A question from a reader named Julie sparked a week of great discussion at the end of June. Here’s the first post followed by links to the others.
June 15 2009 at 6:32 am | by Nicole Whitacre
“I’m a feminist in remission,” Julie confessed in her email to us. And aren’t we all, by the grace of God?
“Honestly, I still struggle in my role as wife and mother though I’ve lived in it for ten years now. So when I read Carolyn’s take on the Today Show a few days ago and the new book about sharing the home responsibilities 50/50, I just had a question, or maybe, a dilemma.
I stay at home full time, homeschooling my four children and I do love it. I wouldn’t want to work outside the home even if it was offered to me. But does that really mean that the husband has NO share in the household duties? Does that really mean that he should never wash some dishes, put laundry away, bathe a child, or pick up his own socks? I mean, if stuff needs to be done, should my husband be able to surf the web or watch a game while I tidy up after dinner and get the kids in bed? I guess I’m truly wondering if this is what It means to be a biblical woman? I WANT to be. I want to do my duties without grumbling and complaining. But it’s hard. It’s easy to feel like the maid. So, any words of wisdom in helping me to see this issue clearly and biblically, would be great.”
I suspect many women struggle with Julie’s dilemma; but I admire her desire to know and obey God’s Word. In Feminine Appeal, Mom tackled this question, and I will quote her at length here:
“Martin Luther, the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, once quipped about his wife: “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led by the Holy Ghost.” While facetious, Luther’s comment holds biblical credibility. As wives, we are to be in charge of domestic affairs.
The command in Titus 2 to be “working at home” is further illuminated by 1 Timothy 5:14 where Paul says: “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (emphasis mine).
In the Greek, the phrase “manage their households” carries a strong connotation. It literally means to be the ruler, despot, or master of the house. So we see that “working at home” means we are to function as the home manager—taking full ownership for all the domestic duties of the household.
Once again the woman in Proverbs 31 is our example. She presided over the entire range of responsibilities in her home. She helped her husband; cared for her children; completed chores; supervised servants; oversaw land; invested money; bought, sold, and traded goods (just to name a few duties!). The Proverbs 31 wife maintained a broad sphere of rule in her household.
Imitating this woman’s model, Sarah Edwards, the wife of the eighteenth-century preacher Jonathan Edwards, managed her household with careful and thorough diligence. One day Dr. Edwards emerged from his studies and asked his wife: “Isn’t it about time for the hay to be cut?” To which Sarah was able to respond, “It’s been in the barn for two weeks.”
Sarah created a world where her husband could fulfill his God-given duties without being concerned for the domestic tasks of the home. We should aspire to do likewise.
Now, with the command to “rule” in our homes, I must provide two cautions. First of all, this is not license to usurp our husband’s authority. Our management in the home must be carried out in complete support of his leadership and direction.
But this mandate also precludes the currently popular “co-responsibility” approach to homemaking. As wives, it is our job to manage our homes, and we should not expect our husbands to contribute equally to this task.
This is not to say that our husbands shouldn’t help around the house. There are times when we legitimately need their assistance, and this is especially true for moms with small children. The point is not to excuse our husbands from service in the home, but rather to solidify our role as manager of the home. God has given that assignment to us.”
A clear and compelling vision of our God-given assignment as home managers will help us guard against complaining and resentment. For further study on this topic I’d recommend the entire chapter on homemaking from Feminine Appeal, as well as Susan Hunt’s chapter on the same in The True Woman. You can also check out some of our posts on homemaking.