How Much is Enough?

I received this question from a good friend the other day. It’s not uncommon to have these questions and I thought you might like to see my answer.

I have edited the response to protect his identity. Here is a bit of background. We have known each other for several years, and at one time he was making a very good income in his field. His children are now grown and out of the house.

His Question:

Where in the bible does it speak of biblical responsibilities of husbands and wives? We’re still struggling financially and my wife is frustrated that perhaps I am not doing all I should to “provide” for my family. I work 40-50 hours a week @$12 an hour at my job. It isn’t enough for us to survive and we’re hurting. My wife believes that it my job as husband and provider to deal with this and other financial obligations we both have made

So that being said, what are our roles, biblically speaking? What is the role and responsibility of a husband and vice versa the wife? Am I supposed to “provide” whatever is expected? Beyond shelter, food and clothing what am I supposed to do?

My response

This is a REALLY good question, and there is much to say. I pray that my answers are what God needs you to hear.

Let’s start here: Ephesians 5:21-33 is the basic instructions for how to love and submit. You are to be submitted to God and your wife is to be submitted to you. Submission is not subservience; it is allowing another to lead in a decision-making role. Submission is the position of permission. Here’s the full text:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Now, while this is well and good, it does NOT get to the crux of what your bride is wanting. Our pastor talks about how men are naturally prone to hunt, provide and protect. The wife generally is a gatherer and a nurturer. He once said, “don’t get mad about your wife asking you for money. Who else would she ask, the neighbor ?!?” While this does put pressure on us as men, it also clearly delineates the role we play.

The passage that she is probably thinking of when she talks about you providing is this one from 1 Timothy 5:8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

It would be a good idea to read the context of that, but it comes from wanting others to provide for you instead of us providing for ourselves and how the church should be involved. There were some men “waiting on God” and were not working to provide for their households. Here is a good overview of the role of husbands. Here’s one on wives.

Let’s face it. There are few men alive that would not want to coast along and have someone else handle their problems, but that is not God’s design. Your wife wants relief from the constant pressure you have faced for several years. I know it’s been a long wait and it’s been frustrating to both of you, but there is no clear information in the Bible about “how much is enough”. Currently, you are not making enough to provide more than basic subsistence for your family. But Jesus says in John 10:10,  “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” from the Amplified Bible.

So, what does your life look like? Stolen dreams, dead vision, a destroyed life? Or is it abundant, full, well-provided-for, healthy and sufficient? The fruit that you and your family display is from the tree that you nurture. The fear, distress, hopelessness and division that is there is always from the Devil. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Good. Perfect. God. Anything else is a distortion, a corruption of what God has made. Bluntly, we have been trained in a poverty mind set. That’s not what you think it is. Poverty is not being poor. It’s a fear of lack. Most of us have feared lack! We’ve acted like slaves instead of conquerors.

So, what to do? You have to get some better perspective. All you have been able to see for years has been failure and disappointment. That’s what’s behind the feelings your wife is telling you about. Our wives see better things in us than we do. I know mine does for me. Do you and your wife pray together? What about? Is it always about lack of provision? What scripture are you praying over her every day? What scripture does she pray over you?

You might think that this doesn’t lead to anything, but “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” – Romans 10:17. This means that you have to have the Good News of Christ spoken in your home and over you every day. The Message Bible has a great way of putting it in the same passage: “Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.” Faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen” in Hebrews 11:1. Faith essentially means agreeing with God’s Word and His Kingdom. His Word spoken in prayer is powerful!

Jesus said in Matthew 6:10, “your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”. That means NOW! Do you think anyone in heaven is dealing with the things we are dealing with? No! Here’s where a lot of Christians get mixed up. They think His will is going to be done on earth. But Jesus was praying in the “now” sense. Not someday. God’s will is to be done here and now!

So, I don’t have a “how much is enough” answer. I do know this: she’s not going to get an answer from you that she likes and you’re not going to have an answer you like outside of God and His plan.

Here are some steps I suggest:

  1. Pray with your wife about this. Just asking God to open the dialog between you with peace is a good beginning. Remember to pray scripture. James 4:7 should be a daily prayer (in your own words). Something like, “God I submit myself to you and I resist the Devil and he has to flee!” “I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 8:37. Pray for the full armor listed in Ephesians 6:10-20.
  2. Read Psalm 139 out loud to each other for a whole month. You both need to know how much God loves you and how much and often He thinks about you
  3. Go to the website of my church and look up the videos and blogs there. The site is Go to the Resources tab. Get into this teaching about God’s love, His provision and His plan for your life.
  4. Renew your mind See Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  5. Ask God for creative concepts and ideas. We all know what you and I want to do, what our  dreams are. What shall we do until we get there? In the story of the feeding of the 5000 in Matthew 14:13-21, there is this statement, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” The provision for the disciples was not just in the loaves and fishes but the abundance of the remaining pieces. Those small pieces of excess filled twelve baskets!  Little ideas from the Holy Spirit lead to abundant provision!

The real question is not “how much is enough”, but “how much do I trust God”? When you discover that He can be trusted fully and that his plans are “to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future” as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, then you can trust him to help you lead your family!


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