In a previous article I sought to make the biblical case that a woman who is blessed to be a mother is called to work as a mom. She is to work hard at raising a godly seed. This is clearly the calling of a woman with children, as indicated in such passages as 1 Timothy 2:9-15.
But whenever this issue is broached a lot of questions surface, such as: “Is it wrong for a mother to work outside of the home?” “Is there not a place for a mother to aid in adding to the household finances?” “Is it sinful for a mother to pursue a career?” “How should single women view studies and being career-oriented?” “Once the children are grown then is it good for a wife to work outside of the home and/or to pursue a career?” Now, perhaps you can appreciate why I chose in my initial article to limit the scope of the subject matter!
In approaching these important questions it is essential that we begin with the paradigm of what is patently clear in Scripture: Children are a gift from God and motherhood is the highest calling of a woman with children. Once this is solidified in our minds and hearts then the above questions pose little difficulty—especially if such questions are faced honestly.
An Important Caveat
From the outset I want to emphasise that we should not say such things as “motherhood is a woman’s highest calling.” There are many women who will remain single throughout their lives, and there are married women to whom, for whatever good reason, the Lord has chosen not give to children. It would be wrong to conclude in either case that these women are doomed to live a life of lesser fulfilment. On the contrary, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 7, they are in a position to live exceptionally full lives to the glory of God. Yet while noting this biblical caveat, we must at the same time acknowledge the scriptural injunction that a woman with children is to prioritise raising them for the Lord. That is her highest calling. Of course, we would also confess that a married woman’s highest calling is as a wife.
Now having come to such a conviction, the several questions that we noted earlier really become quite simple to answer. This is one of the wonderful blessings of biblical wisdom. The principles in Scripture are rather easy to discern and then it is merely a matter of honestly applying them to the various questions with which life confronts us. Let’s do so now.
First, is it wrong for a mother to work outside of the home? I do not know of a single passage or verse in Scripture that prohibits this. It is clear from Titus 2:3-5 that a wife/mother’s priority is her home. If she can lovingly, joyfully, faithfully, passionately, holily and effectively care for her family, and yet still have time to work outside of the home, then why not? But a good deal of honesty needs to be applied when making such a decision. If a wife/mother is spending 40-50 hours a week away from her primary calling, then she and her husband (for he is ultimately responsible for such a decision) need to honestly assess whether the home has been prioritised. Think long and hard about the wisdom of separating a mother from her children for the best hours of the day. Further, I would especially appeal for clear-headedness regarding the common but unbiblical practice of shifting our parental responsibilities to others. Neither maids nor crèches nor au pairs nor grandmothers(!) are to be raising our children.
Second, is there not a place for a mother to aid in adding to the household finances? Most certainly. The godly wife epitomised in Proverbs 31 is commended for doing so. We read in v. 16: “She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard.” Clearly such a virtuous wife is industrious, and through her labours the family’s “profits” are increased. In fact, such a passage serves as a wonderful template for home industry. Many moms can use their homes as a place from which they can add to the financial coffers of the home while still prioritising their higher calling. It should also be mentioned that part-time jobs may also fit into this category. My only caution is that it remains part-time and that it does not take away from the privileged calling of motherhood.
Third, I want to address the following two questions together: Is it sinful for a mother to pursue a career? and, how should single women view studies and being career-oriented?
First, why would a wife/mother wish to do so? Why would she want to pursue a lesser opportunity while turning from a greater one? I am concerned that the prestige of having a career or the pull of wanting to have more is all too often behind such a pursuit. For some strange (read: sinful) reason the idea prevails that a woman cannot be fulfilled at home and she will not have enough to “fill her time.” But the truth is that if the Lord gives a woman a husband and then children, she will have her hands and her life very full if she makes her home her priority. My wife Jill would tell you that she faces many challenges running her home, but boredom has never been one of them!
Again, I would simply appeal for honesty when considering such a decision. I have known many women who have trained for a career and yet have laid it aside when the Lord gave them children. Many have continued in the meanwhile to maintain their skills, yet children have taken precedence over career and mothering has been more important than money.
This of course raises the question concerning educating young women for careers. Should we as parents be encouraging this?
There are some voices in the church at large who are adamant that, since women are encouraged by Scripture to marry and to have children, to educate them at post matric level is unnecessary. Some argue that to do so is even irresponsible as it might tempt them to pursue a course in life that would take them away from prioritising the home. Though I can appreciate their concern I disagree with their blanket prohibition. Rather I am of the opinion that an education is never a waste and therefore the knowledge and skills that a woman can acquire in a field of study may be very fruitful. After all, if she never marries then an education may serve her well (though we need to be wise about sending our daughters into the world—but that needs another article!).
There is no doubt that God gifts women as He does men, and so their skills can be put to good use in the kingdom. My caution, however, is that we must present to our daughters that marriage and childrearing (if God wills) is a wonderful calling. I fear that too often we create the very problems that we need to avoid in the area of having a biblical family. And when I say “we” I am referring to wrongheaded parenting. That is, we teach our daughters that the primary pursuit is a secular education so that they can have a career. And then we wonder why they are so slow to get married! Further, because our values are so often skewed by the world we pressure our daughters to study for the more lucrative and prestigious careers rather than encouraging them to follow their God-given, though sometimes less lucrative passions. Fathers, stop it!
Finally, consider this question: Once the children are grown then may a wife turn her attention to working outside of the home and/or to pursue a career? My initial response to this would be to ask another question: Why? Seriously, when considering the opportunity, consider the motive for doing so. Clearly there is biblical liberty to do so, but at what expense? If there is a pressing financial need then perhaps wisdom would dictate doing so. But for many the issue is not that of finances but rather one of boredom. Yet I can assure you that there are plenty of opportunities to use the blessing of having more time on your hands to minister to the Body of Christ as well as to your neighbours for their good and for the glory of God.
Again, the Scriptures do not prescribe a particular course of action in this matter and so we need to respect the liberty of others to make choices. My appeal is simply that you consider the motives as well as what you and others may miss out on as a result of your decision, one way or the other.
And so, in conclusion, let’s be committed to searching the Scriptures asking the Lord for the wisdom we need to help moms who work. Again, as the Bible makes clear, all moms are called to work.