Most people of the world are not bothered by the idea of a husband serving a wife. There is nothing offensive about that. But when it is asserted that a woman is equally obligated to serve her husband, that makes them anxious. Housework, chores, duties of the home, raising children – all of it amounts that terrible by-word for modern day slavery: housewife. What has lingered since the sixties is a feeling of dread, even suspicion, of anything remotely related to bondage. To some, women are still being oppressed and mistreated, so we must constantly be on guard. We must respond to the extreme problem with an extreme solution. In many families today, the wife will agree to sacrifice and stay home with the kids, but not before some bargaining. She will give up her career as long as she is never obligated to clean, cook, or do the laundry. And as soon as the husband gets home from his job, he returns to a house in disarray and a cranky wife who hands off a crying baby to him. She has put in “her time,” now it is his turn. After all, a rather pervasive idea in our society is that women have been liberated from the drudgery of “common” housework.
This is not at all God’s intention for the home, though. Rather than conforming to either extreme, our Lord expects husbands and wives to be equally yoked in their responsibilities, so committed to unselfishness that they regard even their own bodies as the possession of the other (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). With such an attitude, it suddenly becomes much less burdensome for husbands to help out around the house, or wives to be diligent workers in the home. If all spouses would simply live by the exhortation in Philippians 2:3 to regard the other as “more important” then equity in the home becomes not just a blissful notion but a satisfying reality.
The Help Meet
As husbands, we ought to recognize the contributions our wives make to the success of the family. This does not just include showing gratitude with a “thank you” every now and then, but a genuine and committed effort toward acknowledging their absolute preciousness. We ought to cherish our wives as treasures – they make up the most precious and cherished part of our lives and were created by God for the purpose of suiting us. They are divinely designed for compatibility. There is no friend on earth that completes us the way a wife does. In Adam’s search for a companion in Genesis 2, no created being brought him true fulfillment (2:20). Amazingly, he could tell that in hardly no time at all. It took just a matter of hours by himself to realize that he needed someone else. In those blessed words, God put it best, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). There are several qualities of a good housewife that must exist to fulfill that suitability. It is interesting to note that no woman was ever born with every maternal quality. It is not that every quality is innate, but some must be learned. Even so, woman was created with the potential for achieving great things and training herself to be the man’s housewife.
· She is a servant, not only in her home but everywhere, just as every Christian ought to be (Galatians 5:13).
· Helpful to her parents and to her husband’s.
· Responsible in her obligations.
· Proverbs 31:27 states that she “does not eat the bread of idleness.” Hard-working, devoted, productive.
· She is not in her own little world, but is in tune with the needs of others.
· Not a pushover. Her children do not run her, but she delegates responsibilities, stands firm in discipline, and speaks words of consistency and accountability.
· She understands that teaching children to serve is teaching them joy.
These are not vague qualities, but clear and precise measurements of a successful help meet. She serves as the captain of her household when the husband is not present, and knows every facet of maintaining her home.
The Value of Domestic Duties
“Therefore I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach” (1 Timothy 5:14). It is a good thing for a woman to work hard in her home, lest she become a busybody, as many do. Instead of becoming lazy, watching television all day, sleeping in until afternoon, and leaving the house in disarray for her husband and children, a good woman will take the time to work hard, keep her house in order, and stay busy with the various godly tasks expected of her. This is not just doing the dishes, as feminists would like today’s young girls to think. Being a housewife is more than menial jobs and tasks, but is truly manifested in being a worker of the home – organizing, delegating, planning, preparing, implementing. Women need not think that their sole mission in life is to cook and clean. They have the opportunity to undertake a vast variety of jobs, even with the help of their children. Visiting the elderly or sick of the church, making meals for those in need, preparing Sunday school curriculum, teaching their children domestic chores, organizing social functions for church members, being involved in their children’s school or extracurricular activities. Domestic duty is not slavery, it is a full time job that is engaging, interesting, and time consuming. Women who are afraid to be bored should desire heartily the work of the home. Otherwise, the enemy has occasion to take advantage of us. Many women, in fact, “have already turned aside to follow Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15). The woman who does not set her hand to the good work before her is no better than a lazy man. How often do wives complain about their husbands’ lack of initiative, when they, too, are often guilty of lazing about or procrastinating?
“That they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home…” (Titus 2:4-5). There is nothing shameful about being a worker of the home. Part of loving one’s family is doing the things necessary for their growth, support, and edification. Husbands take on the task of working hard at their jobs, wives fulfill duties at home, and children are charged with the job of growing and making their parents proud of them. Notice that it is a command to “love.” Love is not a choice when it comes to the family – women must love their husbands and children, manifesting that love in obedient service. What feminists do not seem to realize, though, is that there is nothing demeaning about serving others. Rejecting the service to the family, many modern women prefer to devote themselves to careers in neglect of their children and husbands. But is not a job service, too? Are they not being enslaved to the needs of their company? They have simply exchanged one form of service for another, much to the demise of their families. We must all serve somebody, to accomplish some end. Either we will serve ourselves and destroy the family, or we will serve others and enrich the family.
The women’s liberation movement unfortunately demonized the most noble activity a woman could participate in: making a home for the people she loves. As Mark Dunagan puts it, “I believe there is a common myth in the world that the talented, energetic, smart woman pursues a career and any woman less than this stays at home and opts for domestic duties. Yet as one reads the Bible he will find a very talented, smart, and energetic professional woman actively involved in the domestic realm” (“The Value of a Housewife”, Dunagan, www.beavertonchurchofchrist.net). Some women who have already devoted themselves to homemaking look back on their years and say to themselves and their potential, “I could have been curing cancer right now” or accomplishing some other grand task for civilization. And yet that assumes that raising two or three children is minor in comparison to curing a disease, being the president of a philanthropic organization, or becoming a justice department attorney. Is God as concerned about cancer being cured as He is about future generations being raised in righteousness and honor?
It is certainly not that homemaking is reserved for the untalented, dimwitted women of the world, and it takes just as much energy and even more devotion and wisdom to raise children and care for a husband. To devote oneself to a career is not nearly as noble as maintaining a home. And what is interesting about the women’s liberation movement is its inconsistency. While modern women will in one breath decry the unloving, obsessive, workaholic husband, they will in the next praise the wife who puts her career well above the needs of her family. What is the difference between them? Do not both neglect their duties to the family? How is a workaholic husband who spends no quality time with his wife and buys his children’s love with toys any different from a workaholic wife who feeds her family frozen pizza and lets a daycare center and television raise her children?
Even more interesting is to take note of the way the worthy woman’s husband and children speak of her in Proverbs 31:28-29, “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’” It is not her career that they praise, or her success in the corporate world. In fact, in most families today who have no parent staying at home, the children would hardly say a word of kindness about their mother. Do they praise her for ignoring their needs? Do they rise up and bless her for never being there? No. The truly honorable mother – not to mention father, as well – is the one who puts the needs of her family first. It is not that women should never have jobs or very successful careers. It is not that women cannot involve themselves in activities outside the home. But the priority should be the family. “She looks well to the ways of her household…” (Proverbs 31:27).
Many women who do not want to devote themselves to the home do so because they have a skewed perception of what they deserve. A woman may realize that bearing children will be a time consuming thing. She will not be allowed to work as much anymore. She will always be forced to deal with problems at home – sick children, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. The problem with mothers seeking a career that consumes all of their day is that they start thinking of their post work time period as “their own.” This lesson is important for all of us to learn, not just mothers. We work hard all day for a boss, on a schedule, with a timetable. We get home from the drudgery and feel like the rest of the day is ours to enjoy. In an average home in America, therefore, the mother and father have been out of the house all day, the children at school or daycare. They all arrive home at about the same time feeling tired and exhausted, so many chores go undone for weeks at a time. Laundry is constantly piled up somewhere, minor home repairs go unfinished, the children are not disciplined properly, dinners are disjointed and often unhealthy, and the most quality time the family spends together is in front of the television – unless, of course, the children all have televisions in their bedrooms.
In this picture, where is the time spent in edification? Where is the discipline? Where is the completion of chores and tasks? The problem with the idea of “my time” is that it is the furthest we can get from the attitude of service that is suppose to pervade the Christian spirit. Consider the parable from Luke 17:7-10, in which the master asks for his supper first, putting the desires of his servants well behind his own. In our own lives, are we the master or the servant. As a wife and mother, does your all-important career leave you with the feeling that your time at home is yours? Even fathers are expected to devote their energy to their families, in spite of the fact that they are bread winners (1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 6:4).
The most honorable woman that a man kind is one who has priorities set on God. She has fixed her eyes on heaven and knows what is expected of her spiritually, and as a wife and mother. It is important for us all to be on guard against the selfish attitude that seems to permeate our society. What sets the virtuous woman apart from the worldly woman is just that: unselfishness. Do you satisfy the needs of your husband first and foremost? Are you his help meet, devoted to him and committed to making his life easier, just as he is committed to filling yours with happiness every day? Do you put your children’s needs second, above your career? Beyond all of these things, do you seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)? The value of a housewife is found in her willingness to sacrifice her wants and desires and focus her energy on what others need. And is this not the highest of all virtues? What, then, is so dishonorable about being a stay-at-home-mother? Why is that put down so much by the liberated women of our age? Is there a task more important, more significant, and more essential to the improvement of our society than ensuring that the next generation of humans is loved and nurtured?
Young men should be aware of this and seek a wife who fits the mold found in the Bible.
· It is not that we should desire prudish, mousy, unattractive women. It is okay to find a woman with energy, talent, and great intelligence. But avoid the woman who thinks that a career is the only way to spend those qualities. She will always be tempted to put that same career ahead of your needs and your children’s needs.
· The same, of course, can be said of men, so do not believe for a moment that I am intimating this is only a female problem. Men, too, can often feel like their energy should only be devoted to work, when, in fact, their wives and children are begging for attention. For both men and women, look for a spouse who will be unselfish, and keep his or her mind of spiritual things.
· As you date a girl, do you see her place a premium on time spent with family?
· Does she have practical dreams and desires, like having a career that will be flexible with family time, or does she constantly aspire to fantastic things. If so, then chances are good you will be left behind. Does she seem focused on herself and her accomplishments?
· For the young ladies, you should seek a man who acknowledges your desire to be a mother.
· Do not marry a man who is focused on his career, or has an expectation that you will work a full time job simply to make the family’s economic standing higher. Find a man who will tell you how important you are to him, even if you do not get a college degree or have a career. You should marry a man who will not judge your worth on how much money you earn, but by the way you handle yourself as his wife and the mother of his children.
· You are valuable, and you should expect nothing less than a man who wears you like a crown of jewels (Proverbs 12:4).
Again, there is nothing wrong with women working jobs, but we should always remember that it is unselfishness that is lauded by God. In the same way that a man cannot neglect his duties to his family, a wife and mother needs to put the needs of other first. “Housewife” is not a title to be ashamed of. It is the most noble work done in the world. It is essential. It is important. And our wives should be the most precious people in the world to us.