Question: "What is biblical homemaking?"
Answer: A homemaker is typically a married woman who works full-time to create a welcoming home life for her husband and children. Homemakers traditionally do not work outside the home for monetary compensation but consider homemaking duties their full-time career. Before the 1960s, homemaking was the norm for wives and mothers. But by the late ’60s and early ’70s, many women were entering the workforce and learning to juggle careers and children. Some Christians still maintain that a wife and mother should never work outside the home, so this article will explore what the Bible really teaches about a woman’s role as a homemaker.
It is important to note that, when the Bible was penned, women had few employment options outside the home. It was assumed that, when a woman married, her sole focus would be on keeping house, bearing children, and helping her husband (Genesis 2:18; Titus 2:4–5). Life was more difficult before modern conveniences, and simply running a household was more than a full-time job. Many women whose husbands could afford it had maidservants (Genesis 16:3; 29:24, 29; 2 Kings 5:2). Others trained daughters to help as soon as they were old enough, just as sons were apprenticed by their fathers and grandfathers in the family business.
However, the fact that homemaking was the expected lifestyle for women in Bible times should not be construed to mean that it is the only option for wives and mothers in the 21st century. Even in Bible times, some women pursued business ventures. Lydia is an example (Acts 16:14). She was known as a “seller of purple,” a lucrative business in that day. Little is known about Lydia’s home life, but some scholars speculate that she must have been married, or it would not have been appropriate for her to invite Paul and the apostles to stay at her home (Acts 16:15). Her husband is not mentioned in conjunction with her business, indicating that it was her own enterprise. Lydia was a Christian businesswoman with the gift of hospitality.
Luke 8:3 mentions several women who followed Jesus and supported Him financially from their own means. This could imply that they had sources of income separate from their husbands. Matthew 27:55 also mentions some women who were present at His crucifixion and that they had “followed Him from Galilee” to minister to His needs. This seems to indicate that, even in Bible times, women could be both homemakers and financially independent, free to follow an itinerant preacher from city to city, supporting themselves by their own funds.
The Proverbs 31 woman is another example of a homemaker who also conducted business. This passage is a mother’s counsel to her son about the sterling characteristics he should look for when seeking a wife. Among those desirable qualities is a good head for business (verses 16–18). The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 considers a field and then buys it. Nothing is said of her husband’s involvement. He was busy conducting city business (verse 23). What is important to note is that she was so industrious that she could pursue business opportunities while making sure her husband and children were well cared for. She managed her home so well that she could put their interests first and still have time to conduct her own business on the side. There is no indication that she ever sacrificed her family’s interests for her own (verses 21–22). And that is the heart of biblical homemaking.
Christian homemaking is far more than merely “staying at home.” Some women who do not want to work outside the home do not work inside the home, either. They park the kids in front of the TV and pursue their own interests all day. The husband comes home to a filthy house, unwashed laundry, kids eating chips off the floor, and mom on the phone with her friend. That is not homemaking; that is non-working (see 1 Timothy 5:8).
Homemaking is exactly as it sounds: making a home. A comfortable, clean, well-run home does not happen by itself. Good homemakers consider the state of their homes and families to be their responsibility. A Christian homemaker considers it her highest calling to care for her home and family, so she has chosen to set aside her own dreams and career goals while the children are young. The cabinets are well-stocked because she thought ahead and bought on sale. The clothes are washed and pressed regularly so no one has to fear finding nothing to wear. Meals are planned so that the family can eat together whenever possible. School projects are checked, and kids have what they need because she has stayed on top of things. Her husband can focus fully on his job as the sole breadwinner because his wife is taking care of everything else. Homemakers wear many hats: doctor, plumber, chef, chauffeur, teacher, carpenter, repairman, painter, counselor, maid, and researcher. Christian homemaking often includes spiritual advisor and even homeschool teacher.
Biblical homemaking is what happens when a wife and mother makes her home and family her top priority. Her time, effort, and finances reflect her concern for her family. She has set aside other full-time ventures to dedicate her attention to her husband and children. Homemaking can also be a season in a woman’s life that prepares her for another career or ministry when her children leave home. If she has been faithful in her first career, God will often entrust her with a broader outreach (see Luke 16:10). As an older woman, a former homemaker has much to offer younger women and can continue to glorify God by sharing her wisdom and experience.
While divorce and widowhood make full-time homemaking impossible for many women, married couples would be wise to reconsider the assumption that both spouses must work full-time when children are young. Both husbands and wives should value homemaking the way Scripture does (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:5). If at all possible, when children are young, parents should make whatever sacrifices necessary to allow at least one of them to make homemaking the priority. Christian homemakers are in a better position to follow the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:5–9 than mothers who must be away from their children the majority of the time. At home, a mother can seize teachable moments and model a lifestyle of godliness in daily living. The lessons she learns during those years of full-time homemaking will serve her well in the future as she shares those lessons with younger parents trying to make decisions about raising their children.
While it seems from Scripture that homemaking should be a top priority for married mothers, there is no condemnation implied for those whose circumstances do not allow for full-time homemaking. Rising financial pressures have made it nearly impossible for some families to survive on one income, so, even when a mother would love to be a full-time homemaker, she may find it necessary to create an additional source of income. Homemaking can still be her priority, though, and she can demonstrate that by eliminating extra time-gobblers like dinners with coworkers, “girls’ night out” every week, or accepting invitations to events without her children.
When her time to parent is already so limited, an employed woman committed to homemaking will seize every opportunity to interact with her family, even at personal cost. She will take a child to the gym with her, take another to the grocery store, and forego fancy dinners in order to have more time to unwind with her husband. Employed homemakers work doubly hard to ensure that their families do not feel like they have slipped on her list of priorities. Some have even taken a leap of faith and quit their jobs, believing that God has called them to be home with their kids. Women called to homemaking will stretch the budget and eliminate extras in order to give their families more than money can buy. When God calls us to do something, He also provides what we need (Philippians 4:19). Like every other career path, Christians should seek the Lord’s plan in deciding whether full-time homemaking is His path for them.