Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Role of Women and the Responsibility of Men

The other day, I got into a discussion about women under appreciating the contributions of their husbands. It started with Kristin Billerbeck saying that many housewives see their life as not far from slavery. I’m sure she meant that tongue in cheek—at least I hope she did—but it highlighted an attitude that I don’t believe is beneficial. I do think that some women have the attitude that because their husbands aren’t helping with the housework that they aren’t doing anything. I’m reminded of my mother telling me that she had to resist the urge to dump us kids on Dad when he got home. Here, he’d been at work all day, he comes in the door ready to sit down and read the newspaper, but what she wanted to do was pass us kids off on him because he hadn’t been around all day.

Now, in some cases, women are working outside the home. My grandmother was a schoolteacher and my grandfather was a carpenter. Some women in that situation think that it isn’t fair that they still end up taking care of the kids and housework when both man and wife come in from work. But I don’t recall my grandfather doing nothing, back when I remember them both working. She did the housework. He was busy working outside.

Anyway, as I considered the comments of Kristin Billerbeck and others, I remembered Proverbs 31 and what it says about the virtuous woman. It paints this picture of a woman who is hard at work taking care of her household. It doesn’t say much about her husband, but I’ve never thought he was doing nothing, just that she was busy doing this stuff while he was busy with his own tasks. One thing it does mention is that “he is known at the gates and sitteth among the elders of the land.” In other words, he is meeting with the city leaders. Perhaps he is one of the city leaders. The reason he’s able to hold a position like that is because he knows his wife is taking care of things at home while he’s busy doing other things.

God never intended that men and women would be doing the same jobs in equal amounts. He equipped men and women with different skills and gave them different responsibilities. Also, there is no reason to think that we have to compare only what is done within the home to see if both are doing their “fair share.” Maybe the man is the teacher of a Sunday school class, the chairman of a committee, or an elected leader in his community. Such a man would have less time to help around the house, but he is doing his part. Without his wife being willing to do the work at home, he might not be able to do those things. If he were sitting around playing video games, that would be one thing, but if he is following God by becoming a leader in his church and community, he is working hard. His contribution is no less valuable than that of his wife.

And what about his responsibility to his family? Part of a man’s responsibility is to be the spiritual leader of his family. Sure, part of that is taking his family to church, but it also includes family Bible study and being there to answer questions about the Bible that his kids and wife may have. He won’t be worth much as a spiritual leader if he doesn’t spend significant time in God’s word. If he is reading his Bible while his wife is cooking supper, is that such a bad thing? He is busy fulfilling his responsibility, just as she is fulfilling hers, they just take on two very different forms. To me, that is a far cry from slavery.