Should women work?

I’m sorry, that was a deliberately provocative title. Of course they should. The real question is how should women work?

A few years ago I was asked to address this question with the ladies from my church. I asked each of them to write down on a piece of paper what they felt the most valuable thing they had ever done. I never collected the papers in, so I don’t actually know what they said! But I then passed each lady a second slip of paper. This time I asked them to write down how much they were paid for this ‘most valuable thing’. This time I did collect the papers in.

I read them out: “Nothing; nothing; nothing; nothing; nothing…” and so it went on – all eighteen women wrote exactly the same thing – apart from one who wrote ‘a box of chocolates!’

Their responses forcefully made the point I had been hoping would become clear: What work should a woman do? A woman should do the most valuable work that God equips her for and gives her opportunity to do.

How sad it is when women (or men) derive their value of the size of their paycheck, or the status of their job. Women whose husbands are able (and willing) to provide for them have the wonderful freedom to choose any God-honouring work they like. How liberating to not have to worry about rates of pay and pensions and contracts, and to just choose work based on its value to others, rather than on its perceived value to me.

Of course, not all are in this happy position. Those who are unmarried, or whose husbands are unemployed or on very low wages do not have this freedom. They then have a responsibility for their own families and for themselves to be bread-winners, and frustrating though this will sometimes be, there is no shame in it.

But how sad to see ladies feeling forced to work long hours because they don’t have confidence that they will be valuable otherwise. How sad to see ladies chasing promotion and paychecks simply to fund overseas holidays, the second car and a conservatory to relax in (none of which they would need if they didn’t take paid work in the first place).

And how refreshing to read Sarah Herbert (as a single girl) thinking seriously about switching from full-time to part-time work. And her reason?

What I am to be concerned about is serving the Lord right now. Right now, in this perfect stage in my life where God has placed me, what is the best way to be undivided in my devotion to the Lord?… Single people, like me, need to continually be evaluating how we are purposefully choosing to use our time right now for the Lord. The solitary, most recurring piece of advice that I receive from married women is to use the time that I have now for the Lord, as it is a fleeting window of time that I can wholeheartedly pursue Christ… Knowing that singleness is a gift from God, and that I cannot control the duration of this gift, how can I use it to be most effective for my King?

Comments

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now, I hope you don’t mind me commenting here.

    I feel that there is little encouragement for women in the church to consider their roles in the way that you describe. I don’t know how it is in your church, but many (though not all by any means) of the young women I have met in our denomination follow the same pattern as their non-christian friends, that is they get married, buy a house based on two full time salaries then find themselves in the position where the wife ‘has to’ go back to work following the birth of their child, and the 3 month old baby is then in daycare.

    I think it’s not black and white, we live in London and it’s very expensive to do anything here, but the people I’m thinking of were all in Scotland where living on one salary in most areas is perfectly do-able if you’re prepared to let go of the fancy foreign holidays and second car.

  2. Hey, another lurker here. I think I stumbled across your blog via the K2 forum. Reading your post and Sheena’s comment I’m reminded immediately of Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season…”

  3. I just started reading your blog when you quoted a blog article of mine several days ago.

    Thank you for spurring women (and men!) into thinking carefully about the choices that they make. When I was in college, I had to make a series of choices determining what field I would go into. Primary in my mind was the freedom that certain jobs would provide me to have time for ministry. Now, as a second grade teacher, I recognize that while my decision may not have had great value in terms of its career and wage advancement, it afforded me life’s most valuable commodity of time.

    Life is a series of choices and consequences. As believers, we must think carefully through each choice we make and consider all of the possible ramifications of each choice we are trying to make. At the heart of all our decisions should be an aim to honor God more and enjoy him better. . . If we made all our choices with this at the forefront of our minds, we might be poorer in the eyes of the world while at the same time becoming richer in the service of our King. . .

  4. It’s great to see all your comments.

    Sheena, I’ll be honest with you. Like many churches, ours has some work to do before we can feel that we have done all we should to encourage women in their ministry. And yes, many follow the same pattern as their non-christian friends that is they get married, buy a house based on two full time salaries then find themselves in the position where the wife ‘has to’ go back to work following the birth of their child.

    Ultimately, as men with the responsibility of oversight and leadership, we must take responsibility for this. Husbands must take the lead at home, and (whenever possible) free our wives from requiring an income, even if that means a smaller house in a less well-off area. Within the church, we must encourage older women to teach younger women, and to set a godly example of life and ministry. We are blessed to have several women who are starting to do this, and the church has been strengthened by it.

    But if all this is not done, it’s hard to blame young women for taking the worldly option. Sarah’s right. Each one of us needs to make all our choices with the aim to honour God and enjoy him more.

  5. My mother was a nurse in NSW Australia, when she married my father, she became a house wife. When I came along in 1950 my mother wasnt working, indeed, all my life I cannot remember my mother having to go out to work.
    I was very lucky, or fortunate to have godly parents, if I got up to no good, I was on the carpet, and I did get the stick for those “sins” that delved beyond the talking to routine. Ha Ha.

    However, about the 1970s the government had a policy of encourageing women to go out to work, they held the carrot out, think of all the extra cash your family will have.
    So whats behind this policy of getting women to work? Look at what the government rakes into their coffers in income tax.
    Once, only men worked, they payed TAX
    Now women work, and the government rakes in almost double income tax. As you can see, it is the almighty dollar that johnny goveman wants.

    Now we have mothers away from the home, children are left to their own devices and in most cases they get up to all sorts of mischiff.

    The cane has been taken away from the schools.
    Dad or Mum carnt spank the kids (opps I didnt say children)
    Morals have declined dramatically over the last decade.

    I’m glad I have a saviour, who is comeing back soon to put an end to all the worldly politically tommy rot.
    The governments of the earth on that day will try to kill our Lord Jesus Christ, why? because they will want to continue in their own ways, not the Lords way which is so much better.

    Praise the Lord, He Is My King.

  6. Should women work: I say yes they should be independent and have a job to pay for their existence. Not every woman will find that guy that will say, stay home and make babies. Plus what happens to that gal when that guy dies on her or separates from her and she has no skills in the work place. Depending on the state, the state picks up the bill for housing and food. Then she has to hit up the churches to pay for heat. Maybe attempt to find a working friend and mooch off of them to pay the bills. That’s the situation I find myself in. I befriended a gal and now I’m the person that ends up to be the payroll for her bad decisions. Her first marriage, he kept that child. She use to pay him child support until she couldn’t afford it. Then she lost all privileges to see that child. She met another guy while she had a drug problem and got pregnant. She took steps to try and get over the drug problem and kick him out. Got a job through work first program and that’s when I met her. Do to the drugs messing up her mind, she was hard to teach and needed lots of patients. She lasted as long as the job didn’t require her to change. Then when the job went away in that area, so did she. She got a job cleaning and met another guy. He wanted a child and pushed all the right buttons to get her pregnant without marriage. After she got pregnant the little disputes made him go for walks. He never ever kept a job ether. He did find time to cheat on her on women around the apartment complex. The week she gave premature birth, he disappeared for a week. Then when he came back, she kicked him out and later learned about him around the complex. He found another woman to support him and give him another child. That person he did marry. That lasted a 3 years and that gal kicked him out. Then he came back wanting to see his daughter. The stupid woman let him. Then from time to time she would let him back in her life even though all the time she told me she would not. Now she is pregnant again with his child. So she has one girl from the first marriage, one girl from a pot smoking guy, one girl from the dead beat gigolo and now a boy from him too. He left out of state once he laid his seed. I am very tired of knowing this person. I try to convince her to give the boy up to a home that does not have a destiny to be continuously poor. The only way she keeps in a house is state assistance. Which she will be all her life until her children move out. Looking at her makes me say, I’ll never get into a relationship. I’ll never have money because there will always be that phone call to bail her out of her bills and daily needs. Stuff for school, clothing for school, etc… So it’s $40 the beginning of the week and maybe a $20 mid week plus a bill $100-500 depending on how far she lets it go before they shut off service. Her children’s fathers never give support $ because they never work.

  7. A friend sent me your “Should women work” link. I read the site and the comments and felt a need to reply. I believe that women need to seriously ponder this question for themselves. For me, I felt a calling to become a nurse anesthetist. I call it a “calling” because for me it is a vocation. In my work, I touch so many patient’s and family’s lives. Having surgery is a stressful and scarey thing. God has blessed me with a gift for this kind of work. I am honest with my patients…I let them know what to expect…and I pray for them. I profess my faith to them by telling them I will pray for them…and I ask God to protect them and to relieve their fears. If I would have decided NOT to follow my calling for this profession, I feel that I would not have listened to God. I truly believe that He was calling me to be His hands as I touch my patients, to be His voice as I calm their fears, to be His ears as I listen to their concerns.

    Each person is called to be something different. Let us not judge others about their decision to work or not to work. Listen to your God as He guides you to your vocation on this Earth.

  8. Suzanne, thanks for dropping by. I agree with everything you’ve written. This is certainly something that we each need to think about. The point is that we should do what brings most glory to God, and is most useful in his service, regardless of how much it pays (if anything), or how the world views our vocation.

    For some, it will most glorify God if they give up paid employment. Others can more usefully serve God in their paid employment. John Piper has two chapters on this in “Don’t Waste Your Life”: Making Much of Christ 8 to 5, and The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy. If you’ve not already read them, I’m sure you’d find it (indeed the whole book) helpful.

  9. All us women have been blessed with different skills and qualities by God and it is our duty to use them in a godly manner. I think it is God`s will if a woman works or not, there is nothing selfish about a woman wanting whats best for her child, and sometimes in certain situations like the family income,husband unfit to work, causes women to work long hours and they should not be judged for it. They are doing what it is right for their family, there is nothing ungodly about a woman whom is a doctor or teacher, as it is a godly job and her kids will admire her and look up to her a role model. Women can work and still take care of her kids, believe me I have seen lots of women like that and personally, I think some stay at home mums are lazy and use the excuse “oh but we are at home for the children” and you`ll find these women’s houses in a right pig sty, kids wearing dirty clothes, holes in them,using obscene language, roaming round the streets at night and these stay at home mums doing nothing about it, because they are too busy gossiping, smoking or watching TV all day. Kids need structure and routine and lots of working mums give it to them, kids need to respect their parents and honour them, as this is in the bible. Sure, there are stay at home mums whom can afford to stay at home, but what is the real reason for staying at home, is it for the kids, or just for the easy life or because of hubby`s macho ego? and plenty of working mums do a great job taking care of their kids. Look at Proverbs 23!
    There are stay at home mums do raise their kids well with good intentions, but it is up to the woman whether she stays at home or not, for the right reasons, whether she can financially and whatever her decision it should be supported by her church and husband. Children needs a balanced upbringing, with both mum and dad, dads should be involved and be there for their kids, not just women!

  10. and there is nothing wrong with stay at home dads either! Stay at home dads in my opinion are more godly than the “provider” whom would rather be at work working long hours, so that his wife can “submit” to him at home and not play a part in his kid`s life, it says in the bible as well, that the fathers too have an important role in their kid`s life.