Should a Christian sister have a career? If she is in the secular workforce, how far should she go? Are there Biblical guidelines for questions as these? Thankfully, there are some very clear Scriptures that will help a sister face these often difficult decisions.
The Biblical Ideal
Comparing several key passages provides a clear view of what the Lord’s ideal is on this subject. In Titus 2:1-5, Paul tells Titus to instruct the older women (in age or experience) to carefully teach the younger women these vital truths. They include self-control, which can also mean correction and discipline for the children;how to love their husbands; and how to love their children.
It may seem odd that young wives and mothers need to be taught how to love their husbands and children with true fondness, but the Lord found it important enough to mention. They were to be taught how to be chaste (pure and modest); to be keepers at home (homemakers; domestically inclined); good (a benefit in every sense); obedient to their husbands (this means subjection; voluntarily placing herself under the man in the house); and all of these were to be tributes to the truths and Word of God, that it be not blasphemed. Do these thoughts run parallel or counter to the ideals of the world?
In Proverbs 31, an ideal woman is described. She is a wife and mother, and successfully runs the home for both her children and her servants. She is industrious with her hands, and intelligent in her investments. She is a credit to her husband, who is known in the public dealings of the area. The key here is balance; all she does, as related to the business world, does not in any way compromise her responsibilities to her home, her husband, her children, or her servants. But nothing should supplant her responsibilities to her own children.
In 1 Timothy 5:10, Paul describes, to Timothy, a widow who could be eligible for assembly support. One of the beautiful characteristics of this woman is that she had “brought up children.” This Greek phrase is critically important. It literally means “to fulfill the duties of a female parent.” This is a job no father or mother-substitute can do. There is not a single job on this earth more important than being a Christian mother.
The Practical or Pragmatic
In many cases, a believing sister simply must work. If she is single, God may have called her to singleness (1Cor 7:34-35). Here, she must work, to support herself and her work for the Lord. Some dear sisters have said goodbye to their life partners, and are left alone. In many cases, widows must work to help support themselves. Is this group one of our most neglected today? We are called to remember them and to help them. Some wives have seen their husbands sustain injury or illness and they have had no choice but to go to work to help the family. In other cases, especially recently, husbands have lost their jobs or their benefits, and their wives have had to enter the workforce. Many of these cases are a matter of conscience and none have the right to interfere, if these necessities arise. Recently, young married couples have started out in areas with a very high cost of living, and both have to work. If at all possible, it would seem that couples starting out together should soon learn, if they can, to live a lifestyle based on the husband’s salary. If the wife works, her income might be saved; then when children come, it will not be such a huge adjustment.
The Negatives to Avoid
Young couples can easily start life together, and with two incomes, can quickly slip into a lifestyle of more and more “things.” Huge debt soon occurs, and when a family comes along, they simply cannot make it without daycare, babysitters, grandparents, and others. Latchkey kids arise from situations as these. Despite a wife’s priority to her family, her job can quickly become a career. Those who ultimately suffer the most are the children. Attitude is important here. Is there a spirit of doing things as I want to, or as the world would tell me what should be? Or, is there a humble spirit at work in trying to trust the Lord and attempting to do things He says are best?
A young sister can involve herself in a career, as long as she does not marry and bear children to her husband. As noted above, then the career should be put on hold, until the children are raised for the Lord. Many single women have used their careers to the glory of God, winning souls for heaven.
While in the workforce, there are dangers to be avoided. There might be pressures to compromise; to give in on core spiritual and Scriptural principles. There may be a real risk of becoming susceptible to the negative influences of unsaved people. Unwanted advances by ungodly men may occur. There may be pressure to be dishonest in cutting corners or adjusting figures. And then there will be very real pressures to compromise Biblical separation, and the danger of many different types of unequal yokes, including social friendships with those in an unsaved world. And the opportunities to move up the career ladder must always be done in the fear of the Lord, to make certain it is really His will.
Luke gives excellent advice from the Lord Jesus Himself as to how we should, as believers, view this world and what we earn in it. In Luke 16:9 the Savior urges us to use the money we generate in an unrighteous world, to make friends for heaven. All we make, is really His. We can use what He gives us from our employment to influence the unsaved, with whom we work, to salvation. Then, when the material things of this life have long since failed, we will meet in glory those that our lives have touched for eternity.