Rev. Bruinsma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”
The place of a mother in the home and family is a much disputed one. For years now unbelieving society has insisted that the role of a mother in the home is no different than that of a father. Both are equals and therefore, to be fair, they must split the labors of the family and the care of the children in half. The father has his time to go out and work as he pleases, but then so does the mother. Both may and should pursue careers of their own, and both, when they are around the house, should split the chores.
This viewpoint of unbelief, however, has caused a dilemma. When both father and mother are busy pursuing their own careers and interests, what becomes of the children? Children cannot and may not take care of themselves. Everyone recognizes that this would be neglect on the part of parents. But mother has the right just as well as father to be out and about earning her own money. The wicked have come up with a number of solutions of their own to the problem. First, do not have children until later on in life. There are so many convenient means available to assist in avoiding pregnancy. That way husbands and wives may go out and do what they want to do without being hindered or burdened by children. Then they finally have a child or two, or none at all, when the biological time clock is on its last minutes.
In the last number of years daycare has become a booming business. While the children are young they are sent away all day to be raised by someone in a daycare environment. Mom or Dad can pick them up at night. When the children get a little older, they are given the keys to the house and they can let themselves in and fend for themselves until Mom or Dad comes home in the evening. The results of all of this have left even unbelieving psychologists alarmed. We have a generation of children who have had to make it on their own in this world, with little training and not much in the way of a role model. The values children have learned have been taught them in the movies and from the TV set. The role models have been the godless, profane movie stars, who fill children’s lives with violence and sexual immorality.
Ignored is a fundamental principle of Scripture: the important and glorious role of a mother in the home. The ungodly hate this role. The feminist movement has convinced our society that the role of a mother in the home, “looking well to the ways of her household,” is degrading. A woman tied to her house? Is she little more than a slave to wait on her husband and children? How demeaning! Women must be liberated from this old chauvinistic mindset! Society, including many within the realm of the church, have bought into this life style. But in the midst of all the name calling, God’s people quietly and humbly see the wisdom of this role of a mother in the home.
But does the Bible teach that the place of a mother is indeed in the home “looking well to the ways of her household”? Yes it does, without a doubt! And it all begins with the creation account. In the last several verses of Genesis 2 we learn of the creation of the woman. There we learn that man was created first. It was after Adam named the animals that God caused him to fall into a deep sleep. From a rib of man, God created the woman and brought her to the man to be his wife. God did this because “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Alone, Adam could not procreate. Alone, Adam could not function in society. He needed a female counterpart exactly fitted by God to bring forth children and also to care for those children. So God created the woman to be a “help” for the man. This role as a help to man was confirmed after the fall of man into sin when God said to the woman in Genesis 3:16, “and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Already the Bible, in these verses, defines the role of a mother in the home.
The mother’s role in the rearing of children is critical. The father simply is not able to take upon himself the task of earning a living for his family, and also taking care of his children to raise them carefully in the fear of his Creator. He cannot be off at work and at home at the same time. If he is working, he cannot be at home to instruct, guide, nurture, and discipline his children. He cannot do both! For this reason, God created the woman. A man enters into marriage, and together he and his wife have children. While the man is earning a living for his family by the sweat of his face, the wife is his help. How? She remains in the home and cares for the children God has given them. In this way the husband and wife are perfect complements to each other.
Is this an ugly picture, as the ungodly want to present it? I believe it is most beautiful! Husband and wife work together in harmony as a team accomplishing God’s will for them in their families. Together they raise children that grow up to be responsible citizens of the country, laborers in the work place, and members of the church. All because mother saw her role in the home, not as demeaning, but as being vital and important!
The Bible everywhere testifies to this glorious role of mother. The psalmist draws this earthly picture for us inPsalm 128:3: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house….” In the days of the psalmist a householder would oftentimes plant a vine just outside of his house. Some people still do that today. The vine, as it grows, will reach out and cling to the walls of the house, covering the house and keeping it from rain and sunshine. This is the picture of a godly wife and mother that the psalmist draws here. She is one who clings to her house. She is one who sees to it that her household is protected and cared for. One is reminded here of what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 31:11, 12, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” All this is true because she is as a vine by the sides of his house!
There are two passages in the New Testament that also address the place of the mother in the home looking to the ways of her family. One of these is I Timothy 5:14. In the context of this verse the apostle Paul gives the requirements of a special group of widows who did alms deeds in the church. Those who belonged to this group had to be well reported of, for the good works they did in the church. Some of these works are listed in verse 10: bringing up her children well, lodging strangers, washing the saints’ feet, and relieving the afflicted. Another requirement of this order of widows, however, was that they had to be sixty years old and upward. No younger widows were to be allowed into this number.
The reason Paul gives for this requirement is found in verse 14: “I will therefore that younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” In this almost passing remark concerning younger widows, Paul mentions that the place of a young mother is to “guide the house.” She is called by God to see to it that the house, that is, the family, runs smoothly and well. Paul does not lay down this idea as a law here. He simply assumes that this is the role of a wife and mother in the home. She guides her house. That, of course, is no little task. The mother sees to it that the children are clothed properly, are trained in social graces, are respectful toward superiors, but most importantly are nurtured very, very carefully in the ways of God. Much of the spiritual training of children falls upon the shoulders of mother.
We must not forget the active role that father must take in all of this too! We must not forget that God holds him ultimately responsible for all of this, since the father is the head of the home. But that does not detract from the fact that much of a child’s values in all things, including things spiritual, is shaped and molded by mother. The instruction Paul gives in I Corinthians 11speaks of this wonderful truth. Paul sets forth the chain of authority in life: God, Christ, man, woman. A ground he gives for this is, “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man” (I Cor. 11:8, 9). But Paul does not leave it at that. In verses 11, 12, he adds this: “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”The man is by the woman. The woman was created out of the man, but the man is also by the woman. This not only means that it is the woman who gives birth to the man. But it also means that the man is shaped and molded by the woman! The man is who he is by means of the woman.
Great men have stood up in the church and defended fearlessly the truths of the Scriptures. Great names have been recorded in the history of the church. Men have become famous for their faith. But we ought not to forget the quiet, humble nurture that such men received by the hands of their mothers when they were but children. Augustine acknowledged this when he spoke so highly of the instruction and the prayers of his mother, Monica, for him. Elders and preachers of the church are shaped by mothers who took seriously their calling to be in the home “guiding the house.”
This same sort of instruction was given by God to the young preacher Titus. Titus was told to exhort the older women of his congregation to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers of the home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Tit. 2:4, 5). This verse is definitive on God’s command to mothers. It reveals not only that a mother and wife in Zion must be a “keeper of the home” (homemaker), but also that her whole life must be wrapped up in her husband and family. The wicked chafe at the calling given here. The young wife and mother of the church strives to fulfill it because she sees in this Word of God an exciting and a challenging line of work, which will give her all the purpose and fulfillment that she needs in this life!
Oh, it is hard work! It will have its ups and downs. But what this work accomplishes is worth it all. All the money in the world could not pay the dividends that this line of work pays. To see sons and daughters who in strength and noble truth are like pillars that grace the palace of our King, Jesus Christ—that is worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears that go into this work.
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” For godly women of Zion, that’s powerful motivation. But there’s more. The inspired writer fixes the value of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 for all time. “Her price,” he says, “is far above rubies.” That’s God’s estimation. And, in the final analysis, that’s all that counts.