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Proverbs 31 Career Mum

The Proverbs 31 woman is rightly held up as an ideal for Christian women. When her roles and responsibilities are correctly understood this can be a great help. However, it is disturbing when people choose to use the Proverbs 31 woman to argue for the virtue or acceptability of being a Mum who is primarily focused on a career and thus leaves the training of her children and the running of her household to others. This view of Scripture comes from being saturated in a feminist culture, not from the text itself. We need to be very careful not to twist the Bible to fit with current feminist thinking.

I have heard women say things like "The Proverbs 31 woman is the equivilant of a modern real estate agent". I am sorry, but since when does managing your finances well so you can buy some property make you a real estate agent? It doesn't, of course. It makes you a person who bought a field. Likewise, the fact that the Proverbs 31 woman made clothing to sell to merchants does not make her the equivilant of a full time factory worker. It makes her a woman with a small business, which does not even take away from her home responsibilities much.

Kimi Harris wrote down some excellent thoughts on the Proverbs 31 woman some months ago in Knitting and Proverbs 31

some people have taken the Prov. 31 woman and made her an example of the modern career woman. It should be noted that she did most of her work at home with her family around her and that we are told in the New Testament to be “workers at home” (Titus 2). I don’t think this is a Biblical mandate for a mothers having careers and leaving most of the child raising and home keeping to others.

The principle is having busy hands serving your family. That can and even should look different depending on your family’s needs and your own skills and inclinations. Some ways of serving may bring in income, other ways may save money, other ways will just be simply meeting the daily needs of a family.

In reading Proverbs 31, it is legitimate to conclude that it is acceptable and sometimes wise for married women and mothers to engage in business. As Carolyn Mahaney wrote in Feminine Appeal, God does not confine women solely to unpaid work in the home: "Scripture provides examples of godly women who worked in other settings and earned extra income, but never to the neglect of their families and homes." Scripture places importance on the role of a married woman in caring for her family and home, above any income producing activities she may want to pursue. I am not at all saying that women should never pursue paid employment. I am saying that home and children are to be the priority for a married woman. In considering my own career options, even as a single woman, I want to take this into account. I am thinking of pursuing a Diploma of Education, so that I can earn more money per hour. Then, if I did need to work when I had children I could earn more with less time away from home. (This would also be good due to my chronic back pain).

I believe that most attempts to twist the Proverbs 31 woman into a full time career Mum are rooted in a lack of vision for what God intended when he instituted the roles of men and women. God did not intend our roles to be shackles around us. Read Psalm 128. This is a beautiful picture of the fulfilled family - a father who works hard and enjoys the work of his hand, a fruitful and home-centered wife, and the blessing of children. God intends these pictures to inspire and uplift us. This is a picture of the good life. Not dual careers and 1.7 children appropriately cared for by professsionals so we can get on with earning more money to buy more things. Instead, hard work in our respective roles, contentment with the simple things of life, joy in one another and in the children God gives us.

Susan has written a great post on the roles of men and women, focusing on the fact that without the joy and perspective of the gospel, the roles of men and women are ugly and twisted. Many people have only seen such ugly examples, so naturally they rebel and look for ways to reinterpret Biblical teaching on these topics. Unfortunately, in doing so they forsake the joy they could have had in a gospel-centered embrace of God's ways.

As Susan says:

One cannot talk about headship rightly apart from the gospel. Without the gospel, headship is an ugly truth; with the gospel, headship is a glorious picture. To properly understand Ephesians 5, one must first read Ephesians 1-4. After reading Ephesians 1-4 and then reading Ephesians 5, including the verses that charge husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church, I cannot feel cheated, torn down, or demeaned by my call to submission. I am to aid my husband as the church aids Christ. What a beautiful mission! My husband, though, is to act as a type of Christ to me and our household! Wow.

What a beautiful role given to the man, but what a heavy responsibility, and a responsibility I would not snatch from any man. That is obligation; that is a set of very big shoes to fill. Unless a man can speak of women's roles in light of the gospel and his own call to serve his wife as Christ, than I must stand with the feminists and find his writings to be demeaning and void of any real esteem for women. The husband and wife roles of Ephesians 5 are beautiful because they are complimentary. Either, without the other, is ugly; together they are a beautiful picture.

You can read the rest of Susan's post here.

I've wanted to write about this topic for months. However, I avoided it because it is an emotive one for me and I don't want to rant. I hope this has been inspiring rather than overly harsh, and that it turns you to God's word to evaluate current trends and feminist-influenced philosophies in the church.

Sherrin  – (February 9, 2007 at 6:03 PM)  

I would like to briefly respond to the issue of whether or not different roles for men and women constitutes the same type of discrimination that occurs when people wrongly treat people differently based upon their race.

For starters, God himself appoints different roles for men and women. It is not something human beings invented, unlike racism. The reason I believe women are to be the "keepers at home" is that God says so. If you can show me that he was speaking equally to men and women, I may be willing to spend more time considering your argument.

Secondly, God's instruction to women that they focus on home and family is not any more limiting than his instruction to men that they provide for their families. I have never indicated that I believe women should not pursue any work interests or hobbies. I stated in my post that I believe women should choose vocations that fit well around family life. Jobs that can be done part time come to mind, such as teaching, nursing, or administration.

If women do choose to work only at home, this is not a trap. There are a great diversity of interests and relationships that can be pursued from home. In fact, a homemaker has much more scope in regard to what to do with her day than a man who is in the employment of a boss and has to do as he is told, often with repetitive tasks.

Anonymous –   – (April 6, 2007 at 9:22 PM)  

I dont know if feminism is the word i would use. Let me explain my lifestyle, which i think is what has been inadvertently and somewhat incorrectly described as feminist.I am happily married with two gorgeous children. These roles are enriched by my career as a teacher, and my ongoing love of studying and higher education as i pursue my third university degree. I really enjoy my input into the whole of the community and the reflection i get back from my students successes, as well as that of my own children. I dont believe that contributing to the community can be considered as a feminist movement. The population requires the service of female employees to function as a balanced environment. My studies of human behaviour is such that a female is more likely to reveal finer details of their personal issues to fellow females -How many females elect for a female doctor??? In a "feminist" world as your blog so incorrectly advises this would not be available and we would be forced to discuss our private female problems with the male doctors? Or are you suggesting that female doctors should not have children so that the likes of yourselves can have their services?

I believe you must have so happily taken from someone the services of teaching to learn how to read, then you took a computer that someone had to invent, and manufacure and program, and then the remainder of all industries that you have to be involved in in order to know and participate in any of your daily activities, and all these are provided without you inputting anything into the greater community other than your husband?? dont you feel like your are a little too reliant on everyone else to handout to you. What happens if your husband is sick?? Do you then have to ask for handouts from other people who are not selfish as to sit by and expect things given to them??

What is your contingency plan? What are you modelling to you children as a suitable lifestyle for success?

Terrilyn –   – (April 17, 2007 at 5:32 AM)  

I am trapped at home by a Christian man. Just this morning while a load of laundry was washing my dog and I took a walk in the fresh breeze through the hills by our home. Then I did a bit of yard work and had a quiet breakfast studying The Word. After vacuuming and more laundry my husband discussed arranging delivery of medical helps to our pastor.
Since our children are grown now we are planning our next phase in life. I have had the privilege of stewarding our finances into adequate amounts so we won't stress about money when we are older. Our view property was purchased years ago when we were free to travel as I was not working outside our home.
Recently my father suffered a heart attack and I was able to serve and love him daily. Now my daughter is planning for my care close to her should I ever need it.
I am free to visit my grandchildren whenever we choose and when they come to stay with us we are not hampered with work schedules and restraints.
Gotta go now- my husband will be coming home from work tired and it encourages him to smell a healthy and delicious dinner. After all, he could have insisted I work outside the home also. Like a good feminist.

Sherrin  – (April 17, 2007 at 2:51 PM)  

Thanks for your good points, Terrilyn!

anonymous - I am sorry that you feel your position has been incorrectly described. Feminism is a broad and diverse movement which just about anyone can define themselves into or out of. I am glad that you enjoy your work. My post simply aims to point out that paid work should not be placed above fulfilling responsibilities to family and home. Some women are able to balance part time work as, for example, doctors with family responsibilities.

If you sincerely want answers to your queries about being overly dependent/not contributing to society/having nothing to fall back on if your husband is sick - please visit where they have worked to reply to such questions.

I believe our key job as women is to obey what we believe God has told us, not to worry about potential future scenarios. Being skilled in a particular profession is not a requirement for finding work should the need arise. Most jobs do not require extensive tertiary training. (By the way, I am currently training to be a teacher!)

What do I hope to model for my children? That success is to fear God and obey him. That is the Bible's definition of success, and I want it to be my children's as well.

I just want to let people know that from now on this post is closed to comments that do not include a name. You don't have to have a blogger ID, you just need to write your name at the end of your comment. Unless you are willing to post your names, I will not be posting or answering you thoughts/questions. This is not because I am uninterested. It is simply that I don't intend to spend time conversing with people who will not do me the courtesy of introducing themselves.

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