One of my great joys is watching my wife, Aimee, care for our newborn son, Hans. She’s a natural fit for motherhood. That she would excel in this way should come as no surprise, as I’ve had the opportunity to see many of these gifts develop during her years as a nurse. She has flourished in the workplace, serving with skill and diligence. I believe these mutual callings have only served to strengthen one another, as she pursues a life that honors the Lord and pursues faithfulness to His Word in a multitude of settings.
With that said, this is not a post about whether or not a Christian woman should thrive in the workplace. I believe that women should thrive in the workplace, and that for wives and mothers, this calling exists in partnership with a primary calling to the home.
No, this post is about an alternative message that is often communicated in churches, one that elevates the role of the stay-at-home mom as primary, relegating women who pursue an additional vocation to second-class status. This belief, whether expressed in ways subtle or overt, prevents women from flourishing as they should in the church, the marketplace and the home.
I’m not saying that a wife and mother should feel compelled to work outside the home, nor do I want to imply that those who stay at home have chosen a lesser path. But I would argue that not only is it possible for women to thrive in the workplace while upholding the biblical standard of a wife and mother, it's something that should be encouraged and defended by men in the church and in the home. But how can the church grow in the ways we communicate the value of this shared calling? Here are three suggestions:
1. We must consider the imago dei.
Men and women share equally the intellect, emotion and will that set us apart in creation as God's image bearers. This means that women possess the same personhood, dignity and worth as men, expressed in complementary ways that reveal the image of God to the wider world. The giftings, callings and skills that women possess strengthen the organizations in which they serve. Whether as an executive, a professor, a teacher, a nurse or an engineer, we all benefit by seeing women lead in these roles.
2. We must recognize where our interpretation of the Scriptures may be colored by fear or an unseen desire to control.
Godly male headship modeled by elders and husbands should encourage opportunities for women to contribute and succeed in a variety of settings. To practice the opposite, by defining womanhood in narrow terms, diminishes the dignity and value that the Scriptures bestow on women. We must encourage our sisters to thrive in the skills and giftings God has given them. When we do not, we rob organizations and institutions, including the church, of the needful contributions of women that benefit us all.
3. We must find ways, individually and collectively, to affirm women who are called to pursue a vocation alongside their calling to the home, including roles outside those traditionally held by women.
How we speak of this pursuit in our corporate gatherings, sermon illustrations, casual conversations and ministries offered to single women, wives and mothers says a great deal about what we truly believe about a woman’s role in the marketplace and the home. Affirming the contributions of working women demonstrates in concrete ways that our gifting is best reflected in complementarity rather than uniformity. It’s here that we see God’s design lived out in the church and His image revealed to a watching world.
I understand that these three suggestions, if put into practice, won’t solve everything. But it is my hope and prayer that they might be a helpful start as we seek to encourage and empower our sisters in their gifts, in and outside the home and church, for the sake of the gospel and human flourishing.