Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is God Okay with Women Working Outside the Home?

Last night I got to spend some time with a dear couple who lives out-of-town. We don't get to see them often and they unexpectedly came to visit for a Wednesday night service. The mother of said couple and I have much in common: we don't come from Christian backgrounds, our families are not Christian, we both homeschool, we both have kids with severe allergies, we have similar beliefs and standards, and so much more. As we were talking about raising our children for the Lord, we both agreed that it would just be so much easier to raise a family if we had a Godly mother out there that we could turn to for advice. We both know that the women are out there...somewhere. As of late I have been especially needing some Godly advice from a rock-solid keeper at home. My friend and I wondered together ... We know these women are out there? Why can't I find one?

I have to insert a little parenthetical paragraph here. I love my mother and she is precious to me. She did all she could to raise me by what she believed to be right, but we were not raised in church. Since I have been an adult she has come to know the Lord and now tries to live for Him. I just don't want the above paragraph to sound like my mom is a heathen! ;-) Back to what I was saying ...

Sadly, I believe the answer is this: Women's lib and the working mom have become more the norm than the exception. As Christian women look around them and see that they're not "keeping up with the Joneses" or that their kids don't have what other kids have or whatever, the temptation is there to want to have more. These Christian women can find many excuses to find a job, and to make it seemingly alright with God and the Bible. When I look for someone to turn to for advice, I typically have to say to myself, "Well, she's at work right now."

As I begin to write on this subject, I want to say that I don't want to come across as haughty or prideful. But I do want to speak plainly and clearly. My goal is never, ever to hurt anyone. I am fully persuaded, by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, that it is the very rare exception for a woman to work a job.

The Biblical Base (foundation)
First off, I accept the Bible as my 100% full authority. If everyone around me believes that something is right and the Bible says it's not, I'm on the Bible's side. I want more than anything to be 100% right with the Bible and therefore, with God. I can honestly say that although I want to be perfectly right with God, even in the smallest thought, deed and attitude, I am not always. But it is a goal to strive toward. As I become more conformed to His image, the more I find myself consistently using right words, actions, deeds, thoughts, etc.

The Duties Depicted
When you think of a young lady, most would say I'm not particularly "young" anymore. But since I am still of child-bearing age, I'd say that Biblically, I fit into the young women category of Titus 2:4-5:

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

We all, of course, are but flesh and fall short of these goals. Let's look first at the word "teach." We young women must be taught to be these 8 things. Since we have to be taught, it's logical to conclude that it won't come naturally. I've always thought it was strange that we have to be taught to love our husbands and children. I married him after all, of course I love him! I carried my children and I can't help but love them. So why is it commanded to love them? I think it's because we see love as a feeling or an emotion. But that is not what true love is. When I love my husband or children the right way, I am always putting myself last and others first.

I promise I'm not getting off topic here. What does all that have to do with a woman staying at home? It has everything to do with it! We must be careful not to let our idea of what love is to be poisoned by the world. How many times have we all heard someone say, "I want Johnny to have more than I did when I was coming up. I just love him and I don't want him to do without." "I love Suzie and what she really needs an expensive private education, so I work to put her through school." What our families need from us is for us to be there for them any time of day or night. They need to be guided and guarded. It's something so vital that you can't leave it to the daycare worker, teacher or grandparent; It is not their responsibility. Working or doing something for someone is probably the most simple thing you can do for someone. But when you really sacrifice your whole self and put your whole life aside for someone, that in itself is truly loving. Christ is our example in this. As a baby, Christ was just as much God in the flesh as he was when he died on the cross as a man. He could have skipped the sermons and the teachings and the parables. He could have, as a baby, taken on the sins of the world and paid our sin-debt in full as an infant. But he didn't. He spent his entire life before that completely devoted to instructing his followers.

The Withholden Womb
Naturally and Biblically, it is every Christian woman's desire to have children. Sometimes God sees fit to not allow women to have children. I cannot imagine the heartache. Perhaps they have married. In this situation, would it be alright for a woman to work? I think that we can see from the Bible that it is still best for a lady to be at home. Again, we see in Titus 2 that she is to be a keeper at home. It does not say "keeper of the children," though that would be included. This word also does not at all imply she is to simply to keep the home tidy. When we examine the word "keep," we see that she is essentially the guardian of the home. The thought here is not so much on the domesticities of the home. What does the house itself need to be guarded from? Nothing! Instead, it is the wife's duty to be sure that what enters the home is wholesome, holy, and good. When I think of the word "keep," what first comes to mind is a soldier from the Dark Ages. The king was in the keep, in the heart of the castle. Around him are his strongest warriors to protect him. It is the most fortified point of the castle. If the enemy is to break through into the stronghold, he will have to take the life of the keeper first. He isn't just a keeper of the castle; His very life is consumed with protecting that which is dear to him. Nothing else comes first. Never would he say, "No time for training today, I have to tend my garden" or something to that affect.

The domestic side of the home is an after thought to a much bigger picture. A woman who loves those to whom the Lord has entrusted her, would only naturally want that home to be happy and beautiful. A keeper at home is a servant to those around her. What a better way to say to your husband, "I love you" than to have his home clean and his dinner on the table? If both husband and wife work this is not possible. I've tried it! After a long day at work the wife is just as exhausted as her husband. They both kick off their shoes and prop up their feet. Typically what happens is that the couple ends up eating out and spending up all the extra income made by the wife. Then the wife spends her Saturday playing catchup on the laundry and housework with no time for her children or husband. Once this habit is established it is extremely difficult to break. I know because I've been in that rut! Before I had children I held down a job. My home was never clean. I was always apologizing when we had unexpected company. We ate out many nights. If we didn't eat out we ate something terribly unhealthy...usually from a box and the microwave. When our first son was born, it was exceedingly difficult to get my flesh to keep (spiritually and domestically) house. I honestly would have found it easier to work 2 or 3 jobs than to work all day long feeling unappreciated and unnoticed. If we had just a glimpse of hindsight, we would have been on one income from day one. Sadly, we could have had perfect foresight by just reading God's Word and praying for his will.

The Hollow Haven
This is probably what I find the most discouraging is that so many well-meaning Christian ladies. Let's look again to Titus 2, starting now with verse 2:

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

I mentioned before that "young" referred to a child-bearing age. That would lead us to conclude that "aged" meant those women who have raised their children and are now seeing them as Godly adults. When we think of aged, we usually envision an old, frail, white-headed saint sitting on her rocker with her knitting. It certainly would include her, but is not limited to her. So, why did I start with the men? Well, the command to the aged women hinges on the men. "The aged women likewise" as the aged men. The aged women must be sober, grave temperate, etc (verse 2) AND ALSO be in behaviour a becometh holiness, etc (verse 3). That in itself is not discouraging of course. The aged women are to be the things listed in verses 2 and 3 so that they can teach the young women of verse 4 to be Godly. There is not a day that goes by that I do not need advice or encouragement. Sometimes I desperately need someone to go to and say, "Here's what my child did today. Did that ever happen to you? How did you handle it?" How I yearn for someone that I can trust to turn to.

The Godly women are out there, but where? What I've observed is that once a wife rears her children, or sometimes even when they go off to school, the wife finds herself unneeded. I haven't been through the "empty nest" syndrome. I did see my mom go through it. It was very hard for her. Once you put your whole into your children and then, suddenly, they are gone, it would truly be a difficult transition. No more laughter and busyness in the home. As women, we need to feel needed. I think this is why so many women enter the work force once the children leave home. They just need something to fill up their day. But there is such an opportunity and genuine need for the aged women to minister. The young women must be taught. I need to be taught! If the aged women are all out at work, who is left to teach the young women? No one. The young women don't know how to love their children or their husbands because no one is telling them how. It has been said that mothers leaving the home for the workplace is one of the biggest things crippling homes today. I only can partly agree. I think more of the problem is that the aged women are not making themselves available to teach the younger ones.

Some Distorted Defenses
This is a collection of things I've heard people use to try to justify a woman in the work force.

→As long as a woman keeps her husband / family / home first, it is alright for her to work outside the home.
A woman cannot properly keep (guard) her home unless she is there. It simply is not possible. Let's say that a woman puts 1 hour into getting ready for work (including driving time), 8 hours working, has a 1 hour lunch break and then drives home for 30 minutes. She has put 10 1/2 hours into her job. She needs about 8 hours to sleep also. That leaves her only 5 1/2 hours for what her family needs. From the 5 1/2 hours, you can subtract meal prep and clean up, shower time, and maybe a bit of time to try to pick up a bit of clutter left out. That doesn't leave much time for the home, does it. Not to mention time for Bible study and prayer time. Mother is exhausted and doesn't have the energy to set the spirit of the home. The house is a mess, dinner is never made, the clothes are dirty, no one is talking to each other, the parents have no idea what interests the children or what enters their minds. You tell me what's coming first.

→ We live in a society / economy that demands a two-income home.
I can speak candidly from experience on this one. Society demands that you or your children have store bought and name brand clothes, cable TV, extra curricular activities, nice vacations, cell phones, nice homes, little league, etc. Your kids don't need Hollister, they need you there for them. Your husband doesn't need a new golf driver, he needs a wife who loves him. You can live on one income. My Keeper at Home testimony explains how we did it. The problem is that we don't want to sacrifice or we don't want to make our children sacrifice.

→Even the virtuous woman worked.
Yes, that is true. Proverbs 31:24: She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. There is absolutely no indication that she worked outside the home. Verses 18-22 indicate that she had quite a knack for a particular trade and worked to add to the family income. Verse 18 tells us that her candle goeth not out by night. Once her husband and her family were seen after, with the time she had left at night, she worked toward this trade. Good on her! But it is not at all implied that the virtuous woman ever left the safety of her home and husband to earn her added income.

Look also at verse 16 of Proverbs 31: She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. I've heard this argued that the virtuous woman was involved in real estate. I cannot agree based on this Scripture. Just because she bought a field wouldn't necessarily mean that she was a real estate agent. The passages before this verse talk about how the heart of her husband trusts in her. The most that I can see from this verse that is concrete is that her husband entrusted her to make big, even financial, decisions without his supervision.

God commanded that the corners of the field be left unreaped for the women to glean.
Yes, I've heard this one. But this one is just plain silly.

And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. --Leviticus 19:10

When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. --Deuteronomy 24:19

Obviously, the corners were not left for just any woman to glean from. It was God's was of providing with those facing hard times.

→ It is alright for a woman to be under the subjection of another man (her boss), as long as her husband allows it and she remembers that her husband is her true head.
When a woman takes a position outside the home, she must obey a man (usually a man) who is not her husband. Let's take a relatively harmless scenario. Husband and wife have dinner plans one Friday night. The boss comes into the wife's office and tells her he needs her to work late. So, she phones her husband and tells him the situation. Being a sweet husband, he doesn't have a problem with her working over, although inside he is pretty disappointed. They cancel their dinner plans. Now, who did the wife obey? I didn't say who did she disobey because she didn't disobey anyone. Obey simply means to be subject to. Whose will was she subject to? Her boss! Also, women are told in Titus 2 to be obedient to their own husbands. We like to take that "own" word and nail it down, telling the young women not to be trying to please every man around her but her husband. Maybe that word "own" was in there first to the young women, but also to her husband as a reminder that he has no business allowing any other man to be an authority to her.

→When the kids were little, mom stayed home.
Great! Kids need mom. When they need to learn "don't touch," Mom should be there for that training. But what about when they're 16? It is such a burden to me to see teens that have no relationship with their parents. What happened? When the kids were little Mom was their best friend. Relationships don't just happen. When Mom has been at work all day and she only has that 5 1/2 hours to make dinner, clean the kitchen, do some laundry, sweep the floor and try to do a few more other odds and ends around the house, when does she have time to ask her kids, "How was school today?" If she does ask then she'll usually get an answer like "Fine" and that ends the conversation. It's great that Mom stays home with the babies, but the babies need you more than ever when they aren't babies anymore. If Mom isn't there to guide those decisions that the teen has to make, who will? If there is no relationship, the teen won't trust your advice.

→I work, but the kids don't go to daycare. They stay with grandma.
This is another one that puzzles me. I would agree that staying with a Christian grandmother is slightly better than daycare. I have a mother and a mother-in-law who are fantastic grandparents. But can I honestly say that grandparents are not parents. I see this even with my fantastic grandparents, but they let things slide. And I'm not saying this is shameful. Grandparents should get to enjoy their grandkids without having to worry about raising them. The character training should be 100% the duty of the parent and not the grandparent. If the kids stay with grandma, even just once a week, who is responsible for character training?

The Warranted Worker
So then, which woman may work? The widow may work. If she qualifies as a "widow indeed" (1 Timothy 5:3-5,9-10) the church should take care of her, but not every widow is a "widow indeed." The divorcee will have to work if she has no one who can care for her. But she would never allow work to interfere with church (i.e. not work on Sunday/Wednesday night), she would see that her children are with Christian caretakers and see that she is never too tired to lead family devotions or be so tired that she misses church. How about a single mother? Maybe she made some bad decisions before she was saved and now must provide for herself and her baby. There may also be times that a husband has a chronic illness and cannot work. Of course when he gets well, she would leave the workforce. I've also heard it where a wife was made to work by her husband. Yes, even though her husband is wrong to take her out of her keeper at home role, she must submit to his authority. It would also be her responsibility to be praying that the Lord changes the heart of her husband to allow her to stay at home.

If a woman is working just because her husband doesn't make enough to support their home then (1)either God is a liar or (2)their standard of living is too high. Woah! Are you implying God's a liar if we can't live on one income?

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. --1 Timothy 5:8

Another thought on the passage: When God teaches, he always leaves his teaching "black or white." There is no gray; no in between. Take a woman who is trying to pattern her life after Proverbs 31 and says that she achieves that by working outside her role in the home, citing verse 24. If it were possible for her to increase her virtue by earning income, than that is to say that if a woman stays at home and does not earn a paycheck, she could not fulfill Proverbs 31. When I read the passage, I see a man who is speaking of a particular woman, probably his own wife. Then he lists the reasons why she is virtuous: he trusts her, he doesn't lack, she's good to him, etc. When we get to verse 24, if we look at this as "she earned income," one would have to earn income to be a virtuous woman. That simply is not in line with the rest of Scripture.

So then, how can I fulfill verse 24? Mrs. Proverbs 31 was a lady who did all she could with all she had. As Jesus put it in the book of Mark, "she hath done what she could." With time left over, after fully and carefully keeping her home, she was able to make a few things to sell in the market. In my hometown, there is a Godly lady, a preacher's wife, who does this very well. She and her children keep a rather large garden. When harvest comes in, she and the children put their produce in the back of the the truck and sell it by the roadside. Her children are taught and molded consistently by her and she is never under the authority of another man! If her duties at home demand more than day, she is not obligated to go to "work." If one of the children is sick, she can stay at home with him (all sick babies want mommy anyway, not the sitter). She is still available to work in the church with her flexible schedule.

Nearly every verse of the passage suggests that the virtuous woman did all she could to make her husband's money stretch. She carefully managed what they had. There surely were conveniences of their day, but instead of using something pre-made or convenient, she saved a bit of money by just doing it herself. With a little creativity, you'd be surprised how much money you could save with scratch-cooking, making your cleaning products, taking time to bargain shop, looking around yard sales and thrift stores, you name it! I would see making the most of what your husband has a much more Scriptural way to fulfill Proverbs 31:24. Truly, Mrs. Proverbs 31 is saving more money than she could earn by tending to her home. If we as modern women will be honest with ourselves and God, the same is true of us.

Perhaps this post sounds a little old fashioned to you. What this world needs is less progressive modernism and secular humanism and more old fashioned Godly families. I would agree that it is old fashioned, but I'd invite you to read these lyrics from a song I love.

"I Guess I'm Just a Little Old Fashioned" - Albert E. Brumley
verse 1
Here so many are breaking traditions
That are sacred the whole world around
Seeking only for riches and pleasures
That so freely in this life abound;
But I still love the precious old Bible,
'Tis my comfort, my guide and my stay,
O I guess I'm just a little old fashioned
But I still love the old fashioned way.

verse 2
O they say I'm old fashioned for trusting
In the story of long, long ago.
And they say I've an old fashioned fancy
Just because I believe it is so;
Well, the whole world can call me old fashioned,
They can call me whatever they may,
But I'll still be just a little old fashioned
For I still love the old fashioned way.

verse 3
In this world that is doubting and changing,
Changing ways that are old for the new,
There's a need for the old-time religion
And the prayers of the Christians so true;
May be Saviour who ruleth in heaven
Hear the old fashioned prayers that we pray,
May He keep us just a little old fashioned
For I still love the old fashioned way.

O I guess I'm just a little old fashioned
But I still love the old fashioned way,
Lord, I care not for the world and its glory,
Or the life that is modern and gay;
But I still love the songs about Jesus
And I still love the Bible so true;
O I guess I'm just a little old fashioned,
But my Saviour was old fashioned too.

8 edifying expressions:

Street Preachers Wife said...

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks.

Tami said...

excellent post!! i'm linking to it as my entry today :)

kimberly in idaho said...

I so very much enjoyed this post. I found your blog through the link of Tami's. Your words are so true... God's Word is so true. Oh, you don't even know how much that post just blessed me! If I may, I would love to print it off, to share with my husband. I am a blessed wife and stay at home mom. We homeschool our 6yr. old and 5yr. old, and we have a 2yr. old. I wouldn't want it any other way(well, we would love more blessings). I KNOW I am right where the Lord wants me!

Elizabeth said...

Kimberly in Idaho,
I'm so glad that you were blessed by reading that post. It's one of those things that I 100% believe because I've been there, lived it, and God has proven Himself and that I can trust Him. And yes, you may absolutely print it off and share it with anyone else it may be a blessing to.

And on your blessings... what a coincidence! My blessings are 6, 5 and 2 ... but we've just been given a new one who is 9 weeks old today. Have a great day.

Mrs. White said...

I love this post! Thank you for encouraging women to be keepers-at-home!

Mrs. White

Ashley said...

Thank you for this post.
I had once held the desire to be a housewife someday, but, that flame almost died because none of the people I know at my church are housewives ... well, none that are close to me and it kind of discouraged me.

I am thinking of going to Baptist Bible college. I don't want to go for a degree. I just want to learn to be a soul-winner and to get away from the temptations at home that I keep giving in to. What do you think? Better yet, what does the King James Bible teach?
Please reply on my blog, if it isn't too much trouble. Thanks!

If You Died Today, Are You 100% Sure You Would Go to Heaven?
If you died today, are you 100% sure you would go to Heaven?

You CAN know 100% you are on your way to Heaven!

I John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1. You Are A Sinner.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
Romans 3:10

"They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Romans 3:12

2. There Is A Price On Sin.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." Revelation 20:14

3. Jesus Died and Shed His Precious Blood on the Cross of Calvary To Pay For Your Sins.
"But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." Hebrews 9:22

"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Revelation 1:5-6

4. Salvation Is Not Of Our Works. It Is Through Jesus Christ.
"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Romans 4:5
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

5. God Wants To Save You If You Will Just Put Your Trust In Him.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13

Ashley said...

Thanks for this post. I needed it.
I once held this position, that women should be keepers at home, but, it kinda died when people at my church aren't mainly housewives.

I am planning on going to Baptist Bible college. It's not for the degree. I just want to learn to be a soul-winner and to escape all these temptations that I keep giving into at home. Is this Biblical?

Please reply on my blog with King James Scripture, just as your used in this post! Thank you so much and God bless you, your family, and your church family!


April said...

WOW--excellent post! I totally agree!