Should Someone Stay Home?

As a follow up to my post “Christian Moms: Pursue a Career or Stay Home.”

I continue my struggle to contextualize this issue in our culture and at the same time remain true to the Scriptures.  What would God want for 21st century American families?  I have studied more, thought more, and prayed more. Here is the follow-up.

Should someone stay home?

How important is it for one parent to be at home for the sake of children?  Should anyone have to sacrifice career and walk the “stay at home” path or some version of it? Should it be mom like the traditional conservative viewpoint suggest? I realize this is a very touchy subject in our generation. I once posted a blog[1] on this particular issue and I got positive comments, negative comments, hugs in the hallway at church and dirty looks by the coffee pot in our workroom at church.  It’s just one of those issues. Many arguments exist about what is best stemming from the thought arenas of psychology, religion, secular and Christian parenting, and even the blogosphere. The question is what is right? I approach this issue from the perspective of seeking what is best for our families in an attempt to discern God’s heart on the matter.

Let’s take an honest look at Scripture. The Bible suggest that women are in a role by design to “help” as the word is used in Genesis 2:20 The word “helper” used to describe “woman” is largely misunderstood in modern Christendom. The Hebrew root for the world “helper” is “azar.”  The word “azar” means more than we grant it in the English language.  Some read “helper” in the English and think of the word as subservient and secondary.  Reading helper that way allows us to build a dogmatic, conservative, yet tainted worldview that says that women must stay home with the children according to the roles of men and women defined by God at creation because she is the ‘helper.” The word “azar” does translate helper but it implies much more in the original language. “Azar” means ally, further, help, protect, and support.  One picture associated with the word “azar” is that of military assistance.  “Azar” describes one who comes alongside another in battle.  The word “azar” is used to describe the Lord himself as shown in Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:29, Psalm 10:14, and Psalm 27:9. In Psalm 118:7 David says, “The Lord is on my side as my helper.” I believe we misrepresent the heart of God when we see a woman’s role as subservient to the man based on the Creation passage in Genesis 2.  Instead, a better understanding of women is “azar.” An equal creation of God who comes alongside, shoulder to shoulder, as an ally to help, protect, and support and to further. This understanding does not change the role of men as leaders but it does broaden the typical understanding of the biblical role of women. This in fact is foundational to our discussion. Should someone stay at home with the kids?  Should it be mom?

Several scriptural passages build on our foundational understanding of the role of women in the family.  Proverbs 31 describes an excellent wife and mother as one who “makes linen garments and sells them[2] and “looks well to the ways of her household.”[3] That biblical picture is one of a woman who works outside the home and stays at home. Certainly, a different cultural context implies that her children may have been involved with her in the work of the business and actually gone with her in the “selling.”  However, she is working and managing the household.  Probably these are not compartmentalized issues in her culture.  Today we compartmentalize everything.

Titus 2:5 speaks to the issue from a 1st century context.  As a stand alone outside of the whole counsel of Scripture this is a hot button passage. Paul says women should, “be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Clearly Paul’s advice for women is to work in the home as followers of Christ.  So what is the right answer?

You have the Scripture and as a Christ-follower, you have the Holy Spirit who serves as a counselor and a guide to you. I think each family must wrestle with the Scripture, the roles of men and women, and seek the direction of the Holy Spirit.  He will provide you with a deep sense of calling and conviction about the issue.  Each family may look a bit different.  Some may choose for mom to stay home full time all the time or for a season.  Others may chose to work outside of the home while managing family and while difficult not out of bounds biblically.

If we are pursuing life balance and simplicity, I believe it is practically beneficial for mom to be home at least for a season. After studying the Scripture and praying we chose for Angela to stay home when our first daughter was born.  Not without sacrifice especially on Angela’s part, this has become the secret to balance in our family.  We keep life simple by living on one salary and allowing mom to focus on the household.  This means our children have a parent available to invest in them during work hours.  This means we also have a parent who understands our family priorities and works to keep life balance so that we can take steps in the right direction.  For us, this was absolutely the right decision.  What about you?


[1] Christian Moms: Pursue Career or Stay at Home? http://legacyblog.org/2010/03/08/christian-moms-pursue-career-or-stay-at-home/

[2] Proverbs 31:24

[3] Proverbs 31:27

  One thought on “Should Someone Stay Home?

  1. Wendy Smith
    August 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I have something to add that I don’t think has been addressed. I would be very careful to not share this w/ the women in my life whom I love, who do choose to work outside the home. But I believe that more marriages break up b/c there are more women in the workplace. Women spend more time w/ the guys they work w/ then w/ their husbands. Feelings began & sinful actions follow. It is very sexist, but I feel that a lot of this would not happen if women were not away from their families so much, and giving so much of themselves to their job. It is natural to bond w/ someone you work w/, who has the same passions as you do.
    I am very glad to see someone speaking on this subject. I do feel that certain subjects are infrequently addressed b/c they are controversial & counter-cultural. I also appreciate how your “take” directly came from Scripture. I believe a case for “staying home” can even be made, in a general sense, from Deut. 6.
    I have always known I’ve wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, it falls in line w/ my desires, passions, calling, gifts & talents. I understand that it’s not that easy & clear-cut for others. I do not give much weight to the argument that it’s a financial issue. I have been a single mom & I still worked as little as possible, & still, through God’s amazing provision, paid my bills & stayed at home w/ my little ones. I now am re-married, homeschool my children, and consider myself a stay-at-home mom, although I do work about 2 shifts a week at a hotel, to pay for music lessons for the kids, etc.
    Thank you for this post. I think that we can advocate staying at home, w/o passing judgement on those who don’t, can’t, or “aren’t there yet.”

  2. Doug Brooks
    July 26, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    As a man who left his career to follow God’s calling to be a Pastor, I am acutely aware that God does place different families in a variety of circumstances. My wife Diane is the sole bread-winner in our family, and I am the stay home dad. There was a time when our roles were reversed and Diane stayed home. The re was also a time when we both had careers and dropped the kids off at “private school” during the week. God called us away from that life. There was NO family life. Oh, we were in the top 1/2 percentile of income in the country and could provide the finest of everything to our children. But, we didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us.

    That being said, it all boils down to our motives. Are we both working out of a necessity to provide for our family’s essentials, or are we doing it to derive personal affirmation?

    We must derive all of our affirmation from God. When we do that, we will sense the same amount of personal reward from changing diapers as we did sitting at the head of the board of directors in a $300 Billion conglomerate.

    I have recently had the blessing of attending the funerals of some people who “got it right.” Their families all gathered together and celebrated their life, sharing all of the great memories they had together.

    It made me think long and hard about what is really important. I do not want my epitaph to simply be, “He worked.”

    Respectfully, DB

  3. July 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Brian,

    I wrote a post on my blog commenting on your post. I also found a list of instances where the word “ezer” is used in the Bible.

    http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/H5828/%60ezer.htm

    I used Bible.cc to find that the word used in Genesis 2:18 for helper is Strong’s number 5828, “Ezer.”

    Thank you for your post, it is very helpful to find the true definition of “helper” so that we don’t depend on a cultural definition of the role of a woman, which may change with the times. Rather, we should depend on the Biblical definition of the role of a woman, which does not change with the times. At least I hope it doesn’t change. =)

  4. Donna Settle
    July 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Great blog entry! Thanks for defining azar – that helps a lot with my own internal conflict. Stay home with the children (who are now all school-age), which is easier and more comfortable for me, or as my husband’s AZAR, work in his engineering firm with the goal of helping him run the business soon. This transition has been emotionally challenging for me, especially facing the opinions of other women at church who have chosen a different path for their families. Men don’t seem to care if other men’s wives are employed or not, but women seem to divide on issues such as staying home vs. working, homeschool vs. public school, sports, extra curricular activities, and how many volunteer roles they can fill at church. It’s overwhelming at times for the woman who falls into trying to keep up with the SuperMom! Thanks for the reminder that the Proverbs 31 woman is so much more than the subservient house-slave. SHE is woman – hear her…speak with wisdom.

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