John Calvin on 1 Timothy 5:8

Many pastors like to use 1 Timothy 5:8 to build upon the theology that a man must be the material provider for his home. While this is a theology I ascribe to, it was pointed out to me (by a really close friend) recently that 1 Timothy 5:8 does not in fact support this theology. Perhaps John Calvin says it best,

has translated it, “If any woman do not provide for her own,” making it
apply exclusively to females. But I prefer to view it as a general
statement; for it is customary with Paul, even when he is treating of
some particular subject, to deduce arguments from general principles,
and, on the other hand, to draw from particular statements a universal
doctrine. And certainly it will have greater weight, if it apply both
to men and to women.

If it is applied to both men and women can we really use it to support husband as the sole provider? What do you think?



5 Responses

  1. I just looked up the verse on and it does not seem to say a man has to be “sole provider.” I am honestly not sure what that means anyway or how that would fit together with Proverbs 31 and its teaching of a Godly woman.

    We live in a complex culture today in which earning money is much more difficult and easy then ever before. A lot of my pastor friends have wives that do something on the side or work part-time in some capacity to help make ends meet. Truth is there is always a dance of needed income and basic expenses. What happens if a family is unable to have children because they can’t even afford all their debt and expenses on two incomes? Should they wait to have a kid or should they just say well the Bible says a man is to be “sole provider.” I would comment that I think that is selectively applying biblical principles.

    Anyway, I am not sure if this makes sense, I found your blog a couple months ago and like it and wanted to comment. And I just don’t see how one can think that 1 Tim. 5:8 means a man has to make all the money or he is worse than an unbeliever.

  2. I have found this to be a very interesting point as we have talked about it recently and I think it is extremely important to both genders in understanding our roles in this life. The passage in context is actually talking about the role and responsibilities of women (mainly widows) in the setting up of the home. While there are many other passages that speak to a man’s responsibility in providing financial and spiritual security to his household- this passage seems to be talking about a woman’s role in providing for the needs of her family within the household and to the church as a whole.

    This is a very real lesson as we as wives need to strive to serve and work hard within the home as our husbands do outside the home; though our call to provision may be different is no less necessary! The passage goes onto state the actions this is comprised of- the raising up of children, showing hospitality, caring for those in need and producing good works. As we labor to do these things and serve our homes our husbands will succeed at their work and we will live to honor our Lord.

  3. The aesthetic in my marriage is that we’ve always worked as a team, sharing chores, house duties, and both bringing in income to support us, and eventually my husband will be the sole provider as I stay home for a time with our baby and he finishes up school and works full time (that’s a lot for a guy to juggle!). (And me being home with a baby is a lot to juggle as well) Both jobs are equally difficult. The main thing I think is to work as a team, not one person pulling all of the weight in any area. Our work is different, but equally important both men and woman. I like Vicki’s reminder that to see our husbands succeed at work, we have to strive to serve them in the home. Society puts a lot of pressure on our husbands to be “sole” providers and achieve that American dream. Each family is organic and there is no right way to do it. There are a lot of stay at home Dad’s and 9-5 moms. I know that for a time, I was the sole provider in our family, while my husband managed an 80 hr. school and work schedule, so you just have to take things as they come and support one another. Times are changing. For a woman, I can say, it will be kind of strange to not be contributing financially to our family like I had before. Theres a certain satisfaction you get when you know you’re both pulling the weight and working together.

  4. Good stuff, keep it coming.

    Man, that Vicky sounds amazing. Her husband must be a very blessed man.

  5. Wow some really good comments on this subject (especially from Vicky and Chelsea).

    As I talked with Matt about this the other night my main concern was actually very pastoral. I am troubled with the idea of a well known pastor and his wife, putting forth a biblical command that is not supported by the text. You see people take the biblical commands from the pastor and then feel the weight to live them. This is usually a good thing and just means they are experiencing conviction. But if the command is not found in the text it is cruel and wrong, and is imposing unfounded guilt.

    Preaching that the Bible says that a guy has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever is a very serious thing. If the text does say that then preach it but do so with a call to repentance. But if the text does not really say that and yet you so strongly declare that it does than God help you. You have read into the text something that it does not say, to support your beliefs. Now someone could argue here, “well the Bible does teach that men should be providers” that is not the point, it is still wrong to try and harvest a biblical truth from the wrong text. Especially when it involves you having to unfairly call people “unbelievers.”

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