Today’s post is my attempt to answer a question posed by reader and occasional commenter Nathan. He left it in my Questions and Suggestions page, which is the perfect place to leave any questions you might have related to my blog or the topics I cover. Here is Nathan’s comment in full:
What is your best info and advice for men to pick and plan their personal missions in life, who are concerned about how the possibly low income and high expense of that mission lifestyle will effect and decrease their odds of marrying a truly godly woman? This seems like picking a mission without any hope for a wife OR picking a wife and trying to make a lot of money, but without any personal mission, and both of those options seem less than ideal.
I’m pissed off that nearly [every] example of married men in the bible is rich, mad that most Christian women are repelled by a lack of high income.
What to do?
Let me begin by noting that while Nathan asks only one question (in a short and long version), there are several possible topics to discuss besides just the question of “what to do?” As I see it, there are three major issues here (along with several sub-issues that I will only touch on):
- How can a Christian man still marry if he is intent on pursuing a life-path/mission that not only doesn’t pay well, but is expensive at the same time?
- What is the significance of the fact that nearly every married man in the bible is rich?
- Why are most Christian women repelled by a lack of high income?
I am going to address the last question first, as I believe it will be relatively easy to cover. The second question is actually worth a post all of its own, as it will require some serious delving into scripture. So that will follow at some point in the future. The first question will be what I will finish with, and devote most of this post towards. I would ask that those who comment keep to the two points that this post covers. [Having finished the post now, I can say that it isn’t my best. But I wanted to respond to him as soon as possible, so I’m posting it right away rather than spend the time to try and smooth the edges. Keep this in mind as you read the rest.]
This brings me to the issue of why it seems that most Christian women are repelled by a lack of high income. The first thing I would like to do is point out that all women, not just Christian women, are attracted to a man with a high income. Money, of which income is a significant component, is one of the attributes that women use to measure the attractiveness of a man. As its position in the PSALM formula indicates, Money is the weakest of these attributes. But it is still something that women pay attention to, at least when high numbers are concerned.
Even with this in mind, a number of men around the sphere have argued for some time that most Christian women are even more materialistic than their secular sisters. Personally, I have no opinion on the matter. In my experience most women who profess to be Christian are no more concerned, and no less, than secular women when it comes to income and wealth in general. But for the sake of this post let us assume that their assessment is accurate. So why would Christian women be more insistent on a man having a higher income than secular women?
One reason that I can think of is the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.” Apparently this is quite prominent in a number of Protestant Christian circles. Since most of those men making these allegations/observations tend to be Protestant, I wonder if there might be a link between the two. Not being familiar with this particular theology, its adherents, or Protestant churches in general, I will leave it to my Protestant readers and commenters to offer their thoughts on this possible cause.
Another factor might be the rampant sense of entitlement that is fostered amongst many Christian women these days in the West, especially in the US. The title of EAP, or Entitled American Princess, is sometimes associated with “good church girls”, who are often called “Daughters of the King.” Given the rampant feminism in most Christian churches these days, it is only natural that unhealthy and unrealistic expectations will be developed in many young Christian women.
There might be other factors at play, but I can’t think of them at the moment. My readers are encouraged to off their own suggestions at what might be behind this.
Something I want to touch on real quickly is that women should be concerned about a man’s income, or his future ability to provide, when it comes to marriage. After all, he will need to provide for a family, especially while his wife is pregnant and they have children. A man who cannot provide for a family, now or in the future, needs to understand that his ability to marry will be severely limited. And there is nothing wrong with this- we men are called to a great responsibility as husbands and fathers, and need to live up to that. What I think that Nathan was getting at, though, is that many Christian women’s perceptions of what an appropriate income is to support a family are heavily skewed to the high end. As a result few men can hope to live up to these unrealistic, and unnecessary, expectations.
Finishing that, we return to the initial question of what a man can do about marrying when pursuing a low-income “mission.” As I just alluded to, men need to understand that they are primarily (but not solely) responsible for supporting their family. This isn’t something that can be escaped from just because a man is serving on “a mission from God.” Unless a man has some means of materially supporting his wife and children in the future, he needs to understand that a family is just not in the cards. It might be a necessary sacrifice (albeit a great one) in order to pursue his God-given mission. Is that a hard road to walk? Well, yes it is. But Jesus warned us as much:
29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.
I think that part of the dilemma faced by Nathan is self-imposed, in the sense that he (perhaps without intending to) rejects a lifestyle that earns a high income as compatible with serving the Lord. While riches make entering heaven difficult, it is not impossible. After all, with God all things are possible. One doesn’t have to be poor to serve God. It just helps keep distractions out of your life.
In addition, our personal missions can be quite varied. For some Christians it might be actual missionary work in Africa or Asia. For others, it might be charity work closer to home. For others it might involve raising funds or foodstuffs or other necessities for those in need (something Saint Paul himself engaged in). For others it might be evangelization, or something as simple and yet as difficult as raising a family of saints. I could go on listing possible paths for a long time yet; there is no limit to the ways we can serve the Lord.
But if you feel called to a specific vocation (to use the Catholic parlance), it might be necessary to give up a wife and family. If you think this might be the case, then I recommend lots and lots of prayer. Combine this with discussions with wise and devout individuals in your life, to discern if that is truly your calling. If it is, understanding that you are giving up a lot in this life, in the hope to gain a hundred-fold in the next.
Another option worth mentioning is to pursue mission style work later in life. One doesn’t have to do it when young. In fact, there are many reasons to do it while older. A man can spend his young working hard, acquiring money, getting married and raising a family, and then once the children are grown up he and his wife can engage in that mission then. At that point in life mission work might be a nice break from what you did before, and you might be better prepared for it as well. You doesn’t have to serve God the same way your whole life- the way we can serve can adjust as we gain experience and wisdom.
A biblical example of a Christian married couple who might fit this bill would be Priscilla and Aquila. Scripture doesn’t mention that they had children with them, nor does it mention their age. But given the way that they moved freely with Paul, I suspect that they were probably without children at the time. This might have been because their children had already grown up and moved to their own household. It is also possible they were infertile and simply couldn’t have children. If the former, however, they provide an example of a married couple who served God in a powerful and memorable way.
My advice to any man is to first discern what vocation he is called towards. Is marriage part of his God-given mission? If so, then he needs to plan and act accordingly. That means being in a position to support a wife, and then later a family. If you feel called towards something else right away, then you need to accept the sacrifice that is asked of you, and make peace with that. Otherwise, you can still plan your mission after you have an empty nest, where you and your wife do the Lord’s work in the manner you are called to. Just be sure and discuss this with potential wife candidates, so that they understand the nature of the mission, and man, they are becoming joined with.
That completes my initial thoughts on the matter. I would encourage my readers to offer their own thoughts and advice to Nathan, and to anyone else contemplating the same situation.
Update: The Unreal Woman has expanded on her thoughts in the comments in a post over at her blog. I highly recommend it.