Heath Lambert: Everyone knows what it is to be busy. Everyone knows what it is to feel the pull in different directions; of being devoted to your home and devoted to your work. Amy, what’s going on? What are people asking about this issue?
Amy Evenson: As you said, many people are torn between the call to be present at home and also needing to be devoted to their work. So how can we help people understand the relationship between their work and their home life?
Heath Lambert: Well, I think people do feel the tension because there is a tension there. And the tension is a biblical tension. If you think about a passage like 1 Timothy 5:8, it says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for members of his household, he’s denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I think what Paul is saying is that you don’t even have to be saved to know that you need to be caring for your family; you need to be caring for your wife in financial and physical terms. And so we’ve got this really clear biblical passage that says, hey, this is baseline faithfulness. You need to be providing for your family. And so this is going to be a call for men, in particular, to be working to earn a living for their home. But then, on the other hand, you have also a passage like 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and it says that a man—particularly an elder, in this case, a pastor—must manage his own household well with all dignity, keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? And this is, again, a requirement for leaders in the local church to be present with their homes and families.
But we shouldn’t understand this as being a biblical command that’s only relevant for pastors and church leaders. This passage is built on the understanding that the church is going to be defined by families that love one another, care for one another, and our strong family units. The reason this is a requirement for elders is not because it doesn’t matter for everybody else. It certainly does. But the reason it’s a requirement for elders is that if you’re going to lead an organization that is defined by that kind of family health and family strength, then you need to have a strong family yourself. And so even here in a passage that directs that pastors need to have stable homes, it’s really an understanding that the whole church, all Christians, should be striving for homes that are stable, secure, and full of love. And so we have this tension, we have a biblical call to be devoted to our homes and the love and the care that happens at our homes, and then we also have the call to be providing for those homes and for those families with physical provision. That, again, as a calling that comes particularly to men. But when we start thinking about the number of households where wives and mothers are also working, we see these dilemmas begin to increase, and so you’ve got to be devoted to your home and be present, be full of love, but you also have to work hard and provide. And so, those two realities can feel like a very strong tension very often, particularly when life is busy.
Amy Evenson: So if that’s the difficulty, how do we help people solve this problem?
Heath Lambert: This is hard, and it’s hard because of the tension that we just observed; there aren’t easy answers. We want to have a close home, but we have to pay the light bill, and we need to pay for groceries. And you can have all the familial affection in the world, but if you can’t afford to put groceries on the table, then it doesn’t work. And so balancing this is really a challenge, and I actually think that it defies simple answers of, yes, no, do this, don’t do that. And so, I think it may be helpful for us to think in a couple of different categories.
The first category that I think we need to think about is we need to realize that there are going to be different and unique situations all over the place. For example, there are going to be some people who are in work environments with absolutely no flexibility. An easy example might be someone in the military. If you’re in the military and you get orders that you’re going to go serve overseas for 18 months, you’re going, and that’s it, and that is your job. You don’t have the freedom to say no. That’s the way that you’re going to provide for your family, and that’s just what you have to do and that is hard, and there is not a thing in the world anybody can do about it, certainly in the short term. And so we have to understand that hey, in the providence of God, this is the burden that you have to bear, and this is the way that you’re going to provide for your home. And we would, as Christians, want to come around a family in such a difficulty and realize that it is a difficulty and try to minister to them. That’s an example where there’s no flexibility.
Other people are going to have more flexibility. We could think of someone who maybe has a job in writing or creative arts; we could think of people in ministry. I am in ministry, and I have more flexibility in my life than that Marine who might get shipped overseas. And so, there’s going to be times when I have the freedom to say, “You know what? I’m going to take a day, and I’m going to be with my wife, I’m going to be with my kids, I’m going to pour into them, and I don’t have anybody looking over my shoulder saying, ‘If you’re not in the office, then you’re in trouble.'” So there’s going to be some jobs that have a little more freedom, but even in the jobs where we have freedom, we have to understand that there are constraints there. Because if we overuse the freedom, then we’re not being productive and ultimately will be out of a job. And so, we have to understand that some vocations are going to have more freedom and some are to have less freedom, and we’re just going to have to figure out what’s going on with each of those situations.
A second thing I think we need to think about together is the fact that wives… I think, for husbands that are working hard out of the home to provide for their home. I think we need to help wives understand that it’s one of their main responsibilities to cultivate a heart of understanding within their home that Dad is busy and Dad is doing what he’s supposed to do. Honestly, my wife Lauren is really good about this. My kids are sad when I’m gone and away from home, my kids are sad when I’m busy all day, and I come home at dinner, and my kids are sad when I have to be out of town for a trip. And one of the things that my wife is really good to talk with them about is, “hey, this is a way that your daddy is loving us. He is loving us. He’s loving Jesus by serving him in ministry, he’s loving us by earning a living so that we can live and eat and you can go to school and all those kinds of things.” That really helps wives and kids to be talking about how daddy being out of the home is actually one of the unique ways that he can serve the home. So we want to cultivate that heart of understanding.
Another thing that I think we need to do very carefully as we need to encourage husbands and wives to communicate. So much of the trouble about a hectic schedule and balancing home and life is going to come from couples that just aren’t talking to one another. They haven’t planned out what’s coming, they haven’t planned out a vacation or a break, and they haven’t planned out busy seasons in the schedule. And so you get into these seasons where it’s really hectic, where it’s really crazy, where we haven’t had a break in a while, and everybody feels really frayed and harried. And what’s really helpful is just to get in front of those and just have as a regular part of your marital communication responsibilities that are mine at work that I’ve gotta be aware of, pressures in our home that we’ve got to be aware of, and keep everybody’s schedule lined out so we can plan for some of the busy times.
I’d say two more things. Sometimes couples, as they communicate about this, they’re going to realize, you know, what we do, have to make a change. Maybe this job that I’m in ultimately, in the long term, is not going to work for us, and it’s going to be better for our life together. It’s going to be better for our home if I try to find a way to back out of this position and get into another job where there’s going to be more freedom for us to be together. Where we’ll be able to kind of sit back and relax and have some time. That is not an option for everybody. I get it. Life is hard. Bills are expensive. But I do think if couples are really feeling the burn about this, I think it’s probably easier for couples than they think to cut expenses to make changes and have a win for their family. That means less money in the bank, but it is going to mean more for the strength of their family. So I think couples need to be willing to say, “Alright, the job I’ve got is not necessarily the job that I have to have, and maybe a change would be good.”
And then the last thing I would say is, to husbands, to fathers, and to moms who perhaps work outside the home. The most important thing you can do when you are pulled in both directions is to cultivate a heart for your home. To really cherish your home. Listen, I communicate to my wife and my kids all the time that my favorite place to be is with them. My favorite people are those guys. They are the people I want to spend time with. That is the place where I want to be. And they know when I’m on a long day at work or when I’m out of town on a trip, they know that is not my first and favorite thing to do. They know I do it to serve Jesus, and they know I do it to serve them, but they also know that I cannot wait to get back and be with them. They know they’re my favorite people. They know that’s where I want to be. and when they know that there is a lot more freedom and a lot more grace to say, “Hey, Dad’s away from home, and that’s hard for us. But it’s also hard for him.” And it pulls the family in together. If you do not have a heart for your home, then your family will know it, and that is going to be the source of more tension than the amount of time you actually spend away. And so, dads and moms that work outside of the home need to pray to Jesus Christ for grace to love what’s the most important, and that is the family that God has given you.