Does the Bible have an issue with working women? Shouldn’t all Christian mothers stay at home with their children? The answer may surprise you. ♦
My own wife was a working woman. (Of course, she still is a very hard-working woman!) She graduated from an elite college with a degree in economics and was “wait-listed” in her application to a prestigious business school. While I was in graduate school in our first years of marriage, she worked briefly on econometric models for the Federal Reserve Bank before settling into work as a financial analyst at a major regional medical center.
She told me very clearly, however, that when we started to have children she was going to be a stay-at-home mother.
I was fine either way. I never thought about such things.
While my own mother stayed at home for most of my elementary school years, she worked in a pottery factory in Los Angeles while us kids were in middle school and high school. She’d be home by late afternoon and still be able to run the household and manage a very active life centered around my father and their 4 children.
The one thing I would say about my mom and my home-life is that I always felt loved and supported. In that respect, she was quite successful and raised 4 reasonably healthy children who today have raised reasonably healthy families of their own.
But what does the Bible say about woman in the workplace? A 2014 Pew Research Center survey finds that a majority of Americans (60%) think that kids are better off with a parent at home full-time. Does the Bible have an issue with working women? Shouldn’t all Christian mothers stay at home with their children?
The answer may surprise you.
What’s the Biblical Mandate for Women?
There is nothing in the Bible that says that a woman cannot work for a living. In fact, there are several examples of working women: Deborah, Lydia, Ruth, Priscilla, to name just a few. Of course, the 31st chapter of the Book of Proverbs outlines a detailed profile of a virtuous woman who actually works inside and outside the home providing love, care, and resources for herself, her husband, and her children.
The entire family benefits from this well-balanced and productive woman.
The Bible does give guidance regarding the role of woman, and men for that matter. In the New Testament there are clear instructions from the Apostle Paul about the Christian life:
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:3-4)
What’s evident here is that when children are involved, a young mother’s responsibility is to her family. That does not preclude her from having a business or working outside the home. However, “a wife of noble character” as stated in Proverbs 31, works hard to care for her home and family. She’s certainly capable, industrious and produces income, but her employment is secondary to her calling as a wife to her husband and wise steward of her children and home.
Take no offense or dismiss this as out of sync with modern life. It’s a matter of priorities and motivations which the Bible makes clear. There is actually real freedom in Christianity. If a woman, with the supporting help of her husband, can provide the care and nurturing for her family, then there’s no issue with working outside the home.
One Mother’s Motivation
As previously posted here (Know a Proverbs 31 Woman?), my wife has all the balanced traits of this Biblical ideal. She did refine and develop them over time, albeit much faster than my own recognition and appreciation. She was motivated not by money or career, but by a simple fact that she did not want her own children to be raised by people outside the family.
I watched as she deliberately scheduled time, “Special Time” of reading, game-playing, ice cream or yogurt outings, etc., with each of the children weekly at appropriate ages after they came home from school. It’s nothing that couldn’t be done by a full-time or part-time working mother. Just being available, even in the evening, has a tremendous impact on the emotional security and confidence of a child.
While my wife’s identity has never been focused on title or status, today it clearly is on impact and influence of younger women and a new generation of mothers longing to be loving and effective moms and wives in a stressful and pressure-filled culture. I watch her now mentoring many young moms, and as a grandmother of 8 little ones under the age of 8, scheduling “Special Time” with a new generation whose mothers are also stay-at-home, productive and industrious moms. Indeed the reward and impact is no doubt “unto generations.”
And that’s the stay-at-home mom I know.
Are you supporting and encouraging a young mother in your life?
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. – Psalm 127:3