Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Woman's Unbiblical Place

You're supposed to stay home and
cook in high-heels, apparently.

  A woman's place is in the home?

That was the narrative offered us when I was a kid in the 50's.  It was the man's job to provide and the woman's job to be a housewife, taking care of  kids and meals and such.  They said things like that in our church.  She's supposed to stay home.
The Victorian Era: 1837 to 1901
Also known as the industrial age, the years saw great
advancements in technology. Queen Victoria
 ruled at the time. It was the age when the
'housewife' was born. It only worked
 if you were wealthy.

As a teen, I sometimes wondered how come my mom and dad both had regular jobs.  Were they doing it wrong?

Years later, my young wife and I grew past the narrow description we'd been offered and enjoyed the opportunities we had for work and education and raising a family much like mom and dad had.

A reality check shows a woman's role through all of history.

In a West African village, everybody pitches in.  Friends interrupted our conversation to go
do their part.  The kids help, too, and they're skilled.  Click on the pic for a detailed look at
families and community in action.  And notice where the babies are.

This is the real world, the way most folks live.

Women have always been workers much like the men beginning in early cultures. Everyone turns out to plant or harvest.  Men often take the more physically demanding tasks, but women don't ever just stay at home ... unless they are wealthy.  Normal families are extended, tasks are shared, and there is a lot of work to do for everyone, all day, every day.  That's always been and is still the case for more than 80% of the world's folks; carrying water, collecting firewood, tending crops, landing the fishing boats and hauling in the nets like in the picture here ...

In some ancient writings, a king tells of the advice his mother gave him, "A good wife is hard to find," his mom says, "and worth far more than diamonds.  Her husband trusts her and has no reason to regret it."

Then he lists some character and behavior traits his mother offered to make her point.

  • She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.
  • She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
  • She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
  • First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
  • She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
  • She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.
  • She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
  • She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
  • She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
  • Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.
  • She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
  • Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
  • When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
  • She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.
This doesn't sound anything like 'a woman's place is in the home', does it.  It doesn't sound like long skirts and no sports either.  It doesn't sound like weak or unskilled or uneducated or unproductive.  It sounds like a good business woman well fitted to her culture, a person engaged in meaningful work across a broad spectrum.

The king's mother goes on to say, "Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: 'Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!'”

And she closes with, "Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.  The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives with a whole heart for God.  Give her everything she deserves, and fill her life with praise."

This particular account was written around 2,700 years ago; Proverbs 31.  It wasn't new, just laying out wisdom like parents do for their children.  They were biblically correct in their understanding even before the Bible was written, and the record remains for our instruction.

A great woman  will be fully engaged in family and culture, focused on living life and serving well with a good heart.  At least that's the way it looks to me if you read it in the Bible in the context in which it was written.

Then, of course, what is a man's place?  Same problematic phrasing; there's no place, per se, only purpose.