are valid questions…. but is it a sin? If a man refuses to work and decides to stay home without agreeing upon it with his wife, then yes, that’s a sin.  If he does it out of laziness, then that’s a sin.  But it would be a sin if the wife did those things, too.

Every family is different, and every family’s financial situation is different.  You can’t just slap a one-size-fits-all label on it and then say that anyone whose family doesn’t look like yours is sinning.  And I’m a little apalled at the idea of a church choosing to discipline a family who prayerfully makes this decision because it is what they feel like is best for them…..especially since the church is standing on some pretty shaky biblical ground when it comes to their reasoning.  Does Driscoll really think it would be a better option to put the kids in full-time daycare when one parent is eager and willing to stay home with them just so the dad can make a little money and “be a man?”

So what do you think?  Whether or not you think that women are more well-suited for staying home (a very debatable point), is it a SIN worthy of church discipline?  Maybe you can’t see it being a good decision for your family, but if it makes relational and financial sense for a family who has prayerfully searched their options, are we really in a position to judge them as wrong?

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27 responses to “HOT TOPIC: Is it a sin to be a stay-at-home dad?

  1. Ricky, one of the many commenters on this subject at bounlessline.org points out “This chapter has nothing to do with the role of husbands and fathers. It is a chapter addressing widows. The verse quoted (verse 8) was clearly a written instruction for widows to provide for thier family and not live selfishly, as is described in the verse before it.”
    Thankfully, most of the comments support this view and your views expressed here.
    Two years ago in a move that had me resigning a pastoral role due to burnout, my wife was able to get a full time job in a law office. I got no job, but found myself at home doing a role that I had only viewed from a distance so to speak.
    Staying at home gave me time to come to terms with what had happened to me, enabled me to help settle us in our new town and eventually helped me prepare to re-enter the work world in a part time role as an aviation security officer.
    Despite my own perplextion about what happened those two years ago, I can only thank God for the “sabbatical” time to re-enter faith and life once again. Though our situation is not what we would have planned, we have never the less seen Gods hand in it.
    Thanks for your well thought out post.

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  2. no it is not a sin. that is ridiculous…
    what denomination do this man and his wife belong to? do you know?

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  3. sarah christoph

    I don’t see or know of any scripture that would point to that being a sin. Each one’s family is different as well as personalities. Personally, if I was married I would prefer to be with my children during the day, take care of the house work, meals, etc., (but I’m a single mom and must work outside the home) but if a wife has a job outside the home and her husband is willing to stay with his children- I think it’s wonderful. 🙂

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  4. I don’t have a lot of time to comment now, but here is their church’s website.
    http://www.marshillchurch.org/about/what-we-believe

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  5. Oh brother this is so Driscoll’s one string guitar. He plays this same song over and over. You should check out his views on the trinity.

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  6. Emily…just out of curiousity… are you familiar with John Piper and Desiring God Ministries? Wayne Grudem? or Sovereign Grace Ministries?

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  7. This site might help everyone to prayerfully evaluate this hot topic.
    http://www.cbmw.org/

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  8. Jonathan, I am familiar with those ministries and teachers. I’m an egalitarian, so I don’t agree with them, but I used to believe that way. =)

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  9. Emily, I love how you tackle these tough topics! It definitely brings about great discussion and makes us think! On this subject, I’m still figuring out what I believe and why I believe it.
    For anyone that believes Driscoll’s thoughts are wrong, how do we deal with the verses that his wife quoted in I Timothy 5 about younger widows getting married, bearing children, and telling them to “keep house” (NAS)? And then in Titus 2: about young women to be “workers at home”?
    I dont think I can go as far as Driscoll goes on what it means for a man to provide for his family and therefore be a “God-honoring man”, but I’m trying to figure out what it means for a woman to be a “God-honoring woman” based on those 2 passages? Your thoughts?

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  10. ashley asked: “what denomination do this man and his wife belong to? do you know?”

    His own.

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  11. Emily…what brought you from complimentarian to egilitarian views? I have sought and read many articles and find it hard to Biblically argue against the complementarian view. Now if I use cultural or secular arguements then it is easy but Biblically it is not. I would refer you to this letter from Wayne Grudem and would like to hear your thoughts. http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/An-Open-Letter-to-Egalitarians-Revised-2003

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  12. so- i don’t know a lot of the big words listed here- and with three kids on my legs i can’t look them up- but i must say that i agree to an extent on Driscoll’s opinion. i’m not sure about the church discipline part- i can see situations where this “Mr. Mom” lifestyle might be neccessary for a season, but in general- i think that life works better when we take scripture at it’s word. granted, this is just an opinion of mine- but i am a “worker at home” that loves it and delights in the man who provides for our family. i am blessed and so thankful for my husband.

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  13. I must say that I’m a huge fan of Mark Driscoll, but I don’t agree with him on everything. I’m a working mom, but since having a family and continuing to work, I’m leaning toward Driscoll’s point of view, but I don’t entirely endorse it or care for they way he gets to his conclusion. I’d say it has to do more with the created order than the scripture that he uses to defend his position. I’m created to bear and nurture children, and my husband is not. He’s physically incapable of birthing kids and nursing them. God has given us some defined roles, and I think that we should seek to seek the best way to fulfill them.

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  14. I just want to clarify my previous comment. I think that the best scenario is that the husband/father work to provide for his family while the wife is the primary care-giver for the children. Our imperfect world, however, makes that hard and sometimes impossible. I wouldn’t be so rigid to say that it’s a sin for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. I believe that in some situations it would be, but it would not be in others. Like I said, it’s something that each family needs to seek the Lord on and be willing to do whatever he says.

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  15. Jonathan- I’m afraid going into a long explanation of all of that is way beyond the scope of this post, and there’s just no way I could really capture it in a comment. I looked at the Grudem letter you posted, and I’m familiar with his positions since I read that big 1 million page book he and Piper authored about complementarianism. =) But, I’m not a Greek scholar and I don’t have every biblical argument for egalitarianism memorized, so I can’t offer you the kind of response that would immediately change your mind.

    I will say, however, that just like other difficult issues in the Bible, there is more than one “biblical” way to look at things and it is very possible for two people to hold the same amount of honor for accurate biblical interpretation, look at the same passages, and come to different conclusions. This is a difficult issue to interpret in the Bible, and just like other issues about which sincere believers disagree (election, baptism, communion), we need to be careful in how we “otherize” fellow believers who hold to a different position than we do.

    If you are interested in some extra reading, I would recommend the following:

    *http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/supporting-women-in-ministry/
    *http://blog.cbeinternational.org/
    *Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner
    *http://eewc.com/72-27/
    *www.jonalynfincher.com
    *http://blog.cbeinternational.org/

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  16. I’m definitely on the “this is ridiculous” train with Emily. There is more than one way to “provide” for a family and money is the least of the things a child needs from a parent. For Driscoll to say that a man who works at home is “not a man” seems to me as passing judgment he has no authority to offer.

    I’ll stick with the blog link that said, “First of all, making provision solely about money is not Christianity, it is idolatry.” I know plenty of people whose fathers provided more than enough money and went to work every day, but were non-existent and shut down in the home – which is less God honoring?

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  17. sarah christoph

    “I know plenty of people whose fathers provided more than enough money and went to work every day, but were non-existent and shut down in the home – which is less God honoring?”…. So true Brooke! This also can apply to mothers (like mine- who doesn’t know any better 🙂 ) who pour their lives into their work outside the home and choose to put career above all else. They become unhappy, detached and indifferent to what is truly important to the lives of their children. We all have to work if we’re going to eat… but the green ‘almighty’ dollar has to fall in it’s place, which is never above the true Almighty or the people in a family unit. Children need both parents involved in their life… There will always be special times or situations where one parent takes on a more “present” role, but both parents are to show love, build a relationship, and live as an example of Christ for their children as much as possible. Basically: Children can live without some things money CAN buy, but they can NOT live without things money CAN’T buy.

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  18. Okay. We have to ask ourselves, “What is our concern, here?”

    1. Are we concerned with glorifying God and being obedient, or are we more concerned with doing what makes us feel more comfortable?

    2. Are our views of the family based…
    a) …solely off of what the Bible teaches…
    b) … mostly off of what the Bible teaches and a little off of what the culture teaches…
    c) …about half and half…
    d) …mostly off of the culture…
    e) …solely off of the culture?

    3. Do the parameters set up for the family, in the Bible, apply only to certain cultures and eras in time, or do they speak to God’s sovereign understanding of how the minds of men and women work together toward accomplishing what’s best of the family?

    4. Am I more concerned with the amount of money and things that I have than how obedient I am to the Lord?

    Here’s my opinion:

    1) This is a heart issue.
    2) If Mark is truly your pastor, I am surprised that you would go online and criticize him like this. I hope you are not this critical of your husband in front of your kids.
    3) What does the Bible say about this issue? Should we not be more concerned about what the Bible would have us do, rather than how much can we get away with doing and still be biblical?

    That’s all.

    Billy.

    http://1crazycalvinist.wordpress.com/

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  19. Pingback: Salvation and Who Does the Work? « OneCrazyCalvinist

  20. Just to be clear, Billy, I said that Driscoll is NOT my pastor. I do NOT attend his church. And I am being critical of his opinion and what I believe to be unbiblical and legalistic teaching, not him as a person. Criticizing a man’s opinion has no bearing upon the way I treat my husband. In regards to your comments about living biblically, I agree with your premise but I disagree with the paradigm that says that anyone who thinks the Bible is saying something other than the very specific way you interpret it is falling victim to worldiness.

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  21. You are correct. I misread your statement that “this is not the church that (you) have been attending” since moving to Seattle.

    The issue is…

    If this argument was posed 100 years ago, it would have been shot down immediately.

    The question that people must ask themselves, in regard to the above statement, is this: Does that statement provoke a negative reaction in me, and why? This, in my belief should be followed by a series of follow-up questions…

    1) If our knee-jerk reaction is to say that what we believed 100 years ago was incorrect, we must ask, “Why not?”

    a) Is it because we do not believe them to be “culturally relevant” and thus they cannot possibly know what is best for us? If this is our answer, we must then admit that the culture is our standard and not the Bible.

    b) Is it because we think they were shrewd and shauvinistic and, thus, we must believe opposite their beliefs at all costs? If this is our answer, have we not just thrown the Bible out the door as well, for the sake of “not being like our fathers”.

    c) Is it because the Bible has convinced us otherwise? If so, I’d like to see that from scripture.

    d) Is it because we simply want to do what we want to do, and raising kids is such a burden anyway, and I spent all that time getting educated, and if I don’t do something with this degree wasn’t it all a waste, and I can make more money than my husband, and he’s more girly than I am anyway……. ?

    Do you see where I’m going with this? Where does the Bible fit into the argument for this feministic worldview? Now, you can dismiss verse after verse if you like, but after a while, the question must be begged, which verses do you actually allow to affect your worldview?

    I’m sure I had a 2) point, but I forgot it. That’s fine. I believe 1) works as is. Your thoughts?

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  22. First of all, the argument of what people thought 100 years ago isn’t a very strong one, in my opinion. Just because an opinion is old doesn’t mean it’s correct. 150 years ago people used the Bible to justify slavery, and I don’t think we’re willing to say that they were correct even if it’s what they wholeheartedly believed was the way God wanted humanity to be structured. Additionally, you’re forgetting that every time period has its own cultural set of beliefs. I would argue that people 100 years ago were deeply entrenched in their own values of men and women’s roles that were much more shaped by their own culture than by the Bible. Just because you may hold cultural values that were more relevant 100 years ago than today doesn’t mean that they’re any less shaped by society than the ones you’re denouncing from today’s culture.

    In asking if something is a sin, I think the burden of proof falls upon the person who says that it IS a sin, not the one who finds no evidence of wrong. The biblical passages that the Driscolls quote in this video are taken out of context and cannot be adequately used to support their premise. I can find no other place that the Bible says that it’s a SIN for a man to work inside the home rather than outside of it. Despite what you think is “best,” it’s a pretty great stretch to say that it’s a sin. I encourage you to check-out the articles that I linked in the post and some further reading recommendations I linked in an earlier comment. They will do a much better job in explaining this than I will. There are some great conversations happening regarding these issues from people who are much smarter than me and more who have a clearly laid-out theology of what the Bible says about gender.

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  23. I believe the Bible shows us quite clearly that the complementarian viewpoint was not just the prevalent viewpoint 100 years ago, but that you can extend that back to the beginning of time. Men have always been held responsible, by God, to be the prophet, protector, PROVIDER and priest of their home. When they yield any one of these responsibilities to their wives, they are in rebellion against God.

    By the way, if you think the Driscolls are taking Paul’s words to Timothy out of context, I’d like to see how you deal with Paul’s interpretation of Genesis 3, in 1Timothy 2:14. Should Timothy have written back to Paul and told him that he was taking the passage out of context? Of course not. Because a doctrine is not based on one proof text, but on the whole account of Scripture. Paul was basing his viewpoint on not just Genesis 3, but the whole of Scripture. Likewise, the Driscolls explain in the video that the passages they quote are just a few of myriads that can be used to make this point.

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  24. I think Jared Wilson’s 2-part response says it best. If you have not followed Emily’s link to see his responses, it is well worth your time. (Anytime you visit his blog will be well worth your time)

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  25. whats up everyone

    just registered and put on my todo list

    hopefully this is just what im looking for looks like i have a lot to read.

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  26. I was watching a TV Minister that was talking about families and he said it was a sin to be a stay at home dad describing they sit on the couch and eat donuts all day. Do I believe that? HELL NO! (Sorry for choice of words). I’m a stay at home dad. We have 3 beautiful children (twin girls, age 9 now, and a son age 3). We decided when she got pregnant with our son that I would have to stay at home and raise the kids as my wife was working on getting promoted (which she has). There is no way I can stay at a job and say, I can only work these hours, day or night, and the days would change. A boss wouldn’t even hire me on the spot with that kind of schedule. Was my mom lazy when she was at home raising 8 kids? No. Was my dad lazy and selfish when he was at the bars everyday as I was growing up? Yes. Society accepts the past to a certain degree, but reality and the economy leaves us all in a no choice scenario. I was a youth pastor and an assistant pastor as well in the church world. Raising kids is a very tough job and not a rewarding one finacially, but emotionally. We all love our children and want the best for them. Who is better qualified than the kids parents? One of them needs to be at home to make sure they are getting the proper attention, care, and love that is needed to become proper human beings. I cook, clean,do laundry,dishes,vacuum, dust,mow the yard,take out the trash,bath them, help them with homework,drive them to school, pick them up, etc, etc.. The job is 24 hours a day with no vacations and days off. I respect all moms and dads that stay at home and really take care of the household!!. Don’t let negative people in the church, voice their opinions on you as they are saying they are quoting the Bible. I studied that book for years and will tell you the truth, God loves you and Me and He respects the hard work we put into raising our children. Who owns the children? God. We are taking care of them for Him. Brining them up in the way they should go. Don’t ever give up and don’t let isolation from the rest of the world get you down. To all parents out there..hang in there…much love to you all!!

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