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When Mama is Forced to Work Outside the Home

Every once in a while you get really stretched as a blogger, and it's a good thing. Like this past week, for example, when a dear reader wrote me a letter that nearly broke my heart.

A homeschooling mother of six who loves the role God has given her, she finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Illness has left her husband unable to provide financially for his family and with unsupportive relatives and a church that scoffs at their decision to leave their fertility in the hands of the Lord, they are struggling not just to pay the bills, but to keep the mouths of their hungry children fed.

This dear mother shares the convictions I expressed in The Cost of Being A Stay-at-Home Mom and would love nothing more than to raise her children in the way she believes God calls her too. However, after waiting on the Lord for his direction, they see no other alternative than for her to work outside the home in order to provide basic necessities like food and clothing for their family.

Their desire is to live for Christ in every area of their lives; she wrote me wondering how the possibility of her being employed outside the home jives with Scripture.

A few questions that would help shape my answer include:

  • How permanent is your husband's condition?
  • Is your husband able to home school your children?
  • Can you work from home (Proverbs 31)?
  • Is there a church in the area that takes God's institution of the diaconate more seriously than the one you attend now?
  • Is there any possibility of moving to a cheaper home, city, or state?
  • How old are your children? Are they able to contribute at all to the family income or engage in a family business?
  • You said you don't have any support from your relatives; is there a close friend or an older mentor who would be willing to help out with a loan (Leviticus 25:35-37)?
  • It sounds like you've already cut every corner you can think of, but just in case, is there any way you can live on less? One vehicle instead of two? Sell unused toys and clothes on consignment? Hang your laundry on the line instead of using the dryer, etc.?

Regardless, this dear lady needs not feel condemned should employment outside the home prove to be the only way out of their tight spot. There are other times in Scripture where God has made exceptions to His normative plan for women.

The story of Deborah in the book of Judges is one such example. Contrary to popular opinion, Deborah's leadership role as a prophetess is not an excuse or a reason for women of our day to do the same. There is no question she performed her job well or that God blessed it and ultimately used Deborah's actions to bring men back into leadership. But it was to Israel's great shame that God had to raise up a woman to support the men and warn them of their cowardice.
When God puts a godly person in a position where they are forced to act in a way that seemingly contradicts the rest of Scripture, someone else must always bear the punishment, guilt, fault, or shame (i.e. Hosea). In Deborah's case, it was the wimpy Israelite men of whom there was not found one with the courage to take the responsibility and lead.

In the case of the dear mother who wrote me earlier this week, I believe the shame lies with her unsupportive relatives and church. She is being forced outside of the home because her family and church have forsaken their biblical responsibilities (1 Timothy 5:8; 16; Leviticus 25:35-37; Proverbs 19:17; Psalm 112:5).

God instituted the diaconate so that the needs of the poor, of whom He said would always be with us (Mark 14:7), would be met. I never like suggesting that a family leave a church but if they are not cared for to such a degree that a mother of six children must leave her sacred responsibilities to keep her family from going hungry, it may be time to find a body of believers that recognize the importance of a mother's influence in the home and will joyfully make the sacrifices necessary so it can happen (James 1:27).

Unless her husband's condition improves and he is able once again to "bring home the bacon," or her church and family step up to the plate and in biblical love take care of those among them who are hurting, I believe this dear lady is not at all acting inappropriately in a situation that is less than ideal.

We serve a big God. Just as He was able to bless Deborah's efforts and restore Israel, so He can bless this mother, her husband, and children far above what we could even ask or think (Ephesians 3:20,21) during her temporary time of outside employment.

Linking to: Time-Warp Wife, Far Above Rubies, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots At Home, Wise Woman, Raising Arrows, Raising Mighty Arrows, Hearts for Home, The Better Mom, A Mama's Story

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