Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (or thereabouts) says we’re all Pharisees about one thing or another. Of course, I’ve heard him refer to himself as “the pastor that cusses” so I wouldn’t take his word for it. I like him. He’s pretty freaky, but I like him. He’d probably say himself, something like “… but don’t take my word for it. Look it up in the Bible.” But I don’t believe that I’m talking to a group of people in the relatively unchurched Seattle area. When I lived there, I got up every Sunday morning (rain or shine … or freezing rain… ) and went out (very religiously, for several years, a good bit back in my life) … to play “Ultimate Frisbee”. God help me. I go to church now. My church even lets me pray publicly occasionally. But this isn’t the Mark Driscoll crowd, and this isn’t my conversation about why I’ve decided that I should obey the speed limit … even though an average trip onto any highway leaves me with the impression that I’m the only one choosing to follow it. This is about traditional family roles. And incomes.
Pastor Mark might also say … to me particularly …“Get a job.” Okay, so let’s see what the Bible says about that, shall we?
I agree with traditional Christianity in that the man should be the bread winner in the family. Get married … to the wife of your youth, and all that, right? Have children. Raise them up in the way that they should go. Stay married, right? Don’t cheat on your spouse. Work hard, and when you (the man) come home, kiss your wife, play with your kids, help them with their homework, and all that…. Right? Sure, I agree with all that. So why is my wife working and I’m not? More relevantly, why am I not even looking for work?
Okay, well here you go. Take the Bible literally, or interpret it all together, but don’t change the meaning, or whatever, right? Obviously the story about the fig tree will apply to more than just fig trees. Easy. Obviously, Jesus gives different advise to different people… because they’re in different situations. And we don’t know exactly what any of those situations are. Jesus knows. He knew then, and He knows now. I do interpret the Bible literally. But you have to take it into context. You have to take the Bible as a whole, rather than interpret any one sentence or situation literally. Are you still with me?
Okay. If I’m in the crowd, with Jesus two thousand and eight minus thirty years ago, or so. If I’m following along just to get a chance to touch the hem of His robe, like a bunch of other people…. I work my way through the crowd, and just as I get to him, I hear him tell a woman “Your faith has made you well.” She leaves. I say something ridiculous like … “Um… excuse me sir, but what am I supposed to do with my wife? Life! I mean … with my life!” Jesus pauses, and looks at me and I nearly melt to the ground with weak knees from the peace that shows in His face. He says “Why, what on earth do you mean, my son?” He knows, of course. He knows exactly what I’m talking about, he just wants me to say it. Two reasons. It’s healthy for me to ask the question publicly. It’s refreshing and releasing for me. Also, he wants everyone else to be able to hear, so that they can learn from my question as well. So I tell him the whole story.
I’ve been around. I’ve lived in seven states and – for many reasons – most of them having been mistakes or outright disobedience on my part – have had several dozen jobs. Finally, I get my life on track, start listening to the Holy Spirit, and move half way across the country, This was a big leap of faith – I moved for two applications – no promises of job interviews – at residential boys home facilities. I found a job and started training. The application deadline was two weeks expired when I found it. They would have been starting to despair if they didn’t have such great faith in God. The boys for that particular program showed up about ten days after I first ever heard of the place. They would have had to consider shutting down the program for that summer if I hadn’t showed up.
So after I’d been there about eight months, I told myself I was stable enough, and I started looking at profiles of women on an internet match-making service. At this point in the story, Jesus interrupts and says “Wait a minute. What’s ‘internet’?” I look at him, standing on the dirt road in his robe and sandals, surrounded by a crowd of people, almost entirely natural colored robes, and I give him a blank puzzled look. He smiles, and says “Kidding. I understand perfectly. Go right ahead with your story.” As I continue, I look around the crowd and see puzzled looks on all the faces now. Now it’s just me and Jesus in the conversation. Everyone else is lost and not understanding.
So I meet this woman online. She’s got two teenagers, and she’s been divorced for about seven years. She’s got a house and a yard and a church and a community … and I don’t have any of these things. And she’s got a job, making more than I’ve ever made in my entire random wandering gypsy-like life. She’s good at what she does and wants to continue doing it, and she’s on track to be making more at retirement … than I ever have in my entire random (so far) life.
On top of that, I’m the new guy in the family. We take pre-marital counseling classes from two churches – the one where she’s been in attendance, and the one that I went to whenever I could get time away from the boys in the woods (I spent much of my time in a wilderness program for at-risk youth). Both pastors seem to think we’re making wise choices, but the toughest is still ahead. What exactly do I do? The family doesn’t have at its greatest need … more cash. What it needs is to have a man around the house. The kids need someone to help them with homework. They need someone to play with them. Basketball, trampoline, or “Rock band”. He doesn’t care what it is - he just needs someone to be there when he calls. Crocheting, talking about books we’ve both read, or watching her favorite unfriendly genius medical doctor on television. She doesn’t care what it is that we do. She just wants a man in the house … that she knows is going to be in the house.
The kids have a great deal of catching up to do with me. Two reasons for that also. They haven’t known me terribly long, and because they’ve missed a lot of this kind of stuff – likely for as long as either of them can remember.
So I give Jesus the whole story, and I ask him. “Should I have my wife quit her job so that she can stay home with the kids, while I go out and work two jobs?”
Read the Bible. Get the whole thing into your attitude and then ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” What’s He going to say is more important? Income or family? What’s He going to put at the top of His priority list – cash flow or relationships? What DOES he put at the top of that list? He talks about money on many occasions, but once, He was asked directly. “What is the most important commandment?”
Matthew chapter six. Read it for yourself.
He talks about love. Love God. And love your neighbor. He says those two are equally important. More than that. He says that all the law and the prophets rest on these two commandments. Love of God and other people. Not the love of money.
Thank you, but I’m doing everything that I can, and I think Jesus would tell me that I am on the right path. Now, if something goes incredibly haywire (because that’s what would have to happen because my wife is so incredible with people, and she’s in a people-job, so they’ll likely want her to stay there forever) and my wife does lose her job, I already know what I’m going to do.
I’ll go out the very next day and apply for the ugliest job in the county. I’d apply for that one, because it’s the one with the most pay. Night shift (and it’s got other ugly aspects too, but there’s nothing illegal or immoral about it). And they’d probably give it to me, too, because they probably have a huge challenge keeping people in that position because it must be awful. And then I’d pray about that, so that I could remain healthy and at peace with what I was doing to earn an income for my family. If you really want to know what I’d do, email me and I’ll tell you.
Pray hard and take care of your family the best you can, but don’t think “the best” is always about money.
Grace and Peace to you, in Jesus Christ.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW
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I enjoyed your column. It is very well-written and I loved the parts when you talk to Jesus - especially about the Internet.
I agree with you - different situations require different actions.
I think you are doing the right thing.
Maybe you could even start selling some of your writing? You seem to be pretty good at it.
May God bless.
Author of The Running Girl