Who comes first? Your wife or your ministry?

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by jonathanmbowman, May 22, 2018.

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  1. jonathanmbowman

    jonathanmbowman Puritan Board Freshman

    My understanding has always been that from a reformed perspective, we would say that a wife and your children while in your home are your first ministry. If you do not take care of them first your ministry will inevitably suffer (obviously God could give you a thriving ministry despite anything you do or don't do).

    Although I am Covenantal and Confessional in theology, I am currently attending a Reformed South Baptist church in the county I live (it is the closest thing I have to my beliefs).

    My Pastor on Sunday and again in my meeting today claimed that your ministry must come first and before your wife. He says people have told him before that your wife must come first, but he says he just doesn't see that in Scripture.

    I imagine he uses verses like Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

    To me Jesus is talking about extended family here. I also think this is in the context that you can't let your family let you from loving the Church and being faithful in ministry.

    1 Timothy 3:5 says "for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" What kind of example are we setting for people if we love others more than our own wife? I believe that we must at times sacrifice great things, and sometimes that will include time with family. But I don't see a good argument that would allow us to say ministry comes before our wife. Is not our wife our first ministry?

    I'm only 24, I recognize that I have only been married two years. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
  2. jonathanmbowman

    jonathanmbowman Puritan Board Freshman

    I should add that I had a very difficult time finding any articles from a reformed perspective on this topic. If anyone could point me to such an article I would be very grateful.
  3. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    1) God; 2) wife; 3) ministry. You're right on your thoughts on Luke 14:26. I'd be careful at that church.
  4. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wow, just saw you are a member at Cov Pres? Did your work take you elsewhere? I love Cov Pres; went to JMU and the preaching there molded me a ton.
  5. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Actually, I think Our Lord was using an ancient instrument of rhetorical comparison to make a vital point: your love for Him should be so great as it would appear to be "hate" when compared to your love of your wife, children, etc.

    And by the way, welcome aboard, Jonathan!
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The passage of Jesus was telling us that our love and devotion to Him takes first priority, over even wife and children, but he did not tell us to now hate those people.
    The relationships that are prioritized in the scriptures would be to place God first, wife, and then children, and then your ministry unto the Lord.
  7. jonathanmbowman

    jonathanmbowman Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you everyone, that was very encouraging and spot on!
  8. jonathanmbowman

    jonathanmbowman Puritan Board Freshman


    Small world! I also went to JMU and graduated in 2015. I loved Cov Pres and miss it a lot. Lot's of good friends there.

    I work for Young Life in Amelia County, SW of Richmond. I guess I need to update my bio. My wife and I attended Spring Run PCA which is one county over the first year and a half of our marriage, but felt led to go to a Church in the county where we could more easily bring high school kids who meet Christ to Church with us.

    We don't feel that it was a mistake as it was worth a shot, but we are strongly considering returning to our old Church as we have noticed these things and a pattern of law being added to the Christian life in addition to Scripture.
  9. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Your wife definitely comes first! :)

    Seek God's kingdom first, but recognize that the scriptures give a well-nurtured, believing household as normative. One can't say caring for your family precludes actively serving Christ, nor can one shun his family and claim God is glorified in that.
  10. sc_q_jayce

    sc_q_jayce Puritan Board Freshman

    Your wife (and even your children) must come first - if you don't then you really wouldn't be eligible to be an elder:

    1 Timothy 3:4–5
    He 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? (ESV)
    In addition, if you are neglecting your wife (or your children) for ministry, then you're worse than an unbeliever:

    1 Timothy 5:8

    But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (ESV)​

    John Calvin says about this passage (emphases mine):

    He says that they who do not care about any of their relatives, and especially about their own house, have “denied the faith.” And justly; for there is no piety towards God, when a person can thus lay aside the feelings of humanity. Would faith, which makes us the sons of God, render us worse than brute beasts? Such inhumanity, therefore, is open contempt of God, and denying of the faith.

    Not content with this, Paul heightens the criminality of their conduct, by saying, that he who forgets his own is worse than an infidel This is true for two reasons. First, the further advanced any one is in the knowledge of God, the less is he excused; and therefore, they who shut their eyes against the clear light of God are worse than infidels. Secondly, this is a kind of duty which nature itself teaches; for they are ( στοργαὶ φυσικαί) natural affections. And if, by the mere guidance of nature, infidels are so prone to love their own, what must we think of those who are not moved by any such feeling? Do they not go even beyond the ungodly in brutality? If it be objected, that, among unbelievers, there are also many parents that are cruel and savage; the explanation is easy, that Paul is not speaking of any parents but those who, by the guidance and instruction of nature, take care of their own offspring; for, if any one have degenerated from that which is so perfectly natural, he ought to be regarded as a monster.

    It is asked, Why does the Apostle prefer the members of the household to the children? I answer, when he speaks of his own and especially those of his household, by both expressions he denotes the children and grandchildren. For, although children may have been transferred, or may have passed into a different family by marriage, or in any way may have left the house of the parents; yet the right of nature is not altogether extinguished, so as to destroy the obligation of the older to govern the younger as committed to them by God, or at least to take care of them as far as they can. Towards domestics, the obligation is more strict; for they ought to take care of them for two reasons, both because they are their own blood, and because they are a part of the family which they govern.
  11. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I'm not sure I understand. How does the priority of wife-before-ministry ore vice-versa work in real life?

    A minister and his wife should be working together to glorify God at home and at church. I don't understand why one's wife and one's ministry should be understood as competing for priority.

    Sure, a pastor can be a workaholic, and neglect his wfe; he could also be a sluggard, and spend all his time having "quality time" with his family. The answer to either of these is to repent and devote oneself to God's glory in all one's spheres of responsibility.

    Remember, also, that the woman is given to her husband as a helper. She should do all in her power, according to her place and station, to support him in the ministry.
  12. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    What the Bible clearly priortizes, in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, is "seeking first Christ and His kingdom," which means that our relationship to God in Christ comes first.

    The Lord comes before the nearest and dearest of our relatives, including our own selves (we are to "hate," in the way Patrick noted, not only those closest to us but our own lives too).

    Having said that, we must then do what He's called us to do, and I must attend to the needs of my own household (wife and children) before anything else, though this does not always mean that I prioritize circumstantially in the same manner.

    If a parishioner needs me in the middle of the night, even though my wife may prefer that I stay with her (assuming that all is well with her), this does not mean that I don't attend to the parishioner. I say all this not to say that I differ with the brethren here: family is indeed a priority.

    But immediate needs in the body should be attended to by me as a minister and I should not seek to evade pastoral emergencies with lame excuses of "my family needs me." I say all of this because I have known men who have done this: hide behind "family needs" to avoid and evade ministry. Attend to one's family and attend to one's ministry. One is to do all of one's duties.

  13. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    And reading over my last reply, I feel compelled to add that my wife has supported me most remarkably in ministry over the years, whether near at hand or at a far remove (and this has often been the case). She has never failed to be anything but supportive in doing whatever is necessary for me to minister to God's people. I have sought not to neglect my family, with whom I thankfully have wonderful relationships, while attending to all my (many) duties. My wife has been a remarkable help in this, above and beyond the call of duty. Those ministered to may not realize it, but I as the minister do and do not have words of gratitude equal to what is deserved.

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  14. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    For me this question is not theoretical. I have had to make such choices. As a missionary, I chose to prioritize my family and I have a clear conscience before the Lord. If you want to read the story, it's in The Gospel Under the Northern Lights.
  15. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    She knows that, when you're old and wrinkled and walking with a walker, she'll have you all to herself then. LOL
  16. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    A pastor's wife becomes seriously ill late on a Saturday evening and is rushed to the emergency room. He should properly see to his wife's care rather than trying to deliver his sermon Sunday morning.
  17. ArminianOnceWas

    ArminianOnceWas Puritan Board Freshman

    I live in Mecklenburg Co. Have to travel up 360 through Amelia often to get to Richmond. In fact, our high schools are in the same competitive district.
  18. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Agreed. What is your point, exactly?
  19. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I didn't think I needed a concluding sentence to make it clear, but apparently I did. Here it is:

    "So that's how it works in real life."
  20. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Take this example:
    A pastor has a date planned with his wife. They're going out for their anniversary. While they're getting ready, he gets a call from one of his congregants. Their teenage son has just committed suicide. It's unthinkable that he would respond with, "Well I've got this anniversary date planned..." He should go to be with the grieving family.

    So, the emergency in among the flock takes priority over his regular duties at home, just as an emergency at home takes priority over his regular duties at church. Emergencies will always take priority.
  21. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    There are going to be seasons of greater demand, but there will also be seasons of less, as in any line of work: my husband worked in several areas before going into seminary I'm well aware that it's that way in any job. I have also seen my dad, and even my mom and my sisters work eighty hours a week at times, and travel for their work.

    One of the points about having one's own household in order is that a man who lays himself down daily for his wife/family and their needs will also be doing so for the bride of Christ. A man who rules gently and wisely in his own household will also do so in Christ's. The point seems not to be about competition but continuity. The wife is surely (normally) among the most convinced where her husband has this character and most supportive of his sacrificial ministry to others. Hopefully eager to share with others what is so sweet in her own life. (I feel that way about my husband. It's not hard ... I can't do much by way of ministry personally but I can share the sacrificial love that makes such a difference for me.)
  22. sc_q_jayce

    sc_q_jayce Puritan Board Freshman

    Or... the pastor contacts the session and asks the ruling elders to go immediately and comfort them. It's not like there's only two possible choices. There are many ways for a pastor to care for the congregants and still be mindful and compassionate towards his wife.

    Our pastor is currently away on his annual fishing trip to rest and prepare for summer ministry. If a tragedy happens during this time there are others who are equipped to handle situations. Substitute fishing trip with anniversary vacation and there you go.
  23. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I'm not saying anything different than anyone else. I will try to be succinct:

    The idea of priority-- wife or ministry makes a false distinction. The first priority of ministry is the wife and children. One is not neglecting the ministry when ministering to the family.
    Last edited: May 23, 2018
  24. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Just an added note re: hypothetical situations that I don't think I know any women -- in or out of ministry -- who would insist on being taken out to a celebratory dinner if their husbands were needed in a heartrending emergency ...
  25. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I fully agree with that assessment, but the only differing time might be when one was like Billy Graham, as his family accepted that God was sharing him to the entire world so to speak in his ministry unto the Lord. Ruth Graham said that she knew what she had signed up for, as Billy would be home a few weeks, than go months on Crusades.
  26. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Brother Jason:

    Your observation could lead us into a discussion of the office question and I am decidedly a three- (if not four-) office man. There are certainly elders who have clearly pastoral gifts (and, sadly, ministers who lack them), but such are not required in the same way in the office of governor, which is central to the task of ruling elder, as they are in the one who is a minister of Word and Sacrament. It's always great when an elder is pastoral but disastrous when a pastor is not. I've written about this here and there.

    But even if one takes a principled two-office approach, I can assure you that no congregant would take it that way. Let me illustrate: If I were taking my wife out for a celebratory dinner and someone had a clear pastoral emergency (take Tyler's suicide example), my sending the whole session over to the folk's house would not be taken well if it's known that I'm in town but am at dinner with my wife (I agree with what Heidi said about this; my wife would, in fact, insist that I leave dinner and attend to the needs at hand).

    If I were out of town and unreachable that would be one thing. If it were catastrophic, however, I would cut a vacation short to return to minister. Please note, I agree that others can step in in a measure and to a degree. There are times, however, when no one but the pastor will do and pastors who have the sheep at heart would not want to be elsewhere in the deepest time of suffering on the part of the sheep.

    Those suffering sheep may be those of his own family and he needs to tend to them and not fail to do so. A pastor may need to step away from congregational duties to focus on acute family needs. But a dinner is not such an urgent need. Don't go into the ministry if you think so.

    A pastor is something to the flock that an elder is not, all things being equal. I do not say this to offend anyone who may be differently convicted, but whatever your polity is, no hurting sheep is satisfied if his pastor can but doesn't attend to him. Such a pastor has every appearance of a hireling.

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  27. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'll adopt and endorse sc_q_jayce's response. Despite our large staff and highly qualified elders, one weekend I ended up at the end of the telephone number. (Fortunately, no one called that weekend).

    Sure, the pastor should respond to a crisis of that magnitude. But he shouldn't necessarily be the only responder, or even the first responder. The bereaved are entitled to pastoral care. If the pastor is the only one capable of providing it, it may reflect training deficiencies for the Ruling Elders, and, perhaps, even the deacons. (There are differences in the way that the OPC and the PCA view the roles of the deacons. So results may vary by denomination.)
  28. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Exactly. At least in the PCA - BCO 8 lays out the duties incumbent upon all elders, and it notes in 8-5 that the TE's unique duties are ministry of Word and sacrament. I think it's important to note that the TE - the pastor - is so designated not because he's primary visitor or first responder, but because of his ministry of Word and Sacrament. The congregational care responsibilities are to be shared jointly with all the elders in the congregation. Elders must be taught that they have a share in providing "pastoral care" and the congregation must be taught to think of the entire Session as their shepherds.
  29. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    I agree, Ben, that the PCA BOCO does what you say. Other church orders reflect the Westminster tradition (the Form of Presbyterial Church-Government, 1645) in this respect. That doesn't make it right; that's just a fact. The Southern Church departed from this tradition (and other churches have too) in having no distinct chapters on ministers and ruling elders. So this is a difference in our polity.

    Having said that, I am all for elders who step up in a crisis and who have loving, caring hearts for the flock. The OPC FG enumerates their duties in our communion: "Ruling elders, individually and jointly with the pastor in the session, are to lead the church in the service of Christ. They are to watch diligently over the people committed to their charge to prevent corruption of doctrine or morals. Evils which they cannot correct by private admonition they should bring to the notice of the session. They should visit the people, especially the sick, instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourning, and nourish and guard the children of the covenant. They should pray with and for the people. They should have particular concern for the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word and help him in his labors" (10.3).

    I take part of that help to be in just the kind of situations that you, Ben, and others (Edward and Jason) cite. This is differently conceived than what appears in your BOCO, I grant you, but that's our position. Practically speaking, our churches tend to be smaller, so that plays into ministerial response to the flock as well.

    I fear that I have contributed to the veering off-course of the thread and thus will myself desist in further discussions on this thread that impact the office question.

  30. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    At one point Ruben had a manual labor job that required him to travel out of town every week for at least a couple days. The only way to have made enough money at it for the most modest apartment was to work 60 plus hours. Growing up, my mom was often working two jobs to make ends meet after my dad's overtime. Then my dad got a job where he was gone most of the week in sales. When I was a mother's helper to a missionary family in Mexico -- their pace of life, and their standard of living, though not luxurious and quite appropriate, were much better than anything I'd previously experienced.

    I'm truly grateful for the emphasis on family in the reformed church. But busy seasons, seasons that stress us out, and demand sacrifice, are a reality of all kinds of employment; and many women in the church are coping with that reality. Sometimes to a greater degree than a minister's wife. As elders often engage in ministry activity in the time they have off from another job -- another woman in the church may make a bigger sacrifice for her husband to be on call.
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