Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God's Beautiful Design for Women, Day 33

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Home is not an add-on to our spiritual life. Home, family, home, is part and parcel of our discipleship and our calling as children of God.

You and I can know the Bible backward and forward. We can have all our pretty little colored markers to mark up our Bibles. But if we’re not practicing self-control at home, then something is wrong with that picture.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adored, for Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been exploring Titus 2:1–5. That exploration has led us to a lot of practical topics. Today we get the phrase in Titus that women should be workers at home. Here’s Nancy to help us understand that phrase.

Nancy: Oh, this has been so helpful to me, and I hope it is to you, to take each of these words, each of these phrases in Titus 2, verses 3–5 in particular, and like a gem, a jewel, and turn it every direction to see the many different facets of it.

There’s a lifetime of wisdom and learning and growth packed for us into these verses. So we’re unpacking it. We’re taking our time. We’re not hurrying. We’ve been in this series for, I don’t know, five or six weeks now, and more to come. But let me read, again, the verses we’re looking at, and then we’re going to pick up today and over the next few days with another phrase in this passage.

And, remember this is a radically counter-cultural vision that Paul is painting for the believers there on the island of Crete where Titus is the pastor. He’s saying, “You’re not supposed to look like the world does. If you want to survive and thrive as a church, the people of God, in this pagan culture, here’s what that looks like. The gospel has to affect the way that you live, and you live this out together.”

And so he says in verse 3 of Titus 2: “Older women are to teach what is good and so train the young women.”

And what are they supposed to train the young women? “To love their husbands, love their children, to be self-controlled, pure.”

We’ve talked about all these things, and now we come to another phrase: “To be working at home.”

And then he goes on: “Kind, submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

There's nothing like jumping into controversy on some of these subjects. Right? We’ve talked about some difficult things. Listen, I’m not God. I’m not the ultimate interpreter of the Scripture. That’s why God gave you the Holy Spirit. But I’m just trying to shine light on these verses and tell you with my understanding what I see these meaning, and then have you wrestle with what it means, what it looks like for your life.

So we come to this term today: “Working at home.” That is a foreign concept for many parts of our culture today. And for some, it’s a deeply controversial, even offensive idea. And even among some Christian women, this concept of working at home can be emotionally charged and has created no small amount of debate. Am I right? What does this mean? And what are we supposed to do about it?

As a result of studying this over the years, this is one phrase in this passage where my thinking has evolved over the years, and I’m teaching this a little differently today than I did when I first recorded this series eight years ago because I’ve grappled with more of what it’s talking about, some of the cultural and historical background and some of the interpretation of the Scripture. So I want to share with you a better understanding of what I think this passage is saying to us.

Now, if you’re an older woman (and you decide whether you’re older), when you read Paul’s curriculum for young women, these things that are listed here, you might picture the Ozzie and Harriet generation of the 1950s. Some of you are old enough to remember that. And you might think, Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we could return to that? Those were the days.

If you’re a younger woman, and you don’t even know who Ozzie and Harriet were, you might find this whole thinking that Paul’s talking about here in Titus 2 very off-putting and even offensive.

I want to say to those of you who are the Ozzie and Harriet generation: It would be a big mistake to idealize that period or to try to return to another time in history. God has put us where we are today, and that’s the time in which we are to live and shine the light of the gospel of Christ.

It would also be a mistake, and let me say this to women of every age: It would be a huge mistake to write off this portion of Scripture as being archaic or irrelevant. “That was just meant for another culture. That doesn’t apply today.” All Scripture is inspired—every word of it. And it’s all intended for our growth, for our sanctification. It’s all intended to be taken seriously.

So we can’t just ignore it. We can’t just write it off. We can’t just skip by it. We have to wrestle with how to apply its enduring truth to our own era, our own culture, our own context, including this little phrase in Titus 2: “Working at home.” This is something that older women are supposed to train younger women how to do.

Now, is Paul saying with this phrase that a woman’s place is in the home? Is Paul being a male chauvinist, as many might suggest? Like, “Keep the woman in the kitchen, barefoot, and pregnant.” Is that the mindset Paul has about women? Some of you are shaking your heads, but there are women who read Paul in the New Testament, and that’s exactly what they think. How are you going to answer them?

The phrase Paul uses here is rendered a bit differently in other Bible translations, for an important reason. Those of us who grew up with the King James remember this phrase—remember what it was? “Keepers at home”—keepers at home.

The translation I’m using today, the English Standard Version, says, “working at home.”

Some other translations read: “Busy at home,” or “homemakers,” or “workers at home.”

Now, you have two basic groups. You have those that talk about “keeping at home” and those who talk about “working at home.” And there’s a reason for that difference in those translations.

There is a disagreement related to the word that is used in the original Greek. (Ready for a little language lesson here? Can you handle this?) The oldest Greek manuscripts use the word oikourgos.It’s a compound word which combines oikos, which means home or house, with urgos, which means work.

This is literally: One who works at home. It’s referring to a woman who is not idle. She’s busy at home. She’s active in household duties. That’s oikosurgos, those two words combined: oiko and urgos.

There are other manuscripts in the original Greek that use a slightly different word. It’s oikosoros, which is from two words: oikos—house or home—and oros,which means keeper or guard. That’s where you get the King James’ “keepers at home.” So one word, if it’s correct, would be: “Working at home.” The other word, if it’s the correct one, would be “keepers at home,” one who cares for the home, taking care of the household affairs.

Now, thankfully, for those of us—myself included—who are not Greek scholars, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot because both of these words—“working at home” and “keepers at home”—shed helpful light on our mission and our calling as Christian women.

In either case, the general sense of the word is that of a woman who is devoted to her home. She has a heart for her home, and she’s actively engaged and involved in her home life on a high priority basis. It matters to her.

Throughout the book of Titus, we see how the lives of believers are supposed to be a marked contrast to the lives of those who did not believe. The lives of God’s people are supposed to stand out from the rest of the culture. We’re supposed to be swimming upstream. We’re supposed to be counter-cultural.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be offensive or have a bad attitude or be scornful or disdainful of everybody who doesn’t see it our way. But we’re supposed to shine as bright lights in the midst of darkness. We’re supposed to be different.

So our culture is characterized by things like violence, sexual promiscuity, greed, lying, gluttony, debauchery, drunkenness, rebellion, hatred. And the world is supposed to be able to look at us and see a huge difference. We’re supposed to be characterized by things like love, gentleness, purity (we’ve talked about that over the last few programs), self-control (we’ve talked about that in Titus), truthfulness, submissiveness, well-ordered family relationships.

Our homes ought to look different. Our lives ought to look different. Our priorities, our values ought to look different than those that are common in the world. And one of the things that is supposed to characterize Christian women is a heart for the home, what was known in the nineteenth century as the virtue of domesticity.

Domesticity—you hardly hear that virtue referenced anymore, but it’s an important virtue for women in every era. And I believe it’s an especially crucial means of revealing the heart of the gospel in our generation that has so little sense of home.

The world’s idea of home is so messed up, so fractured, so splintered, which isn’t to say that Christians don’t have family problems. They do. We do. But we’re supposed to have grace for dealing with those issues. And people who are the result of multiple generations of serial divorce and re-marriage, promiscuity, and gender confusion, their hearts are longing for home. And it’s Christian homes tended to by Christian mothers and wives and women that ought to create in the world’s mind and in their hearts an appetite for our ultimate home of heaven.

Today, unfortunately, it’s common for homes, houses, to be little more than physical structures where people park their bodies at night, take their showers in the morning, and then disperse in a hundred different directions as they start their day. And the people who live in those structures occasionally run in to grab a snack and run out again. There’s little shared life. There’s little doing life together. They’re more living as roommates than as a family.

That’s the best case scenario, sadly. There are many Christian homes, and the people who live in them, that show significant signs of neglect and are in utter disarray.

Then you have the other extreme—people who worship their homes. They have designer homes that could be on magazine covers. There are people who worship their children. Everything’s about their family, their family, their family. There’s no sense of the bigger family of God or the bigger mission of God’s kingdom.

And even within some of those seemingly picture-perfect homes, the magazine cover ones, in many cases, when you get inside the doors of those home, you get inside the hearts of those people, you find that the relationships within those walls are seriously fractured. I could tell you many stories like that, and you know some. If they’re not fractured, they’re emotionally distant and dishonest relationships.

So the home may look Pinterest perfect—but it’s not. You see those on pictures at Christmas. Everybody sends them with their cards, the family photo, everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy, everybody’s family. They’re all close to each other.

For years—I don’t do this anymore—I used to plaster my refrigerator and my freezer in my home with these pictures in little magnet picture frames. I would look at these people. I knew these people. I knew, “That family just lost a parent that had cancer,” and “That parent has a wayward prodigal son,” and “That family is going through a divorce.”

But you look at these beautiful pictures, and so many times it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Right? Well, that kind of distance, dishonesty, brokenness, or something like it, is what far too many women today have grown up with, and that’s their only concept of home.

And God calls us in to this messy reality. He brings Titus 2 into this picture, reminding us that home is not an add-on to our spiritual life. Home, family, is part and parcel of our discipleship and our calling as children of God.

You and I can know the Bible backward and forward. We can have all our pretty little colored markers to mark up our Bibles. But if we’re not practicing self-control at home, if our husbands or our children or our roommates or our guests wouldn’t describe us as loving and kind, the words we read in Titus 2, then something is wrong with that picture.

So it doesn’t matter if you’re a theological genius. If things are off at home, and you’re not fulfilling the calling God has given you for your home, then something is out of order. We can’t separate our home life from our Christian life without missing something that is crucial to our fellowship with God and our usefulness to His mission in the world.

And when we minimize the importance of establishing and maintaining Christ-centered, Christ-loving homes that put the gospel on display, when we don’t think that’s a big deal, or even when our main goal for our homes is just to keep everything running on time and in line and on schedule, when we don’t have God’s priority about this, then we short change the enormous kingdom impact that our life at home is supposed to have.

In Titus 1, Paul talks about false teachers who were “upsetting whole families.” They were turning them upside down and inside out. Now Paul didn’t elaborate in that passage on what these people were saying, but he did indicate that they were doing it “for shameful gain.”

That probably means their teaching was popular. It was selling well. And apparently, at least some of what these false teachers were peddling was subverting, undermining God’s design for families. And we see this same thing happening today.

We have a young woman whose primary ambition is to be a godly wife and mother, as opposed to a, say, physical therapist or an architect, and she’s treated as if she does not have a brain in her head. Like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Several years ago a leading evangelical seminary announced that they were planning to offer an under-graduate degree in humanities with a concentration in homemaking. Wellm that caused no small stir.

One pastor wrote about them in his blog, and he characterized the degree program as “frivolous and foolish.” He said, “A seminary degree in cookie baking is about as useful as a master of divinity degree in automotive repair.” He was just saying this was foolishness that women should be encouraged to think about this as a possible career path.

In light of these kinds of attitudes and assumptions, even among Christians, what are we supposed to make of the fact that Scripture includes “working at home” or being a “keeper at home” in the core curriculum for the training of young women? And these young women are women who, by definition, are in the child-bearing, child-rearing season of life. And the older women, who’ve been through that experience, they’re supposed to be training these younger women, based on their life experience, their failures, their successes. They’re supposed to be training the younger women how to be “working at home,” or “keepers at home.”

Well, it’s important for us to take a look back at the history of work and home. As I’ve done this in more recent years, it has really increased by understanding of what Paul is talking about here, and what he is and is not saying for us today.

I have a friend named Carolyn McCulley, she’s been on our broadcast before. She wrote, co-authored with another woman, a book in the last few years called, The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work and the Home. (This resource is available through the Revive Our Hearts Resource Center.) This book and conversations with Carolyn have been extremely helpful to me in understanding what Paul is saying here when he talks about being “workers at home,” or “keepers at home.”

For longer than you or I have been alive, there has generally been a clear-cut division between what happens at home and what happens at work. Most people who “work” get up. They leave their house, and they go to another location to do their job.

That location, we could call “the public sphere.” It’s out there. It’s away from home. They’re doing their job. They’re teaching school, or they’re nursing, or they’re being a scientist, or they’re being an engineer, or they’re being a—whatever—away from home. That’s the “public sphere.”

They do the task in that sphere that they’re paid to do, and then they return back to their home, the “private sphere,” where they spend their paycheck and start the process all over again—get showered, cleaned up, get some food, and go back out into the “public sphere,” to do their work. Does this make sense so far?

I’ve had to grapple with this, and it’s been really helpful to do that. But it helps to see that this model of home being the “private sphere,” and going out to work in the “public sphere,” is a relatively recent development.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which spanned the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was no such separation of work and home. The home was the economic engine of society. It was a place of productivity, and families—men, women, and children—all pitched in. It wasn’t just like the dad goes off to work or the mom goes. They all pitched in to produce goods that made it possible for their needs to be met and enabled them also to care for others who had needs.

So both the home itself and the work that took place in and around the home were considered essential. They were highly valued. But by the twentieth century, all of that had changed. And you can talk about the Industrial Revolution, the place of war and world wars, and other things that combined to make this happen.

But rather than being a place of productivity, all hands on deck, all working together to make this successful, the home had become a place of consumption. We use the stuff that we earn outside of the home; we use it in our homes.

So today, we decorate our homes to express our unique personality, our unique style. We showcase our homes on Pinterest and Instagram so they can be admired by others. But they’re not, in most cases, a place of productivity. They’re places of consumption, and in some cases, conspicuous consumption.

But for the most part, our work and our homes, today, tend to run on separate tracks. In general, and again, there’s exceptions to this, but in general, the “public sphere,” that’s the market place where one is paid for one’s labors, has become the more highly valued realm.

The “private sphere,” on the other hand, the home that used to be the center of productivity and the economic engine for the society, the “private sphere” has now been devalued—that’s the home where loving marriages are nurtured, where children are discipled and trained, where disabled or elderly family members can be cared for, and hospitality and care can be extended to friends and neighbors. Those things you don’t get paid to do in your home, so that work has been devalued while the work outside the home that you get a paycheck for has been exalted.

So in the eyes of the world, as well as in their own eyes, women today often derive their sense of identity and status from productive work done outside the home, in the “public sphere,” work for which they’re financially compensated. (Are you following me?) Less status is attached to daily labor that takes place in the home and is not rewarded monetarily.

This division between the “private” and the “public” sphere is what has given rise to heated debate. Think “mommy wars”—debates about the place of women and the meaning of home.

So, back to Titus 2. When Paul exhorted the older women to train the younger women to be “working at home,” or “keepers at home,” he was living in an entirely different setting than this post-Industrial Revolution world in which we live today. And it’s important for us to understand that in order to avoid interpreting passages like Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 just through the lens of our own modern cultural context.

To our twenty-first century ears, it could seem that by urging women to be “working at home,” “keepers at home,” Paul was diminishing the value of women; that he was implying they were less important than men for, after all, unpaid home work is not as important as work done in the market place, the “public sphere,” this modern notion that we have.

So if you take that cultural context, our modern one, you could conclude that Paul was discouraging women from being productive, from contributing to their church, their community, or their culture. “Just stay in the home. Don’t do anything else. And what you do in the home is not that highly valued.”

But to apply our lens, our cultural lens, to this passage is to misunderstand the intent and the point of this passage.

Far from demeaning women, Paul was actually in this passage progressive for his time and his culture because he called Christian women throughout his epistles to be intentional about employing their heads, their hearts, and their hands for the sake of the gospel.

The apostle worked with Priscilla and her husband in their tent-making business.

His ministry in Philippi was supported by the business successes of a woman named Lydia.

Paul welcomed the participation and the partnership of these and other women in the ministry of the gospel. Just read Romans chapter 16 and see all the women that Paul mentions who were partners in the ministry of the gospel.

Paul didn’t say, “You’re less valuable. You have less contribution to make. Just go home and bake cookies.” There’s nothing wrong with going home and baking cookies, but he wasn’t limiting their productivity to a single, less-valuable sphere. He was saying, “What you do matters.” He never disparaged their work. He never disparaged their contributions. Rather, he encouraged women and men to utilize their skills and to maximize their assets for the advance of the kingdom of God.

So what does Paul mean, then, in the first century context and culture, with that as a backdrop, what does Paul mean? And what is the timeless truth here that speaks to us as women today? What does it mean for us to be “working at home,” or “keepers at home,” as Paul says that the older women are to teach the younger women to do?

Well, to answer that question, you have to come back for the next Revive Our Hearts. Be sure and join us as we continue this conversation about what it means to be women working at home for the glory of God and the advance of His kingdom.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s an in-depth look at Titus 2:1–5.

Nancy will be right back to pray, but before she comes back, let me give you ten reasons to get a copy of this new book, Adorned.

Number 10: If God inspired Paul to give instructions for women, we’d better pay attention.

Number 9: Nancy has spent years pondering this text helping us interpret it correctly.

Number 8: This book will inspire you to connect with other women in discipling relationships.

Number 7: The book, Adorned, will help you learn how to love your husband more deeply.

Number 6: Adorned will give you guidelines for knowing how to make your home a priority.

Number 5: It will help you develop a process of sound, wise, godly thinking.

Number 4: You can get this new hard-cover book for a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Number 3: When you donate and get this book, you’ll be helping to make sure this podcast continues coming your way every weekday.

Number 2: The book, Adorned, will help you identify any idols or addictions in your life and show you how to be free.

And number 1: You’ll be filling your mind with biblical truth. As you read this substantial book, you’ll be stretched, encouraged, and amazed at God’s truth.

To get your copy of Adorned, call 1–800–569–5959 and make a donation of any size, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy’s back to pray.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for the privilege and the joy of grappling with one phrase from Your Word. It has so much packed in it, and we want to understand it, and we want to live it out. We want to be counter-cultural women.

And we want, in the context of our homes, whether we’re married or single, whether we’re young or old, we want to honor You. We want to glorify You. We want our homes to put on display the gospel of Christ.

So, please, open our hearts to Your truth and show us what it means, what it looks like for us to view our homes the way You do. May our lives, then, be that which point people to Jesus, in the “public sphere” and in the “private sphere.” I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you be adorned in the beauty of the gospel. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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