Does God's Word Allow Women to Work?
Mind if I share part of my resume with you? I have a bachelor's degree in communication from Missouri State University (go Bears!). I have a master's degree in education from William Woods University. I have worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school journalism teacher, a public speaker, and a freelance writer. Currently, I work from home as an author and speaker. I also happen to have yogurt smeared on my shirt by my one-year-old, dinner on the stove to take to my hubby at work, and a pile of laundry on my floor nearly as tall as Mt. Everest.
I tell you all of that so you know where I'm coming from. So many of you are just beginning to consider what a godly future looks like. Your desire to embrace God's calling as women is clear. It tickles me pink to hear about your genuine interest in sticking to God's plan. But amidst a flurry of conflicting opinions, I'm not surprised that you're feeling unsure about how to manage future careers, marriages, and families.
In the context of God's plan for us as women, where does education fit? What about working outside the home? What is the right thing to do when kiddos come along?
Even among Christian woman you will find varied answers to these questions. That's why I think we should look to God's Word as our standard as we seek to define godly womanhood.
In fact, there is one woman in Scripture who I think has the most to teach us about God's design for women. She can be found in Proverbs 31. This may be a familiar passage to you. The woman described here is often held up among Christians as the gold standard when defining biblical womanhood. If you don't mind, I'd like to revisit these verses, especially when considering how to manage work, family, and planning for the future.
I won't copy the entire passage into this post. But I would encourage you to grab your Bible and read about the Proverbs 31 woman for yourself. You can find the details of her life in Proverbs 31:10-31. For this discussion, I just want to highlight those verses that help us understand the role of work in this woman's life. We are going to look to these passages for an answer to the question, "Does God's Word allow women to work outside the home?"
In Proverbs 31:13-18 we read "she seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night."
What kind of woman is she? She's a hard worker, accustomed to working with her hands (v. 13). Her work is meaningful and provides for the needs of others (v. 15). She is an investor (v. 16), an entrepreneur (v. 16), a strong and capable woman (v. 17). She earns income (v. 18). If we jump ahead to verse 27, we learn that she doesn't sit idly by waiting for others to care for her and her family.
But this gal is more than a workhorse. In verse 20 we learn that she ministers to the needy around her. In verses 10, 11, 12, 27, and 28, we see clearly that caring for her husband and children is her highest priority. Much of her effort is spent toward managing the affairs of her household.
Does she work? You betcha. She buys real estate, plants a vineyard, sells garments to merchants. But she also does what is best for her husband, her children, and the needy in her sphere of influence.
In 1 Timothy 5:9-10 we meet a similar woman.
"[She] has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds."
I'd imagine that if the Proverbs 31 woman got together with the woman from 1 Timothy, they'd be fast friends. That's because they have shared priorities. They work hard to care for the needs of their families. They use their homes to serve others. Despite commitments and relationships outside the home, they are functioning in their design as women by making their households their primary area of focus. I'd love to have lunch with those gals because while I value my education and my work outside the house, my highest priorities and greatest successes are my husband, son, and home.
In Lies Women Believe, Nancy puts it this way, "The Scripture is clear that a married woman's life and ministry are to be centered in her home. This is not to suggest that it is necessarily wrong for a wife and mother to have a job outside her home—unless that job in any way competes with or diminishes her effectiveness in fulfilling her primary calling at home" (Lies Women Believe, 127-128).
And do you want to know the best part? You don't have to wait until you're married with children to live out God's standard for womanhood. Making your home (and the people in it) your priority, serving others with your time, talents, and resources, and working for God's glory are all possible within your current circumstances.
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