A Heart for Home: Part 1
In the last post, I discussed our role as influencers. Now I want to consider where the Bible calls us to have primary influence: the home. Now, if you just rolled your eyes or felt a twinge of fear or anger at the thought of women being called to the home, listen up. Do not let your culture be the primary informer of your worldview. In our age of career-rules-all, urging women to give their best efforts toward the success of the home seems insulting. "Isn't that like asking women to play second string? To be the understudy? A benchwarmer? To let men do all the really important things, while we clean up their messes and do their laundry and raise their kids?"
Maybe that's how you think of managing a home... something you do when you've got nothing better to do. Even those who agree that women should be the primary keepers of the home often have an attitude expressing the opposite. We'd much rather be doing vocational ministry, writing a blog, or [fill-in-the-blank] than the menial, every day humdrum of home life.
But do not fall for the lie that the home is unimportant. The home is the fundamental establishment of any society. Like the rudder of a ship, the condition of the homes will steer the direction of the nation. The home is where future world leaders are molded, where brilliant minds are nurtured, where world views are established. Any investment made in the home has ripple effects that last for generations. So when we talk of a woman overseeing the home, this is not to lessen her importance, but to elevate it. God has given us influence over the most important establishment in all of society.
WHERE IS IT IN THE BIBLE?
Let's look at a few key passages of scripture on this topic. And instead of doing the work for you to unpack these passages, I'm asking you to take just a minute to pull out your Bible (or your Bible app) and read the passage yourself and answer the questions.
Take some time to read Titus 2:3-5 and answer the following question:
- Of the 6 things older women are to teach younger women, how many are related to family/home life?
- What does this communicate to us about our priorities?
Read Proverbs 31:10-31 and answer the following questions:
- Who are the main beneficiaries of this woman’s efforts? (v. 11, 12, 15, 21, 23, 27)
- Does this woman do things outside of her home? (v. 16, 20, 24)
- Read verses 15, 21, 27 again. What do you notice about her intentionality toward those in her home? And what does this imply about her work outside her house?
Last but not least, let's go back to God's initial design of man and woman for some insight. Read Genesis 2:7-22.
- Did God create Adam before or after He made the Garden of Eden?
- Where was Adam created? Inside or outside the Garden?
- Where was Eve created? Inside or outside the Garden?
- What does this imply about men and women?
After studying the passages above, it is evident that God has created women to be uniquely influential within the context of the home. This does not mean she cannot earn an income for her family or devote her time to other ventures, as the Proverbs 31 passage portrays. But regardless of her other commitments, her primary responsibility and area of influence should be oriented toward the home, not away from it.
To drive this point home (no pun intended), consider one last verse from the book of Proverbs:
The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. Proverbs 14:1
A wise woman is investing in her home. She is putting effort into building it up, strengthening it, and supporting it. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, so a woman who fears the Lord will build up her house. This is exactly what we see the wife in Proverbs 31 doing.
FOR ALL WOMEN
Contrary to what many think, this focus on the home is not just for moms of young children. There are no descriptors on which women are in view in these passages (except the wife in Proverbs 31), implying that all women are to have a homeward orientation. This includes single women, married with no children women, working women, and empty nesters.
WHAT IS THE GOAL?
Let’s take a look at Paul’s command to be a “worker at home” in Titus 2:5. This phrase comes from one word in the Greek, oikourgos. It is a combination of two Greek words: oikos (family, household, home) and ergon (work, task, result). The implied meaning is a strategic, focused effort toward the flourishing of the household, namely the people in the home.
The predominant goal here is not just a clean, well-managed home or even how much time you stay at home. You can tear your home down through a negative, critical attitude while also keeping it clean. Likewise, you can ignore the spiritual and emotional needs of your family from home just as easily as if you were working 60 hours a week.
The goal is a flourishing household. Flourishing is defined as “growing or developing in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.” It is our responsibility to foster spiritual, emotional, and physical growth in our families. And though, as mentioned above, the physical dwelling itself is not the end goal, it must be considered as a vital part of creating a favorable environment. To summarize, we ought to assume the responsibility to ensure the people in our home are flourishing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
A PROPER MOTIVATION
Older women are to teach what is good 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. Titus 2:4-5
A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Prov 31:30
Titus 2:5 gives a weighty purpose for training younger women in godliness: namely so that the Word of God may not be reviled. Similarly, the defining characteristic of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she fears the Lord. A pursuit of Biblical womanhood at home should be rooted in passion for the glory of God and the reputation of His Word.
Our first sympathies should be with God. We are His daughters and should find our identity in Him alone. A thriving love for God is the only thing strong enough to sustain our wholehearted service as women in His kingdom. If our work at home is ever tied to those who benefit from it (men, husbands, parents, children), we will feel entitled to their affirmation and will be shaken when these roles change (death of a spouse, children leave for college, etc). But if our service is grounded in a relationship with God, changes in roles or unappreciative family members won’t throw us off course or disrupt our joy.
This also means pursuing a deeper relationship with God as Father is a non-negotiable. Don’t mistakenly disregard the condition of your own heart in an attempt to serve those around you in the name of being a godly woman. Jesus reminded us that it’s only by abiding in Him and His love that we bear any fruit.(John 15:1-5) Therefore, a heart that’s abiding in Christ should be your primary concern. Get your heart in order before you get your house in order. Seek God first and find fullness of joy in Him and you will begin to see your home flourish. (Matt 6:33, Luke 10:38-42, Ps 16:11)
A STRATEGIC INFLUENCE
No two households will have the same needs. What your family needs will depend on many factors including what activities happen in your home and what each person’s day to day looks like. This requires careful discernment as you study your family to observe which needs are the most important and which ones can be overlooked at times without much negative impact. This allows you to concentrate your efforts where they will bear the most fruit.
You cannot do everything. Not only that, you may not be able to do everything your neighbor or friend can do. To understand and live within your limits is a very humble thing, acknowledging that we are finite humans. Consider what obedience to God looks like in regards to your current commitments and how much time and energy that takes. Be aware of what you can realistically do to invest in your household and prioritize the greater needs, as discussed above. A healthy grasp of your limitations will also aid you in knowing when to say no to something.
Remember that the dynamics and activities of a household are always changing as children grow or jobs change, or roommates come and go. With each shift in season, it is good to reevaluate what the greatest needs are to cultivate a flourishing household.
A COMPREHENSIVE INFLUENCE
When it comes to having a focus on the home, most women diminish that to the physical element alone. But this is an incomplete view of being an influencer in your home. To “look well to the ways of your household” is much bigger than making sure there is food on the table and the bathroom is clean. Here are 3 major categories in which we can strategically influence and steward our homes well.
You should care deeply about the spiritual climate of your home and be active in creating a Christ-centered environment. This is our calling as believers... to make disciples! Where better to start than at home? Here are a few suggestions.
- Take care of your own soul and create space to seek God yourself. You cannot give what you do not have.
- Be aware of the spiritual condition of every family member and think about how impart truths about God through daily activities and traditions.
- Take precautions against the influences of the world, the flesh, and satan.
Good questions to ask: Do you have adequate time to seek God in your life? If not, how can you make time and what can you cut out to make this happen? Who in your home is a born again follower of Jesus? How can you encourage him or her in their pursuit of God? Who is not saved? How can you foster conversations about Jesus and what it means to have faith in Him? Where does each person struggle to believe truth? How can you creatively remind your household of what is true? How can you incorporate the Word of God into your daily routines and conversations?
Without a spiritual influence: your house may be organized, your family well cared for, but may lack in a knowledge of God’s Word and understanding of the Gospel of Jesus.
As a woman, having the ability to bear children, you are a natural nurturer. This bent toward compassion and care should be used to care for those in your home.
- Be sensitive to each family member’s personality. Pay attention to how each person handles stress and how they feel refreshed and encouraged.
- Be a peacemaker in your home. This means being aware of any relational difficulties within the home, any conflict and any unrest and pursue peace.
- Be an intercessor. Pray for those in your homes and look to God for direction on how to minister to each person.
Good questions to ask: How does each family member feel cared for? What affects each person the most, good or bad? Are they introverted or extroverted? How does each person get recharged and refreshed? What are some ways you can encourage each person in areas of weakness? Is your home a safe place for every person in it? What threatens the safety of your home and how can you get rid of it? Is there any disunity in your home and how can you bring peace?
Without an emotional influence: your home may be organized and growing in a knowledge of God, but may be disunified, with each person feeling isolated, uncared for and like they must fend for themselves.
While being an influencer in the home is much more than just taking care of the house, it is certainly not less. The physical home we live in, whether one bedroom, half a dorm room, an apartment, or a 3,000 sq. ft. house, greatly impacts the activity of those who live in it. This encompasses all the tangible aspects of the home: food, cleanliness and order, decoration and room layouts, schedule management, etc. It is easy to forget to be strategic in this area because most of these things happen no matter what. But when thoughtful planning is given to the basic physical and tangible aspects of the home, it can be an incredible blessing to the family.
Good questions to ask: What foods do my family enjoy that are good to keep on hand? When is the best time of day for our family to eat together? What rooms are the most important to keep clean? How can I decorate and arrange a room to foster refreshment, peace, unity, and love? What activities happen in my home frequently and how can I be strategic in helping those activities flourish? What is the best way to manage our family schedule? Do we need to say no to more things to allow the home to be a place of rest and refreshment?
Without a physical influence: your family may be growing in a knowledge of God and each person will feel cared for, but your home may be chaotic, dirty, overly busy with little sense of purpose and direction.
In the next parts of "A Heart for Home," we'll look at the value of hospitality and the issue of working outside of the home.