EPHESIANS 5:22a (cont.)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 5:22a (cont.) “Wives,. . .”
Our word “wives” is derived from an Old English root meaning “weaver.” The wife was one who weaved. Before clothing factories, every family made their own clothes. Wool was spun into thread by girls, who were thus called spinsters; thread was woven into cloth by the mother, accordingly called the weaver, or the wife. Another remnant of this olden day is our word “heirloom,” which now applies to any article handed down by ancestors, but originally referred to inheriting the most important article in every house, the loom.
This derivation of “wives” highlights a vital truth. “Wives” are vitally connected to the inner workings of a household. Scripture clearly teaches that a wife’s first and foremost responsibility is to oversee the ongoing, everyday affairs of her household.
Paul admonished older women to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands” (Titus 2:4-5). I am excited about our new ladies’ ministry because it follows this Biblical injunction precisely. Women are teaching women “the priorities of Christian womanhood” (MacArthur).
The wife’s role in the home is not one of servility or inferiority, but rather one of honor and prominence. Paul advised young women to “marry, bear children, guide the house” (1 TM 5:14). The New English Bible translates “guide the house” as “preside over a home.” This is a significant truth. Home is the domain of the woman. She should supervise the everyday affairs of her household.
In Proverbs 31, the “excellent wife,” one whose “worth is far above jewels,” decides about clothing (v. 13), purchases food (v. 14), prepares meals and prescribes household tasks (15, NASB margin), purchases property, gardens (16), extends help to the poor and needy (20), dresses well (22), makes her husband proud to be her man (23), trades and makes money in the marketplace (24), and opens her mouth in wisdom, implying input in family matters (26).
This does not sound like a repressed woman. The Bible pictures the ideal wife as one who understands her role and accepts it eagerly. She has a job to do, to run her household smoothly. She takes care of responsibilities inside the house, and then is free to expand her activities, to be involved in the community, to earn money, to make investments, to “pursue a career.” Godly Priscilla worked with her husband in the trade of tent-making (AC 18:1-3).
In our culture, Christian women pursue various career options. Some choose homemaking as a full-time occupation. Others work outside the home as well. Many, including most single mothers, would rather do nothing more than quit their jobs and come home to care for the family, but have no other option than to work. All these decisions must be prayerfully made by the adults involved.
The vast majority of Christian women in America at one time or another work outside the home. Hence, this message addresses the subject of balancing the dual management of a home and of a job. Most of my remarks are for wives, but lest I be misunderstood as advocating a double standard, I will speak some to husbands.
A woman who works outside the home is in danger of becoming enamored with the business world, and thus letting her family responsibilities slide. It is fine to work outside the home, but remember, Scripture says the household comes first. A lady may begin outside employment with right intentions, but as time goes by, house work may become less and less satisfying. The home-front can easily become a bore, a burden, something not very important.
The same can happen to men. They often become so absorbed in work that home life becomes unimportant and thus nonexistent; wives become husband-less, children fatherless. Always be re-evaluating the standard of living you seek to attain. In trying to provide better things for their family, couples often lose their family.
A wife who works outside the home increases the statistical possibility of an extramarital affair. More than half (54%) of all affairs begin with a contact made in the workplace. Husbands and wives, be careful at work. Try to avoid social and business situations which involve being alone with someone of the opposite sex.
A mother who works outside the home needs to provide the best care she can for her children. Fathers must share in this vital selection. Investigate who is caring for your children. Provide the best child care possible. Do not let your home become an afternoon orphanage. Latch-key children constitute an American tragedy. Do not neglect the little ones. If the children suffer, Mother come home, if at all possible. Having someone at home at all times provides a family with an emotional anchor. This was certainly true in my childhood. Mom sometimes worked outside the house, but home was immeasurably more pleasant when she did not.
A wife who works outside the home needs to step back often, analyze her situation, and see if she is being cheated. Husband, protect your wife. Occasionally help her evaluate whether or not the result justifies the process. Even with the progress made by women in recent decades, America’s economy is still male dominated. For many women, the work-place is very unfair and unfriendly.
In an article from “Barron’s” financial weekly, economist Richard Hokenson says an estimated 80% of every dollar earned by the average working mother goes to taxes, child care, meals at work, gas, and clothing. For many women, going to work just does not pay off. This factor is influencing some women to leave the work place. The percentage of women in the work force between the ages of 25 and 44 is dropping for the first time in 25 years. The decline is most pronounced in the 20 to 24 age group, where the level of working women has slipped to 70% from 75% since 1989.
As a side note, Dr. Dobson says many of these younger women are staying at home because they feel they were neglected by their mothers. We baby boomers deemed our 1950s mothers as trapped in the drudgery of housework. We often took family for granted, opted for business careers, and sought fulfillment outside the home. Now comes the backlash. Our children want to give their youngsters the kind of home we boomers had as children, but many busters did not.
A wife who works outside the home must always be on guard to stave off exhaustion. In households where both husband and wife work outside the home, a feeling often creeps in of everything being out of control. People sense they are on a treadmill. Home becomes a havoc rather than a haven. Each member of the family, including the wife, who works outside the home becomes subject to an authority outside the family. Thus, the family schedule becomes automatically more complicated. A full-time homemaker is accountable only to her family, and thus has more flexibility in scheduling. “In his kindness toward womanhood, the Lord, fully realizing that within the family much of the care of children will rest on the wife, has been pleased not to overburden her” (Hendriksen).
Juggling work and family exhausts many women. My friend, Bob Curtis, pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church in St. Louis, says, “Women are under a considerable amount of stress at work and also stress at home, because their husbands sometimes take them for granted.” Men, we often are wrongly insensitive to the needs of our working wives. Someone forgot to teach men what their response was supposed to be to the women’s revolution. What happened is, women changed and went to work, but men did not change in their attitude about house-work. Thus, wives often take on a 40 hour work week in the business world, but still have to do a full-time job at home. The result is havoc, for no one can survive an 80 hour work week.
The bottom line is this, the traditional one-paycheck family is America’s fastest-growing household unit. Wives and mothers, let me encourage you. Beware the world’s mind-set and propaganda. Our culture tends to be cynical about the home, and often implies that what husbands and wives do outside the home is more important than what they do inside it. Who says it is more important to be CEO of a large corporation than to be the manager of a household?
No business, corporation, club, or institution is more important than a household, and God has entrusted the management of this most sacred group to “wives.” What an honor and blessed glory this is. She who does it well receives great honor. “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (PR 31:28). And best of all, the Creator of the home shall someday say to her, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”