Called to the Home — Called to Rule
The propriety of Christian, Bible-believing women having careers is a controversial subject in the modern church. However, I believe that God has something to say about everything, even if it is simply a subtly stated principle instead of a direct command or explicit explanation. When tackling any subject, it is vital to use Scripture as the basis for all points of discussion. Following are my personal thoughts and beliefs on the subject and the interpretation of this matter that God has laid on my heart.
In Proverbs 9 Wisdom is personified as a woman who is skillful, industrious, and resourceful. Amazingly enough, she accomplishes all her tasks from her home — “Wisdom hath builded her house... whoso is simple, let him turn in hither” (Proverbs 9:1, 4). She has built her house, decorated it, and furnished it. She has prepared food for her guests, using what she has at her home. Not only is her home fully functioning and productive, but she is also able to invite strangers in to enjoy and benefit from her well ordered, exemplary home.
As Christian women, we have the responsibility to look not only to our God-given realm of the home, but also to expand our ministry to those outside of our home. There are so many possibilities with the skills we are given! First, we are to use them to benefit our family and home. This is where our priorities and loyalties should always lie. Second, we are to extend the boundaries of our home to include others in ministry and hospitality. “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled,” cries this wise woman (verse 5). I will share more on ministry opportunities in just a bit.
In contrast, the author gives a very different word picture of the foolish woman: “She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets...” (Proverbs 7:11-12). This description appears just two chapters before the chapter describing the wise woman. In Proverbs 9:13, the author continues to contrast these women by saying, “A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.”
Further, in this same book of the Bible, the author introduces us to the famous Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31. The list of her accomplishments, activities, and industriousness is quite daunting. Yet again, we see a picture of the well-balanced woman rolling up her sleeves and working — from home. “She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant” (Proverbs 31:24). Not only does she produce high quality goods, but these goods are of a standard of excellence that is acceptable to the merchants.
Whatever a merchant sells in his booth is a reflection of his own standard of quality. In order to maintain a good name and stay on the cutting edge of profitable business, a merchant is careful to ensure that all goods stocked in his booth are a good reflection upon his business. In her spare time, the virtuous keeper-at-home creates goods that meet demanding quality specifications and brings in a little profit as well.
Lest my views on this subject seem more than a little far-fetched or confined to only one book of the Bible, let us compare these passages with others in Scripture. Titus 2 gives a listing of the desired — nay, required — qualities that a woman of God should exemplify: “That they [the older women] 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” (Titus 2:4, 5). The older women have the experience and capability in these qualities, and this qualifies them to teach others.
Looking again at the passage above, let me draw your attention to the phrase “that the word of God be not blasphemed.” This is the chief point and objective of the list of qualifications of a godly young woman. I believe Paul is saying that disregarding this exhortation blasphemes the name of God — strong medicine for many, I know. We do not like to think that anything we do could defame God’s Word, but I believe Paul wanted us to think soberly about the great power and privilege women have to live the Word before the world — and to see that we can also blaspheme the Word through disobedience to His commands for women.
Why do we have such a hard time accepting the timeless truth that we as women can indeed find fulfillment in being keepers-at-home? In I Peter 3, Paul decidedly states, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands... for after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands” (I Peter 3:1, 5). In my understanding, this leaves no room for a wife to be in subjection or submission to a man other than her husband, such as a boss at work. Jesus Himself taught “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). I understand that the context here is money, but Christ’s teaching certainly fits with the rest of the Scriptural passages studied so far. Therefore, serving another master or submitting to some man other than your own husband is striving to serve two masters. Christ has said that this is impossible. “For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” “Hate” and “despise” are very strong words, are they not? A woman working outside the home under another “master” is in danger of growing in her heart discontentment, hate, and a feeling of despising who God has created her to be and those whom He has called her to serve.
Yes, young wives and mothers are the specified recipients of this training, but unmarried women can also benefit from the same training and application of these Scriptural truths. This powerfully enables them to be prepared for whatever God has for them, both now and in the future. A young woman who practices “serving two masters”—her father and employer—while she is single will have perfected this for her married life. This development of an independent spirit could result in a miserable marriage for herself, her husband, and her family. As with any art, the best way to master the art of contented submission is to practice it! Who could be a better recipient of this practice than a young lady’s father? Ideally, a daughter’s relationship with her father will be a vivid picture of what her future relationship will be with her husband.
Granted, there are certainly times for ministry or a moneymaking industry—from the home. We obviously see the ministry impact of Wisdom personified in Proverbs 7, and of the Proverbs 31 woman it is said, “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). Tabitha, also known as Dorcas, is a familiar example of the impact a godly woman can have while ministering to others: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did... and all the widows stood by him [Peter] weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39). This woman was dearly beloved in her community. She gave of her self, her time, and her skills to minister to those around her. Where was she while she did this? I believe Paul tells us in the phrase “while she was with them.” This refers to the widows who are mourning Tabitha’s death. Judging from what I understand this passage to say, she stayed in the homes of widows and ministered to them with her skills as a capable, joyful, contented keeper-at-home.
My belief is that God did not intend for His women to pursue careers outside the home. The curse that he put upon Adam — the first curse issued in the world — was that he would have a sorrowful, difficult time laboring for his provision: “And unto Adam he said, ... cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” As for Eve, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16-19). The woman who labors to provide for her family while trying to maintain her role as wife and mother voluntarily takes upon herself both the curse of the man and the curse of the woman. The curse of laboring for provision was the curse that God saw fit to place upon the man—not upon the woman. Unfortunately, because of our disobedience in the Church, there are now many women who are forced to suffer under Adam’s curse — women for whom families and churches should be providing (widows, abandoned wives, etc.). This disobedience is expanded when the women laboring outside of the home are not widows or abandoned women, but wives and mothers in an average Christian home. How can either of these situations do anything but blaspheme the Word of God (which calls Christians to provide for widows and orphans and calls men to provide for and protect women and children)?
As a well-organized keeper-at-home, the godly wife is not only fulfilling the role God has created her to fulfill, but is now further available to assist her husband in his role. “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life... Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land... Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31: 11-12, 23, 28-31) Her husband trusts in her implicitly. He knows that her greatest goal in life is to joyfully and lovingly support him in his duties and care for his household. He is confident in her abilities and knows her heart attitude. This allows him to throw his energies into providing for his family. Then, after a tiring day “in the gates,” he cannot wait to return home and enter his haven of rest that his wife has prepared and maintained for him. Notice here where her praises are sung: “Let her own works praise her in the gates.” Could these be the same gates where her husband is known? Therefore, by singing the praises of his supportive wife, her husband is making her known through his influence. What better honor than to be known and praised to the elders of the land? The delight and contentedness of both the husband and the wife in their respective roles in accomplished simply through the tender submission of the keeper-at-home.
In summary, I do not see how a career outside the home in any way honors or obeys God’s design for who we are as women. If we truly believe that He is our Divine Creator, that He has known us since the beginning of time, and that He is the omniscient, watchful, tenderly caring God we know Him to be, then our actions will reflect this. If we trust Him and respect His leading and protection in our lives, we will desire to be exactly what He desires us to be. Let us bring glory to Him in the only way He has created us to do so—by being creative, industrious, joyful, contented keepers-at-home.
The Princess by the Fire
by Jessie Wilcox Smith