In the past century we have seen a disturbing trend in our society regarding the place of women’s employment. For thousands of years mankind has existed with the man of the house engaged in some form of employment either farming or in a trade while the main sphere of employment for women has been in the household. In the past one hundred years, however, American society has begun to accept the idea of both the man and the woman in the household having employment outside of the home. In this situation many times the responsibility of child raising is placed in the hands of daycares or nannies and the household chores are done by either maid service or hurriedly in the evenings. We as Christians ought to look toward the Standard of our existence, the Scriptures, to see whether these things befit a Christian family and in particular the Christian woman. Where should a woman be employed– the home or the office?
We receive an indication as to the employment of women in Titus 2:3-5:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
We can gain important concepts from this passage in regards to women’s employment:
1. Older women teach younger women. Paul here in Titus 2:3-5 is exhorting Titus to exhort the older women in his hearing– at this time, those on Crete– to teach the younger women in godly training, part of which is “working at home.” We see here actually two concepts, the first of which being that the older women do have roles to play in the Kingdom, and part of that role is to instruct the younger women in living godly lives. Many times women who have already raised their children think that their tasks are now done and they can return to working and leave the maintenance of the home to others and/or neglect teaching others. They may have finished raising their children, but now they have the task of advising the younger women who are now in the midst of child raising. This text also indicates that since the older women to teach the younger women to work at home, they also should be workers at home. How else can they train the younger women to do so if they themselves have no part of it? Women’s employment as workers at home, therefore, is a task that does not end when the children are raised.
2. Women are to be “working at home.” The Greek term used here, oikouros, when taken apart, means “a house guard” (oikos, “house,” and kouros, “guard.”) Thayer defines this term as the following:
1) caring for the house, working at home
1a) the (watch or) keeper of the house
1b) keeping at home and taking care of household affairs
1c) a domestic
There should be no confusion, then, as to the primary employment of the Christian woman: she should be the caretaker of the house. This is to be done for a good reason: that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:5). How would the word of God be reviled if a woman was not the caretaker of the house (among other things)? Let us think of some examples of how:
If the woman is not at home, but at work, and her child(ren) is/are in daycare, is she bringing up her child(ren)? Is she showing the love for them she is told to show in Titus 2:4? Will her child(ren) grow up in the care and nurture of their family, instructed and trained in the Word of God every day, and themselves be faithful to the Lord? If they grow up and depart from the Way, will this not be a cause for some to revile the Word of God?
If the woman does not control her house, but seeks to share part in the authority of the man over the family because she makes half the money, is she still submissive as she ought to be per Titus 2:3-5? Can the husband be the head of his household as he is called to be? Will the family uphold God’s principles or will they also be a cause to revile the Word of God?
We can see, then, that the intention of God for Christian women is to be the caretakers of their households.
Does this mean that women cannot work at all outside of the home? It is admitted that Paul does not condemn a woman working outside of the home, and we have the examples of women in the New Testament that did have some form of employment outside of the home: Lydia is said to have been a seller of purple (Acts 16:14) and Priscilla is said to have been a tentmaker along with her husband Aquila (Acts 18:2-3). We can gain insight to this quandary from the wise words of Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31:10-31:
A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, And he shall have no lack of gain. She doeth him good and not evil All the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, And worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchant-ships; She bringeth her bread from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, And giveth food to her household, And their task to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it; With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, And maketh strong her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable: Her lamp goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the distaff, And her hands hold the spindle. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh for herself carpets of tapestry; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh linen garments and selleth them, And delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing; And she laugheth at the time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue. She looketh well to the ways of her household, And eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying: Many daughters have done worthily, But thou excellest them all. Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; But a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates.
Here we have the description of the ideal woman, and we see that she maintains her house well but also is able to keep a field, make tapestries, and even makes garments and girdles and sells them to merchants. We can see, therefore, that a woman is certainly able to work outside of the home as long as her household is still maintained and all things are set in order.
There are also extenuating circumstances in which a woman may have to take on the role as the primary breadwinner, especially in cases where the man has been disabled due to injury and/or illness and is not able to hold down employment because of his disability. Such situations are not the ideal by any stretch of the imagination, and should not be used as an excuse for women not in such circumstances to be primary or equal breadwinners.
What shall we say, then? The primary employment of women is in the household, watching over the children and keeping up the house. If such tasks can be maintained and a part-time job can be found, and such would assist the household, then by all means a woman can engage in such work.
We must always be watchful, however, of the main motivations that have driven women into the workplace. The feminist movement of the twentieth century, especially in the 1970s, worked diligently to glorify the “career” woman and to belittle the mere “housewife,” and while many women may still hold to such beliefs, most have found that there is honor and value in being a mother and working at home as opposed to the rat race. In most circumstances today, however, women are working outside of the home not because of “liberation” or necessarily a desire to work but the desire to maintain a high standard of living. I completely recognize that there are many– far too many– families in this country where both the man and the woman are employed outside of the home and they may just get by with the basic necessities of life. Nevertheless, many, many times women work outside of the home not because otherwise there is no food on the table but because the family needs to afford the second (or third, or fourth) car, and the nice big house in the suburbs, and the two (or three or four) cellular phones and multiple computers and nice vacations and the other amenities of life. Such families could easily live on one income if it were not for this desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and have a higher standard of living. For those who live in such conditions, what is more important: that nice vacation or the spiritual welfare of your family? Two nice cars or having your children cared for by their mother? A big house in the suburbs where few rarely inhabit or a smaller house where mother and her love are always present? More importantly, which option do you think God desires for you and your family?
This article is not out to condemn anybody or to assert in any way that women cannot work outside of the home. This article is an appeal to the message of the Scriptures and the desire for Christian women to be found pleasing to the Lord and not a cause of reviling the Word of God. The fruits of the societal movements denigrating the family unit that began in the 1920s have ripened, and we see more divorce, pain, suffering, gangs, drugs, sexual promiscuity, and a loss of love. The strength of any society is completely dependent on the strength of the families of that society. And if the wife/mother in the household is not present in the household but in the office, the family suffers and is weakened. Satan has been given his opportunity.
Let us all diligently seek to please the Lord and make it possible for Christian women to maintain their households well.
Ethan R. Longhenry