I was looking through a Facebook discussion on whether being a stay-at-home dad was biblically permissible or not and I saw some comments argue against stay-at-home-dad’s by citing this verse
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
This verse is often cited to support the view that men should be the sole, or at least the primary, “providers” of the family. This looks like a strange move to me. First, how does “A man cannot be a stay-at-home-dad” or “A man is to be the primary provider of the family” follow from “anyone who does not provide for his relatives and household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”? It is not clear to me how this inference is being drawn.
Perhaps people will say it’s because the verse obviously says he will “provide”, and he cannot provide if he isn’t working and making money. So the salient word in this verse is “provide”. So what does it mean to “provide”? Let’s say there’s a married couple with a husband that works a job and makes money and a wife who takes care of the home and kids. It would be very strange to me to claim that the wife is not providing for her family. She is not providing in the same way as the husband, but she is still providing. Claiming that she is not providing would seem to rely on a very narrow definition of the word “provide”. If this is the case, then a man can obviously be said to provide for his family in this way.
Here are a couple more thoughts. Besides the fact that the verse uses male pronouns, it is not obvious that this is talking about men alone since it says “anyone” and it comes in the context of talking about widows (I’m still not quite sure about the connection between this verse and the rest of Paul’s discussion on widows actually). Plenty of times in ordinary dialogue we use pronouns like “he” and “she”, but we are not saying in each of those cases that what we’re saying only applies to men or women. For example, if I were to say “If someone murders another person, he should turn himself in.” I’m using male pronouns, but I’m obviously not relegating my claim to men alone. Obviously I think a woman who murders someone should turn herself in too. If anything, this verse seems to be a call for people not to neglect their duties to take care of their families, not a specific teaching that men must be the primary money-makers.
I’m not saying a case cannot be made from the Bible that men are the primary breadwinners, but quoting this verse alone does not seem to do the trick.