One of my favorite marriage books of all time is Robert Lewis’ Rocking the Roles. Coming from a divorced home where there was a definite disconnect from Biblical roles in marriage, I was hungry for someone to tell me what the blueprint was supposed to look like. Lewis does exactly that in that he describes the Biblical role of the man as the head of the home (said another way as the leader of the home) and the Biblical role of the wife as the helper of the home (said another way as the heart of the home) (Ephesians 5). These roles describe a complimentary set of ideals where the husband fights off his inclination towards passivity and actually provides proactive, loving, servant leadership. While the husband is learning to lead the wife is fighting her own battle to fight off her own inclination to want to take control of her environment. She has to learn to trust him. He has to learn to honor her in her role. It is a thing of beauty when done right.
The wife’s response to her husband’s role is to come alongside him and follow that leadership (as a fully participating partner in the process). She is to respect his God-given responsibility as head of the home. The husband’s response to the wife as helper is to remember that without her he is toast and that she is such a precious gift of the Lord to make his life better. God has given her many insights that will transform his house into a home. He is to admire and respect and support her role as vital to the overall direction of the family. She gets to submit (follow) to his leadership (Bible concept not mine) and he gets to willingly lay down his life for the well-being of his family (Bible concept not mine).
Who has the toughest role? Honestly, it is a toss-up. Don’t believe me try doing an exercise to help you understand the other person’s role. Ride a bicycle built for two. My wife and I did this years ago. It is a lot harder than it looks. On the front of the bike (as the leader), you feel tremendous pressure to keep everything moving in the right direction and out of the ditch. You have to work on keeping everybody moving and leaning in the right direction and pedaling hard. In the back seat (helper), you are to trying to keep in rhythm with the driver and trying to lean at the right time and pedaling hard along the way. The bummer is that the handle bars in the back don’t steer the bike (no matter how hard you try) and you have to trust the driver. I rode in both seats and understand the difficulty of both.
What does this have to do with finances you say? Everything. The husband’s role is still to lead and the wife’s role is still that of helper, no matter who manages the system. In our workings with families, we see a 50-50 split of who is the core administrator (ie. the one who actually pays the bills). For some families, the strategic choice for who does the actual bill paying is the husband and for others it is the wife. We don’t have a preference as a ministry. But, having said that it is important for each spouse to apply their God-given role in the marriage towards the financial well-being of the family. He must apply his head-of-the-home leadership role and she must apply her heart-of-the-home leadership role. If either role is missing the finances get out of whack in a hurry.
Don’t believe me? Try riding the bicycle built for two with only one person participating and see how long it takes you to get in the ditch!
Tim Howington is Executive Vice President for Freedom 5:one and is one of our Financial Life Coaches. He lives with his wife Terri and son Josh in Rogers Arkansas.