Bare Minimums

Farmer Family at Church (1837 – 1905) by Adolf Luben

In the course of my wife’s and my premarital counseling, our counselors told us a story of a husband and wife who were recently divorced though neither party wanted it. The wife apparently did nothing wrong, but the husband certainly did. We were told that if the husband had done the bare minimum—“had he just provided for her and been kind”—she would have stayed. 

Of course, our Lord gave only one reason for divorce, namely sexual immorality (porneia, in the Greek). But, this story got me thinking: What is the bare minimum? And not just for a husband, but for all the natural offices of man. For manhood itself.

Well, this article is a list of the bare “job descriptions” of a good man, husband, and father. 

You might ask, as I am now, “What qualified you to write an article like this?”

“Not much,” is my answer. Let’s proceed.

I ask that you read what follows in one of two fashions.

(1) If you are a well grounded man pursuing excellence in every area of life, then read this as a, “Back to the Basics.” Fundamental as these lists may be, I would venture to guess that less than 1% of men could check off every box. I invite you to take inventory with me.

(2) If you are envious of the aforementioned man of (1) but, like me, are overwhelmed in all the ways you are currently falling short, then read this as you might “Step 1” in an owner’s manual. I suggest you stop whatever you are doing (because it clearly isn’t working), and begin again with these goals in mind.

(If you’re the kind of man who doesn’t read owner’s manuals… me too. Kindly add that to the “Man” category.)

It should go without saying that the items are summative as you move from man to husband to father. A man does not cease to be a man when he marries nor cease to be a husband when he has a child, thus his job description grows rather than shifts.

It should likewise go without saying that common sense prohibitions (e.g., no wife beating, adultery, or abortion) are not on this list just as common sense prescriptions are not on this list (e.g., mind your manners, wash your crack, and vote for Trump). Just kidding about the bum.


  • Read and reflect on 1 chapter of the Bible per day
  • Pray 3 times per day
  • Be an involved member of a church, attending 1 time per week
  • Have no ongoing/unrepentant sin (including pornography and insobriety)
  • Perform regular acts of Christian charity/activism
  • Be able to run 3 miles, do 5 pull-ups, and do 25 push-ups
  • Consume 1 book per month
  • Be able to provide for yourself 100%
  • Have a spiritual mentor
  • Be a spiritual mentor


  • Read and reflect on 1 chapter of the Bible per day with your wife
  • Pray with and for your wife 1 time per day
  • Take your wife to church 1 time per week
  • Lead your wife out of sin
  • Be able to provide for your wife 100%
  • Take your wife on 1 date per month
  • Own a gun (and train with it 2 times per year)


  • Read and reflect on 1 chapter of the Bible per day with your child
  • Pray with and for your child 1 time per day
  • Take your child to church 1 time per week
  • Lead your child out of sin
  • Be able to provide for your family 100%
  • Play or otherwise bond with your child 1 time per day
  • Never let your child hear profanity or spousal arguments
  • Proactively protect your child from all predatory people, technologies, and ideas


I was hesitant to write this article, knowing that it may feed into the sloth that plagues modernity. The problem can be seen better in a theological context. Perhaps the most asked theological question is that of the rich man in Matthew 19: “What good deed must I do to be saved?” That is, what is the bare minimum that I must do to slip a foot past Heaven’s gate?

This is entirely the wrong question. Rather, if Christianity is true and the one who is all gave all for us, we should ask, “What is the most I can do to be saved?”

The same mentality should be applied here. Take this list, make sure it is Biblical, master it, then expand it. That is how men are made, marriages are saved, and families are forged.

“The family may be regarded as the cradle of civil society, and it is in great measure within the circle of family life that the destiny of states is fostered.” 

— Pope Leo XIII

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