Everything I believe in is a "controversial topic", and here we go with one of them. I got permission from Kristi at Courageous Homekeeping to copy and repost her series from her website. I am lacking the time these days to come up with all of these words that she posted, so I'm grateful that someone else is allowing me to use what she wrote. So far this is a three part series.
"Is it a Sin to Work Outside the Home?" Part 1:
This is a very tricky question. And one that has a very high potential for coming back to “bite” me! I’ve been thinking about writing this post for several weeks and I have put it off. I still felt like I needed to do my own research and come to a fuller understanding of how to answer this question. And to be honest…I still don’t have a firm black and white answer. It’s not a black and white question. And that’s the problem! I wish it was! But it isn’t. I believe that the Bible has much to say about this subject…and I have a lot of thoughts about it…therefore, this post had to be broken up into parts. So please bear with me as I work through this very difficult subject.
I have been feeling like I need to define my own “terms” for this question…both for my own personal convictions as well as for when people ask me questions. As is the case with anything in the Bible, we ought to have a clear understanding of what the Bible says about a particular subject and then be able to “know how to answer everyone”. So, that is why I want to answer this question.
So, are you ready for the answer? No. The answer is no. I do not believe that it is a sin to work outside the home. That would be the black and white version.
The gray version however, is much, much more complicated. And like almost anything else in life, this is a subject that comes back to the heart of the person. The trouble is, that there are so many layers to this subject. And it takes a lot of time to peel back all those layers to really find the root motivation at the heart of each woman to answer this question of working outside the home. Unfortunately, I believe that most of us (myself included– remember, I am only now taking the time to answer this question for myself, and I’ve been a stay at home mom for 10+ years!) don’t really take the time to peel back all those layers. We just go with the “easy” road, or what everyone else is doing without giving it much thought. And isn’t that exactly where our Enemy would love for us to stay? My conclusion on this subject has come from many hours of study and reading many books as well as, and most importantly, the Bible. But I would encourage you to not just listen to me. Let these posts be the beginning of your own thought process and personal convictions. My hope and prayer is, that this would cause you to think…and do some of your own research and studying on the subject, so that YOU will know how to answer everyone.
Let’s start at the very beginning…. a very good place to start! I have yet to read a book or listen to a sermon, or study Genesis and come up with anything different than these original roles for a man and woman:
Men will work the soil and be the head of their families…they are to be the provider, the one who goes out and works the land in order to get food for his family.
John Piper defines Biblical Manhood as this: ” At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”
Women were created with the intention of helping their husbands rule over the land…it’s the dominion mandate- Men and women were created to rule together over the earth…each serving important but unique roles within the family. By the nature of how a woman was created, she was created to carry a child, and to nurse a child, she was wired to take care of that child.
John Piper defines Biblical Womanhood as this: “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”
I find it very interesting the perspective that the book “Passionate Housewives, Desperate for God” has on the creation of Adam and Eve.
God could have simply raised up a woman from the dust of the earth- an independent creature who could keep Adam company and even partner with him in subduing the earth by pursuing equal and separate ventures. Yet He instead caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and from the man’s own rib God fashioned his glorious completer- woman.
After the fall, God cursed the man and the woman- He cursed them according to their specific roles! For the man, he said, “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17+) In other words, working outside of the home to provide for his family ALWAYS is going to be hard. And toilsome.
For the woman, her curse is that “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing, with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. We all know that pain in childbirth is the curse…if you’ve given birth before, you’re particularly acquainted with this. God cursed one of the things that she was originally created for…giving birth. But let’s look at the second part of that verse where it says that “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” What this means ladies is that it will be difficult for us to learn to submit to our husbands. It means that naturally, we want to control things, and the joy that God originally intended us to have in our husband’s headship is much more difficult to come by…submission is now a difficult, difficult thing for us to do.
Let’s fast forward to Proverbs, shall we? I did a study the other day and read all the way through Proverbs and underlined everything that it says specifically about women and wives to see what it had to say…a lot of it was about how difficult it was/is to live with a nagging or quarrelsome wife, but there were several references as well to women who were prostitutes and adulterers. And you know what one way a prostitute is described in Proverbs? “She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home. ” (7:11) Let’s also take a look at our favorite Proverbs 31 woman…The very first thing that is said about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she “brings her husband good”… THAT is the first and most important priority to this Godly woman. There are 2 verses where it talks about her bringing in income to the family:(16) She considers a field and buys it, out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. And (24) She makes linen garment and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
So, the two references to working in this section are: real estate and sewing…as far as I can tell. My understanding of this is that yes, she is finding ways of contributing financially to her household…that seems to be a wise thing to do. However, her husband and her children and her household are her very first priority…and the outside “jobs” seem to support her overall desire to serve her family- and they come second. She has figured out how she can bring an income into her household in a way that fits into her first family priorities, rather than trying to fit her family into her work priorities.
Alright, so let’s check out Titus 2, shall we? I’m going to paraphrase. In Titus 2 it says that older women should teach the younger women “what is good”…to love their husbands and children… and to be busy at home. There is a list of things that older women are supposed to teach younger women, that seem to be the largest of priorities to Paul…and being homeward focused, busy at home, keepers at home (depending on your translation) is in that list of priorities. In this passage, it doesn’t say one thing implying that bringing in income to the family should be part of her priorities.
In all of the studies I’ve done, in all of the Bible that I’ve read, in all of the sermons that I’ve listened to, I’ve heard the same thing…God has given men and women distinct but equal roles and jobs. Specific ways in which He desires us to do Kingdom work. A woman’s main priority and role is to be taking care of her husband, her children and her home. This is, I believe, God’s original intention for how a woman should live.
Stay tuned later in the week for Part 2… We’ll get to dig even deeper!
A great comment from a reader:
With the dawn of “independant” women and all of their rights… Please don’t get me wrong, I agree with much of the heart of womens rights. I’m a woman. But what has been taken from it and added to it, is not always good. Anyway, with the dawn of all that, came a increase in all things consumer. Many women had to tend to the house, family, and their job, and because the job had a time constraint, they were not longer able to put into their home what they wanted to. Thus the birth of quick meals, and lots of additives put into the food to keep it fresh and tasty longer. There are many things that make that hard on our little ones, and us as well. Many of our country’s new uprise in medical needs are attributed to this concept. It is not loudly shouted, because of the possible dramatic loss of income. This also pushed after school classes, and before school classes, and the list goes on and on.
It seems that whatever was meant to be pure and holy is what our enemy wants to trash the most.
A couple very good questions from a reader, and good responses from Kristi:
I was curious about your interpretation of Proverbs 7:11 (She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home). It kind of seemed as if you were linking together working away from home, to the “her feet never stay at home” of the prostitute description in Proverbs. Is this how you intended it to be, or did I perhaps misread it? I believe the verse is actually referring to the fact that the prostitute’s feet never stay at home in the sense that she is going around to various men’s houses. She does not stay at home with a husband and fulfill her sexual desires as she should, but she “never stay(s) at home” and is lustfully fulfilling her sexual desires elsewhere.
One of the statements that particularly caught my eye was at the end of your writing – ” A woman’s main priority and role is to be taking care of her husband, her children and her home. This is, I believe, God’s original intention for how a woman should live.” Just wondering if you meant this to be specifically directed at women who are married. ‘Cause the way it was written was that, if your a woman and not doing this, then your not following God’s mandate for women. I’m a woman … but I’m not taking care of a husband. Or children. And as much as I would like it, I don’t even have a home. And in the NT, Paul clearly speaks to the idea of not all will marry. In your future writings on the subject which you said are coming, are you planning on addressing what you think God’s role is for women who are not married – those who are single, divorced or widowed?
Thanks for spurring on discussion
Thanks for writing, Steph.
I’ll do my best to answer your questions…In regards to Proverbs 7:11, I don’t really have an answer for whether the “feet never saying at home” part “should” be directly linked to a woman working outside the home. I have however, heard it used as such in sermons. I mainly think though, that it is something to heavily consider and decide for yourself. What I do know is that being an “adulterous” does not always only mean in the sexual sense. Adultery can be defined as straying from any kind of vows…I believe that God called the Israelites “adulterous people” because they were not living up to their covenant with Him…and I don’t know if that was entirely in regard to their sexual behavior. So any time we do not live up to a vow that we’ve made (such as a marriage vow) or a life/job/calling that God has given us, I believe that we are “prostituting” ourselves…going outside what we are called to or intended for in order to find fulfillment. So, do with that what you will! =) Like I said, do you own studying and reading and see what your own personal convictions are.
As far as what you said about being single and not having a husband or family or house to take care of, you are absolutely right. If you are not a wife, you are in a much different boat. I’m mostly speaking to those women who ARE wives, of course. Paul does indeed say that not everyone will be married…statistically, I’ve heard about 90% of people will eventually be married at some point in their lives though. And there are many ways that a single woman can build a home and/or practice her own gifting and calling as a woman. I believe that as a single woman, it would be very wise for you to be future minded…meaning that you should be content in your situation and not ever let anyone look down at you because you’re single first of all…but then also knowing that there’s a good chance of someday being married, and preparing to that end…perhaps building a home, without a home…learning skills that will come in handy, growing in your knowledge and wisdom, making wise decisions with your money and your time, so that if and when a husband comes along, you will have a healthy “home” built in order to be a good helper to him and bless him. =)
I hope that helps clear it up a little…it’s definitely a muddy subject! Mostly I just want to get people thinking deeply about this issue.