The topic of stay-at-home dads can be a relatively heated one with some well-known pastors teaching that it is a sin to be a stay-at-home dad and others teaching the opposite. So who’s right? What does the Bible really say about this subject?
The main verse applicable to the issue of stay-at-home dads is 1 Timothy 5:8: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” As always, the number-one rule in accurate Bible interpretation is to consider the context, and it is vitally important that we apply that rule here.
Although 1 Timothy 5:8 does not specify stay-at-home dads, it expresses a relevant principle. Paul is stating negatively the truth he had just laid out in verse 4: “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” Children are to take care of their parents and grandparents. Those who fail to provide for their relatives are worse than unbelievers in that they are not living out their faith. Paul repeats this principle in verse 8 because, apparently, many in the church at Ephesus were violating this command.
The phrase Anyone who does not provide in 1 Timothy 5:8 is a first-class conditional statement in the original, which could be better translated as “When any of you does not provide” or “Since some of you are not providing.” The word provide is from the Greek pronoeo, which means “to plan before.” It indicates that forethought is necessary to provide care for one’s family.
If a stay-at-home dad is shirking his duty to provide for his family, then he is sinning. Failing to provide or plan for the needs of his family makes a believer guilty of two things. First, “he has denied the faith.” This does not refer to the loss of personal salvation. Paul here is not judging the ultimate destination of the soul but current actions. A person who refuses to provide for his family is living contrary to what he says he believes and has denied the principle of compassionate love at the heart of the Christian faith (John 13:35; Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). In other words, the real command here, for stay-at-home dads and for everyone, is that there must be no contradiction between faith and conduct.
Second, a believer’s failure to provide or plan for the care of his family makes him in practice “worse than an unbeliever.” Even the pagans knew the importance of providing for their parents. For believers to fail to measure up to that standard is inexcusable. We have a greater responsibility because we have the commandment of God to love and the power of God to enable us to do so.
So, what are we to take from all this? First of all, Paul is not directing this command only to men or stay-at-home dads but to everyone. Second, 1 Timothy 5:8 has nothing directly to do with working outside the home. A man should have the foresight to do what is necessary to take care of the needs of his family. For some it may mean working outside the home; for others it may mean working from home, which many stay-at-home dads do. For others, providing for the family may mean supporting and enabling their wives, who bring in the primary source of income. There are many wives who earn more money than their husbands and are willing and happy to be the primary financial provider. There is no scriptural basis to rebuke such an arrangement.
The bottom line is this: a man who dodges his natural duty to provide for his family or who lacks the foresight to take care of them is living contrary to his religion. This has nothing to do with whether or not he is a stay-at-home dad. Generally speaking, if one spouse is going to work while the other spouse stays at home, it is better for the husband to be the primary financial provider and the wife to be the primary homemaker, but in no sense is that a biblical mandate.