Keepers at Home
Having followed the articles by Rev. Bruinsma in the rubric “When Thou Sittest in Thine House,” I was concerned with some things said in the last article on this in the February 1, 2005 issue.
God, right after the fall, judged the man to earn his and his family’s bread in the sweat of his face. To the woman God said that in sorrow she shall bring forth children (Gen 3:16-19). It is this present world’s folly, especially of the women, that in addition to their own sorrow they want to take upon themselves the curse placed on man. God commanded the man, not the woman, to work to sustain his family.
While this is not censurable sin, and in that sense it is a matter of Christian liberty, yet God’s commandments do have a bearing on this issue. The effect of ignoring it can and does lead to discipline issues, because of the effect and results of not being a keeper at home—on marriage and on the family in the generations.
I believe that Scripture plainly teaches that the woman must be a keeper at home, not merely a keeper of the home. It is so often the worldly woman’s discontent with the position in which God has placed her that causes her to seek work outside the home. Thus she scorns the authority of her husband (sin against the 5th commandment), and desires what the world has to offer (sin against the 8th commandment), in her coveting that which is not hers (the 10th commandment). This is one of the great curses of today’s society. It is gradually taking away any remnants of a Christian family life. And it is very hard for anyone, man or woman, to hold down two jobs and do justice to both.
Let us not be deceived into thinking that we, as Protestant Reformed believers, are immune to the spirit of the age we live in.
Is there no room for a Christian wife and mother to work outside the home? Yes, a wife may help her husband in his earthly occupation, just as many farmers’ wives do. But she in those cases is not seeking her own vocation, but is helping her husband in his.
What is phariseeism? As Christ says in Matthew 23:15, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” In this, as well as many other places in Scripture, the Word plainly teaches that phariseeism is living the life of the hypocrite. If we live an outwardly godly life, but do not have the new life living inside us, or take a holier than thou attitude, then it would be phariseeism. Christian liberty, however, is the liberty that we are set free from the slavery in the house of bondage of sin—free to start to live, not only according to some, but according to all the commandments of God. We have to be obedient to what God’s Word and our own conscience dictates for our family. The accusation of phariseeism will often come in the false charge, “They want to take away our Christian liberty.” Let us not call God’s people hypocrites.
It is the husband’s godly calling to earn a living for his family. God does not, however, require husbands to work so many hours at their calling to the detriment of their responsibilities not only to church, but also to home and family. God has provided His church with a diaconate. Both the father of the family earning his daily bread, and the aid of the deacons, are equally good gifts of God through which God provides for us.
Let us live in Christian love with each other, not resorting to name-calling, but each esteeming the other better than ourselves. Let us build up each other in the faith.
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
I have been responding to people individually as they have written to me personally with questions and comments about my four Standard Bearer articles on the place of the woman in the home. But since this one is written directly to the Standard Bearer and seeks a public response I will attempt to answer it briefly.
I appreciate the concern that Brother Mulder expresses: “Let us not be deceived into thinking that we as Protestant Reformed believers are immune to the spirit of the age we live in.” It was for this reason I wrote the articles in the first place. I share his concern. We must indeed not allow the “the spirit of the age” to influence us to think that the place of the mother is in the work force together with the father who is the provider for the home and family. This was expressly the point of all of my articles, not only on the place of the mother but also of the father in the home.
A complicating factor, perhaps, is that the articles, five of them altogether, appeared in the Standard Bearer spread out over a long period of time. The result of this, I fear, is that the brother’s comments are made only in response to the last article. In the article “God’s Command to Mothers” (SB, March 1, 2004, Volume 80, Number 11) I laid out the biblical principles of the place of the mother in the home “looking well to the ways of her household.” In the article “Working Mothers” (SB, April 1, 2004, Volume 80, Number 13) I state forthrightly: “How can a mother look well to the ways of her household and work full time outside of the home and family? Impossible!” But in this same article I also emphasized that we can maintain this without making it a law. We need not declare: “It is a sin for mothers to do any kind of work outside of the home.” The fact that it is a matter of Christian liberty is what I defended also in the final article I wrote.
Brother Mulder responds by agreeing with my position. He writes: “While this is no censurable sin and in that sense it is a matter of Christian liberty, yet God’s commandments do have a bearing on the issue.” I am in complete agreement with him. He himself proves this point by coming up with a possible scenario of a mother working outside of the home.
It is exactly because of this that I brought up the whole matter of Phariseeism. The brother’s conclusion that, in so doing, I became guilty of name calling puzzles me. But let me clarify once again what I meant by Phariseeism. The Pharisees taught work righteousness. They believed that a man earned his righteousness before God by the keeping of the law. In connection with this, the Pharisees made up a whole list of laws that, they believed, further defined and fine-tuned the laws of Moses. These were known as the “tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:1-13). Jesus says in Matthew 23:4 that these “traditions” were heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, which the Pharisees laid upon men’s shoulders. It is this Phariseeism, or legalism, that we must be very careful to avoid in the church.
What is it that motivates a godly mother in Zion to be a keeper in the home? Is it a law? Does she do it because it makes her look good? No. A believing mother does it because she reads God’s Word and understands its wisdom. She with a believing heart sees how her place in the family is going to affect the spiritual welfare of that family, and by God’s grace she gladly takes up her labors in the home. A law in this matter is not going to convict anyone.
This is where the whole idea of Christian liberty enters in. I agree with Brother Mulder: “we are set free from the slavery in the house of the bondage of sin—free to start to live, not only according to some, but according to all the commands of God.” We must allow God’s people to walk in that liberty. Christian liberty is further defined for us in several chapters of Scripture, a good one being Romans 14. It is good for all to read this chapter. In the area of Christian liberty, there is given to the saints the right to walk in the liberty of their salvation without enslaving them to man-made laws. This does not mean that this liberty gives a person the right to walk in the way of sin by satisfying his flesh. Liberty simply gives Christians the right, in areas where God’s Word gives no specific command, to determine for themselves (prayerfully and with diligent use of the principles of God’s Word) how to serve God in a way that is pleasing to Him. This can and may vary from one family to the next.
May God preserve us that we not give in to the temptations of this world. And may He give us the grace and the wisdom to be able to put to practical use in our homes what He teaches us in His Word.
—Rev. W. Bruinsma