Saturday, May 26, 2007

Outsourcing your children: Deal or no deal?

"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:1-7)"
The present post was inspired by a lengthy comment from an "unidentified friendly oracle" - otherwise known as an UFO - called Mark in response to my previous post on "motherhood." Of course, Mark brought up numerous issues, including the famous couple Aquila and Priscilla from Acts 18:1-3. This couple had been quoted as an example to support the egalitarian view of female ecclesiastical role, and now, the role of the mother or wife within the Christian family. Although there was no biography of this couple given within Holy Writ, allegedly sufficient details were somehow conjured up to undermine clear biblical teachings found elsewhere within the Canon of Scripture. Therefore, as a gentle reminder, the general rule of thumb is to interpret the more obscure passages of Scripture with the clearer ones. The same principle applies when we seek to understand the millennium in Revelation 20, the role of the young woman or wife in Titus 2, and the family biography of Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18.

So, is it true that the Bible condones "outsourcing" one’s children to other carers, apart from the direct supervision and care of the mother? By the way, the term "outsource" came from the marketplace, and refers to the prudent delegation of menial and less profitable tasks to other workers, which will help save cost and relieve the "outsourcer" to pursue other more lucrative activities.

Mark argued,

"The bible speaks of children being placed under the care of tutors and governors by their fathers (Gal 4:1-2). Even if the care of children is being ‘outsourced’ for a period of time each day, the sin is not in the act itself, but in the influences to which the child is exposed."
In the Singaporean context, it is not uncommon - and in fact, it has become the norm - for mothers to delegate the care of their children to child-care centers, or even nannies. One of my patients confided in me that she pays her neighbor - who is a nanny - S$700 a month to care for her single child from 8am to 8pm daily while she works outside the home. She says, "I’m worth it!" I know what she meant by that. She earns three thousand a month, and to "sacrifice" S$700/month for a monthly salary of S$3000 is definitely "worth it," at least according to her value system. If she takes care of that little brat, she wouldn’t have the time to earn that salary. The majority of the non-Christian (and Christian) women I am acquainted with either send their children to child-care centers where they subsequently acquire hand-foot-mouth-disease and chickenpox, or to their parents-in-law - which is the cheaper option. The strange thing is that they often come to me later and ask me, "Where did my children get the virus from?"

My question to Mr. Mark the UFO is this: Does the Bible say anything with regard to this kind of "outsourcing?" Did Priscilla practice tent-making "full-time," and "outsourced" her children (if she had any) to her parents-in-law or to the local child-care center?

In order for us to understand Galatians 4:1-2, we must not look at the Singaporean culture, but at the Roman law and practice of Paul’s time. According to first century Hellenistic and Roman culture, there were customs to announce the transition of a boy from childhood to adulthood. There was a prescribed age whereby a child, particularly a boy, would officially become an adult and take on the responsibilities of adulthood. The Roman ceremony marking that change in status was called toga virilis, and the Jewish ceremony was (and still is) called bar mitzvah.

Mark’s contention was that the children were "outsourced" even during the first century church, and that this practice was presumably approved by the apostle Paul in Galatians 4:1-2. We now look at Galatians 4:2 in further detail, "alla hupo epitropous estin kai oikonomous." The greek word "epitropous," which means tutors or guardians (cf. Luke 8:3), is "a general term, covering all to whom supervision of the child is intrusted." (Vincent’s Word Study Vol. 4). "Oikonomous," on the other hand, refers to stewards, governors, or guardians "who had charge of the heir’s property." (Ibid.). The first term probably referred to the minor’s carer, and the second referred to the steward who looked after the estate of the dead father.

John MacArthur’s highly accessible commentary elucidates further concerning the child under Roman law:

"While a child, he was under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. Families would assign certain capable and trusted slaves to act as guardians (a general term for a person who cared for underage boys) and managers (house stewards) over the child until he was grown. Along with his tutor, those family slaves would have virtually full charge of the child’s education, training, and welfare. The child was subservient to them and could do nothing without their permission and go nowhere without their companionship. For all practical purposes, the child did not differ at all from a slave under whom he was being trained. Just as a slave had masters, so he had masters.(MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians)."
F. F. Bruce reaffirms the fact that this practice is characteristic of Roman law and culture:

"In Roman law the heir, until he came of age at fourteen, was under the control of a tutor, nominated by the father in his will; then, until he reached the age of twenty-five, he was under a curator, appointed by the praetor urbanus." (F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, 192. Also see E. D. Burton, Galatians, 212-215, for a detailed discussion.)
Bruce continues, "Paul’s expression in this kind of context is illustrated by P. Oxy. 491.8–10, in the will of one Eudaemon of Oxyrhynchus (AD 126), relating to two of his sons who were minors: ‘If I die before the said Horus and Eudaemon have completed twenty years, their brother Thonis and their maternal grandfather Harpaësis, also called Horus, son of Thonis, shall be guardian (ἐπίτροπος) of each of them until he completes twenty years.’"

In other words, such "outsourcing" of the child (using the lingo of our friend Mark) occurred in the situation when the head of the home is dead. And this is the case during Roman rule. In the context of the epistle to the Galatians where Paul was establishing his basic argument that salvation is not merited by works but by God’s sovereign grace, the apostle was comparing the position and privileges of the child in Roman culture to those of a servant (Galatians 4:1-7). The child, as opposed to the adult, was under Law and not free. The servant, likewise, is contrasted with the position of the son. In the New Covenant administration, we are adopted sons in Christ Jesus, and as we are no longer under the Law, we are not servants, but sons in Christ. "And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:7b)." Our position in Christ is therefore that of a son, not that of a servant; we have the privileges of an adult, and not that of a child.

Galatians 4:1-2 was not the prescribed instructions of the apostle Paul to Christian homes, and should not be used to justify "outsourcing" the mother’s basic responsibilities of childcare to other carers or institutions. Instead of providing family counseling, Paul was using the Roman practice of toga virilis to exemplify our position in Christ as born-again believers. We are not under law, but grace. Similarly, as salt and light of the world, we should not be under the yoke of ungodly, worldly values of reversed gender roles, consumerism and materialism. We must follow what Paul emphasized as sound doctrine, "Speak thou the things which become sound doctrine (Titus 2:1)." And what followed were instructions to the aged man, the aged woman, the young woman, and the young man (Titus 2:2-8), "that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:5b)." These words of Paul are "sound doctrine (Titus 2:1ff.)," not the notions of the world.

Whenever Christians fail in living out the Word of God, and wherever the will of the devil is accomplished in any way, God’s glory is darkened and His Word dishonored. We are to live our lives such that the unsaved are attracted to Christ. Husband and wives are to fulfill their respective roles according to biblical injunctions, so that the Word of Christ is lived in and through us.

So, should mothers "outsource" the care of their children to others? Generally, "No." I know of exceptions where the father is dead or incapacitated, or when the mother is caring for the child alone (i.e. when the father is in prison or persecuted), and there seems to be no other option but for the mother to work. In such cases, the ideal solution is for the diaconate to care for the fatherless family. This also seems to be the first century church’s solution (Acts 4:32).

I am not saying that the mother cannot work outside the home. What I am saying is that the mother has to care, supervise, and to be responsible for her children in an unreserved and direct manner. A woman, who works in a full-time capacity within the marketplace and yet claims to be a homemaker, is plainly self-deluded and unwise. In other words, a woman who spends most of her time in the marketplace cannot claim that her priorities are her home, husband, and children.

Note: The issue of home schooling will be dealt with in later posts.
An Update

I think the following words from Pastor Messerli are well … er … worded.

I do NOT think it's good to outsource your children to someone else to raise them.

Would Picasso "outsource" his brush to another painter to work on one of his masterpieces? Would Bach "outsource" some of his composing to a hired musician? I don't think so!

Each masterpiece- a painting, a musical composition or a child is a work of art intended to be finished by the one who birthed the vision, the sound, the child.If someone else raises your child you will get someone else’s values and beliefs engrained into a work of art you are responsible for finishing.


Anonymous said...


Perhaps you need to slow down a bit... You posted your reply to my comment sometime this morning (or late last night), that's not a whole lot of time for me to reply.

You seem a little, well more than a little, skeptical about my identity. I really have no idea where this is coming from. You said in your other comment you recognized my writing style. I have commented maybe four or five times on Daniel Chew(sp?)'s blog... which is the place from which I found your blog. Apart from that, I am pretty sure we have never met, either in person or online. Mark is my real name, if you care to believe me. I don't have a blog or website, so that's all I can offer.

I will try to reply to your other comment tonight, if UFOs are welcome here. :)

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Mark,

I’m afraid not all UFOs are welcomed here. But you are an exception. I usually do not like comments from non-traceable sources (i.e. sources without reasonable accountability e.g. emails, blogs etc). The truth is, I really appreciate your comment, which honestly should be a blog post all by itself. It is well written, except for the typos J.

One reason why I encourage folks to include their email address (or their blog address) is this: there is always an opportunity to interact on a private basis in the event that some discussions reveal more heat than light (as my friend Jenson likes to put it).

By the way, I wrote a hasty reply just before I left home for work this morning. So, there are typos too.

Oh yes, I’m sorry if I sounded skeptical. I had debated this issue with MANY reformed folks in reformed churches in “reformed” Singapore. But I believe I guessed correctly you are Singaporean?

Chastise me if I’m wrong.

Yours truly,
Vincent Chia

Anonymous said...


Yes, I am indeed a Singaporean, though not in Singapore at the moment. If you want to email me you can mail at

I am afraid that in the end I will have to admit to taking a more ‘liberal’ stance than the one you do. However, I think you already knew that from reading my comment. : )

However, let me make some quick comments to clears some things up.

I do believe that a woman with young children (or even one young child) ought to be at home full time for the most part. I believe I said my position was that the ability of a woman to work depended on if she could fulfill the duties at home. So yes I do think that generally the presence of a young child at home will require her full commitment and leave not much (if any) time for any significant outside pursuits.

Most of my post I must admit, when I asked the question ‘Can a woman work?’ I was writing from the perspective of either an unmarried or childless woman. Reading your posts again, I realize that was not the primary focus of your writings, but being an unmarried person myself, I guess I naturally tend to think from my point of view.

Regarding Aquila and Priscilla, I think you read a little more into what I wrote than I intended. My purpose is bringing them up was to answer the question: ‘May a woman have a vocation other than that of homemaker?’ I believe the answer is yes, and my point of bringing up this passage was simply to point out that here was a godly Christian woman and what was her occupation? She was a tentmaker. You are right in saying we know almost nothing of their specific situation. Maybe they had no children. Maybe their children were all grown and married. Or maybe… well, like you say, we don’t know.

Outsourcing… Fair enough, bad choice of words on my part, particularly in reference to childcare.

About Gal 4:1-2; I certainly wasn’t implying Paul was giving parental advice. My point was simply to say here was a cultural practice of how a father treated his children that Paul compares to the way God treats his church. The implication being, that there was no sin in that cultural practice, or Paul would not compare God’s working to it.

I am not student of ancient Roman culture, so I can’t interact with the sources you gave. At the moment I see no error in taking those verses for the general proposition that fathers would give tutors and governors, trusted servants care and responsibility over their children. I am not sure if you meant to say that the application of that verse was completely to do with children whose parents were dead. In any case, as I said, I am unable to interact with that line of thought now.

Well, its getting late over here (Australia). That’s all for now.

Anonymous said...

It is about "Priorities". If a woman can look after her children and home, and yet still find time and energy to work, fantastic! She is a Proverbs 31 woman!

My point of contention would be this - more often than not, the reason why a woman works is to maintain a family lifestyle that is unbecoming of the Christian faith (nice holidays, new car/home every 3-4 years, latest plasma TV/computer, etc...).

"Hired help" over here in UK cost about £700 - £1500 per month and both parents will need to work in order to afford these services. [As a guide, I am a scientist at a University, I earn ~£2000 per month]

I believe it is a lot cheaper in Singapore, so Mummy need not work, but can use the "hired help" to cook and wash - not to bring up the children. At least, if I were to be in Singapore, that is how I would do it. Hey, I might even encourage my wife Esther to work from home as an English tuition teacher, to earn some pocket money!

vincit omnia veritas said...

Hey, Mark,

You made some good points. To put things in perspective, we actually agree on most parts. But as stated by you, there are still finer points of disagreement. I think as the years go by, and life heaps upon ourselves the trials and tribulations so necessary for Christian growth, each of us will gradually mould our thoughts closer to the Scripture. I leave the final jurisdiction to our Savior, and I welcome you to contribute to these discussions on my blog in the near future. Have a blessed time in Australia!

Yours truly,
Vincent Chia

Mike Messerli said...


I agree with your comments. I do NOT think it's good to outsource your children to someone else to raise them.

Would Picasso "outsource" his brush to another painter to work on one of his masterpieces?

Would Bach "outsource" some of his composing to a hired musician?

I don't think so! Each masterpiece- a painting, a musical composition or a child is a work of art intended to be finished by the one who birthed the vision, the sound, the child.

If someone else raises your child you will get someone elses values and beliefs engrained into a work of art you are responsible for finishing.....

Just my thoughts. Thanks for all the great posts lately.

Spiritual Israel said...

Dear Vincent,
Enjoyed reading your blog and the last few entries are no exception. Also enjoy the the very in interesting exchanges.

Daniel C said...

Wow.... I've been away for only a few days and lots of activity... Haha.

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I certainly hope I would be willing to change any held position that is later revealed to be contrary to God's word.

I would actually be pretty interested to hear your views on homeschooling. I've read a little on it, but it would be interesting to see a Singaporean perspective.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent,

Watch it with the homeschooling issue, it is a hot potato here in Europe!

I spent far too much time studying the issues (incl. buying books from America, emailing 2 seminary professors, sitting in my pastor's office for 3 hours, etc) when my first child was born.

That was 2 years ago, and I am not any wiser!

As the heathen would say - "Good luck"

Anonymous said...

I think you can start by telling us (esp. me!) if homeschooling is banned in Singapore.

I'm sure it is frowned upon by society, but I am wondering if the government would actually ban this practice?

vincit omnia veritas said...

Hi Jenson,

Your “watch it!” is well justified. This issue was the “baby” of the independent fundamental Baptist in Singapore, and a few Baptist pastors had discussed this with me back in 1999-2001. The truth is, we can only work with principles from Scripture on this issue, and much wisdom is needed.

Singapore does not ban home schooling. In fact, I know of several families - including my brother-in-law – who were home schooled! But this is unusual in Reformed circles. I wonder why. One has to apply to the Ministry of Education for approval.

Anonymous said...

You may know this, but Germany, I believe, has banned homeschooling. Part of a socialist agenda, but also the "anti-God" environment that is so prevalent in the West has led to this.

Singapore is OK with homeschooling? That is news, but for how long? As someone said to me once about Singapore - we are just 2 steps behind the West in "immorality".

Anonymous said...

hi vincent,
just chanced upon your blog while trying to find a link between reformed theology & betrand russsell and this outsourcing struck a chord in my heart. but first let me confess that I am not a good mom, cos it's dinner time and I am reading your blog when I should be having dinner with my two children (they have been outsourced to my parents tonight :P )
cos i am a struggling phd student with two young toddlers and a non christian husband who brings in the bacon and we go to a church that's trying to be charismatic which is quite frustrating.
personally, for a mom to be totally committed at home with the children, she first needs her husband's support, so practically, i would say both the couple would really need to pray very hard for them to be able to live on one income only.
secondly, she needs to be mentally prepared to be totally committed, it's no point staying at home, drinking coffee and reading novels and delegating jobs to the maid. if she's not prepared to 'slog' it out, it's no point staying at homw too.
thirdly, staying at home takes great faith, because with the burden of taking care of two sets of parents, it alright in good times, but when any grandparents falls seriously ill, the crunch comes.
lastly, it great to read your comments but if you meet a mom who's really keen to stay at home but the husband does not agree for whatever reason, don't be too harsh :)
btw, any recommendation for quality websites that may shine some christian perspective on Bertrand? am first timer on bertrand and am quite upset with his work, yet don't really know how to voice it out :(