There is no higher calling for a woman with children than that of motherhood. But such a high calling requires dedication; it calls for “blood, sweat and tears.” All moms are called by God to work, and to work hard.
In this article I want to emphasise the need for mothers to prioritise the calling of motherhood. Now, rather than allowing this thesis to die the death of a thousand qualifications, I will not take the time here to address legitimate questions such as, “Is it necessarily wrong for a woman to work outside of the home?” and, “Is it categorically wrong for a woman to pursue a career?” In a subsequent article I will address those questions. But for now my focus is narrower. Please don’t let the noise of exceptions hinder you from hearing what I trust will prove helpful.
Women have always made up a significant portion of the labour force, but this has been especially the case over the past forty years. What has changed has been the motive. In the past, mothers were in the workplace as a matter of financial necessity (usually to avoid abject poverty). But today, many are working outside of the home due to matters of “significance,” as well as out of materialistic concerns.
Women have increasingly been bombarded with the lie that being a wife and a mother is a cop-out and that you cannot “be all that you can be” unless you are pursuing a “career.” Women are told by a secular media and an elitist educational system that true significance can never be found within the home but only in the workplace. And so, when a woman is asked, “Do you work?” the implication is, are you significant? Or more to the point, are you more than a mom?
My wife holds to a wonderful confidence that her biblical role is, well, biblical! She has little problem accepting that God knows what is best for her and for her family. This has given her a “holy boldness.” And so when asked, “Do you work?” Jill has always responded, “Yes, I work very hard, thank you very much.” Years ago, when filing some tax forms for the US, we both had to sign on the dotted line and state our occupation. Not being shy, she wrote, “Homemaker: Shaper of the Future!” Since I did not want the potential hassle of an audit by an outraged feminist government official, I asked her to please erase the exuberant explanation! Yet her point was valid. That is precisely the role of a homemaker: For good or for bad she is shaping the future. And the apostle Paul made this very point nearly two thousand years ago; a point and a position that must be recaptured by the church.
In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 Paul, having instructed the men in the congregation concerning their disposition as they gather for corporate worship, does the same regarding the women. It appears that the spirit of Gloria Steinem had influenced many women (and men), resulting in unbiblical role reversals. Amongst other issues, women were being tempted to exercise authority over men when the church assembled. In response, Paul very succinctly makes the point that a woman does not find her significance in leading the flock of her local church, but rather she finds her significance in fulfilling her role in shaping the flock of her home. Verse 15 makes this clear when Paul writes, “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control.”
The word “saved” speaks of discovering one’s purpose or significance. It is used this way in Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Clearly Jesus was making the point that to “save” one’s life was an attempt to “find one’s life”; to being “fulfilled.” But for this to occur, one must approach life God’s way, the way of the cross. The cross was a symbol of death in ancient days; it was a means of capital punishment, particularly under the Romans. So Jesus was making the point that if one will be fulfilled, if one will experience the significance that God intends, then one must embrace the symbol of death; one must die to self. In applying this concept of “save” to motherhood, we can conclude that the way of the cross, not the way of the career, is the key to fulfilment.
While understanding that Paul is addressing a local church, it remains a universal principle that a woman who has children will find her significance as a godly mother. Mothers therefore should be committed to the hard work required of such a high calling.
The verse says that this, however, will only be the case “if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” Who is the “they”? It could be referring to the mothers. In other words, if the mother is characterised by such godliness then she will indeed experience “success” as a mother. No doubt that is true. But also consider that the “they” may also refer to the children. That is, if the children become characterised by such qualities then the mother’s life has been “saved.” She enjoys the fruit of her labours. There is no honour greater than when a mother’s children love and serve her God.
Having considered the two interpretive options, I am inclined to say that the ambiguity is purposeful. In other words, a mother who pursues such a godly character will produce children with the same godly character. Both win because both are saved.
If you consider each of these qualities—“faith,” “love,” “holiness” and “self-control”— you will realise that hard work is required. Such fruits of sanctification do not grow easily in the soil of sinners; either in mothers or in their children. That is why mothering is a fulltime occupation. Raising a godly seed requires hard work. Of course, there are the laborious necessities of washing, cleaning, cooking, and all else that accompanies managing a household. But added to this is the hard work of shaping the character of children by shepherding their hearts, including disciplining other parts of their anatomy! But all of this to say that being such a mom is a fulltime occupation—and an eternally rewarding one.
Of course, in addressing this issue, many questions arise, as mentioned earlier, including, “Can a mom work hard both in a job as well as in the home?” But at this point I trust that Christians can agree that there is no argument that Scripture calls for a wife and mother to be “homemakers” (Titus 2:5). And this means far more than merely being at home. Rather as the ESV translates, she is to be “working at home.” In the light of what she is called of God to produce—godly children—there can be no legitimate debate that women with children indeed need to be moms who work.