Women Working Outside the Home

This subject has been a heated one in some circles among God's people. It seems many go to one of two extremes on this issue (as humans often do). One end of the spectrum states mothers should work outside the home to be an experienced, complete woman, while the other end claims women should not work outside the home because a woman can not keep her house/children in order and have a secular career. Both of these thoughts are unbalanced and are not founded upon Scripture. The purpose of this article is to examine what our Lord desires for women (particularly mothers) with reference to the home.

There are two passages in the New Testament that directly speak of women working at home. First, Titus 2:3-5 states, "the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." Secondly, in reference to younger widows, the inspired writer, Paul in 1 Timothy 5:14 states, "I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully." These instructions are to prevent women from being idle gossips (1 Timothy 5:9-15). The word, "homemaker" means "devoted to home duties" ("oi˙kourgo/ß," A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, n.p.), and the Greek word for "manage the house" is defined as, "run the household" ("oikodespotew," A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, n.p.). Certainly, being a homemaker involves the physical aspects of the house (cleaning, cooking, etc.), but would also include other aspects (submission to husband, love husband and children, etc.). God's woman is to exhibit "good works" with "discretion" and "chastity" inside the privacy of her home and in public (1 Peter 3:1-6; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Timothy 2:9-10).

The Bible is not devoid of examples of godly women. One can look at the book of Acts alone to see the good influence that early Christian women set forth. One such example is Lydia (Acts 16:13-15). She is first described as "a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira." Clearly, Lydia worked at something in addition to managing her house. This woman (along with her household, which may or may not have included a husband, children, slaves, servants, etc.) obeyed the truth and invited Paul and his companions to her house, which is further evidence of her talents and hospitality. Another example that comes to mind is the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31. If there is a detailed list of what God expects of women this is it. Notice the works that this woman performs on a daily basis, in particularly Proverbs 31:16: "She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard." Furthermore, "she makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants" (Proverbs 31:24). In describing this virtuous woman, God's Word states that she works outside the home and "watches over the ways of her household" (Proverbs 31:27).

Can a mother work outside the home and fulfill the commandments God has set forth? It would be going beyond God's Word to answer "no". Similarly, it can be said that men are both commanded to "rule their house well" including being the spiritual teacher and supporting their family by working (1 Timothy 3:12, 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Can a man lead his family and teach his children although his work keeps him from being at home most of the time? The answer to that is "yes"; godly men will do their best to fulfill God's commandments (consider men like Peter who spent months away from his family as he followed Jesus as well as military men, Matthew 8:14; 19:27; 1 Peter 5:1). Can the same be said about godly women in their roles seeking to do God's will? Yes indeed.

Whether or not a mother works outside the home is a matter of judgment. Our Creator has given us common sense guided by biblical principles in order to make decisions in matters of expediency. No one situation for a family is the same, and it is not the purpose of this writing to exhaust a list of "case studies", but rather to show what God's Word says about the responsibilities of wives and mothers. In light of God's message a woman must examine her heart and honestly determine if she can hold-down that job and care for/manage her home as a faithful woman. If the answer is "yes" then "give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates" (Proverbs 31:31), and if the answer is "no" then may she have the courage and the wisdom to "not pull down but build her house" (Proverbs 14:1).

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