Labor Outside the Home
Although the Bible reveals that woman was created to be a helper for man, and her role in child bearing and homemaking is set forth as a pattern for the godly woman, there are occasions when Yahweh will direct a woman to labor outside the home. There is a tendency among Christians to seek to reduce all things to doctrines and formulas in a one-size-fits-all manner. The only formula I have found that will universally reveal the will of God for a person’s life is the following:
Do the next thing the Spirit of God directs you to do.
We can ascertain principles and patterns from the word of God, but individual guidance for a person’s life must of necessity come from an intimate communion with God through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 2:11-13
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
I say then: Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Some may have concluded from the preceding chapter that the Scriptures, or this author, universally condemns work outside the home. The Bible does not condemn work outside the home, and neither do I. What Yahweh does not approve of is work that is initiated by the soul of man. Most women who work outside the home are not doing so by the commandment of God. They are doing so because their own soul has determined work outside the home to be needful or desirable. The soul is not to be the guide for the Christian. Christ said those who would be His disciples must hate their souls. They must embrace a course in this world that is not soul-directed.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate… even his own life (psuche – soul), he cannot be My disciple.”
Then Yahshua said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life (psuche – soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The Christian woman who chooses college and career because everyone else is doing it, or because it appeals to her soul, has fallen short of the will of God. The road to life is a path of self-denial. To be a disciple of Christ a man or woman must trade the life they would choose for themselves for that life God has chosen. College and career should be pursued ONLY if God has given commandment to do so.
What will a woman be profited if she gets the best education, and lands a great job with good pay and the perks that appeal to her, if this is not the course God has chosen for her? Christ says she may gain the whole world and yet lose her soul.
Many a young woman has chosen college and career due to the excitement and worldly promise that such things could bring. Their hearts have been allured by the possibility of being financially independent. It is very attractive to the soul to be able to buy the clothes and possessions that the world says are indispensable to happiness, to participate in the pursuits and entertainments that others are finding so enjoyable. Some women go to college hoping to find a husband, for they see having a husband as necessary for their own personal fulfillment.
There are many motives that influence the life choices of men and women, yet only one motive will earn God’s approval and praise. The woman who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, she shall be praised. The woman who has devoted herself to knowing God’s will and doing it will be approved by Him. Whether a woman is a devoted wife, mother and homemaker, or is led to work or minister outside the home, she should do all at the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible gives examples of women who worked, or ministered, outside of the home. Some even accompanied Christ in His ministry, and supported Him from their private means.
Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
If these women were conducting their lives contrary to the will of God the Father, certainly Christ would have reproved them. Yet, we find no mention of Christ telling these women to return home and attend to their families, or to focus solely on being keepers at home. This reveals an important truth of the kingdom of God. There are exceptions to the role of the woman who remains at home. Nevertheless, there is a universality to the inviolable law that all must discern and do the will of the Father. These women had a love for Christ. It was the Father’s will and pleasure that they should accompany His Son and minister to His needs, and those of His disciples, as they were able.
It should be observed that these women were not out on some soulish escapade. Following Christ in His journeys and ministry was no lark. These women had seen the Savior. They had recognized who He was, and their hearts longed to give back to Him through whatever service He would accept and they could provide. Yahshua accepted this devotion. The apostles also testify that it continues to be acceptable in God’s eyes for a man or woman to choose service to Christ over marriage and family life.
I Corinthians 7:29-35
But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world – how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Paul is not endorsing the single life in order to seek things for self. He advocates the single life for the purpose of procuring an undistracted devotion to the Lord. The woman who chooses a life other than being a homemaker to pursue selfish pleasure stands condemned. The life of the woman who is single by choice in order to serve God lives according to the same principle set forth for the godly widow.
I Timothy 5:5-6
Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.
The woman who would be approved by God must live for His pleasure, not her own. She must seek His will, and adopt a servant’s attitude, ministering wherever, and however, Christ directs. If she is using her time, her resources, and her liberty for the pursuit of personal pleasure, then she has fallen away from the path of life. She is dead (spiritually) even while she lives.
Some of the women who accompanied Christ were single, and some were married. What then of the married woman? The married woman is subject to her husband. Although she has Christ as Lord, she also has her husband as head. This governmental order was established by Yahweh and He will not violate it. The married woman must honor and obey her husband. If he gives her leave to devote herself to the ministry of Christ then she is free. However, if he desires her to abide at home, and perform the duties of a homemaker, she must consider herself under authority of her husband.
We find that God does not violate authority where it legitimately exists. There are times when Christians and some in the world deny the legitimacy of certain authority relations, like that between a husband and wife, or between a master and slave. The Bible does not set aside such relationships, but advocates honoring authority where it exists. God’s instructions to slaves was that they honor their masters. He did not declare their service null and void because they became Christians, not even if they had Christians masters.
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
A servant may be a Christian, but he/she has to honor their master. They cannot abandon their service to their master to serve Christ, nor act rebelliously. Rebellion is the principle of Satan, and God does not sanction rebellion.
I Peter 2:18-19
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable…
Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
I Timothy 6:1-2
Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things.
Having given the instructions to servants above, the apostles give similar instructions to wives, for they too are under authority.
I Peter 3:1-2
Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
The word of God would come into great reproach if wives began using service to God as an excuse to disobey and dishonor their husbands. Such an act would be similar to that deceit practiced by the Jews which Christ condemned.
He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
I do not believe Yahweh will approve of a woman running away from her husband to serve Him anymore than He would approve of a servant running away from his master. In Paul’s epistle to Philemon, he wrote about a run away servant named Onesimus. Onesimus had converted to the faith and was devoted to Paul. He had fled from his master, but Paul sent him back with a plea to Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Yet, Paul did not command Philemon to set him free. Paul only entreated Philemon to treat Onesimus with kindness. Service to God is not an excuse to violate that authority that exists in other areas of our lives.
(For those who question why the Bible does not condemn slavery, I recommend the following post: http://parablesblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-does-bible-not-condemn-slaver.html)
In the Old Testament a daughter’s vow of service to Yahweh was subject to her father’s approval.
Similarly, a wife’s vow of service to Yahweh was subject to her husband’s approval. (Numbers 30:3-16) The father, or husband, could declare the woman’s vow of service to be invalid. She would then be released from her vow of service to God. God would not consider her an oath breaker for not keeping her commitment to Him, for Yahweh upholds the authority of the man in the life of the woman. Similarly, the married Christian woman is under the authority of her husband. She must seek his approval to serve Christ if that service would take her away from her duties as a wife and mother. If her husband approves, she is free to serve the Lord according to the leading of the Spirit of Christ.
There are times when Yahweh will also approve of a woman working in some field of secular employment. The Proverbs 31 woman is set forth as an example of a godly woman. She was very industrious.
She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night.
Although the work described here could be considered a “cottage industry,” something that can be done from home, there are women who are guided by the Father to labor outside the home. The godly woman will seek to discern the will of God for her life, and to follow wherever He guides. She will not view the world and its opportunities as a means to pursue a selfish agenda. She will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
It must be considered an unusual event for a married woman with children to work outside the home, however. The admonition of the apostles is for women to be “keepers at home.” A woman should not abdicate her role as teacher, nurturer, nutritional supervisor, spiritual counselor, or home front prayer warrior, etc., for any other reason than because Yahweh has given her command to do so. Most women today are abandoning the role of homemaker for soulish reasons. Yahweh will judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Society, and even the Federal government of the United States, has put a lot of pressure upon women to abandon the home and enter the work force. This push began in earnest during the two world wars at the beginning of the 20th century. So many men were sent overseas in the military that the government began advocating it to be the patriotic duty of the woman to enter the workforce. Some rather bizarre arguments were set forth. They would be comical if not for the terrible toll that has resulted as families have disintegrated. Following is an excerpt from a government brochure put out during World War II. It was published to convince the women of Mobile, Alabama, a major munitions and shipbuilding area, to leave home and enter the workforce.
If Hitler Came to Mobile…
Every woman would defend her home with a gun, a knife, or her bare fingers.
Hitler and his hordes will not come if women will help to build ships, more ships to transport our men, tanks, planes and munitions to the battle lines on other continents – or if women take other jobs directly aiding the war effort…
To the Women of Mobile…
You are needed in the war jobs, and in other essential civilian jobs directly aiding the war effort in Mobile NOW. Manpower has been practically exhausted. Housing available at this time will not permit the bringing into Mobile of the thousands of additional workers required for the shipyards and other war and essential industries. We must depend upon you – upon womanpower. There are idle machines in war plants which you can operate. There are idle jobs in the shipyards which you can fill. There are jobs in stores, offices, transportation, restaurants, hospitals in which you can render essential war service.
Hitler will not come to our shores if we build the ships which can transport our soldiers and our war material overseas…
These words, and many more, were used to persuade women to leave the occupation of homemaker. Many found that earning their own money, and laboring outside the home, was attractive in various ways. Satan has battered the image of the stay-at-home mother while glamorizing the image of the career woman. Even the most arduous, dirty, and dangerous jobs were portrayed as a fitting pursuit for women, while staying home was cast as something less appealing. Following is an image taken from the Internet of one of the war time ads that were used to lure women out of the homes and into the labor force.
Rosie the Riveter
(Note that the image above was taken from the website called Jezebel. They tag all of their images with their website name. I thought it was fitting to leave it in place.)
This iconic image drawn by Norman Rockwell has become a symbol of the women’s movement. It is fitting that she appears very masculine. She has the arms and the mannerisms of a man. Notice that Rosie has a copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography, under her feet. What a ridiculous ploy Satan used to draw women into the workforce and out of the home; Women need to abandon the role of homemaker to defeat Hitler. Yet it succeeded.
The second world war became the gateway for millions of women to enter the labor force. A critical mass was reached whereby women working outside the home was no longer considered unusual, or undesirable. The entire attitude of the country was altered. During World War II the female labor force grew by 6.5 million. At the height of the war, there were 19,170,000 women in the labor force. One in ten married women entered the labor force. The percentage of married women working outside the home increased from 13.9 to 22.5. The percentage of working women with children under 10 years of age increased from 7.8 to 12.1 from 1940 to 1944. From 1940 to 1944, the percentage of women workers employed in factories increased from 20 to 30 percent. Female employment in defense industries grew by 462 percent from 1940 to 1944. Between 1943 and 1945, polls indicated that 61 to 85 percent of women workers wanted to keep their jobs after the war.
The genie is now out of the bottle. Christian women today give little thought to working outside the home. This is a matter that should be given deep consideration. Yahweh has a plan and purpose for every one of His daughters. It is important that they discover what path He has chosen for them. In contrast to Jezebel stands the life of Abigail. I have been impressed as I considered the wisdom and character of this woman and how it changed the heart of David and endeared her to him.
During the time that David had to flee Israel to escape the wrath of King Saul, he had about six hundred men join themselves to him and they became a traveling band of warriors who would fight against the enemies of Israel. At times, however, they would attempt to settle down in one location, and during one such time they found themselves in a region where a wealthy man by the name of Nabal pastured his flocks. Shepherds at the time were always in danger from marauding bands who would seek to come in and steal flocks and kill or chase off the shepherds. David’s men, however, not only restrained themselves from stealing Nabal’s flocks, but they protected his shepherds and flocks from others.
At then end of the year when it came time to shear the sheep, Nabal gave a huge party and celebrated for many days. David sent a couple of his young men as ambassadors to Nabal anticipating that in his prosperity and great celebration he would desire to reward David and his men for their service in protecting his flocks and servants. However, Nabal acted foolishly and he insulted David and his men and he sent David’s men back empty handed.
David was enraged when he heard of Nabal’s insults. Nabal accused David of being a rebellious servant that had broken away from King Saul. David, whose actions were typically very humble, responded in pride and swore that he would not leave a single male living in Nabal’s household to see the light of day. He and his men proceeded to go to Nabal’s home with the intent of slaughtering everyone.
This would have been great sin had David done what was in his heart. Yahweh has said, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19). We are advised to give place unto wrath and to not take vengeance into our own hands. Mercifully, Yahweh sent a wise and reverent woman to dissuade David from his course. Abigail acted quickly to intercept David. She prepared a gift for David and his men, and went quickly to meet them.
I Samuel 25:23-35
When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. “Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, since Yahweh has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for Yahweh will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of Yahweh, and evil will not be found in you all your days. Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with Yahweh your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when Yahweh does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When Yahweh deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be Yahweh God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Nevertheless, as Yahweh God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request.”
Notice the order of events here. David had been greatly dishonored by Nabal, and this has provoked an offense in his heart. Abigail begins by bowing before David. Her first act is to demonstrate honor to him. Abigail did not dismount her donkey, and walk over and stand before David as an equal. She demonstrated in a visible manner an attitude of honor toward him.
Abigail, with great wisdom, then speaks words to take away the pain of rejection and reproach David has experienced from many other sources. It was no secret that David had been anointed by Samuel to be king and that Saul was seeking his life due to jealousy. Nabal preferred to put his own twisted interpretation on this, and it was this that infuriated David so much. David was suffering tremendous things. He was the most faithful of servants to Saul, yet he was treated as an enemy. He had to leave family and home, and live as an alien in a foreign land. Many times he remained just one step ahead of Saul and certain death. His life was a life of peril.
I am sure that David often wondered if God would truly fulfill what He had promised to him. Living in caves and foreign lands as an outcast must have caused his heart to doubt and question what God had promised. Nabal’s words accusing David of being a rebellious servant to Saul must have struck deep to his doubts and insecurities.
Look at Abigail’s words. She knows the distress in David’s heart. She is a wise woman and she perceives the issues that are warring within David. She understands what is necessary to raise him back to a place of faith so that he will not act out of his desperation and frustration. She assures David of the surety of his calling, declaring with great confidence that David will see fulfilled all that Yahweh has spoken to him.
Abigail’s words were spoken in the presence of David’s men. She elevated him in the eyes of others. David needed someone to understand what had been promised to him. He needed someone to encourage his heart when all the circumstances around him were discouraging. He needed to hear from the lips of another person that his situation was not hopeless, but that Yahweh would perform all He had spoken.
Abigail’s words were like a healing balm to David’s aching heart. She encouraged him with words of faith and hope, and as she did so David’s desperation and pain was washed away to be replaced with calm and peace and the patience to wait upon Yahweh.
What perception was in the heart of this woman! She did not go out and scold David for wanting to destroy her family. She did not tell him that the course he was on was wicked. She affirmed him, encouraged him and lifted him up. She brought back hope in a time when he desperately needed hope.
David relented of his intent to avenge himself. He accepted Abigail’s gift and he and his men returned.
Yahweh exacted vengeance for Nabal’s wickedness. The Scriptures state that about ten days later God struck Nabal and he died.
After this we read of David sending a proposal to Abigail to make her his wife. It should not be surprising that David desired to be intimate with this woman, to keep her close to him. Abigail affirmed David as a man. She showed him great honor by her words and actions. David’s heart was drawn to the inner beauty of this woman’s life, and he proposed marriage to her.
I Samuel 25:40-42
When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Then Abigail quickly arose, and rode on a donkey, with her five maidens who attended her; and she followed the messengers of David and became his wife.
There are many women today who would describe Abigail’s attitude in a very unflattering way, yet she was demonstrating great godliness. In her comment, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants” she was expressing the height of love. She was proclaiming that she would lay down her own soul life with its ambitions and desires that she might seek the welfare and benefit of others. It is questionable whether she spent much time actually washing people’s feet, for she had five maidens of her own to attend to her, and later she lived as the wife of the king in the king’s palace. She was expressing her heart attitude, however. She was not entering into a marriage relationship with David to get out of it what she could. Instead she was seeking to give of herself.
Consider the description God has given to us of the end of this vile woman.
II Kings 9:31-37
As Jehu entered the gate, [Jezebel] said, “Is it well, Zimri, your master’s murderer?” Then he lifted up his face to the window and said, “Who is on my side? Who?” And two or three officials looked down at him. He said, “Throw her down.” So they threw her down, and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, and he trampled her under foot. When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of Yahweh, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.”‘”
In this end we see how greatly despised the spirit of Jezebel is to Yahweh. God turned her into dog dung to be spread unceremoniously upon the fields of Israel. Sisters in Christ, is it not expedient that you recognize both that which is displeasing, as well as that which is pleasing to God? Do you see the parable in the words above? Jehu says, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” If you are born again of the Spirit of Christ, you too are a King’s daughter. God, however, is no respecter of persons. Each will be recompensed according to what they have done. Those daughters of the King who walk in the spirit of Jezebel will be condemned by God. Because they exalted themselves, refused to take the low position, to serve their husbands and wash the feet of the disciples of Christ, they will be cast down. They will be treated as an unclean thing, and this judgment will come from God.
In contrast, those women who have adorned themselves modestly and discreetly, who have manifested a gentle and quiet spirit, who have beautified themselves with a life of service to others, will receive praise, honor, and reward from the Father.
I Peter 5:5-6
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.