Readathon: "The Excellent Wife"
This is the one bad review of the readathon, and it is the main reason why I left the women’s ministry group recently. I actually delayed joining this group for six months until I thought this particular study was over because critical reviews online described problems with the book that were big concerns for me. But when I joined the women’s group I learned that they actually had five more weeks of study on the book, and so I opted to go along and take a serious look at the material.
The book cover purports that, “Within its pages is a detailed portrait of a godly wife. Not only is the standard high and holy, but Martha demonstrates that by God’s grace, it is attainable.” Some of the book is biblical, maybe even most of it. But the author throws her own opinion in the book at times and twists a narrowly related Bible verse around it like a barb, presenting it as God’s standard. This occurs most clearly in her chapter “Home- The Wife’s Domain,” in which the author states that God intended for women to stay home rather than working or committing much time to any outside activities. She doesn’t list any possible “godly” reasons why a woman would seek work outside of the home. Rather, she lists several possible reasons, such as escaping the demands of parenting or wanting recognition, and then says of these lone skewed examples, “none of these motives are for the glory of God,” and they are “self-serving and sinful.” She states that women should learn to be content with what they have, at home. And even in the case of women who need to work because of family debt, she states that the woman should “work towards quitting her job and staying at home.”
This author is clearly of the opinion that a woman’s place is in the home. That’s fine. But she does not present it as her opinion, she presents it as God’s command. She states this based on the fact that a Greek word for females in Titus translates to “worker at home.” But it is a giant logical leap to then claim that the phrase “worker at home” is intended to describe the whole, entire schedule of each and every woman. The text doesn’t support such a leap. And there are many examples of Christian women who fulfill purposes outside of the home into which God appears to have called them and blessed them. Oddly, the joy-filled woman who leads the women’s ministry that was studying this book is one. And the author of this book herself, *is clearly an author.* I truly wonder what criteria the author feels distinguishes her own career from those at whom she casts stones. Perhaps she feels her profession is justified because it is less than full time? Or she doesn’t get paid hourly or salary? Or because it’s Christian ministry? Or because she can physically be in her home while she writes? I don’t know, but it’s ridiculous.
The reason why the quality of women’s ministry is so important to me is that women seek trusted guidance from the church and from God particularly when they are burdened in some way. And hopefully those two sources say the same thing. When they don’t, and a ministry adds extra stuff, extra judgement, and extra requirements into the equation like the Pharisees did, it actually further burdens the women instead of helping. Then the woman has to sort out all of the extra stuff while also still listening for God. And in the meantime before it’s sorted out, the “extra” stuff is burdensome and misleading. I kept wondering if there may be women in the group sensing a spark inside them of a beautiful calling outside of the home from God, but the spark was quenched with the “a woman’s place is in the home,” speech. It is saddening that in one way or another- legalism or conformity or shallowness- I’ve often seen women’s ministry seem to stifle growth in women rather than foster it.