"What does the Bible teach concerning Christian women working outside of the home? Is there a pattern for women to work or not to work, or is it a subject that is in a grey area? I appreciate your response to this question."
I am assuming that our querist is asking with respect to married women who are mothers. A woman is not generally forbidden to be active in work that is not necessarily related to the home (Acts 16:14; 18:3; Rom. 16:1-4; Phil. 4:3). The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 was very active and may have had business interests of some kind (vv. 16, 24).
However, let it be noted that her chief emphasis and attention was to the needs of her family. "She looketh well to the ways of her household" (v. 27). That is her primary place and purpose in the arrangement of God. "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully" (1 Tim. 5:14). "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine....The aged women likewise...that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:1-5).
Anything that hinders a wife and mother from being a "keeper at home," or from looking "well to the ways of her household," is a sin to her. Anything that takes a wife and mother away from doing good to her husband, away from that which will please him and serve the family, is wrong. It violates the Bible pattern, the Spirit's standard (Prov. 31:11, 12; Cf. inferences from 1 Cor. 7:34b; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; 1 Tim. 5:10). Whether it be idleness, which is manifest in wandering shopping malls, watching too much television, gabbing on the phone, or a job outside the home, anything which prohibits a woman from fulfilling her duty to her family, her role in the home, is not in harmony with the revealed will of God.
In one sense, there is no "gray area." The word of God clearly defines the woman's role in the home and family. However, in another sense, there are shades of gray. I do not believe that it is a sin, per se, for a woman to work outside the home. Each home and family will have to make the judgment as to the extent the wife may work outside the home. It will vary from case to case. Due to the age and number of children, it may be that some mothers could not spare a moment to devote to public work. For example, at a recent "Vacation Bible School," a dear sister brought her five children each morning. The eldest was six years old. The baby was only a few months old! While I will not be the judge of her situation, I venture to say that she would have little time to buy and sell sashes to a merchant or consider a field and work it!
But what of a lady whose grown children are out of the house and whose husband is often away on business? May she not devote some time to works apart from the home? So long as she meets her husbands needs as a wife and "guides the house," I do not see that she sins if she works outside the home. Again, I am not the judge in any particular case. Let each family unit, each loving, considerate husband and devoted wife and mother, make those decisions in fear of God and the demands of his word.
As elders must give account for their charge, for their work and oversight, so will parents, husbands, fathers, wives and mothers (Heb. 13:17; Lk. 12:42-48; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; 1 Tim. 5:8). Whether a mother works outside the home or not, she may still neglect her children. She may turn her children over to a television set or to video games. Children cannot be turned over to babysitters, summer-long camps, or to other forms of institutional care and be raised as God would have them to be. Nothing can take the place of care in the home. It is God's divine design.
In this increasingly materialistic society, the danger of the home being distorted and moved away from its God designed order is ever apparent. Modern cultural and societal trends are effeminizing men and masculizing women. It is a perversion. Twisted children, whose souls are torn and bent out of their natural state, are what we have to show for a generation which has grown up without a mother in the home to nurture and to nourish, to guide and to govern, and to love and to labor. Indeed, for some there will be hell to pay for their neglect and abandonment of God's pattern for the home and family relationship.
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