What does it actually mean to provide for your family? As a Christian father, Pastor, and a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, I have given this matter a great deal of thought. It has been critically important to my role as a father and husband, but also as a shepherd of God’s people.
I am addressing this topic, because I honestly believe there is much confusion and misconceptions regarding what it means Biblically to provide for the needs of our families. All of us want to be good providers, but what does that mean?
First, we must understand that as Americans we are living in the most materialistic, affluent, consumer-driven culture the world has ever known. It’s very easy to lose our bearings, our sense of proportionality, and self-restraint in the day and age we live. We can easily be swept up in the culture’s definitions, and simply default to their expectations.
Let me give you a simple, yet profound example. In 2004 I needed to purchase a different stove. Ours was completely worn out. I went to an appliance store, having called ahead to see if they perhaps had what I had in mind. The sales lady greeted me and remembered my call. She walked me over to a $1000 stove and began to describe the features to me, most of which I would never, ever use. I graciously interrupted and said “Will this $1000 stove bake my potato better or faster than the $379 dollar stove I called you about?” She got a little sheepish and said “No.” I asked, “Will the electrical components of this $1000 stove last longer than this $379 stove?” She said, “No.” I then said, “Why would I want this $1000 stove?” She looked at me very puzzled and said, “Mr. Darling, you are the first person to ever ask me these questions in the 20 years I have been selling appliances!!” That says a lot about the brainwashing of Americans. I bought the white $379 stove. We’re still using it to this day!
Do you see that? Do you grasp how warped our sense of reality has become? Do you see how easy it is to think that providing means we purchase the top-of-the-line stuff for our homes? Do we really know how to think about life through a truly Biblical, wise perspective?
I am bringing all of this up because so many men are feverishly working, trying to provide for their families, but often, without realizing it, they’re operating from the premise that in order to be a “good provider” they must achieve the culturally affluent American life to be that good husband, father and provider.
Recently, I looked up the house I grew up in at 515 Ohio Street, Webster City, Iowa. It’s been repainted, and some fencing was put around it since I lived there and a double garage was added. But back in my day, all 8 members of my family lived in this approximately 2000 square foot home. Growing up it had a single garage. It provided what we needed. Shelter from the cold, the rain, and the snow. It gave our family a place to live and grow up safely. In fact, if I were going to move to Webster City now, that home would easily meet our needs in 2023.
I think if truth be told, many Christians have lost sight of this Biblical perspective, “If we have food and clothing, with these be content. For we brought nothing into the world and we will take nothing with us. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
I find it quite compelling that Paul is tying together our desire for more than the basics to a desire to get rich. Obviously, as fathers, we need to provide our families with food, clothing, and a place to live. This is understood. We live in very different times than Paul. We will have electric bills, gas bills, garbage bills, and water bills. Modern life in cities requires these basics to live and function. We will need some types of insurance. We will need to provide some means of transportation. But what kind of vehicle we choose says a lot about our values and perspectives regarding the Bible’s teaching calling us to a modest way of life. Are we people who live for eternity, or for the here and now? Obviously, in Paul’s day, there was no way to fix cavities in teeth. You eventually just pulled them. Today however, we can often save the tooth. That’s a wonderful thing. But does that mean that I should give every child of mine a perfect smile, to a slightly crooked tooth, just to prove I am a good provider? Every dentist I know will try to sell you on your child having a perfect smile and the confidence it will bring to their life. And isn’t a perfect smile a must-have in this social media driven, selfie picture day and age? How dare you not provide it for them! Certainly, for some children, there are medical reasons braces are a must, and I affirm that. It’s wonderful to have that option available. Each of you as parents will have decisions to make in these areas and they are between you and God. I am not sitting in judgment. I only desire to provoke your thinking, to get you to think carefully about these questions in a much deeper way.
In 2000 I was going to purchase the first home we’ve ever owned. I met with a trusted Christian mortgage professional, to get his help. He ran my credit score, then told me “Mark, in my 25-year career I have only seen a handful of people with a credit score this high. You can qualify for a $300,000 loan.” I looked at him and said, “Jack, why would I want a $300,000 home?” He looked at me strangely, as if to say, “Are you kidding? Of course, you need a home like that! You’re an American. It’s an investment!” I said, “What happens if the market drops and home prices plummet?” Which it did in 2008!! I told him, “Why would I want to have a high monthly payment like that and shackle myself and our finances? I want to intentionally live below our stream of income.”
You see, I knew the $134,000, 1500 square foot duplex I wanted to buy would serve our family of 6 just fine. It would meet our needs. It would be the nicest home we had ever lived in. I had perspective, I understood Biblical principles, and what it means to provide. Again, this is an illustration of what is possible. You must decide before the Lord how he is leading you, and why he is leading you that way.
I’m sharing all of this with you as simple illustrations of how we can provide for our families, yet do so without being caught up in the materialistic consumerism of our age. My intention is not to make you feel bad or to say you must do exactly what I did. I realize home prices have gone way up since I purchased mine. I am simply trying to provoke your thinking, to unshackle you from the expectations the world tries to place on you, or the self-imposed pressure you may be feeling, that if you don’t achieve a certain standard of living, you have failed as a provider.
While we all must learn to save for the future, and for future needs as Proverbs advises, not all will have access to a 401k plan. In addition, many of you have a calling from God in your life, as I did, to some kind of Christian service. This will very likely require you to live on less than other men in the secular workforce. Even those in the secular work field, have different skills and abilities given to them by God. Some will make more money than others. But all of us no matter who we are must learn to live Biblically, to impose upon ourselves an eternal and modest way of life, that becomes the name of Christ.
To those who by this world’s standards are rich, the Bible has great advice for you also! Do not put your hope in riches, put your hope in God and be rich in good deeds, generous of heart, willing to share, laying up riches in heaven! So many of you are doing these very things with the wealth God has given you and it is very commendable. I praise God that you are using your financial blessings to honor God through your good deeds and tremendous generosity.
Very few men today have the courage to live their convictions, without the fear of what others think of them. Do not be afraid to live what God has called you to my friends.
I hope this message encourages your heart and soul. May God give you the wisdom and courage to live out these truths and principles as you work so diligently to provide for your families.
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling