This topic has been on my husband’s list of what I should write about for a good couple of weeks now.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:3-5
I did some digging around on the internet before I felt comfortable presenting this short thought, because I wasn’t sure which angle I wanted to approach it from and how others defined this responsibility.
I’m especially hesitant to write on something with which I have so little (two and a half years?) experience. The reason for writing this isn’t because of my special expertise, but maybe more because of my “novice-hood.” There seems to be a lot of crash, trial-and-error learning done in the beginning stages of any new venture, and homemaking- becoming a new wife and then a new mother- is not exempt from this pattern of life.
I’m also hesitant to write on this particular aspect of being a homemaker, because in hindsight, it seems so obvious. So obvious that I probably look very silly writing an entire article on it.
But, that kind of thinking gets us in trouble in the long-run and suddenly things that we know are obviously wrong can become mainstream and widely practiced when they are neglected in conversation and teaching.
I want to talk about materialism and how we homemakers should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices in our lives.
When I look at other careers or even hobbies, the natural progression, the expectation, is to work up; get promoted; and get nicer things to show for it. When I was a child, I began drawing with blue pens, crayola markers, and dull pencils on computer paper, or (much to my future art teacher’s horror) lined notebook paper. Yet, when I walked into my college courses, I came with a portfolio and toolbox full of large drawing pads, special drawing utensils, fixative sprays and kneaded erasers. If I had continued and made a career out of art, my supplies, my tools and my studio and works of art would reflect my level of experience.
When I became a Christian and learned of God’s plan for women (which is by no means confined to housekeeping), I was eager to grow into that role and I quickly came to value my home, as it was really my profession.
Sometimes the line between the American dream and Christianity, ironically, is difficult to discern. Beauty is, in my opinion, highly valued in our culture. Women are expected to be beautiful, the clothes we wear are important, the interior decoration of our homes needs to be beautiful, certain name-brands are sought after, whether it’s clothing, cookware, cleaning or make-up products or accessories. So, when women of America (and many other affluent cultures) become Christians and embrace this “homemaking” role, sometimes it’s too easy to slip into a materialistic understanding of homemaking.
Let me include an excerpt from a devotion I read the other day:
“The Minneapolis Star-Tribune carried Mary McCarty’s review of Joan Brumberg’s book The Body Project. The book is about the difference between how girls saw themselves one hundred years ago and how they see themselves at the end of the twentieth century. Brumberg analyzes diaries of adolescent girls from the 1830s to the 1990s. Her conclusion, according to the reviewer: “In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, girls’ diaries focused on ‘good works’ and perfecting the character. In the 1990s, the diaries are fixated on ‘good looks,’ on perfecting the body.”
For example, on diary from 1892 says, “Resolved…to think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversations and actions. To be dignified. Interesting myself more in others.” Contrast this with an entry from 1982: “I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and baby-sitting money. I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories.”
What is remarkable about this shift from 1892 to 1982 is that it parallels exactly the shift, described in the Bible, away from what God wills for women.” – John Piper, Taste and See
I think many Christian women have heard this lesson, which is wonderful; they understand that it’s the inward beauty that counts because of the careful teaching of older women. However, the topic of valuing this spiritual responsibility of homemaking higher than the physical idea of housekeeping or home-decorating, in my experience, isn’t often brought up. Even in my (obviously conclusive and all-encompassing) internet ventures, I maybe found one article about “spiritual homemaking.”
I think I could write a separate post about this concept of “spiritual homemaking” but I’m not ready for that. My simple point is that yes, homemaking includes cleaning, cooking, organizing, and managing the physical day-to-day workings of a house. Absolutely. I have much to learn in those areas! But God has not defined a successful homemaker as one with the prettiest home, or the brightest and most beautiful earthly dwelling-place. We will not be judged by our interior decorating skills, just as we won’t be judged by just how beautiful we made our outward selves each day.
It’s easy to get distracted in this materialistic society, but it’s refreshing to think of those early Christians, or Christians today in developing countries. They don’t need to spend $200, $50 or even $5 on a trinket to hang in their dining room. They don’t need to stress and break down because company is coming over and the house isn’t spotless. They don’t judge a woman’s spiritual growth or success by the beauty of her house; by appearances (John 7:24). In fact, I wonder if that’s a concept some Christians in other parts of the world even understand. Do they know what it feels like to budget their income and have a special allotment for extra pretty things? Do they look at the time, energy and stress that goes into perfecting the home of the affluent and shake their heads in dismay? In confusion? In pity? Are they perhaps instead thankful that God has adopted them into His family and promised them a different and more beautiful inheritance, and they no longer have to care about the things of this world like those who live without Him; without hope? Do those who we interestingly pity, have a better chance of desiring God in the way He fervently wishes for His people?
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” – 1 John 2:16
I suspected my thinking had been tainted when we moved into “our” first house (okay, we’re still renting, but it’s not an apartment) this past February. I had high hopes. When I recognized the discontentment, distraction and occasional envy surfacing, I decided it was time to re-evaluate. God has outlined roles and duties for all of us, and women are to be keepers of the home, but if our definition of keeping the home leads us into temptation or sin, maybe it’s time to step back.
Physically, with our bodies, we have a duty. Our Father desires our outward appearance to reflect Him working in us and thankfully He has also told us how to achieve that reflection: modesty. Dressing up and being beautiful is never named as a way to glorify God. In fact if anything, it has been warned against. More important than our physical duty, however, God has spoken of the refining of our inward person.
In the same way, yes, we have physical duties as homemakers. In fact, in Bible times the duties of women took much more time and energy than they do today. Women could get up before the rising of the sun, go to bed far after the setting and probably still not finish all they had planned due to the extensive preparation and limited tools or conveniences regarding cooking, washing clothes, even making and repairing clothes and other household needs. Homemaking was and is certainly work.
But to confine it to these physical duties is dangerous. When homemaking becomes purely tangible, and especially in today’s advanced society when our responsibilities can be finished within hours, it’s easy to then focus on the extras as though they were essentials.
Making a home in light of the death of Christ means much more than fixing up a dwelling place on this earth. It means looking after the spiritual needs of your home and living in such a way to show others that you are clearly living for something that cannot be found on this earth.
Those without the hope of Christ seek physical things instead of the kingdom of God. They worry about what they will eat and drink and wear and drive and buy because this life is all they have and they understand that possessions and appearance are that which judges them in the eyes of others.
“And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-10
“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:14-15
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:4
Should one who becomes a new creation in Christ still cling to this consumerist and materialistic mindset in the name of Biblical homemaking?
That’s just not where I am right now.
I can think of times where I’ve had a clean, pretty and welcoming home yet simultaneously have had a bad heart and a mind focused on self rather than God or others. At that moment, it was only my spiritual state that God saw. That wise deal from Goodwill or those hours spent on deep cleaning couldn’t outweigh my inward transgression.
There is just nothing about how your home looks in the Bible, so my husband and I have cast that idea off. I still take care of the needs of the home, but I don’t give thought to the looks and we choose not to spend money on decor.
I feel the need for disclaimer right about now: 1) my goal in writing these thing is never to exalt myself and is always to provoke thinking and study in whoever may read, 2) if it doesn’t apply to you, I’m not talking to you, so please don’t be offended and 3) don’t take my word for it. I may change my mind in three weeks, but if I do, it’ll be because I found something in the scriptures that says otherwise. I encourage you to base your beliefs and practices on God’s word and not WordPress.
Ultimately, how your home looks has no bearing on your salvation, which also means that having an undecorated house, or no money in the bank account doesn’t equate with righteousness. I can still have a modest, undecorated house and be unpleasing to the Lord.
My hope with this article is to just remove all thought from outward, physical appearances and to refocus on the spiritual, the inward, the weightier matters, doing good works, raising our children,serving others and being a disciple of Christ every day, in every circumstance and every environment.