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. As Christian women we have to obey what God says is our role as wives and mothers. When God calls us to do something it is always to glorify Him if you find yourself saying, “It’s my ministry” or It’s my calling” then you really have to look at yourself and recognize that it’s not about you and it never will be. Obidience to God brings holiness which produces joy! And it’s not “listen to your God” Their is only one God and He does not change He is perfect. He does not accomodate to our “needs” rather we should submit to His will. Here is a great website passionatehousewives.blogspot.com
    Remember the Bible is our guide and not the world.

  2. But what if a women wants to work? With a career, you’re able to do interesting things & make change.

    I believe saying that “women are commanded by God to stay at home” is dogmatic, and not god’s word at all. People are commanded to serve, and if a christian woman is single until 33 and serve in a different way – then it’s her right to do so. For instance, my good friend is 33, single and a Christian emergency room doctor – where on a weekly basis, she guides entire teams to save lives. She’s even been abroad and served as a missionary doctor providing free quality medical care in the 3rd world.

    Her comment has been “I wanted to serve god in a different way, and that didn’t include family upfront – I still want one, but not until I find the right man”.

    So because she’s working, this means she’s going against god’s will? Can you REALLY say that when she saves someone’s life that she’s disobeying god for not being a homemaker? Saying that this type of choice is wrong is something YOU’VE said, not something that god commands. Women need to follow god, not the ideals of their peers and I think you’re espousing a view here that women who don’t start a family right away and serve as homemakers are going down a dirty sinful path – and I think that view helps to steer women away from other amazing potentials that they may have to serve god.

    In my view, you need to step away from judgementalism, and leave it up to the big man upstairs.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged…

  3. When I was 16, I was offered a full scholarship to Duke University. My father, a Southern pastor, opposed my accepting this because “girls don’t need a university education.” God had given me, however, a hunger for a good education. I did go to Duke, finally with my father’s approval, and went on to become a successful professional, with a six-figure income, and an international expertise in my field, from which I recently retired. Also, by the grace of God, I have a 36-year happy marriage, 3 wonderful grown children and 3 grandchildren. All of us love the Lord and are in church praising Him on Sundays.

    My point is that God gifted me with all of these things–career, marriage and family. He did not call me to be a stay-at-home mother (although there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT and many are called to this important commitment). I rejoiced in my profession–it was not something I did just to have a higher income or buy a bigger car. I was a better mother and wife because I was using the skills that God had given me.

    God made each of us unique. He calls each of us to serve Him in the ways He gifts us. Let’s don’t assume that our gifts and callings are the same as someone else’s. Let’s love our brother and sister and encourage her or him to follow the direction that GOD has laid on her or his heart. How do you know a Christian??? Not by her choice of lifestyle, but by her love.

  4. Hmm.

    You could have asked the same of a group of Christian men, and I imagine the result would have been very similar, so I don’t think it proved any point one way or another. Men should also ‘do the most valuable work that God equips him for and gives him opportunity to do.’ – I doubt that means being a stockbroker or going down the mines, or even necessarily earn all the household income. The woman extolled in Proverbs 31 certainly didn’t just stay at home and raise the children by herself.

  5. Have a look at the document on:

    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~kuenning/fell.html.

    It is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly it was written from prison in 1666. Fell makes her case for women preachers based on readings in both the Old and New Testaments. Essentially her argument is predicated upon her belief that prophesy is not something a woman or a man does, but rather something that God does – concluding her piece with

    ‘so let this serve to stop that opposing Spirit that would limit the power and the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, whose Spirit is poured upon all flesh, both Sons and Daughters.’

    If human beings really are simply channels for the Holy Spirit, is Margaret Fell right?

  6. please allow me to interject this point of view, which is my life, what God has chosen for me, what He decided would be my path, long before I came into existence, whether I would like it or not, whether it would be “standardized” or not. please also remember that American Christian culture is very closed minded with regard to the fact that there is so much more going on in the world than what they do or know themselves.

    okay, so two people, decades apart in age, one married, one escaping a brutal home life, run away together and have an adulterous relationship for almost 25 years. they have a child, a girl. since their relationship was so wrong, they never connected with their respective families again, so this child grows up without anyone but her parents.

    so both people die due to their poor lifestyle choices, leaving their child alone in the world. she works to support herself from 18 on, never becoming a detriment to society.

    so does God throw this child away because of how she was brought into this world? NO! He uses her. He calls her to Himself, but He doesn’t do it until she is 30 years old. He brings her a mate at 34, and some relatives of her own mother, but nothing to extravagant. He chooses that she never has children, why she doesn’t know. He chooses that she will have to work outside the home, always, especially to support her husband financially when he will need her financial support as he will have several back surgeries keeping him from working.

    sure, she would have loved to have been raised by Godly parents with many family members extending love and morals to her. she would have loved the opportunity for an extended education and even the opportunity for a husband who would have given her children and allowed her to work in the home. But that is not what God chose, and with God’s decisions, she must live.

    we all are not cookie-cutter Christians. at times i’ve fought that idea and at times i’ve embraced it. 3 times Jesus freed 3 different men of their blindness, and He did it in 3 different ways. That alone has taught me that He will do what He wills, as He wills. Both the working woman inside the home and outside of the home are important and highly valued by God.

    We need to embrace our own calling from God and do with that what we can to bring glory to Him, and stop making each other feel bad because He chose something different for our sister in Christ.

    May whatever you’ve been called by God to do be done as unto the Lord.

  7. Well said Marie! (on 16 Nov). To read your entry re: Christian women & work was truly refreshing. You have been blessed with Godly wisdom & insight. It can be a little disheartening living in Christian cirlces where it is expected that a Christian wife should stay at home. I am a physician currently taking professional examinations and am well aware of the judgemental attitudes towards my choice to obey what I believe is God’s calling on my life. And these obstacles are WITHIN the church. But througout the Bible we see examples of hard-working & productive Godly women making a positive difference in the life of both their family as well as in the lives of others. Proverbs 31 woman is a diligent business woman! Lydia in the New Testament also had her own business. These are shining examples of how God blesses women with gifs & talents to be a blessing to others. And as Pastor Colin Urquhart puts it: “For the glory of God, for the good of His kingdom and for the welfare of His people.”
    Because you put it so eloquently, I have pasted the last paragraph you wrote:
    “God made each of us unique. He calls each of us to serve Him in the ways He gifts us. Let’s don’t assume that our gifts and callings are the same as someone else’s. Let’s love our brother and sister and encourage her or him to follow the direction that GOD has laid on her or his heart. How do you know a Christian??? Not by her choice of lifestyle, but by her love.” AMEN SISTER!!

    May God continue to use you to positively impact the lives of others in Christ.

  8. Hi ladies

    My church strongly believes in women being Stay Home mum and my mentor is now breathing down my neck to ask me to be at home now that I am 9 weeks pregnant. She’s making me sound like a big sinner if I am not! I told her that she’s making me repulsive but she kept harping the fact that women should be keepers at home. I really dont know how to deal with this anymore! Help!

  9. Hey,

    I found this post very interesting and encouraging. Contrary to many of the women who have replied on this post already, I attend a city centre metropolitan church where most people are very career focused. The teaching encourages men and women to work for God and follow their calling, whatever sector that is in. However, it seems that because of this teaching stay at home mums and people in similar positions have had a harder time accepting their occupation as God given and blessed. I am going through a personal journey at the momement where God has called me not to work, because of illness, but to rest in him and discover the gifts that he has for me, which I am finding wonderful for discovering more about myself and Gods hidden character. I’ve heard and read very unhelpful, and in my opinion, graceless teachings about how you should not be allowed to eat if you don’t work, and that you should accept any job instead of a dream you really feel called to…which I find really contradicts what God says in the Bible about relying on him, trusting him, and following his individual will for your life.

  10. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing such a awesome and encouraging blog.
    Yes women should have work. Working increase creativity in women and make them independent and become economically strong. Which is very necessary to support them.