Sep 01, 2019 • Written by Judy Episcopo
SHOULD WOMEN WORK?
Of course! This seems rather obvious, but it does raise at least two other important theological questions: What does the Bible say about work, and what does the Bible say about women who work outside the home?
I grew up in the 60’s. The social and religious environment taught that women should stay home and not work. This statement communicated all kinds of generalizations and misunderstandings.
Yes, I believe the Bible does affirm the principle that there is a unique responsibility women have for the home (Titus 2:3-5), but the Bible doesn’t give us a one size fits all template when it comes to women and work within or outside the home.*
Did you know that up until the 19th century the home was the center of production and the small business unit of the local economy? Mary Kassian in her book “True Woman 201” points out that most families ran a family business where everyone in the household was involved in the work of the family. If you raised sheep, owned a bakery, or worked in carpentry, everyone was expected to pitch in.
The Industrial Revolution in the early 1800’s created the shift that made home and work separate spheres of life. People had to leave home and work in factories, and work was now defined as paid employment outside the home. This cultural shift obviously had many implications for men, women, and work. Mary Kassian in her book “True Woman 201” says this:
“Work in the home no longer had quantifiable economic value and did not qualify as work. The public market place became the valued sphere and the sphere associated with men. The private sphere, the place of non monetary return, now became the devalued sphere associated with women.”*
Women are capable of doing so many things. What types of work did women do in the Bible? Kassian came up with a list of opportunities reflected in the Bible.** The issue is not whether a woman can work in or out of the home, but the issue is what are her priorities? What is the motivation? Often times we see work as a means to an end. We work for what we can get out of it whether money, personal fulfillment, security, power, or prestige.
Once again Mary Kassian does a great job of spelling out a simple Biblical theology of work:
“Work was created to put the nature and character of God on display. God works, so we work. Honest, productive, innovative hard work bears witness to God’s nature and character(John 9:3). All legitimate work is an extension of God’s work. For example: medical work is an extension of the work of the God who heals. Tidying a room reflects the work of the God who brings order to chaos."
“Our work has eternal significance. Jesus was a lowly carpenter. Yet he was doing God’s work when pounding a nail just as much as He was doing it when preaching on a hillside ~ because He was doing what God wanted Him to do when God wanted Him to do it. You are not just ‘doing a job.’ Your work matters to God. Are you being faithful to the resources, responsibilities and relationships God has entrusted to you?”
“Scripture promotes a gender-specific emphasis on work responsibility. The Bible tells us that women bringing up children is a ‘good work.’ (I Tim. 5:10, Titus 2:3-5) Obviously childrearing is a responsibility that is shared by both parents (Proverbs 22:6) however, the Bible indicates that the division of labor that goes into maintaining a home and raising the kids isn’t identical."
“The husband is called to bear the burden of responsibility for economic provision while the wife bears the primary burden of responsibility for family nurturance. This should be taken into consideration as we make decisions about where to allocate our time and energy.”
Being responsible for family nurturance doesn’t mean there aren’t situations or seasons when it would be appropriate to focus more on the job or career. Also, being responsible for provision doesn’t mean the husband can’t cook or help clean the house. It just means that God has determined who’s ultimately responsible for what.
So much of our culture tells us to work for our own personal satisfaction or agenda, but ultimately this can lead us to a place of emptiness and ironically, dissatisfaction. We need to make sure we are in line with what the Bible says about work and the purpose God has for it in our lives.
Labor Day was created to be a yearly tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country. This is a good thing. Certainly hard working women in any sphere qualify, but let’s keep a Biblical perspective of work in mind as we celebrate. And be encouraged. No matter what kind of work you do, God values your roles and contributions.
*Please note that much of these observation and teaching on this topic came from “True Woman 201: Interior Design ” by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh de Moss pages 134-152
** News casting (heralds) Ps. 68:11, Special Events (professional mourners) Jer.9:17, Medical & health care services Ex. 1:15, Art/Interior Design Ex. 35:25-26, Musician 2 Chronicles 35:25, Sales/Marketing Acts 16, Real Estate Proverbs 31:16