Lately I’ve been reading authors and bloggers with different theological viewpoints than me. Some are far more conservative and some far more liberal. The other day, I realized that on one particular topic I had been reading, I had sheepishly stuck my toe over a line, only to stumble into a war-zone.
If you, like me, are a woman wanting to know and study the Bible, you’re likely to get bogged down in a Theology of Womanhood debate (i.e. “What is God’s plan for a woman?”) at some point.
There are two main streams in the Theology of Womanhood conversation. One has to do with a woman’s role in ministry (Should women have different roles in the church than men? Can women be pastors, teachers, etc?). But the one that affects almost every woman I know, and the one I want to concentrate on, is the stream that has to do with a woman’s role in the home.
Biblically, what’s the highest calling a woman can have? Should husband & wife share equally in the household chores? Should they share equally in the breadwinning? Should women be housewives or working women?
Over-confident answers to these questions are shot out like grenades over bookshelves and the blogosphere. I felt like I needed to catch my breath while I ran through the minefield and try to avoid a hit from the judgement that is buzzing by me from both sides.
I know for centuries it’s been the hip & cool thing to pick a side of one of these arguments and fight tooth & nail to define the exact role/responsibility of all womankind, but honestly I’m kind of done with it.
Mainly because I don’t believe that God has a cookie cutter plan for a Biblical woman, a Biblical man or a Biblical family.
And because I believe in prayer way more than I believe in my personal viewpoints.
Right? I know. Sorry if that was a Jesus-juker thing to say.
I guess my blog posts tend to have a formula where I take some hotly debated topic and say that there are opposing viewpoints that I’m fed up with. So I say, “Hey wait a second, why don’t we all just pray about this?!”
I don’t mean to be a formula writer, but until we all pray more and argue less I think we should try to share this crazy message of “actually pray about stuff before you form an opinion.”
I think the Bible has a lot to say on this subject, but I think it has fewer detailed rules and a lot more general principles about the heart than we tend to think. Here are a few things I think the Bible says with clarity on the subject:
1. Family and children are a blessing and not an inconvenience (Psalm 127)
Our culture views children as a hindrance to living the life you want, an inconvenient burden that holds you back from a career and a nightlife and spa days and sleeping in. I’m not a mother myself, but I think I can safely say that children tend to disrupt life as it was and I’m sure that’s a difficult adjustment to say the least. Some women can’t handle this inconvenience, so they find a daycare and try to find that “normal” life again. Some women can’t handle this inconvenience, so they stay at home and complain all the time. Even though both groups of women are doing drastically different things, they both demonstrate the “inconvenience” mindset.
But if you love your kids and husband and family and are doing whatever you are doing for their good and to honor God, I think you’re doing it right. If the motivation for whatever you’re doing is that your family is a blessing and not an inconvenience, I think you’re doing it right.
2. Biblically, God could call you to do a lot of things (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:17)
The minute someone tells you that your worth as a woman, a person, and a Christian is inextricably wrapped up in what you DO (your ability to cook, clean, coupon, or your job and how much you make) there’s a problem.
As a Christian, man or woman, your worth is NOT tied up in what you do. Period.
The ultimate purpose of any Christian is to love God & love people. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God. That’s what God is calling you to, and however He calls you to do it is a high and holy calling indeed.
The Bible describes all kinds of women who loved God and loved people by doing drastically different things. Rachel was a shepherdess; Shiphrah and Puah were cunning midwives; Deborah was a government & military leader; Ruth gleaned in the fields to provide food for herself and her mother-in-law; Huldah was a prophetess; the Proverbs 31 woman was an industrious homemaker, a clothing merchant and real estate investor.
Jesus’ mother Mary was a wife and mother; Anna served God and never left the temple complex; Martha was quite the homemaker; her sister Mary sat and listened to Jesus’ teachings; Tabitha was known for her good works, acts of charity and making clothes for the widows; Lydia was a cloth merchant, showed hospitality and helped lead the first church in Europe; Priscilla was a tent maker with her husband.
These women did vastly different things vocationally, personally, Spiritually, and ministerially, and yet God used them all. And if we listen to Him, and commit to love Him and love others, I think He’ll use us too. Not for our glory, but His.
3. God’s commands are good news for the low-income (Isaiah 61:1)
In the Bible, God is constantly making a way for low-income families to be provided for, be a normal part of society, and be close to Him. So I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that a teaching that puts a particular burden on, or ostracizes a low-income family is not from God.
Each family has a unique and special set of circumstances and depending on these circumstances, they will arrange the logistics of childcare, household maintenance, and bringing home the bacon differently.
I know moms who would like to go and work so their family would be better provided for, but the cost of paying for childcare would be too high. I know moms who would rather stay home with their kids, but their family needs the income and a relative is willing to watch their children for free. Both of these groups of mothers make sacrifices and both groups feel enough guilt without a new set of rules being placed upon them.
However you’re sacrificing for your family, by clipping coupons and making your own laundry detergent, or by working and providing financially in addition to all of the other ways you’re providing, your sacrifice and obedience to God is pretty Christ-like. For that, I think you’re awesome and worthy of commendation.
4. If someone is judging you, that is their problem and not yours (James 4:11-12)
To homemakers who look down their noses at the “selfish” women, who, for whatever reason, work outside the home:
To “liberated” women who look down their noses at the “simple” women who stay at home:
Even if we’re convinced down to the core that we’re right and that God supports us in our opinions, is it worth it to burn bridges with Christian sisters over an argument of secondary doctrine? Are we willing to put ourselves in the place of God because someone has a different view than us in this one area where Scripture is admittedly a little unclear?
If you feel that you are being judged or looked down upon because of your decisions, whatever they are, examine your motives. Pray about it. It’s always a good idea to examine our own motives. It’s hardly ever a good idea to let someone else do it for us. And when you examine your motives, if you find that you are obeying God and following Him, refuse to let anyone else make you feel guilty about your decisions.
I know I don’t have kids, and I haven’t even been married for two years, but, for what it’s worth, I think you’re awesome. I admire you. I think you’re that virtuous woman whose worth is more than rubies. Whatever you’re doing, if it’s because you’re following God, I think you’re probably doing just fine.