Sunday, February 10, 2008
The Mark of the Proverbs 31 Woman - An Informal Reply to Mark
(PS: This is a reply to Mark's comments on my previous post.)
I believe I had addressed your concerns in the following posts of mine here and here.
Believe me, this issue of the Christian homemaker is not a pet topic of mine; it is just that the problem is most rampant in “developed” countries, particularly in Christian homes!
Now concerning your comment:
(PS: I will put your words in quotation marks and italics. My thoughts begin with an arrow “>”.)
>Hi Mark ...
“I wonder if you remember me, I commented before on your blog a while back, on this very topic.”
>I guess I do remember you ... I’m sorry if I called you an UFO (or jokingly, an "unidentified friendly oracle"). It was not meant to be a disparaging remark. It’s just that, I tend not to publish anonymous posts or posts without a link back to a blog/homepage. Do you realize that almost anyone can pose as “Mark” and get a potshot at my post (it will not be fair for the real “Mark,” whoever he is)? That is why I would like commentators to provide a link or URL to his/her blog/website. Or at the very least furnish me with an email address.
“I hope I might, again, be allowed to make some comments, specifically with regard to the part of your response to Jenson regarding lower income families.”
>You’re welcomed. By the way, my friend Jenson did not mention anything concerning “lower income families.” Regarding my response? Yes, yes, yes ...
“I have not read the specific book Passionate Housewives, although I have read some articles and such by the co-authors and others associated with them ministry wise. From some of what I have read of them though, I believe they miss the bible balance, especially with regards to lower income families like the ones you mentioned (as always, I am open to correction).”
>Who are these writers you were referring to? Missing the “Bible balance,” “especially with regards to lower income families?” Please show me where in the Bible was this “balance” mentioned i.e. homemaking and lower income families. Thanks.
“Sticking for the moment to the context of lower income families, I think many times unnecessary burdens are placed upon both men and women by well meaning Christians.”
>What sort of unnecessary burdens are placed upon both men and women by well meaning Christians, pray tell? Or does the problem lie in those who are unable to submit themselves to clear biblical mandate? Remember, obedience is better than sacrifice.
“If a family truly has trouble in making ends meet, it is entirely virtuous and right for the wife/mother to work.”
>I do realize that there are exceptional circumstances e.g. father is dead, paralyzed, terminally ill, abandoned mothers, widows (by the way, what does the Bible say concerning diaconal duties and widows?) etc. The focus nevertheless is this: we are discussing about the biblical norm. These exceptions cannot become the norm for the average Christian home.
I am never against mothers working; in fact, mothers got to work ... at home. I believe, however, that the Bible is against mothers having careers outside their main domain of work - the home.
I had written in my previous post, “The emphasis of Paul [in Titus 2:4-5] seems to be the vocation of the mother. To be a homemaker, the mother’s vocation ought to be that of homemaking. This tautology is paradoxically necessary, as there are certain Christian women who argue that having a full time job outside of home does not disqualify one as a homemaker. These ladies contend that, since their greatest priority and desire is for their home, and that they have tried their best to ensure that the home is in order, they are essentially still homemakers. This is despite the fact that they are full-time executives, managers, doctors, nurses or other kinds of professionals. To turn this argument around, is it not logical to say that, since their vocation is that of a full-time manager, doctor or nurse, they are not homemakers, but vocational managers, doctors or nurses who are incidentally part-time homemakers? Just as the Bible does not give the specific job specification of a vocational homemaker, Paul did not feel it necessary to restrict the amount of time spent in the home by the homemaker. This is because, as a matter of clear logic, a vocational homemaker has for her vocation homemaking, and not full-time nursing or doctoring.”
“Proverbs 31:16 and 24 tell us that financial contribution to a family is part of the role of a virtuous wife.”
>Yes and no. Let us impart more nuance to your statement above.
Look at the verses you brought up ...
16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.
All of the aforementioned examples i.e. the purchase of a field, the planting of a vineyard (you mean she did that all by herself? I believe not!), and the making and selling of garments are not in any way similar to what today’s women do for their careers in contemporary culture or marketplaces. There is no mention of a Proverbs 31 woman working 9 to 5 daily outside her home (or more specifically - her domain of work at home, and she is not necessarily confined to her house/HDB flat), leaving the care of her children to her mother-in-law or the maid, or even delegating household chores like simple cooking to the hawkers or her domestic helper.
The Proverbs 31 woman’s domain of work is within her “home,” although she is never confined to her “house”; therein lies the distinction. She is not limited to being a “domestic helper” at home. She is wise in being a good steward for her husband’s home. The father is the one who brings home the bread and butter; her chief priority is to take care of the home, including her children’s and husband’s daily needs such as food and clothing: she is a vocational homemaker.
In John F. MacArthur’s excellent essay, he has this to say concerning the Proverbs 31 woman and Proverbs 31: 16,24, “In God's order this woman is devoted to the home. She is the ruler of the house. She manages the household, and her devotion is remarkable, really remarkable. Verse 13 tells us that she's involved in making thread out of wool and flax or linen. And I think it is interesting to note the transition between verse 12 and 13. Verse 12 is a pretty spiritual verse; she's being her husband's conscience, she's doing him good and never evil. All the days of her life she's devoted to him being everything he can be. She seeks his spiritual benefit, spiritual welfare. She wants to comfort, and encourage, and strengthen him. ...
“She's entrepreneurial too. Look at verse 16, "She considers a field and buys it." Notice this, she knows the field is for sale and she thinks it through. She assess the price and the value of the field and the benefit that it could bring to her family, and she decides that it's an appropriate thing to do--notice the independence of this. She considers it, she thinks it through, and she makes the purchase. You say, well where does she get this money? Did she just take it out of her husband's account? No, this is a very enterprising lady. It tells you that she purchases the field in verse 16, from her earnings, and then she has enough to plant a vineyard in it. She decides that this would be a great field to plant grapes and that that would benefit the household well, and so she takes her earnings. ...
“Well, where did she get this little bit of money? Well, she had a little enterprise going. Go down to verse 24, this is an entrepreneurial lady, and what she is doing, according to verse 24, is making linen garments and selling them, and supplying belts or sashes to the tradesmen. So she's got a little cottage industry going. I like this. People say, "Well, shouldn't a women be creative, and what about their talents, and shouldn't they work? Yes, and she has found the right place. The Word of God pictures her right in the home, being enterprising enough to be making these garments--certainly, probably assisted by the maidens that come alongside of her, selling them to the tradesmen who take them and then export them all over the world. So, she's got her own little export business going. She's working with tradesmen, and from the money that she garnered out of that enterprise, she started to save it, and save it, and save it--never indulging it on herself, but always with a view to securing it, so that in the future she could do something that would benefit everybody. She finally comes to the conclusion: she has enough. The field is for sale that's the best investment; she buys the field, she plants the vineyard, and everybody benefits. She makes wise investments. ...
“It is wonderful when a woman is enterprising and if she has the time and the inclination and the talents and abilities to do things in the home that can benefit the family--that is a marvelous thing. Now, the sad thing is when a woman decides that she is going to go have a career at the expense of the family, at the expense of the children, at the expense of the husband and the home.”
Titus 2 is even clearer, “4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”
“I do not believe women who are supporting their families in this way should be automatically criticized for neglecting their families, even if their family picture does not conform to the conservative ideal.”
>What is the conservative ideal? What is your exegesis of Titus 2:4-5? Do you believe that the Bible condones a full-time working mother?
“Likewise if we interpret the bible by comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor 2:13), Proverbs 31 and other verses help us understand what it means for a man to provide for his family, and we understand that he is not failing in this respect if he needs, or chooses to have his wife help him, which is her primary duty in the first place (Gen 2:18).”
>Mark, you seriously need to differentiate between different gender roles and responsibilities. “The wife being a helpmate to her husband” does not equate to “the wife having SIMILAR responsibilities as the husband.”
“It is terrible that today covetousness and pride often results in the family suffering, even within the church. But we should not overreact and go to the other extreme on this topic of the role of women.”
>You don’t sound like the “Mark” I once knew ... anyway, the “covetousness and pride” that often result in “family sufferings” are the “covetousness and pride” that drive men and women, fathers and mothers toward self-centered, materialistic goals of living the “American,” or if I may say, “Singaporean” dream.
The godly man and woman would follow the word of God, observe and fulfill his/her roles as the father/mother, and do that which glorifies God and His Will.