Monday, May 16, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Driscoll's Opinion on Stay-at-Home Dads - 1 Timothy 5:8

Before I make any comments regarding the content of the above video, I should be honest and state that I already disliked Mark Driscoll before seeing this video. (Just look at the book I have advertised on my sidebar, and you'll understand why. If you don't, Google "Mark Driscoll and The Shack". If you love, or even just liked the book The Shack , beware, if you watch Mark Driscoll's video on how The Shack is a "modern day heresy" it will probably make you angry. I made it to 1 minute 13 seconds and had to stop because I wanted to punch something.)

Now that I've been honest and given the disclaimer regarding my already existing problems with Mark Driscoll, let me say that I wasn't more than a minute into this video and I wanted to scream.

In case you are reading this without watching the clip first, Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll are responding to a question asking them their opinion on stay-at-home dads. The verse they reference most often in this clip is 1 Timothy 5:8. In the New King James the verse is "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."

I'm not sure which translation the Driscoll's are using, but he recites the verse as "If any man does not provide for the needs of his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Here are a variety of translations and one paraphrase of the same verse:

In the New Revised Standard: "And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

In the NIV: "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

In the New Living: "But those who won't care for their own relatives, especially those living in the same household, have denied what we believe. Such people are worse than unbelievers."

In the New American Standard: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

And in The Message: "Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith. That's worse than refusing to believe in the first place."

If anyone can point out to me which translation Mark Driscoll used here, I would really appreciate knowing, as I couldn't find it at

Before I examine the way I believe he has misquoted and misapplied this portion of Scripture however, let's just examine his version alone. "Any man who denies the needs of his family....."

What are the needs of a family? Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll seem to be presenting this verse as if the only needs a husband and father is responsible for are the financial ones.

Yes, they acknowledge that he is "part of the equation" when it comes to the rest of the aspects of family life, but the only thing that is his responsibility is making sure that his family is taken care of financially.

I disagree that that is the only responsibility that God has placed on the shoulders of fathers and husbands. A husband is responsible for loving his wife, as Christ has loved the church. A father is responsible to his children to raise them and not "provoke them to wrath". And what about all those verses in Proverbs written from a father to his son? I don't think that father believed his only responsibility to his children was financial.

I don't think Mark Driscoll believes that either, but in order for his argument to make sense, that is what this verse would have to mean. It's the father and husband's job to make sure the family is financially stable, and it's the wife and mother's job to make sure the family is emotionally stable. I don't disagree with everything the Driscoll's state in this clip, I completely agree that it is a huge responsibility and incredible honor to raise "the next generation" as she put it. But why is that only the mother's job? If the husband and wife are equal, as Mark Driscoll states, the raising of the children is the responsibility and honor of both!

If a father decides God has called him to stay at home with his children while his wife works, that doesn't mean he is denying the needs of his family, it just means God has called him to be responsible for needs other than ones that are financial.

(As far as women staying at home versus working outside of it, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish and one I don't want to touch on too much right now, perhaps at another time. Let me say though that my mother stayed home with me and my siblings while we were growing up, and I know she wishes she could still be a stay at home mom. There is something very special about a parent being able to stay home and just take care of their children. But I believe that goes for either parent, and I know that God-fearing, well-rounded children can be raised in a home where both parents need/want to work as well. It's all about what the focus is. Are the parents focused on their family, or their careers alone? There needs to be a balance, only focusing on one or the other can cause problems.)

Now let's take a look at the actual context of 1 Timothy 5:8 - Here's verses 1-8 (New American Standard):
"1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity. 3 Honor widows who are widows indeed; 4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

So what is the context preceeding verse 8? It's the author's instructions on how widows should be cared for in the church; verse 8 (and also verse 16: "If any believing woman has relatives who are really widows, let her assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it can assist those who are real widows.") stating how families should care for those in their own family who are no longer financially supported or unable to financially support themselves.

Besides this revelation of what is the actual context of the chapter, let's look at the word in verse 8 that Mark translates as "man", but all the other translations (even the NKJV) translate as "any", "whoever", and "anyone". It is the greek word tiv. If you click the link, you'll see that it is an "enclitic indefinite pronoun". "Enclitic" according to the Bing Dictionary is an adjective that is "depending on preceding word: describes a word that depends on a preceding word for its formation or pronunciation", and an "indefinite pronoun" is an "unspecific pronoun: a pronoun that does not refer to a specific person or thing, e.g. "someone," "nothing," or "anything" in English".

In other words, gender neutral.

How can a pastor base an entire philosophy regarding whether or not being a stay-at-home dad is Biblical on a verse that he first of all takes out of context, and then mis-translates?! Not only that, he goes on to say that he sees violation of this "principle" as grounds for spiritual discipline in his church.

I am not a parent myself, but this is based on my own opinion on what the author of 1 Timothy was actually talking about, and my own witness of an amazing stay-at-home dad. (My uncle.)

Any stay-at-home dads and moms, or working dads and moms out there with an opinion about this? I would love to hear your thoughts.

/soap box


A Natural Christian Ponderer said...

In general, women are more nurturing than men towards children. Biologically-speaking it makes sense because the woman carries the young and technically males can sow their seed wherever they want. They don’t have to be invested. However, that is not to say that it has to be that way. Some men from life experience have learned to be nurturing. Some women are more career-oriented. Sometimes it just basically comes down to the fact that the wife makes more than the husband could potentially either due to normal wages, the husband is unable to work, or just the plain desire of both to live in that situation. There’s nothing unbiblical about this way of life. The husband is still providing for the family in his own way as is the wife. The importance aspects of the relationship for the children are that they are 1) being cared for and invested in by both parents, but particularly the one that is staying home; 2) seeing a healthy relationship between their parents; 3) being brought up to the best of the parents’ abilities in the faith and seeing the love of Christ in their parents; and 4) meeting the children’s basic needs.

Tim Nichols said...

Good call. It might be generally true that dad needs to get out and work, but different circumstances call for different responses, and the biblical instructions take this into account (if one should read them, like, in context.) Making a man's opinion into grounds for church discipline is legalism of the first order.

Glad to see you blogging again. Good for you.

to Feed a Family of Five said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Powers said...

Hi. Just stumbled across your blog after viewing this post on youtube and looking for anyone commenting on it.
He's using the ESV.
I usually tend to agree with most of what Driscoll teaches, but I think he does miss it on this one. I'm a stay-at-home-Dad of three kids. My wife works at a GREAT job that she was able to get because she finished her MA before I finished my schooling, and I have worked part-time in various ministry jobs while keeping the kids. Now, I am no longer working a job, but am at Seminary working on my MDiv so that I can eventually teach on the college/univ level full time.
Where I think he misses it is that, though I may not be the primary provider in terms of dollar amount of income, I certainly provide my children with quite a lot of care, instruction, training, and many other things. Also, were our financial condition ever in doubt, I would certainly go out and procure as many jobs as was necessary to sustain life and provision. In this way, I may not by my specific actions necessitate provision, but I maintain the knowledge and understanding of my position of responsibility, and the moment anything changed, you'd find me working myself to the bone to make sure we had all we needed.

Jay Schiesl said...

First and foremost, he is not using the ESV. He has paraphrased the Bible to twist the Word of God to support his interpretation. So, I agree that he has taken the verse completely out of context and it frustrates me greatly. In most situations, I am spot on with Driscoll. But, he has upset me on this one. Maybe it is because I am a stay-at-home dad and struggle daily if I am aligned with God's Word in providing for my family. Your post and reminding me of what Paul tells us in Ephesians has given me a new perspective to chew on for a few days.

Anonymous said...

I agree that he has taken it out of context and twisted the translation. Also, what is his answer in a culture and economy that bears a 1 out of 8 prime age men unemployed? So, due to a culture that creates a "hecession" as they have termed it - what is the man suppose to do. In fact, this kind of teaching is dangerous. I have seen marriages (several personally) go for divorce during these times. As a single guy, taking off from the wife and kids, you are less restricted and able to find more option with respect to employment.

So, you will be able to send a support check at some point; but the family is gone????? This is his great religious teaching?

We are in difficult times, both economically and culturally. Teaching on keeping the family together should be the priority.

HOWEVER, if jobs are available and the guys just a bum, that's a different case - but for the most part, I see two income families (because they have to, which is bad enough, someone should be a home), guy gets laid off (not a protected class), can't find any kind of work (jobs aren't there) and divorce in 6-12 months. Where is he on that issue?????