Written by Elisabeth Elliot from her book On Asking God Why
Nowadays Christian women seem to be operating on the premise that they’re perfectly free to do anything they like, including work outside the home. Whether they’re young, middle-aged, or old, married or single, with children or without, droves of Christian women are now career-minded. Isn’t that okay? I’m not sure it is.
Francis Schaeffer, shortly before he died, said, “Tell me what the world is saying now, and I’ll tell you what the Church will be saying seven years from now.” Careerism is one of the great cries of the feminist movement, and Christian women seem to be trotting along quite willingly, though perhaps five or seven years behind the secularists, tickled pink that ”we’ve come a long way, baby.”Well, we certainly have. But is it in the right direction? Have Christian women’s seminars, Christian books (and, dare I suggest it, Christian women’s magazines), encouraged us, by the tacit acceptance of notions not carefully examined, to move in a direction which does not lead to freedom at all?
It’s interesting to note a growing swell of disillusionment among women of the world. They’re beginning to discover that the “fulfillment” they had sought in the business or professional world hasn’t proved to be all that fulfilling. For many of them, it’s more like a sucked-out lemon. Not long ago on the “Today Show” Jane Pauley hosted a TV special on working women. She’s one herself, and I have a hunch she was wondering if other women had any unconfessed misgivings about the joys of a career.
Is a career really stimulating? Is it really more “creative” than mothering or homemaking? Is it satisfying? Is it fun? Has it brought the fulfillment it promised? Her show was not a parade of happy faces. Women actually looked straight into the cameras and admitted they’d been had. They were willing to change their whole life-style, make sacrifices, do whatever was necessary, to get out of the work world. Several hard-driving executive types said they were going home to take care of their children. One newspaper columnist described the results of the new forms of child rearing as ”emotional carnage.” Two psychologists, one from Yale, one from Harvard, have echoed these career women’s misgivings, stating that what we are doing to our children now may be the equivalent of “psychological thalidomide.”
It’s sobering to me to think that we may be maiming our children by depriving them of normal home life. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I hear someone say. “You aren’t going to tell me that women with children aren’t supposed to be working?” I’d be crazy to try to tell anybody that unless I had some authority more convincing than my personal bias. I think I have. It’s a clear and simple list of things godly women–all of them–are meant to do, and it’s found in Paul’s instructions to a young pastor (Titus 2:3-5):
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Might there be a pattern in these verses that we’ve ignored? I’ve met women lately who had jumped on the careerism bandwagon but have now discovered the Bible’s pattern (more of it can be found in 1 Timothy 5). Realizing that the life-style they’ve been pursuing doesn’t fit the biblical pattern, they are making drastic changes. For some of them the cost has been high, but not too high for the liberation that comes with honest obedience.
I’m one of those older women Paul refers to. If I’m a Christian, I am bound by what Scripture tells me to do (there’s no Christianity without obedience). By every means open to me, I am to “teach,” that is, to set an example, to be a model for younger women–by reverence; by self-control; by being a loving wife and mother; pure; kind; working at home; respecting the authority of my husband; prayerful; worshipful; hospitable; willing to do humble and dirty jobs; taking “every opportunity of doing good” (1 Timothy 5:10 NEB). That’s a tall order.
Who of us is sufficient for these things? None of us, of course, without a large portion of the grace of God every minute of every day. But if we will trust him for that grace, we must be sure our wills are lined up with His and our lives ordered according to His pattern. There are many “buts” in our minds whenever we face truthfully any of God’s clear directives. I am well aware of the thousands of women without men who must find some way to support themselves and their children. The Lord who gave us his pattern also knows intimately every situation: “Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” Might he have another way than the one which seems inevitable? Might there be a way to work at home? How serious are we about following him? Whoever is willing to obey will be shown the way.
That they may 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, that the word of God be not blasphemed.