Pastoral Letter 10 Apr 2022

My dear readers,

Stay Home Parenting: Mother only?

The “stay home parenting mother” is a biblical concept. Mothers stay home and care for the home and the children. They are not encumbered by work of any kind outside of the home, but are devoted completely to the care of the home and bringing up their children. There is no exception to this rule. If this is the understanding, then it is absolute, i.e. apodictic, like the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20. But if there are God-honouring exceptions where the mothers are permitted to work outside the home and not stay at home or even to stay at home and work, then it is casuistic like the civil laws of Exodus 21-23 whereby in certain cases it is wrong for mothers to work, but in certain cases it is not unbiblical to work.

Some believe that it is apodictic and others believe that it is casuistic. The primary text used for our understanding is Titus 2:3-5: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

The phrase “keepers at home” is for the younger women. The phrase literally means “house keeper.” This word is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. What did the young women do in those days that they needed the aged women to teach them? Their problem was staying away from home. They did not stay home when the husbands were out in the field working or selling their goods in the market place. The children and house chores were left unattended. Children must be brought up in the fear and admonition of the LORD by the parents. This cannot be done when both parents are absent! Thus, the injunction to the aged women (who had seen enough of life) was to give the right advice on the do’s and don’ts of a Christian wife.

Bringing up children ought not to be farmed out to others. It is the sole responsibility of Christian parents. It does not mean that children cannot be watched temporarily by others in times of emergencies. The book of Proverbs is replete with verses referring to the parent-child relationship. Here are a couple of examples for emphasis.

Proverbs 6:20-23: “My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” And Proverbs 10:1: “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” When children are brought up badly, the parents bear the blame and pain. When they are brought up in a godly manner, the parents rejoice. Parents are held accountable by God for the bringing up of their children who are entrusted to them by Him. God expects them to return the little ones to Him with the faith of Christ in their hearts. 

The parents are to be godly and good students of the Bible in order for them to do that. Just staying home obviously is not enough. There are many homes of unbelievers where the mothers stay home to bring up the children. They provide guidance and they make good house keepers, looking after the physical well-being of the children. In a Christian home, it is the spiritual aspect of bringing up children that must be the focus, including the house keeping aspect. The parent must provide a clean environment both spiritually and physically, for it is true that cleanliness is next to godliness. The stay-home parent must be able to wash and iron, clean the home, prepare meals, etc, and also teach the children the Word of God, pray with them and instruct them in the things of the LORD.

The question that may come to mind is whether the husband is permitted to be the house keeper instead of the wife and be a godly parent to the children? This may lead to another question: Is the husband able to do all the above just as well as the mother? One of the common concerns is that if the wife works, then she is the bread winner, then the husband might no longer be the head of the house since the wife brings in the bacon (as the saying goes). What if the husband can still remain the head of the home and the wife can still submit to him. Does this mean that it is alright for the husband to be the house keeper?

We need to ask ourselves: What is the basis for the Christian wife’s submission to her own husband unto the LORD? The basis is that he is her husband. God chose him for her to be the head in their new Christian home. The Bible does not say to submit to the husband because he is the bread winner or he brings in more money or because of any carnal reasons. The biblical basis is that he is her husband. If he is physically handicapped or paralysed and is no longer able to work, and the wife works, she must still submit to him because he is her husband chosen by God for her to be the head of their home. Whether she works or he works is beside the point; as long as the headship of the home is not compromised! She must still submit to him in the biblical sense that honours God.

If the wife is godly, she will submit to him as unto the LORD regardless of who the bread winner is. There are many Christian wives who do not submit to their own husbands even though they stay home and their husbands work. The point is not who stays home; the spiritual well-being of both the husband and the wife is the key. If they are both spiritual, then the physical aspects such as who brings in the money is secondary. Look at Proverbs 31:10-31 that describes a wife who stays home and is a business woman at the same time and also a good house keeper. She also brings in the bacon like her husband. Is this model for everyone whereby the wife must also work as she stays home or the husband must work even as he stays home?

In today’s world, our sons and daughters go to school and learn a trade. But they need to learn home economics from mother if they plan to be married one day and be keepers of the home. They need to learn to do all the household chores. If they were to get a helper to assist them, they would still need to know how to advise and ensure that the helper does a good job regarding the duties and responsibilities of keeping the home spick and span. If they have children, their spiritual well-being is the responsibility of both parents. The husband is the head and the wife is the God-given helper suitable for him to help him be the godly head of the home. The husband and wife work as one in bringing up the family and keeping the home spiritual, for the two have become one in marriage in Christ.

The question remains: Is it biblical for the husband to be the house keeper and the wife to bring in the bacon? This is a casuistic issue based upon the uniqueness of each home and family. It is wrong for the husband to be the house keeper if his headship is compromised. God has given the Christian husband the headship in his home. The husband decides who stays home and who does not. Furthermore, God says in Titus 2:5b to the young wives that they ought to be “good, obedient to their own husbands.” As long as the headship of the husband is not compromised and the wife remains godly and the children are brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, there is no biblical reason why he cannot be the house keeper. With today’s technology, both parents may even work from home. However, this is not advisable as one parent ought to be the fulltime parent looking after the children, especially when they are young. When the children are older and able to fend for themselves, and if both parents desire to work, then the husband as the head of the house can decide.

The conclusion of the matter is that the role of house keeper in a Christian home belonging to the wife only is not an apodictic law. This is a casuistic rule where the Christian husband decides for his family with the fear of God in his heart. The biblical criterion for his decision is that his headship in the home must not be diminished or compromised in the slightest. The wife must be cared for and loved and helped to grow spiritually in the relationship and the children are to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord by both parents. Every home is unique because everyone is unique. There must be no comparison. The godly home is one where the husband is head and loves the wife as Christ loved the church and gave His life for it, and the wife submits to her own husband as unto the Lord. How this is to be executed in practical ways where the children are brought up in the fear and nurture of the LORD depends on the individual home. May our gracious, loving heavenly Father grant to all Christian husbands the wisdom to decide wisely to the glory of God.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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