Friday, May 20, 2011

Thinking about controversial stuff....

....God's design for women. We're in the middle of a sermon series at church at the moment. Week one was on men, week two (last Sunday) on women, and this Sunday we'll be hearing about children and parents.

Whenever the Biblical priorities and responsibilities of women are discussed in our church, it seems to eventually funnel down to the issue of women in the paid workforce. Most of the women with young children in our church don't do paid work. I do, so I often feel a bit like the odd one out in the women's daytime Bible study group, which consists mostly of stay-at-home mothers.

The thing that gets me is that often the argument is advanced that those who stay home with their kids are in the right from a Biblical standpoint because they are making their home and family their priority, being a good helper to their husband etc etc. I feel as if the implication is that being in the paid workforce automatically means that you are not making your home a priority and you are neglecting your husband and children. And that voluntary work is somehow better than paid work because Christians shouldn't be valuing economic productivity above unpaid work.

I struggle to agree with this argument. My home IS my priority. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes the housework doesn't get done. I'm no great lover of cleaning. If it has to be done, we do it, but if not we might let things slide for a week or two. Sometimes my husband and kids are neglected because I'm doing my own selfish things. I'm a sinful person. But would this be any different if I didn't do paid work two days a week? I'm not sure that it would be. And no matter how much I read all the women-related Bible passages, I still can't find the bit that tells me that women must stay at home, and if the option to do paid work arises, that doing voluntary work is a far better choice. And yet I feel like I am in the wrong and have to be defensive every time the issue comes up. It shouldn't be this way. I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" Biblical position on the issue of women in the paid workforce, as long as you have your priorities straight. God first, husband and family next, then home, then things outside the home. That kind of prioritisation.

When we were discussing this at our daytime study group this week, someone suggested that it's entirely possible to stay at home and be very lazy and idle (which the Bible commands us not to be). And if that was the case, then you might as well work (paid or otherwise) to prevent this from happening.

I thought this was a great point. I actually spend my week doing a combination of things at home, voluntary work at church and school, and then I do paid work for two days each week. I'm far less idle doing all that than I was when I was at home by myself with Rosie for most of the week.

Sometimes I wish I was better at putting forth an argument along these lines. But as it stands, I tend to just end up feeling guilty and ungodly. But I don't believe that the decisions we have made as a family are either of those things.

I realise this could be controversial. I'll apologise in advance because I realise not everyone will think the same way I do about this. Or maybe I'm making more of an issue out of this than I should be? Feel free to let me know if I am....

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Thanks for this, Karen. I remain unconvinced that there is a biblical argument that women need to put home first any more than men need to put home first. Of course, for married people, spouses must be a very high priority and for parents, children must be a very high priority. But I simply do not see that this is more the case for women than for men and the arguments I see evangelicals making for this are often incredibly tenuous, relying on descriptive rather than prescriptive passages of Scripture. It seems to me the responsibility of parents to work out together what will allow them to best care for each other and their children, minister to their community and serve their church. So this is not controversial to me at all!
And also - congratulations on your pregnancy! Sounds like a complicated time for you, but I hope you have a growing sense of peace and joy about it.