"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain." (Prov. 31:10-11)
There is a great deal of misunderstanding and, I am afraid, misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches about a woman working. Most of the misunderstanding and controversy is centered around whether a woman should work outside the home.
The Bible contains many examples of women working at home within the family relationship -- even performing tasks which are normally thought of as "man's work." These examples demonstrate that work is honorable for wives and mothers. There is Rebekah drawing water (Gen. 24:16); Rachel watering and feeding sheep (Gen. 29:6-9); Ruth gleaning in the field (Ruth 2:17); the Samaritan woman drawing water (John 4:17); Martha fixing a meal for guests (Luke 10:40); and the virtuous wife performing a number of different tasks (Prov. 31:10-31).
Scripture also has examples of women working at jobs other than domestic duties at home. Lydia was a business woman and possibly a traveling saleswoman (Acts 16:14). Those who advocate infant baptism, even though they have no right to do so, try to use her as proof of their doctrine since her household was baptized by assuming she was married and had children who were babies with her in Philippi. Sometimes my brethren go to the opposite extreme,again without any right to do so, and assume she was not married and had no children in order to prove that it was all right for her to work outside the home. Assumptions are always dangerous.
Priscilla, who is always portrayed as a woman who was spiritually-minded,had, as did her husband, a tent-making business (Acts 18:1-3). We are not told whether this was done at home, whether she had children or whether she and her husband worked together, all of which are assumed by those who would make a hard, fast rule against women working outside the home.
The virtuous woman (Pro. 31:10-31) is an example of the ideal wife-a woman who certainly had a husband and children. She speculated in real estate and operated her own linen garment business. Though she is found in the Old Testament, her example shows she was able to do these things without neglecting the responsibilities of her home.
The Bible never condemns women for working outside the home. Scripture stops short of saying a woman cannot take a job outside the home. It would have been easy for the Holy Spirit to have said so, easier, in fact, than what He did say. But since God's word stops short of saying it, we must stop there too. We cannot make any sort of blanket condemnation -- we must consider all circumstances.
The objection raised most often to this view is Titus 2:5 where it says women are to be "keepers at home." But "keepers at home"does not mean "keep at home." This phrase is variously translated as "workers at home" (ASV) and "home-makers" (NKJV).Thayer defines it as "keeping home and taking care of household affairs"(Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 442). James Macknight says it is referring to those who are "careful of their families signifies both those who keep at home, and those who take proper care of their families. In this latter sense I understand it here, with Eisner and the Vulgate"(Macknight on the Epistles, p. 490). David Lipscomb, in defining the phrase, said, "That they be keepers or managers at home; keep a neat, attractive house that will make her husband and children love home. Christian women should be the best housekeepers and should be models to all who know them" (The Gospel Advocate Commentaries Series,Vol. V, p. 273).
Even so, the practice of women working outside the home is not without danger, problems and possibly sin. One must realize that a woman who chooses to marry has the home and the work in it as her primary responsibility. While it is not the only thing she is to do, her first loyalty in the physical realm is to her husband and family. Whatever she does, she must not neglect her home responsibilities.
As it is with men, work can be abused by women. Some women abuse the Biblical principle of work by being idle. What is to be the motive for staying home? Is it just to keep from working? It is sinful to neglect one's work even if she stays home. Those in olden times baked bread, shopped daily,did everything by hand, etc. To just fritter one's time by watching soap operas on TV, gossiping on the phone, and stirring up strife, is sinful.
The woman who works outside the home, especially one who is married,must not abuse work by being one of those "silly women" ladened with various lusts (2 Tim. 3:4-6). Spending time in pleasure with men on coffee breaks and at meals is a dangerous practice.
1. Do I work outside the home because I am bored as a homemaker? Many women today place too much emphasis on career and fulfillment outside the home. Young women need to be taught that being a godly wife and mother is a lofty and admirable aspiration.
2. Do I work to satisfy my pride? Do I work just to prove I can make it in a "man's world?" The woman who chooses to marry is to submit herself to the Lord and her husband and her role of "helper" to him.
3. Do I work to satisfy my own or my husband's greed? Greed and covetousness are never proper motives for work (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
4. Do I work because the children "get to me?" Do your children make you nervous or "drive you up the wall" so that you cannot stand to be at home with them? Or do they make you feel that because of them you have been shackled at home? If either of these describes your feelings,is this not a sign of improper perspectives and priorities?
5. Does working outside the home constantly interfere with my responsibilities to God, Christ and the church? (Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1).
6. Does working outside the home interfere with my responsibilities as a godly wife and mother? Has it interfered with providing for the emotional and physical needs of your husband? Has it affected your attitude by making you independent and aggressively destroying your submissive spirit toward your husband? Has work outside the home taken you from your responsibilities to not only bear children but to raise, nuture and teach your children -- especially during their most formative years?
We must face the reality of the deterioration of family life in our society and realize that working women, at least in part, have contributed to that demise. Yet, as with all truth, extremes must be avoided. That it is always sinful for a woman to work outside the home is an erroneous view. That in regard to work a woman can do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, is likewise erroneous. Consider the two following questions:
1. Are your working motives and patterns a reflection of economic need or of covetousness? If material greed is your motive, then you have become earthly-minded and apathetic toward the spiritual needs of your family.
2. In your family, have your husband and children been pushed aside to a point where they no longer occupy the focus of your attention and desires of your heart? If so, you are neglecting those things for which you were especially created by God.