Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christian Women in the Workforce Part 1

Titus 2-4-5  “That they may teach the younger women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

 There has often been a debate among the Christian community whether a married woman and mother should have a career outside the home.  This debate is also among the secular society better known as the “The Mommy Wars” but among Christians in remains even more prevalent.   It would seem like a surprise that in today’s more equal society that such a question still exists since women have fought for the right to more equal opportunities in the workforce and proven they can juggle career and family.  However, among Christians many still believe that a wife and mother shouldn’t work but instead her role in life is to be a full time primary caregiver of the house doing domestic work and bringing up the children.  Some say she can be allowed to do volunteer work or a ministry but her basic role is taking care of the house and kids unless she doesn’t have a choice to work but she shouldn’t desire to have a job for other reasons.  Others  who have a more modern outlook, may reason a wife can work provided that she doesn’t neglect her duties since the domestic work and child rearing is still primary her job.  

These biases against working wives and mothers still remain in the Christian culture with different opposing view points.  Some have the mindset that if a woman works full time that her home and children are being neglected without considering the ages of the children or if her husband is contributing to the household chores.  Or mothers who put their children in daycare or leave the with a babysitter are also quickly judged without considering how many hours she works, if she is doing volunteer work or is she is a single mother.  I've continued to read biased views on married women and mothers to have jobs outside the home.  One blog I read, a male commenter stated he was against even young widows with children to work and expected to the church to provide for her.  Another article I read by a pastor, where he even praised an unmarried woman for deciding to have a part time job instead of a full time one.   I even read comments from Christian women who do work outside the home and they some claim they have been shunned or judged by others from their church their churches doesn’t have ministry that supports them also. 

Having myself been raised by a working mother and have women in my family who were working mothers mostly because they had to, I’m perplexed when I read such ideas about women in workforce especially in modern times.  It does seem from what I’ve read many in the Christian community favor stay at home wives and use them as the model as what a godly woman is while frowning upon and discouraging women who have jobs.  I started to wonder why do many Christians hold onto such a view and then I realized part of it is due to many Christians have more conservative mindset and in which they still hold  onto traditional cultural gender roles in the home.  The reason for this is also because many believe the bible commands this with the verse Titus 2:4-5 referring to women as keepers at home.  For some this means that the woman should stay at home and raise the children, others also interpret it may imply women should stay at home at least until the children are in school then work part time while some more patriarchal groups believe it forbids any woman from working outside the home regardless if she is married or not. 

After studying and researching the scripture, I’ve have to disagree with all these notions.  Apostle Paul didn’t say women should be keepers at home until children go to school or pre-school or that only mothers should be keepers at the home.   He said the older women should teach the younger women to be keepers at the home and be subject to their husbands, which indicates he was referring to married women.  So whether a wife had children or not she is to be the keeper at the home.  Many Christians mistake the phrase "keeper at the home" to mean homemaker, housekeeper or workers at home but that is not its true meaning.  In Greek the phrase is translated to the word "oikouros".  This word is often wrongly translated to mean stayer at home but it really means watcher, guardian or warden of the home.  Even Proverbs 31: 27 states “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  In older Greek manuscripts the word is translated as "oikourgos" which means to keep, caring for and taking care of the home.  The phrase is used again in the verse Ecclesiastes 12:3 "In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed,".  In This verse, "keepers of the house" refers to the male guards who guard the palace

The history behind the verse Titus 2:4-5 was that Paul  and his protege Titus travelled around the world on a missionary journey and he left Titus on the Mediterranean Island of Crete to plant churches.  The people on the Island had a bad reputation of being mean-sprited, lazy, drunkards and liars and still undedr pagan influence.  Older women would enganing in drunkiness and the younger women women would neglect their homes hanging out in the cities getting involved in various cults as well.  Paul wasn't limiting women's role to the home but simply telling them not to negelct their homes. Being the keeper at home isn’t about being a housewife, doing all domestic tasks  and looking after the children all day, it’s about the wife making what goes on in her home her first priority and making sure not to neglect her family or respsonsibities.  She watches over her home by being alert and attentive to the needs and going-ons of her family first and foremost.  She can do this a variety ways, be it being aware of what outside or TV influences are affecting her children.  Making sure her kids grow spirituality learning biblical lessons or having time for them to teach, listen and know what’s going on in their lives.   Also being attentive to the husband’s needs, being there for him when he needs her to be to listen, give wisdom or be a shoulder to cry etc.  Basically, she should never be too busy or lazy that causes her to neglect the wellbeing of her family and home, whether she is a housewife, she has a career, does volunteer work or involved in church ministry. 

Another verse that is used to claim wives are meant to stay home and tend to the domestic affairs, is Timothy 5:14  So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” The Greek word manage in this verse is "oikodespoteo" which many mistake to imply manager of the domestic affairs but really means to rule or to head the household.  The history behind this verse was about widows.  About this time, older widows over the age of 60, who didn't have families  to take care of them were put on a list by the church who would support them.  However, younger widows weren't put on the list, because they may desire to remarry which may even cause some to sin, or with time on their hands may cause some to become idle gossipy busybodies going to different homes and gossping about things they shouldn't   To prevent this Paul was instructing the younger widows to remarry instead and focus on running their own homes and bringing up their children.  

During the culture at the time, many wives kept and managed their homesby working from home, doing mainly the domestic tasks and bringing up and educating their children since they weren’t in schools back them. Some homes had servants or slaves to help with the chores.  However, in today’s society managing a home can be done in a variety ways other than domestic work.  Some woman manage their homes by working outside the home and sharing in the financial duties, others may stay at home and mainly take care of the domestic tasks, shopping and child care, some may even homeschool, or/and may work from home possibly with a home-based business to earn some extra money for family, or may be responsible for the family budget.  Bottom line is there isn’t a one size fits all way of how a wife should take care her home and family.  

I truly believe that women are gifted in many different ways, and should be allowed to express those gifts in any calling being in or outside the home, be it a housewife in a career, charity work or ministry so long that her first priority is that of a wife and mother who ensures the wellbeing of her family fore-most.  As it  has been said, the woman is the heart of the home who is the glue that holds the family together.  There is verse Proverbs 14: 1 “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands”.  A woman can build up her home b cooperating with her husband in running the home, and strive to ensure a nurturing, loving healthy environment. Or she can tear it down by neglecting her family, constantly arguing with her husband or yelling at her children, causing chaos and an unhealthy environment.


  1. I love Proverbs 14:1. It is one of my favorite scriptures, and I write it in bridal shower cards. However, I don't think the message of the Bible is that women should not be involved in employment other than taking care of her immediate family.

    The Proverbs 31 lady has employment. She has earnings and, with her earning, she buys a field and plants a vineyard (Prov. 31:16). She trades profitably (Prov. 31:18). She sells linen garments and sashes (Prov.31:24). She sounds quite involved in business as well as being involved in the management of her extended household.

    The instructions to women in Titus 2:3-5 were given for a reason. I think it's important that we keep this reason in mind when trying to apply these verses in a completely different time and culture.

  2. Agreed. In part 2 of this topic I explain more of the roles if women in employment as early during biblical times which was more popular than many believe.