Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I don’t like it when I hear people say to a woman, “Do you work?” Now I know what they probably mean is, “Do you have a job that pays you a paycheck outside of your home?” But the fact is any woman who is a godly woman, a wife and a mother, works. And a godly woman works hard.

Leslie: It’s Tuesday, February 20th, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Does it ever seem like your pile of work will never end? Today Nancy will help you tackle your long to-do list. She’s not stopping by to lend you a hand, but after her message today, you will be motivated to do your work for the right reasons and in the right ways. She’s in a series called The Counter-cultural Woman.

Nancy: We’re making our way very slowly through Proverbs chapter 31. I kind of like it that way. It’s giving us a chance to dwell on each phrase, each verse, to meditate on it, and to see what God has to say through His Word to our lives as women. We’re reading the description of a virtuous woman, an excellent woman, a woman of moral strength and godly character. The kind of woman that, if you are a child of God, you are going to be someday.

God is committed to making you and me as women into this kind of woman. So how much better to cooperate with Him in the process than to fight and resist and kick and scream or ignore His standard altogether and then one day find that we really did miss the mark. This is God’s commitment to us—to make us into these kinds of women.

As we come today to verse 13 of Proverbs, chapter 31 . . . By the way, I hope that you’re taking the 31-day challenge, that you’re reading Proverbs chapter 31, which has 31 verses, every day for 31 days and asking God to teach you by His Holy Spirit, to show you what’s in this passage that applies to your life and how your life measures up to this godly standard that we’ve been talking about, and asking the Lord to disciple you and mentor you as a woman in the ways of God—so 31 days. Some of you are perhaps in the midst of that challenge. If you haven’t started, today would be a good day to start that.

Now as we come to verse 13, we begin to see how this woman’s excellence and virtue, how her love and devotion works itself out in practical, everyday ways. You see, we’ve seen that she has an excellent and a virtuous heart, but only God can see her heart. So what does this kind of heart look like in everyday life? What does a woman with this kind of heart act like? How does it affect her schedule, her priorities, her activities, her day? How does a woman who is loyal to her husband, as we read about in the last session, how does she spend her time? How does she live out that commitment?

One of the things you’ll notice as we get into this passage is that the standard of godliness we’re looking at here is not a picture of a woman who becomes a religious hermit. Now, she does need to spend time alone with God to become a godly woman, but she doesn’t spend most of her time alone. She comes out of that room, she comes out of that place, and lives out that walk and that relationship with God and that devotion to God, lives it out in the laboratory of life. In the nitty-gritty, day-in and day-out of life.

I remember talking to one woman who was so excited about what God was doing in her quiet time, and she was just loving being in the Word and praying. She was saying, “I could spend hours every day doing this.” But as we began to talk, I realized there were some major issues in her marriage.

I began to explore how could this woman have such a devotion for God and a heart for God, how could she have such problems in her marriage and with her children, and other stuff started to come out. Then I realized here was a woman who was defining spirituality as her devotional life. Her husband, understandably, was not impressed.

He wanted some food. He wanted to be able to see through the clutter in the house. He wanted her to live out her spirituality in her home, and that’s really what this passage addresses.

So verse 13 of Proverbs 31 tells us, “She seeks wool and flax . . .” This godly woman, this excellent woman, this virtuous woman, this woman that we think is so high up there that we could never attain to her, she is intensely practical. She seeks wool and flax and willingly works with her hands. We see clearly that she is a working woman.

I don’t like it when I hear people say to a woman, “Do you work?” Now, I know what they probably mean is, “Do you have a job that pays you a paycheck outside of your home?” But the fact is any woman who is a godly woman, a wife and a mother, works. And a godly woman works hard. Here is a woman who takes initiative to meet the practical needs of her husband and her children. She is a hard worker. She’s diligent.

That comes out throughout this passage. Verse 15 talks about her getting up while it’s still dark outside. Verse 18 talks to us about how she stays up late at night. She’s working in the evenings. Verse 27 says she does not eat the bread of idleness. She is a diligent woman. I saw recently a definition of diligence that I thought was helpful. Diligence is viewing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it.

Now this woman does this in very practical ways. We see in this verse that she’s involved in spinning and weaving and sewing. This is purposeful activity. These are not just hobbies. This is not just recreation. She is practically meeting the needs of her family, and ultimately the needs of others, as we’ll see later in the passage.

Now, we’re talking about a woman in a culture and an era where all the clothing, all the draperies, all the upholstery, all the linens, everything was manufactured at home by the women. Her hands clothed her family. She didn’t run down to Penney’s or whatever and go through the racks and pull off clothes that she could get for her family or towels or sheets or whatever. She made these things. And she made them virtually from scratch.

It talks about wool and flax. These were the two basic elements used in weaving the raw materials. Wool was used to make heavy, outer, warm garments and flax was used to make fine linen and inner garments and sleepwear, things like that, sheets, etc. She worked with her hands. First she went and got the raw materials and then she worked with her hands to manufacture clothing and other fabrics for her family.

There was, as I’ve been reading about this, a lot of labor involved in the processing. I can’t even imagine, to tell you the truth, what was involved here, but the drying, peeling, beating, combing, and finally spinning the flax. Heavy labor. But as we’re told in Proverbs 14, “In all labor there is profit” (verse 23).

So as you labor for your family, it may not be with wool and flax, but as you work with your hands, as you work in your home and as you handle with your hands the practical details related to the care of your family, in all labor, there is profit. Labor is good. Work is good. And this woman who has a godly heart labors. She works to minister to the needs of her family.

Now, not only does she work hard, but she works at home. She works out of her home. I realize in jumping into this point that I am going to run diametrically opposite to our world’s way of thinking about women and work. I’m not going to make any absolute statements that Scripture doesn’t make, but I think it’s an appropriate place to point out that Titus chapter 2 teaches us that women are to be home-workers—workers at home. That’s what the Word says. That’s what the Scripture says.

Now, that doesn’t mean—and we’ll see in this passage—that there is no other place that a woman works. But the first place that she works is in her home. Until she has cared for the needs of her home, she has not got the right to go out and tend to the needs elsewhere. The core, the central place of her ministry, of her work is out of her home.

We see in this passage . . . I actually have really hesitated to say this, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot and pondering through the Scriptures and other Scriptures that deal with the matter of women and biblical womanhood. But the more I read in the Word of God, the more obvious it is to me that God has ordained in His ideal plan a division of labor. It’s not just men and women doing all the same tasks, all the same jobs, all the same work.

There is an appropriate division of labor within marriage and family. God has ordained that the husband ideally should be the breadwinner, that he goes out to work to bring home resources for the family’s care and wellbeing. And what is the woman’s labor? She labors to manage the resources that he provides for his care and for the care of the children. She’s making an economic contribution as much as he is, but he’s going out to bring in resources and then she is managing them.

The functions that we see listed in this passage—functions related to clothing and food and home and the atmosphere in the house, the care of the house, the care of the home, and the care of the practical needs of that home—are distinctively the woman’s role and domain.

Now, that does not mean that it is therefore wrong or unbiblical for a husband to go grocery shopping or to go to the store to go shopping to buy clothes. It does not mean that it’s wrong for a husband to run a vacuum cleaner or to wash dishes or to help in meal preparation. But I think as we go through the Scripture, if we just use the Scripture as our authority, it becomes obvious that these things are distinctively the woman’s domain, the domain of the wife and the mother.

Now, she and her husband will work together, and I realize there are some situations where, for reasons due to break up of homes or whatever, there may not be a man to be a breadwinner or where a woman may not be physically able to minister in these practical ways to her family. But we’re talking about the ideal, about God’s plan, which is that it is an honor and a privilege and a blessing and a high and holy calling for a woman to tend to the practical, physical affairs of her home.

Let’s just stop a moment and let me ask you as a woman: Have you embraced willingly and with joy . . . have you accepted the domain that God has given to you as a woman? Have you accepted the responsibility, the privilege of caring for the physical, practical needs of your family? Now, I don’t mean by that do you always love cooking three meals a day, washing clothes, cleaning toilets, mopping floors? I’m not saying in and of itself do you love those tasks?

I’m saying have you willingly accepted the calling and the privilege that it is to serve your family as a woman who reverences God? Is this the outworking of your love for God in terms of how you express it in your home? That’s God’s calling, and there’s blessing to be had when we embrace God’s calling and say, “Yes, Lord, I will accept that. I will work, and I will work out of my home. I’ll be a worker at home to make sure that the needs of my family are met.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s program. Maybe after hearing her message, you’re thinking, I’d love to stay at home full-time if I could, but there’s no way we can afford it. Making the transition and serving at home may actually be more doable than you realize.

There’s a book that can help you evaluate your situation called There’s No Place Like Home. This book is co-authored by a mom and a financial planner, and it’s filled with practical advice on how to make the transition from career to being a stay-at-home mom. You can order There’s No Place Like Home by calling 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. This website is full of resources that will help you grow as a woman of God.

Let’s get back to Nancy and the series, The Counter-cultural Woman.

Nancy: Now, throughout the rest of Proverbs 31, we’ll see a number of references to this woman working in practical ways to take care of the needs, the everyday nitty-gritty needs of her family. I’m talking about clothing and food and decorating the home and the way she dresses. She works in all these areas and with all these responsibilities to make sure that her husband and her children have their needs met. That requires diligence. It requires hard work, and it requires that she center her efforts around her home. That is her domain.

The husband’s job is to be the breadwinner, to bring home the resources as the provider. That’s the husband’s job. He is to bring home the resources necessary for that family. When we say this some women will say (and I’ll say it for you before you write to me about it), “But my husband just won’t provide.”

Now, I don’t know your situation, but I do suspect that before your husband starves to death, self-preservation will kick in and he will find a way to provide. I don’t mean by that to be at all sarcastic or cynical. I know that there are . . . In our fallen world, there are some women who won’t work in God’s ways, and there are some men who won’t work in godly ways.

When you step into the vacuum and say I’m going to provide for our family’s needs because my husband won’t, do you know what you’re doing? You’re taking the pressure off of him to become the provider that he’s supposed to be. He’s going to, in this fallen world, probably shrug and say, “Okay, if I don’t have to provide, I won’t.”

Now, the fact that he is the breadwinner doesn’t mean that you don’t work. You do work, with your heart and with your hands, diligent labors and effort to minister to the needs of your family, to manage those resources that your husband brings into the home in order to care for him and for the children.

Let me read to you a quote from a book that I’ve just discovered written in 1882 called Home-making. It’s by a man named J. R. Miller. I want to read to you a rather lengthy excerpt here that I think makes this point so well about the woman working out of her home.

He says,

It should be understood that for every wife the first duty is the making and keeping of her own home. Her first and best work should be done there, and till it is well done she has no right to go outside to take up other duties. She is to be a ‘worker at home.’ She must look upon her home as the one spot on earth for which she alone is responsible, and which she must cultivate well for God if she never does anything outside.

Now, here’s where you’ll hear that this came from the 1800s. This writer says,

For the Father’s business [that’s capital “F”—Father, God—His business] is not attending Dorcas societies and missionary meetings, and mothers’ meetings, and temperance conventions, or even teaching a Sunday school class, until she has made her own home all that her wisest thought and best skill can make it.

There have been wives who in their zeal for Christ’s work outside have neglected Christ’s work inside their own doors. They have had eyes and hearts for human need and human sorrow in the broad fields lying far out, but neither eye nor heart for the work of love about their own feet.

The result has been that while they were doing angelic work in the lanes and streets, the angels were mourning over their neglected duties within the hallowed walls of their own homes. While they were winning a place in the hearts of the poor or the sick or the orphan, they were losing their rightful place in the hearts of their own household.

Let it be remembered that Christ’s work in the home is the first that he gives to every wife, and that no amount of consecrated activities in other spheres will atone in this world or the next for neglect or failure there (pp. 67-68).

But what does that mean for us as women today? Well, I have looked into the eyes of women and listened to the stories of women who are so busy serving God outside of their own homes that it’s obvious by the condition of their health, or the condition of their husband, their marriage, their children, that they have neglected the first things: their priorities in their home.

It’s a lot easier to go out and take care of someone else’s children or pick up for someone else where you get thanks and gratitude and maybe even a paycheck than it is to do those more thankless tasks within your own home.

We have women who are out leading Bible studies. They’re leading ministries. They’re working hard in their church. They’re staffing the nursery. They’re singing in the choir. They’re teaching a Sunday school class. They’re active and involved in their local church or in ministry in their community, volunteering in different ways, but their own homes are in shambles.

Your good works ought to first be done at home. Ministering to the needs of your family. Then as God gives you time, opportunity, available resources, or in a different season of life, to take those gifts and those abilities and expand them, as we’ll see the Proverbs 31 woman does, outside of your own home.

I have a friend who has a degree in art history. She’s a bright young woman. She was a photo editor for a big, heavy, thick art history text, and she’s got her name in there. This was in the days when she was still single and as a young married woman. Do you know what she’s doing now? She’s at home being a homemaker.

She’s got three toddlers and expecting a fourth. Her oldest is just four. She’s got her hands full. I’m sure some days it would be easier for her to go back to that job as a photo editor. She’d get a lot more thanks and a lot more money than what she’s getting at this moment because those four, three, and one-year-old children aren’t doing a whole lot right now to praise her. She’s got tough work.

But do you know the contribution she’s making now as the wife to her husband and the mother to those children in the context of her home, meeting their needs in very practical and loving ways? That contribution cannot be compared with having her name in that art history text that’s sitting on some university bookshelf. She’s making a contribution for eternity. She’s investing in the lives of her children. She’s working for eternity. She’s developing a relationship with those children, with that husband, and God is being pleased.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been challenging every mom. Are we investing in the things that really matter for eternity? It’s the type of message I need to be reminded of when the calendar starts to fill up and the days get busy. When you need to be reminded why you’re spending so much energy serving your family, imagine how nice it would be to have immediate access to Nancy’s teaching.

When you order her current series on CD, you can have that kind of access. It’s called The Counter-cultural Woman and it will help you work and serve in the right ways for the right reasons. You can order The Counter-cultural Woman on ten audio CDs; or if you’re going to load the programs on your computer or iPod, you can order the series on one MP3 CD. Either way, you’ll get longer versions of Nancy’s teaching than we were able to air. Get more details at ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you do listen on your computer or iPod, check out the podcast of Revive Our Hearts when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com. The website offers a lot of ways to share this important message with a friend. You can email them a transcript. You can send a Revive Our Hearts E-Card. You can order a book or tape as a gift. Again, check out our website for ways you can become an ambassador for this ministry.

Well, women today are busy. Every day is filled with hard work. There is a way to make it easier, and Nancy will explain on tomorrow’s program. Now she’s back to pray.

Nancy: Lord, help us to view work in our homes as a means of offering up worship and love and devotion to You and ministering grace to the ones that You have called us to serve. Help us to see work from Your point of view and to see that the work of our hands is holy when it’s work done for You and for others. So give us a sense of biblical and godly priorities. And may the virtue and excellence that You’re developing in our hearts manifest itself in these very practical ways as we tend to physical, material and temporal needs of those that You’ve put into our homes. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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