A podcast listener named Zack writes in to ask, “You have mentioned many times before the glorious role of a woman being a mother and a homemaker. Biblically speaking, what role does the husband have in homemaking and in caring for children? What responsibility does he carry?”
The husband bears the joyful, weighty responsibility of overseeing and leading the household so that each of the members flourishes to the fullest extent that God has planned. That is the simplest way to say it — the big, overarching statement. He is the overseeing, responsible one, which involves giving guidance for forming and formulating the moral vision of the family. What does he stand for? What are its ultimate goals? What is the tone of it? What is the spirit of the family, the structures of the family, the expectations of the family?
A Dad’s Primary Roles
This oversight involves primary responsibility for protection in the family — physically, morally, and spiritually. It involves the primary responsibility for providing for the family. It involves a servant heart that leads by modeling rather than mere commanding. And it involves cultivating joy as the indomitable atmosphere because of the gospel and the sovereignty of God. Let me just tick off a few Bible verses for each of those roles.
1. Dads lead their families.
“The husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23). That means he is the leader. He gives guidance, and that is what the head does to the other parts of the body. The eyes are in the head. The ears are in the head. The tongue and the voice are in the head. The brain is in the head. Of course, it doesn’t mean the other parts of the body don’t have their responsibility before God in their own ways. It means there is a unique role for the husband to lead. He is like the Savior. “The husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23), which means something like a protector, a deliverer. He guards the family from moral evil and physical evil.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25), which means all this leadership and all this protection is sacrificial. He is not overbearing. He is uplifting. He leads like Christ. He remembers that Jesus said,
The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you . . . For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? . . . But I am among you as the one who serves.
So Jesus is telling dads, Serve your kids. Serve your wife. Let servant leadership mark your oversight of the home.
3. Dads cherish their families.
And then there is this word cherishing in Ephesians 5:28–29: “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”
So there is a nourishing and a cherishing. The husband is a provider. He provides nourishment. He doesn’t sit back and expect his wife to provide for the family. He takes primary responsibility and they work it out together — both of them using their gifts to provide for this family. And he does all this with joy.
4. Dads shape their families.
Deuteronomy 6:6 says,
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
That is the peculiar teaching function of dads. And I say dads because Ephesians 6:1 says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord.” And then Paul moves on in verse 4 and says, “Fathers . . . bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” And all of this instruction has at the center of it, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
So the father carries the burden of shaping the spirit, structures the manpower of the family, and shapes the child’s character and the child’s skills and the child’s worldview as a servant of the Lord — all with joy, because he is a little pastor. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them . . . Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So dads who lead their kids and their wives with groaning are not serving them.
Pastors of Little Churches
We men are little pastors in our home. We have a little church there, and we are responsible to lead that little church, create the vision of that little church, and create the spirit and the atmosphere for that church. And it is to be one of joy so that the kids realize that to be happy in God is really what life is about.