Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God’s Beautiful Design for Women, Day 34

Leslie Basham: The apostle Paul calls women to be a keeper at home. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth shows what that means practically.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s important for me to know what matters to my husband and to be sensitive to his needs and his priorities, and for us to seek to live that out together. The way we do it will probably look different than the way you do it, and that’s okay.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Nancy: I love being able to unpack God’s Word in this way, and I love being able to help you to do that, to encourage you to do that. The last session, and today, and in then in one more session we’re talking about one little phrase in Titus chapter 2 that has created a lot of confusion, a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of misinterpretation. 

We’re trying to unpack it and see what it means for us. So let me read Titus 2:3–5:

[Older women are] to teach what is good, and so train the young women [this is life-to-life, living out the beauty of the gospel together] to love their husbands and [to love their] children, to be self-controlled, [to be] pure [and then the phrase we’re looking at today, to be] working at home [or “keepers at home,” depending on which translation you’re using, to be] kind, and [to be] submissive to their own husbands, [so] that the word of God may not be reviled.

There’s a lot at stake here! If we don’t get what this means, if we don’t live it out, then the Word of God will be reviled. It will be blasphemed if we don’t take seriously this curriculum. It says older women need to be training the younger women what this looks like in their season of life and modeling—through our lives—God ’s calling for us as women.

These are gospel issues. This not just like frou-frou stuff for women who like to go to little women’s retreats where they do things that some women enjoy and some other women don’t enjoy so much.

This is not about surface activities. This is about a heart; this is about a mindset, a way of thinking, a set of priorities and values. As I have meditated on and grappled with Titus 2 in light of the whole of Scripture, I’ve come to believe that when Paul instructs women to be working at home, or keepers at home, there are some things that he does not mean.

Now, to give you a context for this, if you didn’t hear the last program, I encourage you to go back and catch that. Read the transcript or listen to the audio, because it sets up what I’m going to talk about today.

There are some things that Paul does not mean by saying women should be working at home or keepers at home. I know there are some listening to this today who are coming from a background where what I am about to say is going to send shock waves into your system. You’re going to say, “What! Say that again! You can’t be right!”

I’m just the messenger. You go to the Word. You go to the Scripture. You grapple with it. You ask the Holy Spirit to instruct you and show you what God is saying in this.

But here’s my understanding:

  • Paul is not mandating that women are only to work at home or that the home is to be their only sphere of influence or investment.
  • He is not saying that their domestic activities are to be their sole focus, or that their home requires 24/7 attention at all times.
  • He’s also not saying that women are single-handedly responsible to do all the work that needs to be done in the home, or that’s inappropriate for children or husbands or others to help.

Can I just say that I love having a husband who loves doing the dishes? [laughter] I’m normally—more often than not—the one who gets dinner on the table. Almost every night, after thanking me and enjoying the meal (and then we sit and have a little chat, holding hands, talking, enjoying each other), he gets up, puts a dishtowel on his shoulder and washes those dishes. I help. It’s a time we spend together. But I’m thankful that he loves serving in that way.

[To her husband, Robert, in the studio audience:]

Honey, have I thanked you for that lately?

Robert: Yes. 

Nancy: Good. I appreciate it!

So Paul is not saying that women are to be the only ones who do all the practical tasks in the home. He is not prohibiting women from performing tasks outside the home, and he’s not prohibiting them from being compensated financially for work they do outside the home.

Further, Paul is not implying that women have no place in the public arena or they should not contribute to their church, their community, or their culture. So, what does Paul mean to say in this passage? What do his words, “working at home, keepers at home” imply for Christian women?

For starters, this phrase “working at home” makes clear that women are to work. Sometimes I’m asked, “Do you believe in working women?” I say, “Absolutely!” It’s a good thing to work. Women are supposed to work; men are supposed to work; I think children should work, too (maybe a little different kind of work). But women are to work.

They are to be gainfully occupied. They are not to be like the young widows in Ephesus that Paul referred to in his letter to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 5 he called them idlers—going about from house to house—and also gossips and busybodies. Those were women who were not taking this working at home stuff seriously.

Rather, these women, instead of being idle and gossips and busybodies, are to live honorable lives. They’re to faithfully carry out whatever work God has given them to do. And God gives all of us work to do. This is a good thing.

Did you know, by the way (I digress here), we’re going to have work to do in heaven? Work is holy. It’s not a result of the fall. Work has taken on thorns and thistles as a result of the fall, but it’s a good thing. We’re going to work serving our King Jesus for all of eternity and love doing it—no thorns, no thistles!

Back to Titus 2. As we have seen in the last session, the home in Paul’s day—and in most eras prior to the twentieth century—was a place of employment. It was the small business unit of the local economy. And, within that system, it was important for women to be productive, not idle.

So, now, although our twenty-first century homes are not—generally—the center of productivity that they once were, it should still be true of every woman who fears the Lord that, as Proverbs 31:27 says, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

She’s gainfully involved, employed, in serving the Lord and her family and others. Now, that’s the rendering “working at home.” We’ve seen that some translations have an alternate rendering, “keepers at home.”

That “keepers at home” phrase highlights the importance of preserving and prioritizing our homes. As we’ve seen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the only priority—or the number one priority—at all times, at all seasons of our lives.

But Paul is saying to women with this phrase, “Don’t drop the ball. Don’t fumble it; don’t mess it up!” The instruction affirms that the work we do at home matters—not just to ourselves, not just to our families, but also to the wider community, and to the cause of the gospel.

So Paul is not calling us just to feather our own nest or make ourselves comfy or to have a home that could be seen on some designer magazine somewhere. As my friend, Carolyn McCully, reminds us in her excellent book called The Measure of Success, our work at home is—she says—“a co-labor of love with our Creator for the benefit of others.”

I love that! It’s a co-labor with our Creator when we work at home—or anywhere else—for the benefit of others. And, even if our culture does not validate the significance of that work we do in the home—in the private sphere, for which we are not financially compensated—God values it! He sees it; He knows it, and He will reward it.

Even though we may not be rewarded tangibly for those efforts, God will reward our labors in our home. The work we do in our homes has eternal value. Culture doesn’t see it this way, but God sees it this way.

So Paul is being strategic for the gospel when he says to women, “Don’t fumble what matters in eternity!” This is not just this side thing you have here—a to-do list of obligations a mile long. This is important. It matters, even though no one else may see it, no one else may recognize its value. No one else may recognize its worth. No one else may give you a bonus for this or a paycheck or pat you on the back or say, “Way to go!” But God sees. He cares, and He rewards.

Now, this passage also implies that young women—that is, women in the child-bearing, child-rearing season of life—have a distinct responsibility to prioritize their homes and their children (this curriculum, after all, was written with them in mind).

That’s not to say that home and children don’t matter in other seasons of a woman’s life. It’s also not to say that childless women or unmarried women don’t have to be concerned about their homes. But no woman—and no man, for that matter—has unlimited bandwidth. We all have to make choices.

And so, younger women with children need to be particularly careful during that season that other activities—even good ones—don’t cause them to neglect their children, their husband, or their home.

Would you agree with me that it seems to be the norm today—rather than the exception—for women of every age to be chronically overwhelmed by overcrowded, marginless schedules. I mean, I look at that sentence in my notes and I’m going, “I see my picture there! I see some of your pictures there.”

I see that glazed look in some of your eyes—just stressed and stretched and overwhelmed. Well, being busy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need to remember that Jesus Himself worked hard, and He had some days that had almost no down time. Read Mark chapter 1—a day in the life of Jesus. It’s a busy day!

But in my personal experience, much of the stress and the strain related to our schedules is the result of attempting to take on activities or responsibilities that compete with my core commitments and the priorities God has given me for that season of my life. Does that make sense?

So we have to know—in every season—what are God’s core priorities for my life? What’s on His agenda—His to-do list—for my life for that season? If I start throwing in other things that other people want me to do, or I want to do that may be fine to do at another season but it’s not for that season, then I’m going to end up with this result: no margin, stressed, up to my eyeballs and stressing everyone else around me, right?

So, periodically, I think we all need to push the pause button and ask ourselves if some of those activities that are on our agenda for this season (it could be a job, a hobby, or even ministry involvement) are things that would be better postponed for another time when we can undertake them without violating other God-given responsibilities? Seasons are so important in a woman’s life. No woman can do it all in any one season, but some of us are trying mighty hard!

My husband and I talk about this regularly. We were talking about it in the last twenty-four hours: about the season that I’m in, the season that he’s in, the season we’re in in our marriage. We're talking about, “What does this look like? What should it look like?” We’re calibrating and re-calibrating and praying. 

We're saying, “Lord, show us in this season of our lives what our work should look like, what our home should look like, what our relationships should look like.” And what it looks like today will not be what it looked like ten years ago (for either of us), and it will, undoubtedly, look different ten years from now.

You have to kind of re-assess that and reset from time to time. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Now, to have a heart for home—to be working at home, to be a keeper at home, to prioritize your home—doesn’t necessarily mean (though it might) that you have to grind your own wheat and make your own bread. It doesn’t mean that you have to have a basement full of fruits and vegetables that you’ve grown and picked and canned.

I have some friends that do that, and I benefit from those friends because they’ve fed me goodies at Christmas and other times of the year, and I’m really thankful they do all that. But that’s not on my list of priorities for this season. It may be for another season (I kind of doubt it, but it might be!). You can help me with that. (laugher)

Being a woman who has a heart for your home, prioritizes your home, doesn’t mean you have to make a quilt for each of your children and your grandchildren. But if you do that and that’s appropriate for your season of life and that’s the way you love and serve your family—do it!

But don’t put yourself under a guilt trip if you’re not one of the women who does that. If that’s not your calling, your gifting, then relax! Cheer up. It’s okay. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a heart for your home.

It doesn’t mean you have to sew your own clothes and your kids’ clothes. It doesn’t mean you have to put a wall-art border on your bedroom walls. What working at home, to be a keeper at home does mean is managing and meeting the needs of your home and your family.

What matters, particularly for married women and moms (and, in the immediate context of Titus 2, that’s who is in view) is not what a woman’s home looks like or what she does there in terms of tasks and activities. But it means she’s giving it the appropriate priority for that season. Is she fulfilling her God-given calling in her home and in the lives of her husband and her children?

If her children are two and six, that’s going to look a lot different than if they’re twelve and sixteen—or twenty-two and twenty-six. It changes in different seasons. Is she giving those under her roof—those within her realm of responsibility—more than just the left-overs of her time and her attention? Is she investing her heart and her best efforts in these priceless lives?

I want to give you a personal illustration out of just the last hours, here. My husband got home late last night from a business trip. I was in the middle of preparing and studying for recording today. That’s the work that I do outside of our home, and my husband is very understanding. He loves this work; he’s sitting here in the recording session today.

He’s cheering, he’s praying, he’s encouraging. I’ve batted around these ideas with him, and he’s involved in helping me think through these things. When he got home last night he said, “I know you’re studying, and I know you just need to keep working . . .”

But I want to be a woman with a season-appropriate heart for my home. So, for me, last night (not at his insistence—he would have been happy for me just to keep studying) we stopped. We took—I don’t know what—sixty or ninety minutes out? We sat on the couch, and we talked about his day and the things he had faced and some things that are going on in our lives. I think I was able to relax.

[To Robert:] 

Did you feel that way?

Robert: Yes.

Nancy: Thank you for saying that!

And then I kissed him goodnight. He went to bed, and I went back to my studies and was up for quite a while after that. And I think that was a good thing.

Now, could I have gone to bed and would I have enjoyed going to bed an hour-and-a-half earlier? Of course, and Robert would have been fine with that. But in that moment, in a season-appropriate way, I want him to know that he matters more to me and making sure his needs and our relationship are flourishing mean more than me preparing to do this recording.

Now, it may not look that way for you, and it may not look that way for us next week. The situation may be a little different. That’s why you have to keep walking in the Spirit, being sensitive to the Spirit, sensitive to the needs of those in your home.

There is no one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to how this works. Having a heart for home, being a keeper of your home, will look different for different women—depending on the configuration and the particular circumstances of your family and what best serves their needs at any given time.

I think it’s particularly challenging for women with families to know how to navigate this. It requires prayer and wisdom and seeking the Lord—particularly in an economy that is now structured around a two-income (at least a two-income) family. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for a family to make ends meet without having two incomes—from the husband and the wife.

Now, I know women who have navigated this differently—and you do, too. I know women who have chosen to be full-time workers at home, at least while they’re rearing children. And that’s a choice that often requires significant sacrifice, but those who are willing and able to make that sacrifice and that choice stand to gain many potential benefits and blessings.

I recently had an amazing conversation with a bright, lovely twenty-two-year-old woman. She and I were having dinner at a mutual friend’s home. She was reflecting on her upbringing, and I knew I was thinking about this series, so I plied her with questions.

Her mother had been a gym teacher and a basketball coach, and when God blessed her mother and dad with children, this mom returned home. This now twenty-two-year-old woman was saying to me, “We didn’t have cable TV. We didn’t go out to eat a lot. But we didn’t suffer. I believe it was better for us this way.”

She shared how her mom had been involved, while she was rearing these children, in various types of activities and relationships and ministry in the neighborhood and at church. So home wasn’t all she was doing, but she had the freedom—with her family and those priorities—to do other things in the neighborhood and at church.

Now the children are grown, and so her mom has considered going back to work outside the home in the public sphere. But as she prayed about it, she realized that if she did that, it would limit her flexibility and her availability, so she made the decision not to.

She’s not saying it’s wrong for anybody else to do that, but that’s how God led her. I’m sure she and her husband were seeking the Lord together on this. So now this mom with grown children is free to help her aging parents who are having unexpected medical needs starting to arise.

This mom leads Bible studies; she helps neighbors with gardening; she’s on call for blessing those around her in practical ways. Aren’t you glad there are still some women like that left? Not a whole lot, but we need more of them!

I think the Titus 2 vision would raise up more women in that season of life who could make that choice. I don’t know this mom—I’ve never met her—but I see her reflection in her twenty-two-year-old daughter who’s a deeply caring young woman, who loves the Lord and others, who is serving the Lord and others, and who hopes to follow in her mom’s steps.

I celebrate that mom’s decision to give her primary attention and effort—when she was rearing children, and even now—to focus on being a keeper at home. That’s a choice that should be supported and affirmed by those who believe God wants them to make that decision.

I’m thankful for women like that who don’t have paid employment, who are able to engage in work that is of great eternal value for the Kingdom—even though it’s not compensated work—like caring for children, ministering to the poor and the sick and the needy, extending hospitality, volunteering in school and at church. I’m thankful for women who can do that and choose to do that.

Having said that, I could also introduce you to other wives and moms whose hearts are no less at home, but have chosen—for a variety of reasons—to work outside their homes. Some of these women manage to hold down regular nine-to-five (or longer) jobs. Others have found different creative ways to contribute to their family’s financial wellbeing.

Let me just give you some examples. I know a couple of moms who run a small cleaning business in which they can involve their kids. So they’re training their kids as they’re bringing in some extra income for the family.

I’ve known women, as you have probably, who work from their home to give piano lessons, alter clothes, provide accounting services, or offer daycare.

I know a single mom who works tirelessly to support herself and her teen kids, but her business allows her to set her own schedule so she can be with her kids as much as possible. And also wisely (parenthetically, here) from the time this woman’s husband left, when her girls were little, she has lived in an apartment in the home of close family members, which has provided an extra layer of family for her children. Rather than just getting her own place while her kids were growing up, she said, “I want to have family around my kids.”

I have a colleague whose husband was diagnosed with severe early-onset dementia while he was still in his forties. This woman juggled his care with freelance contract work to meet their family’s financial needs.

I know women who have worked hard to provide for their family during their husband’s incarcerations, while courageously striving to shepherd their kids’ hearts in the absence of a dad in the home.

I know women who work alongside their husbands in family businesses, and they’re able to arrange their schedules to be able to attend to the needs of children, grandchildren, and elderly parents.

I heard recently about two nurses who are friends who both work two or three shifts a week. They swap childcare with each other, so that their families can be tended to and they can be bringing in some extra income for their family.

Now, is life a juggling act for these women? Absolutely! And do they sometimes lose their balance and feel like their priorities are out of whack? No doubt. But, each one of them has a heart for home, and each one is asking the Lord for wisdom to make the choices that would best honor Him in their current circumstance.

Now, I want to say quickly, I realize there are many women who feel they don’t have an option about whether to work outside their home. They don’t have the freedom to arrange that work creatively, as some of these other women have done.

We live in a broken world, so the picture is not always ideal and the choices are not always easy. But I want to say this to my sweet type-A, first-born listeners, friends, people who comment on our blog post. We are not called to determine these choices for others.

We’re not called to legislate specific life, family, and work choices for other sisters in Christ. But, at the same time, we cannot escape the fact that we are each called to have a heart for our home—and to recognize the priceless value and the strategic importance of the eternal investments that are being made there.

So for you women who are saying, “I care about my home; I care about my family! I’m investing in it in every way that I possibly can!” I’m your cheerleader! And thanks for being my cheerleader, because I’m seeking to do the same thing along with you.

How all this plays out may change according to the different phases and the changes of a woman’s life. There may be seasons when a woman can have extensive pursuits outside her home without neglecting the priority of her home.

Being a keeper at home—I want to say it again—will look different for a mom with preschoolers than it does for an empty-nester or an older widow. It looks different for me today than it did during my decades as a single woman.

It’s important for me to know what matters to my husband, and to be sensitive to his needs and his priorities, and for us to seek to live that out together. And the way we do it will probably look different from the way you do it, and that’s okay.

But we’re still called to have that heart for home. Our responsibilities may change, our control over our time and our schedule may be greater or less than what we’ve had in other seasons, but no matter what our circumstances or our season of life, home still matters for us as women.

We will diminish the impact of our witness and our ministry as believers if we allow home to become an afterthought, or if we reject and resist God’s call to be workers and keepers at home. Amen? Amen!

Leslie: Women should be keepers at home. The apostle Paul said that to a young pastor in the first century. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been exploring how those words affect us in the twenty-first century.

Nancy writes about this topic—among many others—in the brand-new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. One online reviewer had this to say about Adorned. She wrote, “As an older woman presently mentoring a younger woman, I was eager to read this book—and I was not disappointed!”

The major thrust of the book is to address specifically how the beauty of the gospel is demonstrated in the lives of both older and younger women, and how they live that out together!

You can experience this kind of relationship, too. The book Adorned will show you why it’s so important, and inspire you to make those connections. We’ll send you Adorned as our thanks when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any size.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and request the book, or ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959. We’ll send one book per household for your donation during this series.

Have you ever realized . . . God is a homemaker? Nancy will talk about it tomorrow. Please be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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