Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jennie Chancey Responds to Titus 2 Cynics

I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude for a husband who cherishes my role and does not seek to pull me out of it to supplement his income or take over his God-given role. I am a blessed woman — not a superwoman, but the thankful wife of a truly super man.

My surprise upon reading Andrew Sandlin’s response “Are working moms okay? ” to R.C. Sproul, Jr.’s article “Feast in a box ” could not have been greater. Rev. Sandlin accuses those of us who believe that a woman’s place is at home (serving as her husband’s helpmate) and not in a “full-time” job of “inch[ing] toward...Phariseeism.” Mrs. Valerie Jacobsen has already provided a thorough portrait of the “non-working” wife’s role in the home, the Church, and the community, so I won’t bother to rehash those facts. Suffice it to say that there is no such thing as a mom who does not work — “working mother” is a handy misnomer for those who have a “real” job outside the home in addition to all they must accomplish at home.

What truly amazes me is that Rev. Sandlin can state so confidently that the Bible does not call a woman leaving her God-given, home-based occupation for work outside the home “sin.” While he quotes the first portion of the famous Titus 2 passage, he neglects to carry it through to the final kicker: “that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Tit. 2:5b). I don’t know about anyone else, but my dictionary still defines blasphemy as showing “contempt or disrespect for (God, a divine being, or sacred things), esp. in speech” and uttering “profanities, curses, or impious expressions.” The Greek word used here is blasphemeo, which is used elsewhere to refer to reviling the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that St. Paul uses the word in 1 Cor. 4:13 to refer to the way the world reviles Christians, calling them “the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things.” Are Christians to blaspheme or to encourage others to blaspheme God’s Word? St. Paul writes in Col. 3:8, “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” I think we can feel fairly confident, then, that blasphemy is sin, whether it is spoken verbally or lived before a watching world.

How does a woman blaspheme the Word of God? This isn’t something we can just brush aside or take lightly as a “cultural thing.” St. Paul evidently believed it would be obvious enough to his readers that he didn’t need to say, “Leaving the home and going out into the workforce is sin,” as Rev. Sandlin seems to think is necessary in order for us to avoid Phariseeism. But do we need such bald statements in order to understand St. Paul? Apparently, blaspheming God’s Word involves doing the opposite of what St. Paul has just exhorted women to do: be “reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands.” Going to the Greek again, the word for “homemaker” used here is oikouros, which literally means “guard or watcher of the house.” Thayer’s Lexicon renders the meaning “keeping at home and taking care of household affairs.” A woman cannot both “keep at home” (or “guard the house”) and “keep” in a separate workplace. She cannot both “obey her own husband” (emphasis mine) and obey another boss (even if it is one for whom her husband has asked her to work).

A simple glance at the domain which the wife is commanded to oversee and rule — yes, rule — should demonstrate beyond a doubt that it is not possible to be an effective, capable keeper at home while pursuing another (outside) occupation. The Proverbs 31 woman has been considered the ideal wife throughout the history of the Church. To some, she is a marvel; to others, she is a bane (how can one woman possibly do all that stuff?). Let’s just consider what this woman accomplishes as a “non-working” mother:

As ruler of the home, the wife was entrusted with all of the management and stewardship of the family estate. Note that the things the Proverbs 31 woman does (besides providing for the immediate needs of her own husband and children through meal-planning, creating clothing, etc.) all add to the wealth and productivity of the family estate. This woman buys a field and plants a vineyard (verse 16), augmenting the family holdings and investing long-term (it takes many years before a vineyard becomes productive and profitable). And how can she purchase a field? Because she has saved money from her own home-based industry, spinning wool and flax (verses 13, 18 & 19) and creating garments she can then sell to the merchants (verse 24). She is no idle consumer! When she purchases something, it is because she has worked hard so that she can save and buy the highest quality items (imported food, verse 14; fine linen, verse 22) for her family and further invest in the family land. In addition, she ‘extends her hands to the poor’ (verse 20), providing for the needs of the less fortunate around her. (And it should be noted that her charity isn’t given grudgingly or under compulsion but freely and personally out of her own hands.) Her management of the entire household (including servants who work under her) is so capable and thorough (verse 27) that her husband has absolutely no need to micro-manage or worry about the state of things at home (verse 11). Because she oversees a hard-working, productive household, she is not merely spending her husband’s hard-earned money, she is doubling it and tripling it and supplementing it with her own! She shares a vision with her husband for the long-term health and well-being of her family and for the inheritance of her children.

Regardless of whether or not she has an empty nest or is childless, this woman is busy! She is, first and foremost, her husband’s helper — not her children’s helper or her servants’ mistress. The man who is blessed with such a wife can truly find the Dominion Mandate an enjoyable challenge, because he has a serious partner on the home front. What is a second income when you do not have a ruler at home to manage and oversee the affairs immediately under her purview? But a “sin” to leave it and work elsewhere? Them’s hard words! People will get offended if we say a wife working outside of the home is a sin. Poor women who have to work will feel they are second-class Christians or looked down upon by their stay-at-home sisters in Christ. What about women whose husbands have abandoned them? But let’s try to look at this without knee-jerking if we can. We are living under a cursed economy. We are not living under God’s blessing. When the Church abandons “hard” teachings for soft words, the salt loses its savor and is trampled underfoot. When we follow pell-mell in the path of the “working world,” straining after the “American Dream” income, we’re going to fall into the same trap the rest of our culture is in: wives forced to work to make up a “shortfall,” debt, divorce, children handed over to government schools, etcetera. And we’re in it — knee-deep. Where are the older women who are supposed to teach the younger ones how to be sober keepers at home? Oh, their children are all grown, and they have “nothing” to do, so they’ve gotten “real” jobs. What about the women who are to be “washing the feet of the saints” and “ministering to the poor.” Ummm... too busy earning that second income.

The Body of Christ needs its women! It needs singles, newlyweds, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, “spinsters” — every last one of them. And it needs them to embrace the role God has given them without looking back. We have so much to do, and we have so little time to accomplish it all. God has given us a great gift in calling us to the home. Our role is not inferior because it is “unpaid.” Our role is not of lesser importance because it isn’t out in the public sphere. When God created mankind “male and female,” He showed us that it takes both “halves” to make up the whole of humanity. That our roles differ is a cause for rejoicing and glory — not a cause for shame or depression. When both roles complement each other beautifully, we demonstrate to the world a picture of God’s divine image that is breathtaking to behold. We demonstrate the union of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Rejecting our roles or revising them to suit our individual tastes and plans is blasphemy. I didn’t say it; St. Paul did. Is it difficult for every woman to obey the clear command to be a keeper at home? Indeed it is, but, again, it is because we are living under God’s curse (He doesn’t bless an economy built upon fiat money, consumerism, and debt). Instead of seeking to extend the curse even further, we need to be lovingly helping our brothers and sisters in Christ so that those women in tough financial situations can stay at home. After all, when St. Paul writes about widows, does he say they just need to suck it up and get out in the workforce to fend for themselves? Far from it. He calls those who will not provide for widows and orphans “infidels” who have “denied the faith” (1 Tim. 5:7). When a woman has to work outside of the home, it is not an indication of some special blessing; it is a poor reflection on her provider (if she is married) or upon the Church (if she is widowed and has no family). The Body of Christ is to take care of its own.

As co-editor of the site, I receive dozens upon dozens of letters from readers each month. I’ve yet to hear from one woman (aside from the militant feminists) stuck in a “real” job who doesn’t long to return home. A woman working in a nearby post office stopped me one day to ask me if I stay at home. When I affirmed that I did, she told me how she wanted nothing more than to go home, garden, sew, and care for her family. She feels trapped, because her husband has grown dependent upon the second income. Is this blessing? God has built into women the desire to rule the home. It is part of the Dominion Mandate. It is not Phariseeism to proclaim homekeeping God’s standard for women. This is not an excuse to feel superior to women in the work force or to look down our noses at those who have been shackled into a “second income” and all it entails (that would be sin, plain and simple). Rather, it is a call to be extremely thankful for faithful providers (husbands, fathers, churchmen) who care for the ones God has entrusted to their shepherding and to pull together as a Body to help those not as fortunate. I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude for a husband who cherishes my role and does not seek to pull me out of it to supplement his income or take over his God-given role. I am a blessed woman — not a superwoman, but the thankful wife of a truly super man.

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