Moral Quandaries in the Workplace: Female Roles
“I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim 5:14)
“Aged women … teach the young women … to be … keepers at home” (Titus 2:3-5)
This week we will consider a female’s role in relation to the workplace; having quoted Paul above, we can already see that the word of God cuts across our progressive and enlightened age.
Just as Adam was placed in the sphere of the field (Gen 3:17-19), Eve was to serve God in a different context (Gen 3:16). The fact that the judgement pronounced on Eve was to do with bearing children, is significant. Paul later interprets for us that “she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (1 Tim 2:15). The idea of childbearing implies ‘maternity (the performance of maternal duties)’. Mr Vine concurs with Mr Strong saying that 1 Tim 2:15 is ‘implying the duties of motherhood’. Unsurprisingly, maternal duties take place in the sphere of the home, not the field where Adam and men since are expected to work. Paul is helping us understand that Genesis 3 is explaining the main roles of man and woman in the spheres of employment. Man belongs to the workplace, woman to the home.
We could all quote exception clauses ad nauseam, but let’s not sacrifice the normal on the altar of the abnormal. Normative roles are by definition not watertight, but we should deal with the exceptions as and when they arise. Most of us fit within the Bible stereotype; we should not look for loopholes that exclude us from the general rule.
To “guide the house” is literally to rule the household. The apostle under inspiration of the Holy Spirit expected the younger women to be managers; not of corporations, banks or businesses, but rulers in the home. God is not interested in the world system that is building industries, careers and enterprises for the glory of mankind, but he is intensely interested in the Christian home.
The woman was not only to rule the household (husband excluded) but to be a keeper at home, the idea is to be “diligent in home work” (DBY). In saying this Paul is resting his argument on a long line of godly women throughout Bible history who followed this ideal. Feminist ideology has not only effeminised men, but it has also masculinised women. When applied to the workplace this feminist ideology in essence tells women to become men; to compete, to sweat, labour and toil, all at the expense of the home. This is not the message of the Bible; this demeans women and robs them of their unique beauty and glory.
The Bible does not bar women from the workplace; Lydia was a seller of purple (Ac 16:14), Priscilla was involved in the tent making trade (Ac 18:3) and Hebrew women worked as midwives in Egypt (Ex 1:15). But the metanarrative of the Bible’s godly women, is that the domestic sphere was their main workplace. The pattern we observe is intricately designed, beautiful to behold and blessedly sweet when followed. The Lord’s ways are always such.
Deborah & Jael
The influence of these godly women had an inestimable impact on the course of the nation when the Canaanites were oppressing Israel (Jdg 4:2). Other judges waged wars, and fought with the sword. This was all fitting work for male judges in their spheres of employment. However, we read that Deborah was a mother in Israel (Jdg 5:7), and spiritually she nurtured, cared for and fed the people. Hers was a domestic sphere, under a palm tree (Jdg 4:5) and not in the heat of the battle. With maternal love she instructed Barak her spiritual child, and prophesied that the Lord would deliver the enemy into the hand of Jael (Jdg 4:9). The domestic sphere of Deborah as she guided the children of Israel, had a national impact and saved the people of God. Jael likewise in her humble home, drove a peg through the head of the enemy (Jdg 4:22) and defended her house (the house of Israel), from a deadly enemy. Mothers and sisters in the home today can have the same far-reaching influence, if they are willing to mother the brood God has given them, and defend the home from the enemy’s onslaught.
To be “diligent in home work” (DBY), does not mean that a woman is chained to the kitchen worktop all day. The Bible has no time or interest in demeaning caricatures. The Proverbs 31 woman shatters such strawmen, as we see her astounding energy, diligence and care. A cursory reading of this chapter might make us think that she was in full-time employment, but this could not be further from the truth. Though she was found outside the home, her work was never at the expense of the home. She did not sacrifice her children, or domestic duties on the altar of career advancement. As a mother hen we read; “she watches over the ways of her household” (v27, NKJV). She could scarcely watch over her house, if she was at the 9 ‘til 5 workplace all day. We read that she “provides food for her household” (v15, NKJV) and “all her household are clothed with scarlet” (v21). Her children rose up and called her blessed (v28), strongly indicating to us that the main sphere of her life was a domestic one. The emphasis of her life was the home, her priority was her house and all that it entailed. The world laughs at such an occupation, seeing it as demeaning, obscure and second-rate. Though the centre of this woman’s world was the house, God amplified her testimony and glory so that she was known by all and sundry – “her own works praise her in the gates” (v31).
Eunice & Lois
Timothy from a tender age knew the holy Scriptures which were able to make him wise to salvation (2 Tim 3:5). He did not acquire this knowledge from his gentile father (Ac 16:1). The task of raising this boy spiritually fell to his godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1:5, 3:5). Year after year, day in and day out these godly women poured Bible data into this boy’s soul. Following in the footsteps of Sarah, Jochebed, Hannah and many other illustrious women of faith, they laboured in the home to raise a man for God. Their names never appeared on the placards of multinational corporations or had the letter’s CEO or PhD next to them. By the world’s standards they were unknown and insignificant. However, their names shine bright today on the pages of Holy Scripture, and their works are remembered forever in heaven. Though working in a domestic sphere in relative obscurity, their faithful labours had earth shattering results.
May the Lord help us all to work where he has designed us to be, for our blessing, and his eternal glory.
 Strong's Exhaustive Concordance: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5042&t=KJV
 Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5042&t=KJV