The lack of godly leadership in the home can be devastating to a family. Women are experiencing pressures as never before, because they are carrying burdens God never intended for them to carry.
The primary reason for this is that many husbands are abandoning their leadership responsibilities, which forces the women to accept the responsibilities in order to maintain unity in the family.
God never intended for a wife and mother to function under the pressures of and to carry the loads intended for husbands and fathers. When husbands repudiate their responsibilities and subject their wives to the stress of having to shoulder those burdens, her anxiety increases and the family will lack sustaining cohesiveness.
In the area of finances, unless it is impossible or impractical, a husband should not demand that his wife assume the responsibility of negotiating with creditors or keeping the bill collectors satisfied. She may pay the bills, if they have agreed that she is more qualified to act as the family bookkeeper.
However, she has too much to be concerned about with maintaining the home, working (if she has a job), and being a mother to be hampered with the stress associated with things that the husband should accept as his responsibility.
This is not to say that Christian husbands and fathers are irresponsible. Fortunately, most are responsible and accept their roles and their obligations. However, with the current social trend toward equality, more and more men find it easier to abandon or ignore their God-mandated responsibilities and allow their wives to take on those responsibilities so they can involve themselves in things they would rather do.
Unfortunately, many women who have had to, out of necessity, add to their already complex obligations the failed trustworthiness of their husbands, find themselves before long with failing health, a lack of peace, and a deteriorating marriage.
These characteristics are also prevalent in domineering wives who take from their husbands the responsibilities that God has intended for them to carry. These wives usually justify their position by claiming that they do the job better than their husbands or the husbands do not do it within the time frame the wife wants it done.
In any relationship as intimate as marriage, there must be sharing of responsibilities and abilities. God often uses opposites in a marriage to balance the extremes. If husband and wife are identical in nature, undoubtedly the decisions will be unbalanced. Thus, a saver balances a spender and a hospitable spouse is balanced by a reserved one. A sensitive, discerning wife is a great asset to any husband, if he’s willing to listen to her.
However, the burden of maintaining a trouble free, financially sound, spiritually mature, and cooperatively considerate household is the responsibility of the husband/father. “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
The wife’s responsibility is to support her husband and honor him by following his direction—as opposed to nagging and belittling. Sometimes she needs to be willing to suffer with him and to let him fail if necessary without judging (1 Peter 3:1).
For a wife to be submissive does not mean that she must remain silent or give in to every word, whim, or desire of her husband. She needs to take an active part in family planning, financial planning, discipline of children, decision making, and family goals. The following are four financial areas in which wives need to play an active role.
Budget. Husbands and wives need to establish a budget either together or with the approval of both. Every item should be discussed, prayed about, and agreed upon. The primary consideration should be to develop a fair, but reasonable, family spending plan.
Windfall plan. In addition to the budget, which controls normal income, husbands and wives should agree on the disposition of additional income (gifts, overtime, income tax refund, inheritance, and so on). The plan needs to be fair and equal for all concerned. Remember that a marriage is a partnership and partners share in all things. Avoid the “his money, her money” or the “I deserve this because” attitude.
Long-range plan. Although most wives do not like to make definite plans beyond one year, husbands need to encourage their wives to discuss long-range plans with them. This would include not only children’s college educations, children’s marriages, and retirement but also what to do in the event that one spouse dies before the other.
Bookkeeping. Assuming there are no unresolved financial problems and a budget has been established that is fair and reasonable, a decision of who will manage the books needs to be made. Either the husband or the wife should be the bookkeeper—not both—and both should agree on the decision. You probably would want the spouse who is better at math, bookkeeping, accounting, and paying bills on time to be the bookkeeper.
Women who are heards of households
There are instances in which a woman is forced to become the head of a household as a result of divorce, her husband’s death, or other reasons. In these instances, she has no choice but to assume an authoritative position.
A woman in this position should know that within the body of Christ, God has provided the leadership she needs. The local church she attends should be used as a source for counsel and help with financial matters. However, she needs to be willing to let her needs be known, and the church must be willing to equip itself so it can help her.
Financial authority in the home is one of the most misunderstood principles facing today’s Christian family. If both husbands and wives will faithfully observe the mandates established by God and submit to the discipline needed to comply to those mandates, families will experience less stress than those who disregard His mandates.
This article is an adaptation of Larry Burkett’s Biblical Principles Under Scrutiny article entitled “Financial Authority in the Home,” published by Christian Financial Concepts, 1985.