Thought I would weigh in on the topic:
First of all, the topic has nothing to do with/or should have nothing to do with gender equality, feminism, or male chauvinism.
There are many who would make these topics the issue, but the Bible is very clear on all levels that men and women are EQUAL…but different in role and make-up. No one can objectively argue this fact, and those who have used the Bible as a defense for male dictatorships at home or in society, are as idiotic as those who defame the Bible by attempting to defend slavery or gay bashing with Biblical text.
In truth, the church has at times made mistakes on many of these issues, but has also, at times been faithful to stand against injustice, and act as the prophetic voice God has called it to be.
At the time of the early church, the involvement of women in ministry would have been in direct contradiction to the cultural norm. The church stood for gender equality on an unprecedented level. One could argue a regression has occured, but the foundation of the church represented this belief. (read this post and this post for more info)
Secondly, the issue is not about “rights”.
Where does the Bible lay out the “rights” held by a Christ follower? When I become a follower of Christ I lay my rights down, and submit to His kingdom. That is not to say that the freedoms we possess and wrestle with in this country are not an incredible blessing…or to say that we do not live in the greatest country on the globe. It is to say, that when a Christian begins to pursue his/her “rights” with greater passion than their pursuit of what God says is true we begin down a slippery slope. (It is interesting that the worst church of the seven spoken of in Revelation two and three, Laodicea, means “the rights of the people”)
Thirdly, this is not about cultural norms
I am very aware of the norms of culture, and the stance on the issue from culture. The position of the church has never been about following the changing tide of public opinion. As Christians we fall pray to this, and turn into theological schizophrenics trying to keep up with society, without losing our souls. We need to be thoughtful…we need to be sensitive, and aware of the areas our theology is being tainted by our sinful prejudice. But when God is clear, we need to speak with clarity, regardless of its popularity.
God does say…
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Tim 5:8)
The context of the passage is speaking of widows (1Tim 5:3-11) who have been left destitute by the passing of their husband. (5:5) God is laying out the qualification of the widow to receive financial support from the church. Paul takes verse eight to let Timothy know that men ought to be addressing the issue of support for their wife/family after their death. He addresses how the church should step in if the man has not provided for his family in this way.
It must be noted, that no where in the Bible does God set forth a plan for widower to receive support from the church after the passing of his wife.
God does not blatantly state that a man cannot stay home, sending his wife to work…but the reason does not seem to be because it is OK, but instead because it is so obvious that a man should work, should provide for his family, and should want to do both! If this were not the case, why does God only address the issue to the man? Why does God not say to the woman, who may pass before her husband “make sure he is taken care of after you are gone”?
Remember, this is not about rights, equality, or cultural norms…If we allow the change in our culture to dictate a change in our theology we begin down a path that leaves no truth exempt from a cultural trumping of Biblical teachings. The question is what does God say on the matter. We may disagree with what God says, but whatever you believe God has spoken you must hold told to.
I am not saying there are not exceptions…men get sick, men get injured…and we addresses those instances case by case.
An exception is not “my wife can make more money” or “I just don’t think I am cut out for the workforce”.
Some of us need to work harder. Plan better. Get a second job. Require more of ourselves. Stop being lazy, and grow up. Many men hide behind cultural ideas they do not hold to, but use for convenience and allowance of their selfishness. I cannot find a place in the Bible where men are held below the standard of going out, getting a job, or two, in order to support his family.