Manage Your Household Well
THE TRAGEDY OF DISTRACTED DADS AND PASTORS
Taken from an article by David Mathis, Executive Editor,desiringGod.org
The gratuitously distracted, and often unexamined, lives of modern unmarried men can be concerning enough. Then the seriousness of the problem rises higher when we say, “I do.” And even more when we bring children into the world.
One of the greatest needs wives and children have — and all the more in our relentlessly distracting age — is dad’s counter cultural attentiveness. Perhaps human attention never has been more valuable. Today the largest corporations in the world no longer compete for oil, but for human attention. And when attention is short and scarce, one of the greatest emerging tragedies of this new era is distracted dads.
Managing Different Relationships
Typical households include wife and children (and sometimes others), as well as material possessions. Taking care of the inanimate stuff is the easiest aspect of managing. Caring well for people is the most challenging. However, managing the materials is important, and not to be neglected. Certain men gravitate toward or away from dealing adequately with the stuff, or from caring well for the people. We each have personal penchants to identify and necessary adjustments to make.
But leading a household is first and foremost about taking care of people.
For (and with) His Wife
The first and most important person in a man’s household is his wife — and he feels a unique tension (and privilege) in caring well for her. On the one hand, she is a member of the household and deserving of his greatest attention and care and emotional provision and investment. On the other hand, she is his co-manager. According to Paul, a Christian man is not the lone master of his domain. Married women also “manage their households” (1 Timothy 5:14).
Dad has an associate, “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18), for whom he thinks and cares in fundamentally different ways than the children. A good manager treats his co-manager differently than the other workers under his leadership. God did not design Christian households to be mini-monarchies where the husband rules as king, with his wife as his subject. Rather, she is the queen, and together they “manage” the household, even as he carries a unique burden of leadership and owes his co-manager a special kind of care.
For the husband, being “head” in his home doesn’t center on his enjoying the greatest privileges, but on shouldering the greatest burdens. Being head means going ahead, in conflict, and being first to apologize. It means taking initiative when no one else wants to. It means treating his co-manager with unrelenting kindness, even when she’s less than kind. It means exercising true strength, by inconveniencing himself to secure her good, rather than serving himself by presuming on her. And, of course, it includes vigilance in being a “one-woman man” utterly committed in mind, heart, and body to his one wife.
For His Children
After his wife, and with her, a Christian man takes care of his children. In 1 Timothy 3:4, the phrase “with all dignity” modifies “keeping his children submissive.” There are dignified and undignified ways to raise submissive children.
Domineering and heavy-handedness are both undignified and ruled out by the nature of Christian management and care-taking. Even if abusive fathering remains hidden from the public eye for years, it will catch up with a man as his children become adults and realize what he was doing. God means for fathers to teach and train his children with dignity — in a respectable way, appropriately engendering respect from his children, and his wife, in how he treats them, even at their worst moments. Paul captures the heart of it in one stunning sentence: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Not only are children different than a wife, but also children have their various stages. In partnership with their mother, dignified fathering will take that into account and adapt accordingly.
Who Cares for Dad?
Dads, God means for us to frequently come to the end of ourselves and learn what it means to lean on him and, in faith, keep moving. In the moments when we most soberingly feel the weight of being the buckstopper at home, or in the church, he wants us to know that we ourselves have a Father, and that he does not call us to pretend to be the hero in our own strength, but to ask for his help, lean on him, and roll our burdens onto his shoulders. Both pastor-elders and husband-fathers need the solace and blessing of 1 Peter 5:6–7:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Before and beneath God’s call that we care for our households, and for his church, is his care for us. Before he says to us as fathers and pastors, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37), he first is the Good Samaritan to us. He comes to us, binds our wounds, pours out his own precious oil and wine, picks us up off the ground, brings us to the inn, and takes care of us (Luke 10:34), at great cost to himself, and with a promise to return (Luke 10:35).
Rightly was it said about Jesus, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37). Surely such is the case with his household, and bride, the church. He has and does manage his household well, and that is our great comfort not just if, but when we feel inadequate, even in our best efforts, to manage our own households well.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.