Series: Born to work, by Rosie Moore.
“The necessity for work—to be a creative, productive being—is built into man: Adam was created to be a working being” (Jay Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling).
As Christians, we believe that productive work is part of God’s design and is commanded by God (2 Thess 3:10-12; Gen 1:28; 2:15). We also know that sin has distorted and defiled work, making it hard, painful and often unfulfilling (Gen 3:17-19; Eccl 2:17-29). Yes, we are born to work, but work is not an end in and of itself. More accurately, we are born to worship our Creator in and through our work.
Confessions of a homemaker.
I confess that one of the most crippling lies I have believed in my lifetime relates to work and vocation. It was a “hollow and deceptive philosophy” that captivated me, a pretension that set itself up against the knowledge of God which needed to be demolished (Col 2:6-8; 2 Cor 10:5). Let me try to describe this lie to you as best as I can:
As a woman educated within a worldly system, I wrongly assumed that being a steward of a home is an inferior calling. For many years I allowed the pendulum of what our culture values to sway my own thoughts and feelings about my work as a wife and mother. And because of this faulty thinking, I was ambushed at odd moments by the feminist lie that a woman’s identity is built on her public persona and accomplishments, especially a salaried job outside the home.
But through Scripture, the Holy Spirit has progressively reshaped my twisted idea of work, plucking out the seeds of false guilt and futility that the enemy sowed in my heart. Paul’s instruction in Titus 2:1-5 convicted and corrected me in my sinful thinking about work as a Christian woman:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
Firstly, it’s important to debunk some myths about Titus 2:1-5: We know from examples of godly women like Lydia (a seller of purple cloth) and the industrious woman of Proverbs 31, that Paul is not saying that women should only work at home. Nor does this text imply that women have no place in the public arena or forbid us from being compensated financially for our work. Paul is not saying that Christian women should submit to all men and never contribute to church, community, or culture. These caricatures would deny the valuable contributions made by women in the early church and throughout history (Romans 16:1-15).
But Titus 2 convinced me not to despise the vocation that God Himself has chosen for me as a woman. In his divine wisdom, He has given me specific work to do. He has given me a home, a family, and other responsibilities. Since God has called me to marriage and motherhood, obedience means faithfully doing the work He has set before me. It means obeying God’s commands to “work heartily as for the Lord, not for men” (Col 3:23), even when it seems repetitive and doesn’t deliver a fixed salary.
Working heartily at home.
Many workers are disillusioned when their job doesn’t deliver the fulfilment they seek, and homemakers are no exception. But for a Christian, job satisfaction comes from glorifying God in and through our work (Eccl 5:18-20). Fulfilment and joy are byproducts of heartfelt obedience to the Lord in whatever work God has given us to do.
The Bible promises that when we pour ourselves heartily into our work, the Lord Himself will reward us in the future.
“Work heartily…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance” (Col 3:24).
In the here and now, the Lord wants our wholehearted devotion. He commands us to work heartily, not out of a sense of duty or to earn His approval. In her practical little book titled, “How can I feel productive as a Mom?” Esther Engelsma warns women about the temptation of laziness, which produces a discontented and unproductive lifestyle. The antidote to laziness and lack of peace is to ‘work heartily, as for the Lord’. Engelsma writes,
“The exhaustion that comes at the end of a day of hard work is a far better feeling than the tiredness at the end of a lazy day of short tasks sandwiched between long breaks on social media. It is laziness that breeds discontent, not work. And while work does not guarantee contentment, you will never be content if you don’t do the work the Lord has put in front of you. It is in obedience that you find peace.”
I have come to see that job satisfaction does not come from being productive in the world’s eyes or bringing home an impressive salary or raising well behaved kids, but from glorifying God and growing in godliness in and through my work at home. My work as a homemaker is my worship, an apt response to Christ’s work on the cross for me.
Glorifying God at home.
The first reason why work is inherently valuable is that it glorifies God. According to Titus 2, it glorifies God when women learn to be kind, pure and loving at home; content and grateful in their work, instead of believing that it is beneath them. It honours God when wives gladly follow their husbands’ leadership and team up with other women to share a Christian vision for their homes, helping each other live out this vision in practice.
It pleases the Lord when older women, who have experienced the joys and challenges of homemaking, walk alongside younger women, offering godly encouragement, advice and prayers. This mentoring work is no less valuable than Adam tending the garden of Eden, or an architect designing a magnificent building, or a surgeon performing a heart operation. No person is more aptly suited to perform this role than an older woman who has walked with the Lord through the ups and downs of life.
Titus 2:1-5 assures women that even if our culture does not affirm the significance of work within our homes, God sees and values the small moments of life. If Jesus “emptied himself” by taking upon Him the form of a servant (Phil 2:7), women imitate and glorify Christ when we pour out our energy, time, and abilities for those He calls us to influence at home.
The Lord is pleased when you show little ones the beauty of His world and the wonder of the gospel. He is glorified when you love your work, use your time and resources well, and bring order and harmony to your home.
Growing in godliness at home.
The second reason why our work at home is inherently valuable is that it is designed to sanctify us day by day, year by year. We often forget this overarching purpose of our lives as believers. The Lord is always working all things for our good. And our ‘good’ is not a salary, nor praise, nor kids that make us look like good parents. Rather, our ‘good’ is that we are conformed to the image of Jesus, by the Spirit’s power (Rom 8:28-29). That means that God will infuse into our work exactly what is needed for our growth in godly character and faith.
And so, if you are a young Christian wife with children, this means that the Lord Jesus hears every word you speak to your husband and children. He plans the fights you must mediate; the disappointments and failures you must respond to; the moments you come face to face with your own pride. He is working with you, and in you, as you prepare meals, drive the kids to school and sit beside the sport’s field.
Christ watches over you as you shepherd young hearts to help them grow in their relationship with Him. He knows every sin you need to confess and forsake, every painful step to discipline a wayward child, or break sinful patterns of the past. He wants you to learn to trust Him increasingly through this long and unpredictable job of building a home and family.
Your work is not to tick off boxes with your children, but to show them Jesus, so that when the Holy Spirit works in their lives, they are ready to believe. And in those seasons when you wonder if you have what it takes to be successful, be sure that you don’t have what it takes! But Jesus does. You need daily time in the Word to renew your mind; daily time in prayer to guard your heart; and intimate communion with God’s people to strengthen you with wisdom, hope, and love. You need Christ’s grace to grow in godliness and find your identity in Him alone, especially in trying circumstances.
Women at work.
Christian women of all ages and stages are called to faithful and fruitful work. God intends us to use our time well, to be enthusiastic, diligent workers who are a blessing to others. We see the nature of this work in the noble woman of Proverbs 31:
“Her husband has full confidence in her
And lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm…
She sets about her work vigorously;
Her arms are strong for her tasks…
She watches over the affairs of her household
And does not eat the bread of idleness” (Prov 31:11-12; 17; 27).
This doesn’t mean that we should neglect other important aspects of our lives, such as caring for the poor (Prov 31:20), visiting the sick, and reaching out to those who don’t know Christ, but the most important work a woman can do is to love and serve those whom God has entrusted to our care. This ‘home work’ is God’s work.
I am now on the other spectrum of homemaking. As an empty nester, Titus 2 reminds me that “teaching what is good and training the young women to be godly in their own homes” is fruitful work in God’s eyes (Titus 2:4-5). The work of motherhood and homemaking must be learned from someone, and the world is a terrible tutor. At 82, my own mother continues to empty herself in service to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has always been a blessing and a mentor, and today “her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also” (Prov 31:28).
Although we may never receive tangible rewards for homemaking, the Lord is writing the small, everyday work women do at home into His great story of redemption, for his glory and our good. Like every other worker, we are participating in God’s creation mandate (Gen 1:28). It is a great work from which we must not be distracted (Nehemiah 6:3), as stewardship of homes and families lies at the heart, not the periphery, of God’s mission in his world.
To the extent that I have embraced this truth about my work, I have found joy and purpose as a steward of my home. It has been a privilege to be entrusted with the nurturing of family, to create a warm haven for my husband and four children, plus the wonderful son and daughter we recently acquired through marriage. I want my home to always be a place where outsiders feel welcomed and I am thankful to be involved in the lives of young adults who will, God willing, become stewards of their own homes one day.
Nancy Wolgemuth concludes, “The heart for honouring Christ in and through our homes may express itself in different ways and may require more or less time and effort, depending on our season of life. But whether young or old, married or single, whether we own or rent our home or share an apartment or dorm room, the place we call “home” provides an opportunity to magnify Christ and bless others”.
Preview of the next few weeks….
I have shared this anecdote about my own faulty relationship with work to illustrate one of the many lies that a Christian may believe about work. Work is a good gift from God, but because of the curse it also presents many frustrations, pitfalls and temptations to sin (Gen 3:17-19).
Join us in the next few weeks as we explore various Scriptures to understand work as a valuable part of God’s design for human beings.
Sources and further reading:
- Esther Engelsma, How I can feel productive as a Mom? Reformation Heritage Books, 2017.
- Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free. Moody Publishers, 2001.
- Rachel Jankovic, You Who? Why you matter and how to deal with it.
- Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth– Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity.
- Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Shepherd Press, 1995.