Q: #149. I work hard, but I am not able to support my family on my salary alone. Is this a sin based on (1 Tim 5:8)?
A: Let’s begin by showing what (1 Tim 5:8) says.
“But if any (anyone) provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (unbeliever).”
I believe the most important thing to keep in mind about this verse is the context in which it is found, which is “responsibilities to widows” (verses 3-16). It should also be noted regarding these responsibilities that it is speaking to “ANY” (anyone), not just a man.
*** Note: “His” does not necessarily mean this is speaking to just the man alone either: i.e. (1 Cor 10:24) “let no one seek HIS own good, but that of HIS neighbor” obviously applies to male and female. (See: 2 Cor 5:10, 2 Cor 9:7, Rom 15:2, Rom 4:5 for some other examples) [caps emphasis mine]
Let me quote two prominent commentaries views on this verse.
Matthew Henry: “If any MEN OR WOMEN do not maintain their poor relations, they in effect deny the faith. If they spend upon their lusts and pleasures, what should maintain their families, they have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels.”
Jamieson, Fausset, Brown: “But- reverting to verse 4” (stating the reverse of it), “If ANY (therefore including in its application the WIDOWS CHILDREN OR GRANDCHILDREN) provide not for his own (relations in general) and especially for those of his own house (in particular) he hath denied the faith, and are worse than infidels.” (Caps emphasis on both mine)
It seems clear to me that this verse, and the verses around it, are saying that it is the responsibility of ALL Christians to take care of widows, but if the widow is an immediate member of one’s own family, they have the primary responsibility to help and take care of her.
[Jesus gave us an example of this in (Jn 19:25-27) when He made sure from the cross that His widowed mother (Mary) would be cared for by John after His death.]
However, in addition to widows, the broader application is that men AND women, are to “provide for” (“care for” or “look out for beforehand”- Greek word “phonoeo”) each other, but especially those within one’s own household.
I do not see this as addressing that a man should be the primary “breadwinner” of the family.
This being said, however, the Bible does show a pattern of men being the primary or sole financial support for their families, and women staying home and doing the duties of a “housewife” (i.e. cooking, cleaning, caring for the children, etc…). Based on this, a case could be made for men being the primary or sole financial support for the family, however, I am unaware of any verses that specifically make it clear this HAS to be the case, or that it is “sin” if the man does not do so. It is my position that if the Bible does not clearly state that something is wrong or “sin,” then we should not judge people on matters of “liberty or conscience.” Ultimately, I believe this is a matter to be prayerfully decided between you and your spouse.
*** Note: From a purely personal standpoint, I would like to add that I believe if a man is doing a full day’s work, working at it honestly, diligently, and dependably, “as to the Lord” (Col 3:23), regardless of what he does for a living or how much he makes, I believe God honors that. In addition, I do not believe God is pleased with anyone who belittles or shows a lack of respect for a man (which is VERY important to men) OR woman who works at a job that does not pay a lot of money (i.e. waitress, fast food worker, department store worker, etc…).