A recent report by Ashley C. Ford for Refinery21 notes that in a significant number of domestic relationships between women and men (married or unmarried) the woman earns more than the man. This is creating tension, according to an article from NBC News:
The feedback they receive from the culture is clear: Men should be earning more so that they can provide for their families, and if they don’t, it’s symptomatic of a problem. These messages produce an “almost unavoidable emotional and psychological consequence,” Ford writes. Women feel guilty. Men feel emasculated. (Millennial Women Are ‘Worried,’ ‘Ashamed’ for Out-Earning Boyfriends and Husbands.)
They shouldn’t, neither neither men nor women. Women being breadwinners is honored in the Bible.
Proverbs 31 personifies Wisdom as a woman. (Exposing the Myth of the Proverbs 31 Woman.) She’s a powerful woman too, and is so successful in all she does that her husband, children and community praise her. As verse 11 says: “Her husband has full confidence in her … .” Why is he so confident? Among other reasons, because she works day and night to bring in money for the family:
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
Real estate magnate, winemaker, trader – she knows business and continues to earn profits from her work. How does her husband spend his days according to Proverbs 31? He is freed up to take part as a civic leader:
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
Of course, just because the passage doesn’t show him holding down a job doesn’t mean he was idle. He likely worked as hard as she did. Yet she is the one whose wisdom and skill is praised in this passage, with no hint of criticism for engaging in business that made her family wealthy and certainly no suggestion that her husband should have felt emasculated.
The Old Way Is the Wise Way
Ford’s report on women earning more than men suggests that the problem is societal:
Ford writes that “the overwhelming majority of millennial women breadwinners don’t believe the men in their lives should feel emasculated by the gap in their income.” Now they’re waiting for the overwhelming majority of Americans in general to catch up. (Millennial Women, above.)
I’d suggest instead that the solution is not catching up to a new way of looking at women and work, but to return to the ancient way found in Proverbs 31. Families are meant to thrive – not cover themselves with unbiblical shame – when the wife earns a high wage. There is nothing shameful or emasculating about it.
And let’s not only praise women whose work allows their families to thrive, but even more let us praise the One whose blessings allow that thriving in the first place.