I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my views on marriage and family and women working outside the home and whether women are supposed to support their husbands rather than having their own goals and careers. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
In general, I think women are called to be a supporter to their husband's
calling. But that does not mean that their contribution is less important. God
sees a husband and wife as a team, a single unit. So a husband's calling is the
wife’s calling because the two of them are one.
We live in a culture that sees us primarily as individuals
who simply make associations with each other. Marriage is generally seen as just
a partnership between two separate people. The Christian view of marriage,
however, is radically different. The Bible says that the two become one. Not
two that have a connection, but one. God doesn't give separate overall missions
to each individual person. There is only one overall calling for that one
marriage entity. A husband and wife are a family and have a calling together,
but the husband bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling that mission
while the wife bears the primary responsibility for supporting her husband's
work toward the family’s calling.
That is what it means, for example, that the husband is the
spiritual head or leader of the family. A husband will answer to God for the
spiritual health of his family in a way that the wife will not because it is
the man's primary responsibility. His calling, above all, is to lead his family
to know and serve God. Other parts of his mission may involve outreach beyond
his family such as missions work, serving in the church, witnessing to
coworkers, etc., but his primary responsibility before God is to lead his own
family and ensure their spiritual health. A wife's primary responsibility in
this area is to support her husband's leadership to ensure that chaos does not
derail their family's spiritual journey and that her husband has the time and
energy to devote to spiritual leadership because he isn't distracted by other
The story comes to mind of Acts 6 and the choosing of deacons to take care of
details like feeding the needy so that the apostles could concentrate on
preaching and teaching. This kind of hierarchy is found throughout life, not
just in marriage. It’s not about inferiority, it’s about efficiency in
fulfilling a purpose. It was the deacons' role to handle logistics so that the
apostles could spend their time pursuing the main mission of preaching the word
and saving souls. In the same way, it is a wife's role to handle logistics of
the home so that her husband can concentrate his energy on pursuing the family's
main mission for God.
The other thing to consider is that the responsibility for providing for the
family is given primarily to the man. It simply isn’t the wife’s responsibility
in the same way it is for the husband. Not only are men given the
responsibility of spiritual leadership, but they also must provide for their
family’s economic needs. In both cases, men will answer to God for how they do
so. Providing is a heavy burden given to a man. It requires much time and
effort. It is a great support to the husband when the wife takes care of the
logistical details of the household so that the husband can devote his efforts
to providing and the spiritual training of the children and then, if energy is
left, to outside endeavors to further the Kingdom of God.
Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure
her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some
cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman.
We all have limitations. It's just not possible for any woman to adequately
care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of
children and the home is primarily a woman's responsibility in a way it isn't
for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care
for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she
must keep the home and her husband as her priority.
Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside
the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children
is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside
the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the
care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe
that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be
the primary influences in their children's lives. That doesn’t happen if the
children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.
Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love,
teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to
live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily
with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even
grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one
loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in
ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if
others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child
belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t
answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.
So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be
with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver.
Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In
practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her
children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still
be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother
and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not
neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all –
keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare
woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for
care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for
companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a
household and still have something left for even a part-time job.
What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply
suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers
or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy
he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away
some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the
world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet
all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result,
something important gets left undone.
Of course, there are circumstances where it is necessary for a family’s
survival for the wife to work outside the home. That is not the ideal, but it
sometimes happens. In that case, the goal should be to do whatever is necessary
to make it a temporary situation so that the wife can return to the home and
children and be available to meet her husband’s need as well. If that means
downgrading the house, foregoing vacations, having the husband take a second
job or a better paying job, having the wife work from home, or whatever, the
goal should be to work towards having the wife available to fulfill her
responsibilities at home. It is vital to the health of her family – both physically
and spiritually. There is no replacement for a wife and mother. The family will
never be as effective for the Kingdom of God as it could be if the wife is not
at home, taking care of her family.