The Sphere of a Woman’s Life

The Sphere of a Woman’s Life

In 1996, Dr. John MacArthur taught a series on God’s Patterns for Wives. He went through Proverbs 31 and Titus 2:4, 5. When he finally got to the part about women being keepers at home, he knew it would be controversial since he wrote “now we get down to the nitty-gritty.” I know some of you are frustrated by the way I teach women to be “keepers at home” so I thought I would give you another teaching on this topic from a well-known and solid Bible teacher:

And then, number five, and now we get down to the nitty-gritty. They are to be workers at home. We’ve dealt with the attitudes of a woman, love toward husband, love toward children, wisdom and purity. Now, we turn to the very important issue, the sphere of her responsibility, workers at home, oikourgos, literally a house worker. This is the sphere of a woman’s life. It is her domain. It is her kingdom. It is her realm.

The word is derived from the word “house” and the word “work.” A house worker. It doesn’t simply refer, by the way, to scrubbing floors and cleaning bathrooms and doing that. It simply connotes the idea that the home is the sphere of her labors, whatever they might be. It is not that a woman is to keep busy all the time at home. It doesn’t mean that she can never go out the door. It doesn’t mean that she’s always to be doing menial tasks. But what it does mean is that the home is the sphere of her divine assignment.

She is to be the home keeper, to take care of her husband, to provide for him and for the children, all that they need as they live in that home. Materially, she is to take the resources the husband brings home and translate them into a comfortable and blessed life for her children. She is to take the spiritual things that she knows and learns and to pass them on to her children. She is a keeper at home.

God’s standard is for the wife and mother to work inside the home and not outside. For a mother to get a job outside the home in order to send her children even to a Christian school is to misunderstand her husband’s role as a provider, as well as her own duty to the family. The good training her children receive in the Christian school may be counteracted by her lack of full commitment to the biblical standards for motherhood.

In addition to having less time to work at home and teach and care for her children, a wife working outside the home often has a boss to whom she is responsible for pleasing in the way she dresses and a lot of other matters, complicating the headship of her husband and compromising her own testimony. She is forced to submit to men other than her own husband, likely to become more independent, including financially in fragmenting the unity of the family. She is in the danger of becoming enamored by the business world or whatever world she’s in, and finding less and less satisfaction in her home responsibilities.

Many studies have shown that most children who grow up in homes where the mother works are less secure than in those where mother is always at home. I think that should be obvious. Her presence there, even when the child is in school, is an emotional anchor. Working mothers contribute so often to delinquency and a host of other problems that lead to the decline of the family. It’s not that mothers who stay at home are automatically or categorically more spiritual. Many mothers who have never worked outside the home do very little in the home to strengthen their families: gossiping, watching ungodly and immoral soap operas and a host of other things can be as destructive as a working mother. But a woman’s only opportunity to fulfill God’s plan for her role as wife and mother is in the home.

Now, when children are grown, there is an opportunity for some kind of endeavor outside the home. Certainly, that option is viable, if it doesn’t compromise her as a woman, it doesn’t compromise the headship of her husband, it doesn’t put her under undue temptation, it doesn’t put her in an environment where she is going to be subject to the actions and the words of ungodly men. It may be that when the children are grown she can work part-time; she can even work full-time in an environment which is salutatory to her and which increases her godliness and strengthens her as a wife.

But the home is still her domain. And even widows or women whose husbands have left them are not expected to leave their domain and children to work outside the home. Paul declared this in 1 Timothy 5:8, “If anyone doesn’t provide for his own and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And this means to provide not only for his family immediately, but his extended family.

If there is, for example, a widow or a woman without a husband by divorce in your family, you should care for her before you force her out to care for herself. If a woman has no husband, no financial resources of her own, the rest of her family or even her children or her grandchildren are to take care of her. They have that responsibility so that she can maintain her responsibility in the family. That’s indicated in the first part of chapter 5 of 1 Timothy. But if she has no one, no male relatives, that 1 Timothy 5 passage says, if she has no male relatives to support her, there might be a female relative who could care for her, according to verse 16. If she has no female relatives, there is nobody to care for her, then the church is obligated to care for her, 1 Timothy 5:16.

The basic premise then is that even a woman without a husband, even a woman who may not have children still has the right to be cared for. I shouldn’t say not have children, but whose children are older, still has the right to be a part of the home. As He was hanging on the cross, Jesus, during the last moments of His life was concerned about His mother. And what He did in John 19 verses 26 and 27 was give her to John to take care of. Why? Well, she was most likely a widow. Joseph had no doubt died before this. Jesus was no longer there to take care of her. His own half-brothers did not believe in Him. He turns His mother over to John.

When a woman obviously still has children at home, her primary obligation is to them. If she has no children or they are grown, she has a responsibility to help teach the younger women and share the insights and wisdom she’s gained from her own walk with the Lord. She should invest her time when she’s older and her children are grown not in working in the world, hopefully sometimes that may have to happen, but investing in younger women.

Now, I realize having said what I’ve said to you tonight, I’m giving you the standard of Scripture. There are a lot of cases that you could bring up. What about this? What about this? What about this? All I can tell you is what the Bible says. You have to use your own wisdom. There may be a situation where a widow has to be employed because the care of her children is not provided by anybody. And frankly, most churches don’t come to the aid of these kinds of people. I thank the Lord that our church does in many, many cases.

There may be a situation where your children are in school and without any compromise to your children or your husband; you can do some part-time work. Many women have become very fruitful working out of their own homes and doing that, much like the Proverbs 31 woman.

But the standard is very clear in Scripture. The sphere of a woman’s influence is to be found in the home. The obvious things, of course, are when mothers go to work when they still have children young, even infants, babies, children who haven’t even gone to school yet, living in their home and they abandon them and turn them over to the care of someone else. Even churches sometimes foster that by starting day care centers for children under school age. Many times women work because they want to maintain a certain economic standard. The sacrifice of children and family for that economic standard is a bad decision.

You say, “What about that woman who is very capable, and competent, and energized, who has an industrious attitude, who’s a very gifted person? She can take care of her household responsibilities because we live in a day when there’s so many great appliances and you’re not out there on a rock beating your dirty clothes out. We have all of that, and she’s got time on her hands, can’t she develop some enterprise?” Of course, that’s what the Proverbs 31 woman did, of course.

The focal point: she provides for her husband expressions of love and care. She provides the same for her children. She leads and guides and teaches her children so that they can become godly children. She is in the home, secure, and protected, and kept from the influence of evil men and potentially wicked relationships. She lodges strangers. She humbly washes saints’ feet. She shows hospitality. She devotes herself to every good work. And that’s her domain.

Obviously, this is wondrously accommodated by a godly husband, right? It becomes very difficult when you don’t have a faithful husband. It is at that point the extended family steps in to help. If there’s no extended family to help, at that point the church steps in to help so that having lost a father, the children don’t also lose a mother. This is the church’s responsibility.

Vivian Gornick, a feminist author, writes, “Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession. The choice to serve and be protected and planned toward being a family maker is a choice that shouldn’t exist, and the heart of radical feminism is to change that.” End quote. Of course. Whatever God says, they want to unsay.

In New Testament times, as in Old Testament times, a woman in a home had to grind flour, bake everything from scratch, launder, cook, nurse and care for children, make beds, spin, weave, keep house, care for guests. And in the same time and with the full energy and commitment, devote herself to express her love to her husband, to her children and to God Himself. A tremendous assignment.

You say, “Why in the world does God want women to be so busy?” At the risk of sounding trite, it keeps them out of sin. Proverbs 7:11 gives a startling picture of a harlot. It says this about a harlot: “She is boisterous and rebellious, and her feet do not remain at home.” She doesn’t find her home sufficiently fulfilling. She needs something else, and that leads her into sin.

To most of our society, this is all absolutely ridiculous stuff. And we get so engulfed in this kind of thinking because of the society around us that it may even seem a little strange to us, but this is the Word of God. Godly women are to be content at home, and to be content to love their children and love their husbands and serve their families in their homes and serve the Lord.

One of the most wonderful things that the church has ever experienced is the ministry of women. All of the tests and the studies and surveys indicate that about 60 percent of all church life is cared for by women. Evangelical churches are populated by women. They say about 37 percent of evangelical churches are men. The church has always benefited by godly women who work in the home, and when they have time they minister on behalf of the church. And as women abandon the home for the world, they also abandon the church.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Proverbs 31:27

12 thoughts on “The Sphere of a Woman’s Life

  1. I have no tolerance or pity for absentee mothers! Those who value their career or titles over that of M.O.M.! Radical feminism has poisoned women for far too long, and created generations of broken homes, divorces, devalued marriages and a bunch of fragile snowflakes raised to hate men by bitter single mothers! The latch key generation is here! The it’s all about me and I don’t care who I hurt to get what I want generation. The it’s normal to have no father figure and I’ll probably end up divorced too so might as well hook up with any guy I please generation. The generation of our grandmothers, one of home, family, stability and fidelity is gone! The one where children are a joy, not something to resent and cut corners raising! The sphere of the home and family is no less valuable than the sphere of career and worldly pursuits. Your job gives one level of satisfaction, but where will you come home to at the end of a hard day, when you didn’t meet your goals, when the boss chewed you out??? Who will surround you on your deathbed and remember you? …

    1. When I was in high school, my home was the place to be because I was the only one who had a full-time mother at home. Everyone loved coming to my home and being cared for by my mom. I would go to other friends’ homes and they would be cold and empty because either the mother worked full time or the parents were divorced. Homes should be places of warmth, peace, and happiness and this is what a godly mother at home does for her home.

      “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:25-31)

      My mom’s favorite thing in the last years of her life was to watch her great grandchildren playing and on her deathbed, she was surrounded by her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren. A godly, older woman friend of mine told me she had never seen someone so loved like my mom was until they passed away. My mom lived her life serving her family and was well rewarded for doing so. I will always miss her.

  2. How wonderful you had such a loving and stable home! What a rarity these days ☹I’m so so grateful I was raised in A married two parent home with parents who cared about what was best for me, not themselves!

  3. One of my very favorite Elisabeth Elliot quotes is, “When I get to heaven, I want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not “good job, excellent and committed CEO.” I think of this quote often when I’m doing the mundane around my house. I want to glorify God in ALL that I do whether it seems like a menial task that I’ll never be thanked for or something that’s huge in my mind.

    I really enjoy your teachings on Biblical womanhood as I’m always eager to learn more about my role as a wife/mother. Thank you for continuing to teach this regardless of the backlash you receive.

    1. Oh, I love that quote, Summer, and how you related it to your housework! We are so blessed to have a home to care for and husbands that work hard so we can stay home. We must always be looking for the good in life!

  4. Whenever I hear about a terrible crime or scandal on the news, I can’t help but think about the homes that those criminals grew up in. What kind of childhood did they have? Who raised them? The work that we do at home will have an impact far beyond the four walls of our houses. If we raise godly, moral children, we won’t have the amount of heinous crimes and scandals that we are currently having. I know we live in a fallen world and there will still be strife, but the hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world. Unless we leave the rocking to someone else.

  5. Reading today’s post I can’t help but remember when a church secretary spoke to me and told me to “Get off my butt and get a job”. She said my daughter and I would be better off if I would go to work. Her words had quite a sting. I don’t attend that church any longer. I have always felt that my place, even as a single mother, was in the home.

  6. When [McArthur] finally got to the part about women being keepers at home, he knew it would be controversial…

    I never cease to be amazed at how people who claim to be Christ-followers can find any aspect of God’s word to be “controversial.” If McArthur were targeting his message strictly to non-believers, that would be an appropriate adjective in terms of their views toward it. But for members of the body of Christ, God’s word –ALL of it– is what it is, and by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior we commit to obeying Him absorbing and following the commands of Scripture to the very best of our ability, difficult as they often are. It’s no more “controversial” to us than our parents’ instructions to us as children were to clean our rooms or do our homework. We as children might not have LIKED such instruction and might even have rebelled against it, but that didn’t make it “controversial” or wrong.

  7. I love Summer’s comment above! So true! While all of us on the home front know that there’s no place we’d rather be, I’m sure we all don’t enjoy every aspect of caring for it. Let’s face it. Getting the back part of the toilet clean, unless you’ve got 6 foot arms lol, puts your face and the toilet bowl in pretty close contact! I always try to say a little prayer while I’m there….”Lord, while I’m not enjoying this job, I am soooo grateful for the incredible gift of indoor plumbing. I don’t have to run to the outhouse in the snow and I don’t have to battle wasps & spiders in there during the summer. Amen.” By that time, the hard part is usually done!

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