After a recent sermon on Women and Marriage, I wanted to offer a brief pastoral word on a (crushing) tension that often silently exists between stay-at-home-moms and women who work outside the home. To set the stage here’s a quick summary of the Scriptures’ teaching on gender roles …
“The Bible teaches that the home and the marketplace are equal in value, and that the home works best when a husband’s primary orientation is toward the marketplace and a wife’s primary orientation is toward the home.”
Because there’s no area at which modern, American cultural assumptions clash more with the Scriptures than the area of gender / marriage / sexuality, it would take an entire post to walk through that, so I’m just providing it here (and won’t get drawn into an argument in a comment section!). That being given, here’s what often happens in the tender hearts of these two categories of women in relationships with each other…
Women who work outside the home in some capacity often feel judged or live in fear of being judged by stay-at-home-moms. ”Does she think I’m doing something wrong by having a job?” ”Do people think this makes me a bad wife / mom?” ”Am I failing as a wife / mom by not being a stay-at-home-mom?” MOMMY GUILT. For many women working outside the home, it’s a fear and guilt spin-cycle. Or worse, it’s not just a fear – it’s a reality. They actually *are* looked down upon for working outside the home.
Stay-at-home wives and mothers often feel judged by women who work outside the home. ”Does she think I’m lazy?” ”Do they think I just sit around all day watching TV?” ”Do they think I’m not doing anything meaningful with my life?” ”Wait, AM I doing anything meaningful with my life!?” Is everyone laughing at me for saying I’m having a hard time in life right now because “all she does is just stay at home”? Again, it’s a fear and guilt, spin-cycle. Or worse – it’s reality and they actually *are* looked down upon for their lifestyle.
A BIBLICAL OBSERVATION
Now, let me make a quick Biblical observation. Proverbs 31 is generally looked to as an ideal for Biblical womanhood and in keeping with the definition above the priority of home-orientedness is obvious throughout the passage. That emphasis ennobles and non-ignorably honors the often-hidden work of the stay-at-home wife / mom, but less often noted are these statements…
- “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” (vs. 13)
- “She considers a field and buys it, with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” (16)
- “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” (vs. 18)
- “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.” (vs. 24)
This paradigmatic woman is in the marketplace as both a buyer and a seller (vs. 13, 24). She’s shrewdly dealing in finance, real estate, and the local wine industry (vs. 18, 16). She has her own business (vs. 24). The Bible doesn’t teach that a wife’s PLACE is in the home in such a way that if she’s not there all the time she’s doing something wrong. The Bible teaches that a wife’s PRIORITY is the home. And sometimes, a godly and faithful woman will work outside of the home, not IN SPITE OF the fact that the home is her priority, but BECAUSE the home is her priority. The home may need her income, her work may enrich her family or community, her family stage and situation may be such that working doesn’t compromise her home at all, or she may add value to the home through her gifts in the marketplace, etc.
TWO OBVIOUS CONCLUSIONS THAT TEAR DOWN FEAR, GUILT, AND HOSTILITY
- To the insecurities of the stay-at-home wife / mom’s heart, The Bible says “what you’re doing MATTERS. Your hidden obediences are seen and treasured by God. Your pains and sacrifices are real and they are WORTH IT.” In the midst of a culture that increasingly devalues the home, the Scriptures ennoble it as infinitely valuable and worthy of a life poured out.
- To the insecurities and fears of The Working Woman, the Bible says, “your work is NOT a sign that you are failing. There is freedom for this hard decision you are making with your life and may often wrestle with. Be free from your mommy-guilt and empowered by the Scriptures to enrich your home in the best manner possible. What you’re doing is HONORABLE.” Rather than place a working woman in a Christian-second-class, the Bible ennobles her and honors her.
The Bible judges neither of these women, so neither should we. Death to judgment. Life to grace and “unity of spirit in the bond of peace”.