Recent question from one of my friends:
“Did you ever address housework in the helpmeet study? I have some friends who seem to think spending time ministering to their friends and pouring their heart into others, but neglecting the home and angering their husbands, is ok because the ministering is "holy" and the housework is "physical" - the ministering is better, as if submission to the husband's desires is less holy.”
1. Any activity that fulfills a commandment of the Lord, irrespective of whether it's physical or spiritual in nature, is holy because obedience is the Christian’s true worship of God. In the case of your friends, their ministries are not holy because they are pursuing them against God’s specific commandment for wives to be subject to their husbands. (Reference: Genesis 3:16; Titus 2:5; I Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22; I Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 3:18)
2. From a human standpoint, I would also argue that these women are failing to understand the true nature of their home. In terms of crafting the life of the family, it is a woman’s most necessary tool. The home is essential to a wife in fulfilling God’s creation directive to be a suitable helpmeet to her husband. It also serves in training her children (including learning how to work through helping with housework), caring for the family in general (food/shelter/rest), practicing of hospitality, etc. Therefore, it is critical that her home (her “tool”) be sharp, clean, and as smooth-running as possible.
3. In scripture, there are no commandments (or even a passing mention) to men about keeping the home. It is simply not part of their role. On the other hand, there are plenty of verses for the women. (Reference: Proverbs 14:1; Proverbs 31:10-31; I Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:4)
A Few Additional Verses of Relevance:
• I Timothy 5:9-10 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble, and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
This is the gold standard for a Christian woman’s life and parallels the criteria for elders. It describes the life of a woman eligible for the financial support of the church so that she may devote her widowhood to prayer and petitions for the saints, rather than scrabbling for food and shelter. Note that housework can be considered a form of “footwashing” (i.e., an undesirable task) that we do for the others within our home, including both family and guests. Clearly there is also a call within these verses for women to minister to each other, but the following verse's citation cautions a limit to the more “verbal” types of ministry.
• I Timothy 5:13-14 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
This indicates that “ministering to their friends and pouring their heart into others” is not high on the list of proper expenditures of time for a woman, be she married or widowed. Notice, too, that being focused on her responsibilities at home serves as a protection from attack by the evil one.
• Titus 2:3-5 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
I’m not sure you are physically old enough to qualify as an older woman, but spiritually, you are mature, my Sister. God is pleased with the things you are trying to teach your friends because they are consistent with His word, despite their nature running counter to the common culture. With kindness and without personal judgement, these are the Titus 2 things the mature Christian woman teaches less mature wives:
- “love husband and children” – Jesus showed us that real love bears a servant’s heart. A godly wife should love and desire to please her husband the way the Church seeks to love and please Christ.
- “be self-controlled” – Be sufficiently self-controlled to do the hard, not fun things first, like housework.
- “be busy at home” – This is considered best translated as "keepers at home," but translations of the verse are highly variable, e.g., "busy at home," "housekeepers," "workers at home," etc. It is sufficient, however it may be translated, that the first focus of woman’s responsibility lies within the home.
- “be subject to their husbands” – This is a command, not a suggestion.
- “so no one will malign the word of God” – Yikes! God says his daughter’s care of her house will also reflect on Him - for better or worse.
• Proverbs 12:4 A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband; but she that maketh him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.
A poorly managed home reflects badly on the husband because it does not reflect the wife’s loving interest in those that dwell within.
• Judges 21:25 In those days Isreal had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
I Samuel 15
Concerning your friends’ insistence upon putting actions they view as ministry before their husband’s wishes, I am again reminded of Saul’s rebellion against the Lord’s commands regarding the loot and populace of the Amalekites. When confronted, Saul made a rather feeble excuse that he had saved the best cattle, etc. for a “future” sacrifice to God. In reality, he disobeyed because he wanted to do what suited himself best. In the same way, I believe your friends are best described as Isreal was in the last verse of Judges, i.e., they “live like they have no King.”
• Proverbs 14:1 A wise woman builds her own house, but a foolish one with her own hands tears it down.
• Proverbs 31:10-31 Paraphrased: A godly woman rises early to administer the home; works with willing hands; makes/manages family’s clothing and meals; keeps a garden; keeps her body strong; works late; maintains a home business for profit; cares for and rears her children; her work in the home is the source of praise for her.