By Kimberly M. Chastain
I have received many heartfelt emails from women asking me, “Where in the Bible does it say,
a woman cannot work outside the home?” Another comment, where are scriptural articles that
do not condemn? I often quickly reply the Bible does not say a woman cannot work outside the home. Many of the women in the Bible were leaders among women and men. Deborah was basically a military commander.
Let’s look at the Proverbs 31 woman. This woman is often held up as the prime example of
a Godly woman. Here is a list of the many tasks the Proverbs 31 women completes:
Selects wool and flax and works with eager hands
She brings her food from afar
She gets up while it is dark and provides food for her families and servant girls
Buys a field and out of earnings plants a vineyard
Arms are strong for tasks
Her trading is profitable; lamp does not go out at night
Grasps the spindle with her fingers
Opens her arms to the poor and needy
Keeps children clothed
Makes clothes for herself
Makes linen garments and sells them
Faithful instruction is on her tongue
Watches over affairs of the household
When I look at all this woman did, frankly I get exhausted. This woman is definitely a working Mom. She is an administrator, overseeing her servants. She is selling goods she has made herself and the scripture says she is profitable.
Also, she buys a field out of her own earnings. Thus, this woman is making money in order to purchase the field. One verse I think we all can relate to is the phrase, “her lamp does not go out at night”. Certainly, we all have stayed up late trying to complete various projects.
Let me make another observation as well. This woman’s work was outside of the home. From the description in this chapter it infers that her work is often at the front gates or in another field. So, she often had to leave home in order to work. I would imagine she took her children with her to work or maybe she and another woman watched each other’s children. I think that is hard to know for sure.
There were women in the Bible who were successful businesswomen. Remember, Lydia in the New Testament, she was a seller of purple cloth. One commentary I read said she had considerable wealth, because she was able to give a home to Paul and his companions. Now, I don’t know if Lydia had children or not, but she obviously was a successful businesswoman.
Many women in the Old and New Testament were very good at managing their homes. Women in the Old Testament would keep the home fires burning while their husband was off to war. Women even in the Bible were multi-tasking and had many roles to fill. Also, probably most of them were teaching their children as well. So, we could say some women in the Bible were Working Moms and home schooling as well. You think we have it tough!!!
When you look at the Proverbs 31 woman see what the writer has to say about her. Proverbs 31:28-31, “Her children arise and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” The woman was praised for all her roles, not just mother or wife, but her role as a worker as well.
There are several verses that are often used to say women cannot work outside the home. The first is 1 Timothy 5:14, “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” The part of the verse used is to manage their home. Ask any CWM if they are managing their home. They will tell you all the many things they manage. You can manage your home whether you stay at home or not. You can also delegate specific tasks, i.e. childcare, etc. This verse does not specify how to manage your home, just that it is managed. The second verse that is often used to say women cannot work outside the home is Titus 2:4-5, “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” The part of the verse that is used to encourage women to stay at home is to be busy at home. Moms whether they work outside the home or not are busy at home. Also, women who work outside the home can still be submissive to their husbands. I also see the busy at home relating back to the Timothy verse about managing the home. Ultimately, it is the women’s responsibility to manage the workings of the home. Does that mean she has to do everything in the home? No. It is her responsibility to manage the home and delegate chores to people in the home or people that work for her. Look again at the Proverbs 31 women she had servants that she managed. I imagine those servants were doing chores for the home.
Sister Christian Working Moms I cannot find any verse in the Bible that says a woman cannot work outside the home. If you can find one, please let me know.
The idea of a mother not working outside the home is a relatively new concept. Actually, it is considered a luxury in most parts of the world. Often women in the history of the United States have worked outside the home. During World War II many Moms were working outside the home. So, the idea that generations of children are being harmed my mothers working outside the home, is just not true. Moms have been working very hard at home and outside the home for many years and centuries, for that matter.
Please do not here me criticize stay at home Moms. There has been so much hurt on both sides of the working Mom battle. In fact, I think Satan has used this issue to divide women in the church. If you will carefully read the Bible God worked in many people’s lives in many different ways. We see Deborah as a military commander, Lydia – a seller of purple cloth, Ruth and Naomi as widows, Esther – a rescuer of the Jewish nation and the list goes on. I think each family has to make a choice for themselves as what is best for them with direction from God. There is not a Biblical mandate to stay at home or work. Sometimes there is no choice and women must work outside the home and they should not be made to feel guilty for helping support their families. The Bible’s message is timeless and covers all cultures. So, I think it would be wrong to tell a Mom with children starving in a third world country that she should not work outside the home and find food for her child. You may think that argument is ridiculous, but if no Mom should work outside the home then that should apply to all Moms. Closely related to this point is the millions of single Christian Working Moms who are working to support their children and do not receive child support. Are they not to work outside the home? Each family has to make the choice that is best for them and one size does not fit all. If a family chooses to make the choice for a Mom to work outside the home they should take comfort in the knowledge that the Bible does not say a Mom cannot work outside the home.
In conclusion, you may all know deep down that scripture does not prevent a Mom from working outside the home. Yet, how do you handle the pressure from people at church or others who “make” you feel guilty. Ultimately, all Christians are to serve God and not man. I would challenge you to ask people to show you the Bible verses that say you cannot work outside the home. The Bible is where we get our answers from and our guidance. Secondly, I would encourage you to pray about your decision and ask for clear direction and peace for your decision. Third, once you have made your decision do not spend time worrying and fretting about your decision. We are told to cast all our anxiety on Him for he cares for us. Give your worry to God and leave it there. Fourthly, a caution to men as well as women our priorities always have to be in order. God is first, family second, and then work is much farther down the priority list. No one should put their career ahead of God. In 1 Timothy he talked about managing the home. We all need to keep our priorities straight.
My ultimate prayer is women whether working or not would come together and agree we all want to raise Godly children who worship and glorify our God. That is something we can agree on whether we stay at home or work outside the home. God wants us to come together as sisters in Christ to teach our children to be worshippers of God. The ground is level at the cross and there is not a separate section for working Moms and stay at home Moms. God loves us all the same. Please hear that last point, God loves us all the same. I had one Christian Working Mom write me to say sometimes it just feels that God loves the stay at home Moms more. I heard her painful comment and wept when I read it. God loves you dear sister and what he wants most is for all of us to glorify him in everything we do, whether we work outside the home or not.