What Does It Mean for a Man to Manage His Household Well?

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When Paul describes what an overseer of a church must be, he includes this qualification: “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive” (1 Tim. 3:4).

Why does it matter whether a man manages his own household well? The rest of the sentence explains why: “for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5).

Paul argues from the lesser to the greater: If you aren’t reliable in small matters, how will you care for others in great matters? If you can’t manage your own finances well, how will you care for others as a financial advisor? And if you can’t manage your own household well, how will you care for God’s church as a pastor?

How to be a faithful pastor illustrates how to be a faithful husband and father. So let’s work in reverse from the shepherd metaphor to the household. That is, let’s focus on the shepherd metaphor to analyze how a father should lead his family. Faithful shepherds do four actions (which I’m borrowing from Timothy Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader):[1]

1. Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010).
  1. A faithful shepherd knows the sheep.
  2. A faithful shepherd feeds the sheep.
  3. A faithful shepherd leads the sheep.
  4. A faithful shepherd protects the sheep.

Let’s analyze what faithful fathers do by using that four-part paradigm.

1. Know[2]

2. I created the images directly under the first three main headings by using artificial intelligence at https://labs.openai.com/.

A faithful pastor knows his sheep. Jesus is the ultimate shepherd, and he says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).

A faithful father knows his wife and children. A shepherd smells like sheep because he lives with them. He spends time with them. His presence is comforting and reassuring. The fundamental starting point to knowing your wife and children is to be with them and know them.

  • What do your wife and children need and want from you?
  • What makes them tick?
  • What do they like and dislike?
  • What are their deepest fears and aspirations?
  • Do you delight to study your wife and children? What are you intentionally doing to get to know them better? Do you regularly have unhurried conversations? Are you deeply interested in them and their world?[3]
3. These questions update Andrew David Naselli, “How to Treat Your Wife (1 Peter 3:7),” in ESV Men’s Devotional Bible, ed. Sam Storms (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 1477.

The first and most basic role of shepherds is to know the sheep. The next three responsibilities—feed, lead, and protect—are necessary because sheep are fairly helpless.

2. Feed

A faithful pastor feeds his sheep. King David was a shepherd as a boy, and he later wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. / He makes me lie down in green pastures. / He leads me beside still waters” (Ps. 23:1–2; cf. Ezek. 34:14–15; John 21:15–17). A good shepherd provides what his sheep need to be healthy. A church’s shepherd feeds the sheep with spiritual food and water—God’s words (cf. Matt. 4:4).

A faithful father feeds his wife and children. The feeding metaphor means to provide. A faithful father feeds his wife and children by providing for them in at least two broad categories—body and soul.

1. Feed them physically by providing for their bodies. This includes food, clothing, and shelter. God designed a man to provide for his wife and children. We work hard so that we can be generous to our family and others. We plan and invest so that we can be generous to our family and others long-term.

2. Feed them spiritually by providing for their souls. Teach them about God’s words and God’s world constantly (Deut. 6:7). God commands, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction [paideia kai nouthesia] of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), which is basically equivalent to a robust Christian education and enculturation.[4]

4. See Douglas Wilson, Why Children Matter (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2018), 53–60.

3. Lead

A faithful pastor leads his sheep. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. / He makes me lie down in green pastures. / He leads me beside still waters. / He restores my soul. / He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:1–3). A good shepherd shows the sheep where to go and what to do. The most significant way pastors lead the flock is by “being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:1–3).

A faithful father leads his wife and children. The essence of leading is influencing. A faithful father leads his wife and children primarily by being an example of godliness. By your example, you should show your wife and children where to go and what to do.

4. Protect

A faithful pastor protects his sheep. In the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, David argues with King Saul after Saul says that David is too young to fight Goliath:

David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:34–37a)

Sometimes a shepherd must kill a lion or a bear. That’s why Paul instructs Titus that an elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word” for a specific purpose: “so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). A church’s pastor must be able to take out lions and bears that are seeking to eat the sheep.

A faithful father protects his wife and children. Men protect others. That’s part of what it means to be a man.[5]

5. See Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than One Hundred Disputed Questions (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 44.

1. Protect your wife and children from physical harm. This includes taking security measures for their safety in and out of the home—such as protecting them from sexual predators. This is a baseline that many non-Christian fathers meet.

2. Protect your marriage from spiritual harm. Our adversary the devil has many schemes to harm marriages, and one of his most successful strategies is to inflame a man’s sinful sexual desires. A faithful husband is not only aware of this dangerous threat to his marriage; he proactively fights sexual sins (cf. Rom. 13:14; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:11). The place to win this war is not on the battlefield of physical adultery. It’s way before that on the battlefield of mental adultery—looking at a woman for the purpose of lusting (Matt. 5:27–28). And in our culture today, winning this battle means saying no to pornography (cf. Titus 2:11–12).[6]

6. See Andrew David Naselli, “Seven Reasons You Should Not Indulge in Pornography,” Them 41 (2016): 473–83; Joe Rigney, More Than a Battle: How to Experience Victory, Freedom, and Healing from Lust (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2021). Doug Wilson explains, “Porn is enervating, emasculating. Porn and masturbation in tandem are a great engine of our modern plague of effeminacy in men. . . . Just as smoking pot makes you feel wise and insightful, so porn makes you feel like a dude. But it is an optical illusion. It is a lie. . . . Porn separates the fun from the fertility and as a long-term consequence loses both the fun and the fertility.” Douglas Wilson, Get the Girl: How to Be the Kind of Man the Kind of Woman You Want to Marry Would Want to Marry (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2022), 116, 118.

7. We have adapted this: J. D. Crowley, “This Is How We Pray for Our Children,” Andy Naselli, 30 October 2012.

8. E.g., see the ongoing investigative series in City Journal by Christopher F. Rufo.

3. Protect your children from spiritual harm—both from outside and from inside. First, protect your children from wolves (harm from outside). My wife and I frequently pray something like this: “Father, please protect our daughters from false teachers and false teaching. Make them love what is true and good and beautiful.”[7] Consequently, (1) my wife and I have chosen not to send our children to government schools—especially now that public schools in America are indoctrinating children in woke ideologies such as LGBT+ and critical race theory.[8] Government schools in a pluralistic society at best attempt to teach cold, hard facts apart from God’s existence, let alone acknowledging God’s supremacy. (2) We don’t give our children phones or unrestricted access to the Internet and social media, and we are careful what entertainment our children watch and listen to. (3) We are careful what Bible teaching our children receive, and we point out what is false when we encounter it along the way and warn against it.

Second, protect your children from going their own way (harm from inside). “All we like sheep have gone astray; / we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isa. 53:6a). Sheep need fences because sheep go astray, and we need fences because we go astray. We need boundaries because we are prone to wander. Each one of us is depraved and thus wired to go “his own way” (Isa. 53:6). Fathers, your children are prone to go their own way—and that’s the wrong way. That means that fathers must discipline their children.[9]

9. See Andrew David Naselli, “Training Children for Their Good,” The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 3.2 (2013): 48–64. Cf. Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 2nd ed. (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd, 1995); Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing (Moscow, ID: Canon, 1997), 105–43; Douglas Wilson, Why Children Matter (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2018), 35–50; John MacArthur, What the Bible Says about Parenting: Biblical Principles for Raising Godly Children (Nashville: Word, 2000), 105–56; John Piper, “Would Jesus Spank a Child?,” Desiring God, 16 February 2009; Kevin DeYoung, “Seven Principles for Angry Parents Disciplining Angry Children,” The Gospel Coalition, 15 September 2016; Sam Crabtree, “Should Parents Spank Their Children?,” Desiring God, 5 September 2020; Tilly Dillehay, “How the Rod Can Point Children to God,” The Gospel Coalition, 2 October 2020.

10. There are at least two different senses of gentleness. One denotes strength, and that’s what I am focusing on here—that is, how gentleness is a virtue for masculine leaders like pastors, husbands, and fathers. The other sense denotes weakness and vulnerability. The gentle or meek are often parallel to the poor or downtrodden in the OT.

4. Protect your wife and children with strength and gentleness: be tough and tender. Protecting emphasizes strength and toughness, but wise fathers are also gentle and tender. Gentleness is the virtue of humbly and wisely showing tender kindness to someone.[10] Fathers, we should honor the Lord and serve our children by responding gently when they are hurting, sick, scared, confused, squabbling, obnoxious, inconvenient, or irritating. We must be gentlemen by God’s grace.

Conclusion

So what does it mean for a man to manage his household well? It means to be a faithful shepherd of your household. Faithful shepherds know the sheep, feed the sheep, lead the sheep, and protect the sheep. That’s what faithful pastors do, and it’s what faithful fathers do.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author

Andy Naselli

Andy Naselli

Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of systematic theology and New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and one of the pastors of The North Church.