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.