I have had this question asked to me a lot lately so I thought I would dedicate a post to this issue. While a wife is Biblically entitled to be fed and clothed by her husband(Exodus 21:10 & I Timothy 5:8) she is NOT entitled to equal access to his income.
The only “equality” the Bible places in marriage is on the issue of sex, that both the husband and wife have an equal right to have sex with the other(1 Corinthians 7:4). But in the Biblical model of marriage, marriage is NOT an equal partnership, but rather a patriarchy(a male lead hierarchical relationship) that is symbolic of the relationship of God to his people.
“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Ephesians 5:23-24
Some egalitarians and Christian feminists attempt to try and point to Ephesians 5:21 where it says “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” in order to cancel out the specific submission commands to women in the context of marriage. They do this in order to try and prop up their false “mutual submission” and “partnership” style of marriage. But this does not match the context and it makes no sense. If man and woman were equal partners in marriage(with no hierarchy) – this would break the model of Christ and the Church where he is the head, and the church is to submit to Christ in everything.
Another Bible passage egalitarians and Christian feminists point to in order to cancel out the mountain of Biblical passages that support the patriarchal view of marriage is found in Galatians:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28
Context is ALWAYS important when looking at the Bible(as well as any other book). In Galatians 3 Paul was not speaking on marriage, but rather on the new entity that God created, the Church . He was saying that spiritually speaking we as believers are equal spiritually before Christ. God equally saves men, women, Jews, Greeks, slaves and freemen the body of Christ is made up all these people – this is what Paul was saying.
Egalitarians and Christian feminists would have us believe that Paul literally just canceled out everything he wrote on the submission of wives to husbands,the headship of husbands over their wives and the general headship of men over women(Ephesians 5:23-24,Colossians 3:18,Titus 2:5,I Corinthians 11:3 & I Timothy 2:11).
They would also have us believe that Paul was directly contradicting Peter who also commanded wives to be in subjection to their husbands(I Peter 3).
No where in ALL of the Scripture is marriage EVER portrayed as equal partnership.
Recently I have had many Conservative Christians emailing me privately and some commenting publicly about how happy they are that I am presenting the Biblical view of marriage, despite how it totally conflicts with the modern western view of marriage. But I have actually received comments and emails from some atheists and those who have left Christian churches.
While these people(atheists and non-Christians) detest the Biblical view of marriage they have actually said they appreciate that I am not trying to do what many Christians do – and read egalitarianism into the Bible. The Bible and egalitarianism could not be more contradictory, and even non-believers who take the Bible at face value can accept this(and that is why they reject Christianity).
It is sad that many professed Christians continue to refuse to accept this truth and instead continue to try and replace God’s design of marriage with their “equal partnership” idea of marriage even though it directly conflicts with what God has clearly revealed in his Word.
Applying the Biblical principle of male headship to marital finances
So no, Biblically speaking both spouses do NOT have an equal right to what the other makes. The husband is the authority of all income that comes into the home, whether through his wife or himself.
A husband can deny access to his income as long as he is providing the necessities of food, clothing and shelter to his wife. He may do this because his wife spends too much money, or he may use it as a form of discipline for other sinful behavior.
But there may not be any negative reason why he chooses not to give complete and equal access to the family finances. Some men might do this in order to shield their wife from some of the financial stresses the family may face. Whatever the reason, the truth is from a Biblical perspective a husband does not have to open the family finances to his wife.
However, this truth does not mean he is released from talking with his wife and knowing from her perspective what she thinks are the financial needs of herself, their children and their home. Out of respect for his wife’s position as the manager of his home and children, and also because a husband ought to know his wife’s opinions, he should regularly inquire of his wife what she thinks the home needs are.
Is there anything wrong with a husband choosing to give his wife equal access to the family finances?
No there is nothing wrong Biblically speaking when a husband chooses to give his wife equal access to the family finances. Some husbands might choose to delegate the weekly paying of bills to their wife and there is nothing wrong with this. But these same husbands must realize, that while they can delegate the actual paying of weekly debts to their wives, they can never delegate their responsibility to lead the families finances.
However, a Christian husband is not permitted to have a “hands off” approach to the finances where his wife handles all the money and he has no idea what is going on – this is by definition dereliction of a husband’s duty to lead his home in this very important area of finances. A Christian husband should be setting the financial policies of the home and setting a budget(after gathering the needs of the home from his wife’s perspective of course), and planning for things like family vacations and savings for emergencies.
What if the husband refuses to work or improperly spends money?
A wife cannot discipline her husband because she is not his authority. If he is doing something wrong, like not providing for her or their family such as in the case of a lazy husband who sits at home all day, then she can go to his authority in the Church(the Pastor) and have the Pastor deal with her husband’s sin.
This could also apply to a husband who has a gambling problem or a drug addiction and leaves his family with no food, clothing or shelter. In this case a wife does have recourse, because even though she is under his authority, her husband is sinning against her and violating the rights of her and her family to be properly provided for and she can take action by going to those who are in authority over her husband.
In a worst case scenario if a husband refuses to provide for his wife and children after being confronted by his authorities and she has consulted with her Pastor and he agrees, she could divorce him for breach of the marriage covenant which includes his responsibility to provide for her if he is physically able to work.
The scriptures tell Christian wives that they are to submit to their husbands in “everything“(Ephesians 5:24) and this includes in the area of finances. A Christian husband is to be “one that ruleth well his own house”(I Timothy 3:4) , and he does not have the option to take a “hands off” approach in this very important area.
A husband may choose to give his wife equal access to the finances, or he may choose not to. He may restrict her access temporarily because of her overspending or because of other issues in the marriage. There may be no problems in the marriage, but it is still his prerogative as the head of the home whether he will grant her full and equal access to the family finances.
However, a Christian husband’s authority in the financial area carries with it his responsibility toward his wife to talk with her and understand her opinions as to what she, the children and the house need. Only then through prayerful consideration and taking his wife’s concerns into account, can he make wise and informed decisions about the financial direction he will take his family in.
Ultimately, if the finances of a home are in disrepair God holds the husband as the head of the home directly responsible. We need to be encouraging more Christian men to take a more active role in leading their families in all areas of life, and especially this very important area of finances.
And for all those “abuse accusers” out there, this is not “financial abuse” according to our creator and God but rather this is the order and responsibly he has given to Christian husbands to provide for and lead their homes in this important area of finances.