OFWs: Is "Providing" Only Equals Money?

Ruth, 8 years of age, writes to her OFW “tatay” the following note:

“Please come home. We didn’t talk the last time you were here. I was afraid of you. I didn’t know how to talk to you. I want you to know that it’s very difficult to grow up without a father. Your only girl, Ruth.”

In my country, Ruth belongs among a lot of children who now have money to buy computers or go to the malls. But they don’t have a mother or father, or both. Almost 5,000 OFWs leave my country daily. About 80% of them are women. Of the estimated 8.2 million OFWs now (2009) working in almost 200 countries, an estimated 70% of them are fathers and mothers who choose to be “absentee parents.” (see this article from TIME )

The Bible says, “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?” (1 Timothy 5:8)

In the original Greek translation of the Bible passage, the text is directed to “anyone.” Culturally, we tend to perceive this text as only referring to men. With that, we go overboard on the gender neutralization (“his”) of Scripture. The original translation meaning of the text does not even mention men and women.

Biblically, the “providing” for family is not just for the men contrary to cultural perception and expectation. The originally translated meaning of “anyone” in 1 Timothy 5:8 shows that both men and women should be completely committed to “providing” for their families. Absolutely.

Next question is, “Is “providing” for family only equals money?” Does it mean a big house, flashy car, private education for kids, bank accounts, travels etc.? Your answer may be yes if you equate provision solely to money and possessions. But is this what God’s Word fully means by “providing” for our families?

A father or mother can be in bed with materialism, covetousness, or corruption that they’ve become idolatrous. Such kind of “providing” wrongs the children’s faith, which Jesus clearly condemns (Matthew 18:6). This somehow helps us see the issue with more clarity. It gets us off the obsession that “providing” only = money!

Rebecca, an OFW who left her 3 month-old son to a relative to work in the Middle East for the next 11 years, lamented about her situation. She said that her now grown up son would constantly ask her, "Why did you leave me?" Rebecca realized something, saying: "Having spent all those years away, even if I gave him material things, it's not enough" (see Time article).

Finances are merely just one aspect of “providing” for family. Fathers and mothers are called by God to “provide” for their children that go beyond the salary or paycheck. Over the years, lots of family men and women from my country abandon “presence” in the daily life of their children to be “overseas contract workers.” Result? A growing “fatherless” and motherless” generation in our time. This practically leaves a trail of many broken families in our society.

Given these biblical reflections, is it ethical or moral then to be an OFW in relation to “providing” for family? Is the money worth it? Where do we strike the uncompromising balance that honors God?