Can Women Work Outside the Home?

Can women work in the work place or are they to stay at home?  That is a question that I wrestled with last week as I preached through Titus 2.  In Titus 2:1-10, Paul is describing different people who make up the church and how they live a life of holiness.  And when referring to young women, Paul zooms in and specifically focuses on how they live a holy life with regards to their husband, children and the home.

Titus 2:4–5 (ESV)

4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

When approaching a text like this, it is important to consider what has prompted Paul to write what he has.  Crete was a very immoral place where people pursued their own selfish appetites at all costs. In Titus 1:12, Paul quoted a Cretan philosopher who wrote, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  Very likely the young women in Crete were not committed to their husbands or children. Their children and home may have felt like a prison and submission to their husbands was seen as a four letter curse word.

Therefore, Paul focused on holiness within the home to help the young christian women know how they were to live as salt and light within their community.   And a life of holiness involves “working at home.”

So does this mean a women cannot work out of the home?

No.  At least not necessarily.

Paul is helping young women to see that their holiness will involve the priority of their home.  This is important to consider.  For it seems too often today, women pursue employment outside of their home not necessarily because they need the extra income but because they feel trapped and/or as if they need to do something to feel “more” important.

Culture (in Crete and especially here in America) has seemed to demean the role of a house wife.  But the church is not called to just fall in line with culture.  For within the biblical framework we see that wives/moms are very important in helping shepherd their children in the faith and encouraging their husbands to lead well.

So when the question is raised should a young women work outside the home, I think there are other questions that need to be answered first.  Questions such as…

  • What is the motivation for working outside the home?
  • Will this job inhibit the woman from making her children and husband a priority?
  • Should the husband be looking for a different job that will pay more?
  • Are there things that can be removed from their lifestyle that will lessen the need for the wife/mom to work outside the home?

And with these questions, there should be much time spent in prayer and wisdom sought from others.  In Titus 2:3-4 Paul encourages the older women to help train the younger women towards holiness.  Older women should be stepping forward to help young women make these kind of difficult choices.  Often they will be able to share insight from God’s Word and their own experiences which will help in bringing about the right decision.

Bottom line: Paul is not saying, young women cannot work outside the home.  But he is saying that the home will be a place where the woman lives out her holiness.  And so if the woman is to work outside the home, let it not be at the expense of the home but rather as a means of serving her children and husband.

Now you may be asking, what about a single mom?  Can she work outside the home?  First, In the context of Titus 2:4-5, it seems that Paul is specifically referring to young married women.  So let us be careful in how we apply this text to women who may not be married.  Secondly, a single mom is still in the position to serve her children, and certainly one way she will do this is by working.  Her children need food, clothes, a home, etc… and very likely those things will only come as a result of her working.

Surely there are more questions that could be asked.  How many hours would be okay for a young married woman with children to work?  Should she just work during the time her kids are at school?  Is there a point when her kids get to a certain age it would be okay for her to work?

The important thing to remember is that as children of God we have been saved to live holy lives.  Therefore let us use God’s Word to guide and help provide a framework for our decisions.  Let us also pray and seek wisdom from others on how we might live in holiness so that God would be glorified and unbelievers would see the beauty of God’s Word lived out.

Dead People Don’t Run

Paul begins Ephesians 2 with a hideous picture of the unbeliever.  In essence he says every person apart from Jesus Christ is spiritually dead and they are a follower of Satan (2:1-3).  Paul in no way tries to sugar coat his words.  He is not trying to make unbelievers feel good about themselves in their sinful condition.  Rather he wants them to know how desperate they are, how sick they are, and how damned they are.  By saying that every unbeliever is a follower of “the prince of the power of the air” (Satan), Paul also shows there is no neutral ground apart from Jesus. 

When playing tag with my kids they love to run to “base” so that they are safe and I cannot tag them.  Tag is a kids game with no eternal consequences.  Let us not be foolish to think we can apply the rules of tag to our spiritual lives and somehow be okay.  

The only spiritual “base” is Jesus Christ and He is not something we can run to.  Dead people don’t run.  This is why in Ephesians 2:4-5 we are told, “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love which which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved.”  We did not run to Jesus but by God’s grace Jesus came to us so that we would be saved and made alive.  

And in Eph 2:10 we see that we were made alive so we would do good works.  God saved us from our sin, He gave us new life in His Son Jesus Christ, not so we would act like we are on a cruise, kicking back, drinking mai tai’s, and pigging out at the buffet, but so we would live for His glory.  We have been saved by grace from our sins so we would no longer follow Satan but follow Jesus.  We have been saved to do good works so that other would see God’s love and grace in us and also be saved.  We have been saved to be lights in this world directing all people to the hope of Jesus Christ.  

And while this new life in Christ is amazing, we will not truly understand how wonderful it is apart from understanding how dead we were before being saved.  So many believers I have talked to want to know nothing or very little of their sinfulness.  But that is a terrible mistake and one that Satan hopes we will all fall into.  For until we know the hopelessness we were in before Jesus we will not appreciate and know the the amazing life we have been saved into through Jesus Christ.  By studying God’s Word and seeing the ugliness of our sin, we will see the beauty and the necessity of the cross of Jesus Christ.  And we will be filled with love, gratitude, and grace to live out our new lives for the glory of God in Jesus Christ.   

Sin-Killing Holiness-Pursuing Promises of God

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  (2 Cor. 7:1) 

Paul has previously just listed some promises of God that he says ought have major implications to our lives.  They promises are to spur us towards holiness.  These promises cause us to remove all types of defilements from our lives and they increase our fear of God.  What are these promises?

There are at least 3 promises:

Promise #1: God lives with His church

In verse 16, Paul quotes Leviticus 26, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be there God.”

God lives with His people.  He dwells with us and walks with us.  He is our God and He calls us His people.  He acknowledges us, desires us, and own us.  

Promise #2: God is our Father and we are His children

In verse 18, God says He will be a Father to us and we shall be His sons and daughters.  God is not just some distant God desiring to be worshipped by a distant people.  But He becomes our Father and we become His sons and daughters.  God loves us.  He makes us a part of His eternal family.  

Promise #3: The church is the temple of the living God.

In the first half of verse 16, Paul says we are the temple of the living God.  The church is God’s temple. The church is the holy dwelling place of God.  The church is where God specifically reveals Himself to the world. 

So how do these promises spur us towards holiness?

These promises reveal to us the the transformation we have experienced because of God’s love.  God sent His Son to die on a cross so we would be saved, brought into relationship with Himself and live with Him.  And because God is holy, those whom He indwells are holy.  We have been made holy by God.  Because of God working in our lives we have undergone a major identity transformation.  

Before God saved us, we were sinful rebellious, idol worshippers.  But now that we have been saved, we have been made into new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), are being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), made ambassadors for God (2 Cor. 5:20), and given the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).  How can we live in sin?  That is not who we are anymore?  Rather, because we are indwelled by the Holy God we are free to tear away sin that clings to us and run towards holiness. 

These promises spur us towards holiness because they reveal God’s powerful grace that has transformed unto His living temple.