Wives and mothers working outside the home...
(Tim) Reading a discussion that's developed under an earlier post concerning the Biblical priority of the home and family in the lives of Christian women, it occurred to me to post these notes from a sermon I've preached several times over the course of my ministry. The issue is critically important, and yet not to be dealt with in a wooden way. Specifically, some work outside the home is always required of wives and mothers and is good and right--Biblical, even...Buying and selling land. Teaching the younger women at the church-house. Making cookies and taking them to the homeschool co-op or school classroom. Teaching in the homeschool co-op or school classroom. Buying groceries. The list is long. Some work outside the home is required by the specifics of a home and marriage. Husbands die or are disabled and mothers must provide for their families. Husbands commit adultery and abandon their wives and children forcing their wives to provide for their children. Again, the list is long.
There are any number of other reasons a husband and wife might make a decision for the wife to work outside the home and we must be careful not to subvert the freedom of their consciences by declaring or insinuating that decisions they've made based on circumstances we have a limited knowledge of are contrary to the Word of God. At the same time, we must recognize that in Reformed churches today too many of our marriages are contrary to the Word of God precisely at this point. Women are not domestic, but have deserted the home for work and play. Our older women, but also our elders, pastors, and deacons must admonish those women who have abandoned their home.
A final comment. This is not a sermon but a manuscript. And in my case, a manuscript is where the sermon starts, but not where it stops. In other words, the connection between what is written and said is rather limited.
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So that No One Will Malign the Word of God
We are at a crucial time in the history of the Christian church, a time when we must make a choice between Christian living and pagan living; a time when pastors, priests, elders, and deacons, must make it clear to those for whom they have spiritual responsibility, that Christians have to be obedient to the Word of God, no matter how the values of present-day American culture attack the commands of Scripture.
When our culture has decided that mothers are ineffective women, who aren’t capable of surviving within and mastering the professional world, women who choose to give their lives to their home only because they’re fainthearted, will we speak up in their defense?
To choose to live as a Godly woman in the United States today is to choose the road less traveled, the road which leads to sacrifice and misunderstanding. But God is watching and will honor all obedience to His Word.
This morning I’d like to speak to you as if you were all my mother, and I’d like to share my heart with you about what it means to be an older woman in the Christian Church today. And, if I speak to you as though you were my mother, I will have a deep affection for you since my mother is very dear to me and one of my greatest models of Christian compassion, wisdom, prayer, Bible study, love of God, and holiness.
A question: If we were to look for a passage of Scripture which gives specific instructions to older women concerning their role in the Church today, where might we look? Can you think of any place where there are instructions specifically addressed to older women in the Church?
I’d like us to turn this morning to a passage of Scripture which directly addresses those women wearing the honorable crown of old age. And here in this passage we will see what responsibilities God has given us in the Church.
* Titus 2:1-5 This is God’s Eternal Word.
1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Paul, writing to the pastor, Titus, gave very specific instructions to him about the duties and responsibilities of the older women in the Church. Paul told Titus to teach the older women these things. Notice; these duties are not just to be printed in our church bylaws; they are to be taught in public in such a way that every older woman in the Christian Church knows what God wants her to spend her time doing.
Here the Lord gives older Christian women two negative commands and three positive commands. The two negative commands are as follows, verse 3;
- Do not be slanderers.
- Do not be addicted to much wine.
What is a ‘slanderer?
A ‘slanderer’ is someone who’s known as a gossip; a person who loves to collect and pass on the latest juicy tidbits about other people. This person has an addiction to negative words and loves to tell you what’s wrong with the whole world. Now we might not call someone a ‘slanderer’ today. Instead of saying, “I’m being slandered,” we’d be more likely to say, “I’m being torn down,” “run down,” or “bad mouthed.”
Older women are to be warned against the sin of tearing down or bad-mouthing others. This is the first negative command.
The second negative command given here is that older women are not to be addicted to much wine. Now I don’t think we need to have ‘wine’ defined nor do I think we need to be told the meaning of the word ‘addicted;’ this is all pretty straightforward.
But, we might be tempted to pooh pooh this command and say we have no problem here, today.
This is a much more common problem in the Church than we’d care to admit. And not just with our young people; I myself have more than once smelled alcohol on the breath of older people—and not just older men. Some of you might, yourselves, know older women in your church who are addicted to much wine. Here we are told to caution them to turn away from this sin.
- Don’t bad mouth people and
- Don’t love alcohol;
These are the two negative commands Scripture tells us to give older women.
Then there are also two positive commands given to us; please look with me at verse 3:
- Older women are to be reverent in the way they live.
- Older women are to teach what is good.
First, older women are to be reverent. What does it mean to be ‘reverent?’
If you ‘revere’ or ‘show reverence’ towards someone you show them honor or respect. You treat them with deference. You would never have a flippant attitude towards them.
Now we could apply this in a number of different places in the life of the Church but I think one of the clearest examples of the lack of reverence today is in our unending chatter when we gather in the sanctuary for worship. (Some might object by saying that it’s good for people to greet one another before worship and that a talking church is an alive church; surely there’s some truth here.)
But the noise level in many sanctuaries immediately before worship when we are to be preparing our hearts and minds for worship is, I believe, one of the clearest areas where we need to learn the meaning of the word ‘reverence’ again. When we use the time before worship to catch up on the news and to talk about the flu-bug we caught, or to make comments about some poor soul who has the misfortune to be seated ahead of us where we can watch them; when during the worship service we turn our attention away from God and His Word and, instead, keep our eyes glued to the clock on the wall; when we fall asleep; when we noisily peel candy wrappers; we are being the very opposite of reverent.
Older women are to be warned to be reverent; to show honor and respect and to avoid having a flippant attitude.
The second positive command is this: older women are to teach what is good.
If older women are obedient to these negative and positive commands, then they will be able to train the younger women; to teach them what is good. They are commanded in Scripture to have as their major occupation; teaching what is good, training the younger women.
Now, I’d like you to listen very carefully to the specific things which older women are expected to teach the younger women of the Church. There are six practical, timeless traits of the godly which our older Christian women are to pass on to the next generation of women. Here they are:
- Verse 4; you are to train the younger women to love their husbands and children.
- Verse 5: you are to train the younger women to be self-controlled.
- Verse 5: you are to train the younger women to be pure.
- Verse 5: you are to train the younger women to be busy at home.
- Verse 5: you are to train the younger women to be kind.
- Verse 5: you are to train the younger women to be subject to their husbands.
The primary duty of older women in the Church—the duty which Paul commands Titus to call older women back to—is to train the younger women. And these are the things they are to train them to do:
- to be loving mothers and wives,
- to be self-controlled,
- to be pure,
- to be busy at home,
- to be kind, and
- to respect and obey their husbands.
Of course, some of these duties aren’t too difficult to talk about; no one’s going to fault you for telling them that they ought to love their husbands and children, or that they ought to be self-controlled, or that they should show kindness to others. But which one of us wants to even talk about, let alone obey in these other three areas?
Who among us wants to be the person who goes to some young woman’s apartment who’s committing adultery and warn her against impurity?
Or again, which one of us wants to go and speak to a young mother about the way she has abandoned her three or four year old to a day-care center or her third or fourth grader to coming home each day to an empty house? Look around and we see many homes where, because the mother doesn’t want to interrupt her career track or because she doesn’t feel that being busy at home is challenging enough, the poor kids are abandoned to a loveless motherless childhood?
Which one of us wants to say something to the Christian mothers of these latchkey children? Which one of us wants to admonish them with the message of God’s Word—that they are to love their children and that they are to be “busy at home”; to “be domestic” as the Revised Standard Version translates it?
And then, worst of all, which one of us wants to go and speak to a young wife about her need to respect and obey—to be subject to—her husband?
My dear sisters in the Lord, what is it that keeps us from being humble and obeying God’s commands? Why do we so often think that we know better than God?
And, why are we so timid when it comes to teaching the younger women of the Church what God commands us to teach—to be busy at home, to love their children, and to submit to their husbands?
Women are needed in the Church today who will be faithful to the Lord’s commands rather than to our own traditions or prejudices. Look around you and you’ll see many younger women who, because of job related moves or divorces or bad family backgrounds, they have no role models for living in a way that is fitting for a godly Christian woman. Are we willing to step into the gap and give them the teaching from the Bible which they so desperately need?
In fact, some of you may need to teach your own daughters these commands of our Heavenly Father.
Then Paul finishes this list with the phrase “so that no one can malign the Word of God.” In other words, the reputation of the Christian church and theWord of God rests on Christian women ordering their lives according to these priorities (which are God’s priorities). This is pretty serious business isn’t it? Could there be a more powerful statement of the importance of the Christian home or the necessity of the Christian mother? What we have read is the command of God in His Holy Word.
It would be hard to write something about women today which would be more offensive to many people than this passage of Scripture. Can you imagine the reaction you would have if you came across this list in Redbook, Women’s Day, Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazine? You would react with shock and disbelief that any magazine could be so behind the times as to print these duties.
God’s Word never changes. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
But if God’s Word hasn’t changed, what has changed?
In a recent survey it was reported that in 1984 18% of our nation’s mothers worked outside the home. Today over half of all mothers are employed. Nearly six million pre-schoolers have working mothers. The nationally known sociologist Daniel Yankelovich found in a survey that 70% of all parents of children under the age of 13 think that parents should have lives of their own, even at the expense of less time with their children. Over half of them felt that parents should not sacrifice in order to give children the best. In a recent national survey done by Merit Cigarettes it was reported that the majority of Americans believe that wage earning should be shared equally by the husband and wife, that both the mother and the father have an equal responsibility to bring home the bacon.
How grateful we should be that we have been raised by, and still today, that we can observe in our midst godly women who have refused to give in to the pagan, non-Christian values of our day.
Yet we must recognize the fact that it is difficult to be a housewife or homemaker in today’s world.
How many times when I have asked young women what they do, they have answered with the statement, “Oh, I don’t do anything, I’m just a housewife.”
“Just a housewife, huh?” “I guess that means you sit around twiddling your thumbs all day long.”
Imagine that—just a housewife?
Just a mother?
There is not a higher calling or a more important occupation in the world. It doesn’t matter what you read. It doesn’t matter what you hear on television. It doesn’t matter how your relatives look down on you. It doesn’t matter what other women brag about at your high school’s tenth anniversary reunion.
* Read Elizabeth Achtemeir quote from The Christian Century.
If I were speaking professionally, I would have to say that James Muilenburg shaped my Christian understanding when I was a seminary student, with a great deal of help from the other giants in the faith such as Reinhold Niebuhr and Karl Barth, with whom I had the privilege to study both at Union Seminary in New York and abroad. But if it is a question of who passed on the faith to me, there is no doubt that it was my mother, Ida Schafer Rice. Mother knew exactly how to go about it. She constantly exposed me to “the means of grace” given to the Christian church—to excellent preaching and glorious sacred music, to the sacraments and the loving fellowship of the Body of Christ, to constant teaching from the scriptures, daily prayer and the practical example of her own life. Through these instruments of his Spirit, God makes himself known, and Mother could have given me no greater gift than constantly to expose me to their benefits.
Mother was a serious-minded soul.
Best of all, Mother helped educate the women in her own congregation. She began by buying books for the church library and assigning them each “points” according to their level of difficulty. When a woman in the church read a book, her circle was credited with pennies equivalent to the number of points. The accumulated money was then used to buy more books. By the time of Mother’s death in 1973, some 1,800 books had been bought for the church library. Most important, they had been read…As mother became more crippled with arthritis—a handicap she rarely complained about—she gathered neighborhood women together every Friday morning for Bible study at our house.
In one way, Mother was a unique woman. In another, she was very ordinary. I never idolized her, and I became quite aware of her faults. She had the same temptations to pride and self-righteousness with which every faithful soul is burdened. She lacked the true saint’s ability to laugh at herself. But she loved her God and she loved her children; that we never doubted. Above all, she knew that we children did not belong to her, but rather that we belonged to God. So daily Mother lifted us up in prayer before our heavenly Father, and I have no doubt that those prayers guided and guarded my steps, kept me from evil and temptation, and helped determine the course that my life has taken ever since.
Day in and day out, Mother instructed us by word and example, by forgiveness and love. She never let us forget that the source and purpose of our living lay not in ourselves but in God, to whom we therefore owed our lives, worship and service. God’s “means of grace” were the instruments that gave me my faith. My Christian mother loved me enough to make sure that I knew and used them.
-Elizabeth Achtemeier, Christian Century, August 25-September 1, 1993, p.808
The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body.... The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other human creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation... What on God’s earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother.
-Cardinal Mindszenty as quoted in a letter from Rev. Paul Marx, O.S.B., August 3, l989.
A woman who is devoted to her home, who is devoted to her husband, and who is devoted to her children is a woman who is obedient to the Word of God. Now, to be sure, there are women who have special responsibilities before God which make other Scriptural commands more pertinent. A good example of an exception in this area would be Mother Teresa who, from a young age, knew God had called her to a life of service to the poor. Yet what woman better personifies the example which older Christian women are to set before younger Christian women? Mother Teresa sets before the world the radical truth that we are greatest when we humbly serve others. The world will always tell us that true greatness lies in careers, success, or wealth, autonomy, and self-determination.
God’s Word, however, says that the greatest person among us is the servant of us all:
* Jesus—Servant of All: (Mark 10:35-45)
James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
But, let’s also remember that it is possible to be, literally, ‘at home,’ but still not to serve our children and husband, isn’t it?
What are you providing for your children, wealth and status, or warmth and love?
* A Mother’s Secret:
Someone asked a mother whose children had turned out very well, the secret by which she prepared them for usefulness and for the Christian life.
Without hesitation she said, “When in the morning I washed my children, I prayed that they might be cleansed by the Savior’s precious blood.
“When I put on their garments, I prayed that they might be arrayed in the garments of salvation and in the robe of God’s righteousness.
“When I gave them food, I prayed that they might be fed with the Bread of life.
“When I started them on the road to school, I prayed that their faith might be as the shining light, ‘brighter and brighter to the perfect day.’
“When I put them to sleep, I prayed that they might be enfolded in the Savior’s everlasting arms.”
No wonder her children were early led to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What a joy to that mother’s heart when her children rise up and call he blessed! Her secret is an open one.
-The Baptist Challenge,1/82
* Prayer for Mother’s Day:
On this day of sacred memories, our Father, we would thank Thee for our mothers who gave us life, who surrounded us early and late with love and care, whose prayers on our behalf still cling around the Throne of Grace, a perfume of love’s petitions.
Help us, their children to be more worthy of their love. We know that no sentimentality on this one day, no material gifts—no flowers or boxes of candy—can atone for our neglect during the rest of the year. So in the days ahead, may our love speak to the hearts who know love best-by kindness, by compassion, by simple courtesy and daily thoughtfulness.
Bless her—whose name we whisper before Thee—and keep her in Thy perfect peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.
* Socrates said:
“Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of you childrento whom one day you must relinquish it all?”
* St. Augustine, writes 1500 years ago about his own mother:
“If I had died (before God saved me) my mother’s heart would never have recovered from the blow. Words cannot describe how dearly she loved me or how much greater was the anxiety she suffered for my spiritual birth than the physical pain she had endured in bringing me into the world. I cannot see how she could ever have recovered if I had died in that condition, for my death would have pierced the very heart of her love.”
St. Augustine’s mother Monica was a Godly woman.
We have seen the answer to the first question: What are the responsibilities of older and younger women as taught by Scripture?
Secondly let’s ask the question, “How can we support women who take the difficult road of obedience?”
I have three suggestions. The first suggestion is for our church. The second and third suggestions are for our homes. First, in our church we must be scrupulously careful, never to contradict Scripture and treat mothers and homemakers as second-class citizens. We must jealously guard our Christian community and not allow pagan values to infiltrate. We must clearly tell each mother and wife that they do not need to have a career to be honored in our fellowship. In fact, we need to let them know that we honor them highly because they live lives of service. We need to encourage the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children and to dedicate themselves to their home. Our church should have God’s values, not the values of currently popular political ideologies.
The second and third suggestions are for our homes and they are not original. Time after time Scripture gives the same command to children and to husbands. Children are to honor and obey their parents and husbands are to love their wives.
If your mother has devoted her life to you every day since you were born, how can you treat her in a disrespectful way? You who are children and young people, treat your mother with respect and love. Show her how thankful you are to have a Godly mother who has given the best years of her life to you. Don’t answer her back. Don’t disobey her. Treat her with respect.
Finally and most importantly, husbands the heaviest weight rests on our shoulders. We are commanded by God to love our wives. This woman whom God gave to you deserves your best. You are to serve her. If she has been obedient to Scripture and loved you and your home and your children, how much more should you feel the command of God to treat this servant of God in your home with honor? If your wife is at home do you set aside time to be with her or do you neglect her and give all your spare time to your job or hobby?
Have you allowed your wife to stay home with the children or do you demand that she supply income from an outside job so that your standard of living can be higher. If your children have left the home, have you freed up your wife to continue a life devoted to service through spending time teaching younger women in the church, or caring for the elderly or poor in our community? Does your wife know that there is nothing in the whole world more valuable to you than her giving her life in service to others?
Three practical things to do to implement these commands from God’s Word:
- Believe and obey the words of the Bible ourselves.
- Guard God’s Word from attack in our churches; especially in those areas where Satan is doing everything He can to destroy family life.
- Serve the younger women of the Church and make every effort to entice them to really want to listen to you and to learn from you.
First, as older women you need to examine your hearts and make sure that you yourself are not a rebel against God and His Word in these matters.
* Example from early in my ministry when, on the way home from her first Session meeting, an elderly woman elder in one of my former churches, when we'd arrived at her home and she was getting ready to get out, turned and said to me, “Pastor, you and I have a basic disagreement; You believe the Bible is God’s Word but I believe it’s man’s words.”
So, one question for older women is this: “Do you believe that what we’ve been studying is the very Word of God,” Or, do you think that we don’t have to obey God’s Word today in things where we don’t want to?
The first step toward putting this passage into practice is to ask ourselves this question: Are we submissive or rebellious toward this doctrine of Scripture?
The second practical step we can take towards being the older women God wants us to be is to serve as intransigent adversaries of anything which undercuts Scripture in these areas.
We must not only submit to God’s Word, ourselves, but we must also defend God’s Word at all times. Older women should be on the watch for anyone teaching or writing or living in a way that contradicts God’s Word in these matters. Part of our duty to teach younger women is to protect them from the lies of Satan; and such lies surround us in the Church today.
We ought to develop the gift of discernment so that we can see how the Bible is undercut in our meetings, or in our Christian Education materials, or in our conferences. And when it happens we must expose it before it leads our younger women astray.
Then, thirdly, a practical step we can take to obey this passage is to look for opportunities to be around and to teach the younger women. They are unlikely to come to us and sit quietly, down at our feet, during our monthly meetings; we’re going to have to sweeten the pot if we want them to come to us, to listen to us, and to become our friends and spiritual daughters.
This will mean threatening things for us—new ideas, new schedules—for instance, think of the fact that many of the women who work during the day can’t meet during your normal meeting time in the early afternoon.
It might mean new literature—and be forewarned, you may need to look through quite a few Bible study books before you can find one that teaches what Scripture teaches rather than what Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazine teaches.
It might mean that you’ll need to go outside of your church family just to find younger women; you’ll need to go out and fish to bring the young women back to the Lord’s House.
* Eg: Our churches and my mother and Neighborhood Bible Studies.
You might need to break your Women’s Group up into two or three groups and invite a bunch of young women to join you for a weekly—or monthly—time of sharing; little cliques of friends might have to be separated.
Really, though, the ideas are endless. But, the important thing is that you will need to reach out to them and meet them on their home turf; you’ll need to look for ways of providing for their needs instead of expecting them to come to you and serve you and teach you and provide for your needs.
Now, look with me, please, at the end of verse 5. Notice that the reputation of God’s Church rests on our obedience of these commands. In other words, if our younger women aren’t pure, if they aren’t keepers at home, if they aren’t kind, if they aren’t self-controlled, if our older women don’t teach the younger women; then the pagans have a good reason to speak evil of God’s Word. Are there those in your community who speak evil of your Church or of the Bible or of Jesus Christ, Himself, because of our neglect in these areas? How are we protecting the honor and glory of God in our towns and cities.
God’s reputation is at stake in our obedience of this second chapter of the book of Titus.