Biblical Womanhood: Part Five
Keepers at Home
By Jan Kopfstein
Previously, we have seen from Titus 2 what it means to love our husbands, love our children, and be discrete or self-controlled, chaste or modest. Tonight, we are going to look at what it means to be “keepers at home.”
Most new translations say, “workers at home.” The New King James Version says “homemakers.” But I suggest that the KJV phrase “keepers at home” has much more meaning than just “workers” in the home. To “keep” something implies to keep it safe, to keep it running smoothly, to guard, to protect. It can also mean to keep a loving atmosphere of peace and calm.
My goal tonight is not to give you a “how to do it” list. There are plenty of books in the Christian book store for that purpose. I want to lay down some basic principles from God’s Word to guide us as “keepers” of our homes.
This is perhaps the most important subject that we will study in this series. The home is under attack as never before. If Christian homes are torn apart all aspects of life are affected, as well as the next generation. The world says, “Do what you need to do in order to be fulfilled—staying at home to keep and manage your household will never give you fulfillment.” Work and you can “have it all!” The world cries out that you are foolish to think that being your husband’s helper—his ezer—can fulfill your life. Ladies, that philosophy of the world is totally unbiblical.
“I’m just a mother.” Have you ever felt this way? According to the UK Telegraph, the work that a mother does would earn her $35,000 a year, if she were paid according to her weekly tasks. This article by Paul Baldwin reports that full-time working mothers spend 56 hours per week on housework, while full-time housewives spend 76 hours. Mothers of children under the age of three spend the most of all: up to 84 hours per week! Multiplying these figures by the going rate for cleaning and child care gives the figure mentioned above. (UK Telegraph, March 10, 2000)
We all know that old saying, “A man works from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done.”
Tonight I want to challenge you with this thought: Being a keeper of my home is a great honor and privilege and brings glory to my God. No amount of money can repay me for this privilege.
Please turn to Titus 2:4-5: That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Now turn to Proverbs 31:10-31. [text read]
Turning to Proverbs 14:1 we read, Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. This is an extremely powerful verse. It places great responsibility on us ladies. The building of our house is up to us. The virtue of home building is tied to wisdom and the wise woman, and it involves the building of loving and caring relationships within the home.
Scripture is clear that the principal place of work for wives and mothers is at home. In I Timothy Paul instructed the younger widows to marry, bear children, and manage their households. In Proverbs 31 the virtuous woman’s sphere of work was her home. Men are responsible to be the providers for the home but women are to be the caretakers of the home.
The Bible never says that women can’t work outside the home. Priscilla assisted her husband in tent-making. Lydia was a businesswoman, a seller of purple. The Proverbs 31 woman pursued endeavors outside the home: she worked among the poor, traveled, bought real estate, planted vineyards, and participated in trading—but her primary goal was to serve her home and family.
God orders our lives in seasons. Obviously, a woman whose children are grown has more discretionary time for efforts beyond her home than a woman with younger children has. But, whenever we contemplate opportunities outside of the home we have to consider, “What consequences might this have on my family?” We also need to ask, “Will what I am pursuing glorify God?” Will it help or hinder my husband? My responsibilities at home? My church life? How does my husband really feel about it? Isobel Kuhn said, “Never let the good be the enemy of the best.”
We must also acknowledge that there are circumstances where women have no choice but to work outside the home. Death, injury, or desertion of the breadwinner are some obvious situations that come to mind.
Let’s look now at what it means to be keepers at home. Martin Luther said, “In domestic affairs I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led of the Holy Ghost.” A very wise man.
The command in Titus 2 to be “keepers at home” is further illustrated by I Tim 5:14 where Paul says that the young widows should “guide” or “manage” the household. In the Greek this word—manage—has a strong connotation: it literally means to be the “ruler, despot, or master” of the home. So we see that “keepers at home” means we are to function as a home manager: taking full ownership of all the domestic duties of the household.
Once again the woman of Proverbs 31 is our example. She presided over the entire range of responsibilities in her home. She helped her husband; cared for her children; completed chores; supervised servants; oversaw land; invested money; bought and sold. What a broad scope of activities is involved in managing a household!
Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards, was one such woman. “One day Dr. Edwards emerged from his study and asked his wife Sarah, ‘Isn’t it about time for the hay to be cut?’ To which Sarah responded: ‘It’s been in the barn for two weeks.’” Sarah created a world where her husband could fulfill his God-given duties without being concerned for the domestic tasks of the home.
In the book, Martin Luther Had a Wife, it records, “Katie was many things for Luther—a gardener, nurse, cattle-raiser, book-keeper, and brewer.” Luther wrote of his marriage that “probably the greatest blessing is to have a wife to whom you may entrust your affairs.”
Now ladies, with this command to “keep the home”—that is, to rule in our homes—we have to consider a caution:
First, this is not a license to usurp our husband’s authority. Our management of the home must be carried out in complete support of his leadership and direction.
Second, this calling from God is not intended to be a burden but rather a source of great fulfillment and joy. We aren’t going to find our “fulfillment” out there.
Even if we feel we fall far short of the Proverbs 31 woman or Sarah Edwards, we have to remember that God has equipped each of us with skills needed to manage our homes. Also remember, we get better with practice! Finally, it is God who gives the wisdom and energy and ability we need to glorify Him as “keepers of our homes.”
We have seen our position as managers in our homes. Now we want to see our job description, and it is very simple: we are to be our husband’s helper—his ezer—this is the plan of Scripture and why we were created. The man needs the “help” of the woman and the woman needs to “help.”
When we understand that our main objective as “home managers” is to be oriented to our husbands, this clarifies our responsibilities. We can easily determine what we should do and how we should do it by asking ourselves: “What would be most helpful to my husband?” Orienting our lives to our husbands not only helps them but usually helps us as well. It keeps our schedules manageable—especially when we are pulled in all directions trying to please everyone. We need to stop and please him.
Putting our husbands’ preferences first will also put a stop to sinful comparisons. For example, you shouldn’t experience guilt when your friend saves $20.00 on groceries by clipping coupons when your husband would rather that you spend time on other tasks than saving the money. Or maybe he just wants you to spend more time with him. Don’t feel condemned when you see your neighbor’s beautiful flower garden if your husband appreciates home-baked goods more than a bouquet of flowers.
Now I know that there is much we can learn from the talents and abilities of other women, but our goal is to help our husbands, not measure up to our friends or family. So ladies—now here’s a novel idea!—why not ask our husbands what they want! How can I best help you? We can’t manage our homes to their liking if we don’t ask them what they would like!
Let’s look at our attitude as managers. This has a definite effect on the atmosphere of the home. “If Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy”—there’s a lot of truth in that saying. We set the tone for our homes: how we love our husbands, and how we love our children with that phileo love will set the atmosphere of our homes. Ladies, we keep the home peaceful and full of love.
We need to seek to create an environment where our husbands, our children, and others desire to be. We need to set about our work with joy. The Proverbs 31 woman “works with her hands willingly” (vs 13)—willingly in the Hebrew means with “delight.” In verse 25 she “rejoices” or “laughs” at the time to come. Do laughter and joy fill our homes? Does delight characterize the manner in which we clean the bathroom or prepare a meal? Let’s think about creating a home for God.
Homemaking is a vocation filled with mundane tasks and repetitive chores done in obscurity. Sometimes we can lose sight of the significance of our calling. What we need is a biblical perspective.
In God’s economy, homemaking is a high and noble calling. Remember the ultimate mission in emulating the Titus 2 lifestyle is that by being “keepers at home” the Word of God is not blasphemed, and that we may “adorn” the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
When onlookers see us thriving in our role as homemakers and when they see the quality of family life that our efforts produce, we have an open door for the gospel. Our homes can be places of momentous ministry. History records that “visitors frequently came to the house of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards and stayed the night. Usually they were more affected by the character of the home than by anything Jonathan Edwards may have said to them in conversation.” (Martin Luther Had a Wife by Petersen)
One person observed about Dr. Francis Schaffer’s wife Edith: “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaffer’s sermons.” (The Way Home by Mary Pride) These women had a home for God.
Here’s an extraordinary thought: we can create a home where it is impossible to keep from thinking of God. Our home doesn’t need to resemble a page from “House Beautiful.” Regardless of its size or style or our financial status, our homes can exude warmth and provide a restful, peaceful place for all who enter—our husbands first—as they come home from being in the world all day.
My mind floods with memories of the different places I have lived and my goal of making my home a refuge. We lived in furnished rentals during our first three years in Scotland. Then we were able to buy our first house. We had no furnishings or furniture. I went to Woolworth’s and bought picture frames and went to a card shop and bought pretty cards and made pictures for my walls for very little money.
I remember every Thursday I had hot tea and biscuits (cookies) ready when Gary and the kids came through the door at 4:20; “Little House on the Prairie” came on at 4:30 and we all sat by a roaring fire in the fireplace and watched it together. No DVR in those days. If you have a young family, start your own traditions and make special family memories.
Being a “homemaker” or “keeper of my home” is the best and most important job in the world. It is also the most satisfying, because it is ordained by God.
I want to tell you about a woman named Susan (not her real name). From the time Susan was a very young girl, she wanted to be a career woman, and she settled on becoming a high-powered lawyer. Yes, a husband might fit into the picture but career was to be first. She attended Cedarville University at her father’s insistence after high school; she did have a profession as a Christian. During her summer break she obtained an internship in D.C. working for a Congressman, and there she met Andy. They fell in love and were married as soon as she graduated; they settled in D.C. Although happily married, Susan retained her goal and she attended a prestigious law school in the area. During her last year of school, her first child is born, but being the brilliant girl that she is, she graduates with a baby and passes the bar six months later. She now has her Juris Doctorate. Meanwhile their church—Capitol Hill Baptist Church—has called a new pastor: Mark Devers. Clear biblical teaching is having its effect. Over the next few years, two more children arrive and Susan is content with her role as wife and mother. God has worked this contentment of being a keeper at home in her heart.
Andy, meanwhile, becomes an advisor to President George W. Bush. Now Susan is invited to the White House regularly to ladies’ luncheons. As she sits among the most powerful women in America, they turn to her and ask, “What do you do?” She replies with joy and contentment, “I’m a stay-at-home Mom.” And proceeds to share the gospel. Susan is my niece, and Gary and I visited with her and her husband two summers ago. One day I found myself in a particular room in her house looking at a wall filled with framed diplomas and certificates. Guess which room I was in? The laundry room! That is what God has qualified her to do at this point in her life: “keeping the home.” I have no doubt that someday Susan will use her law degree for righteous causes, but for now, she is raising her family, keeping the home for Andy, and ministering to others in her church. She is totally fulfilled.
“You can give up the need for completion in the world when you accept being complete in Christ.”—Ann Voskamp.
“Let the wife make her husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”—Martin Luther.