This is the third of a four-part series on “everyday faith,” based on the instructions Paul gives in Titus 2:1–6. Gospel-centered folks are often allergic to “instructions,” so it’s important to keep in mind that Paul lays these out as our response to the gospel—not as a way to gain acceptance. “Because of what God has done for you,” Paul says, “your lives will look different.” Be sure to read part one (older men), part two (older women), and part four (younger men).
What does Paul say to younger women? They should “love their husbands and children, be self-controlled and pure, be busy at home, be kind, and be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:4).
This is one of those verses that skeptics of religion love to trot out to prove how backwards the Bible is. The assumption is that Scripture teaches male dominance, that women are somehow second-rate. But is that what Paul means?
We’ll pass on that little phrase “be subject to their husbands” … for now. We’ve dealt with it elsewhere, so if you’re really curious, read on. But that still leaves plenty of controversy. For instance, “Be busy at home.” Many read that as Paul’s way of saying that women should stay at home and not work. The only biblical mom, they say, is the stay-at-home mom. But that interpretation ignores multiple places in Scripture where we see examples of women commended for their work outside the home. So this can’t mean that working moms are living in sin.
What it does mean is that there is a tendency for young women (like young men, actually) to be lured away from God-given responsibilities by the promise of fulfillment elsewhere. One of those lures, especially in our society, can be career success. When young mothers live up to their God-given responsibility in the home, that often requires that they sacrifice other pursuits—that they can’t devote as much time to their career, or that they give it up for a season, or perhaps altogether.
When mothers choose their children over their careers, there will always be a sense of loss. But God in the gospel says, “Your primary goal shouldn’t be to fulfill yourself, but to faithfully serve me.” So don’t find your fulfillment in self-actualization, but in service to God. And where that entails sacrifice, embrace it joyfully.
This is one of those areas where the values of our society and the values of the kingdom of God stand in stark contrast. For instance, a couple years ago, Linda Hirschman was on “Good Morning America,” where she said that homemakers were “living lesser lives.” When someone countered that many homemakers find their work valuable, she flatly said, “Well, I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that. It doesn’t sound particularly interesting for a complicated, educated person.”
Hirschman thinks she’s empowering women. But get behind that statement for a second, and notice how it’s founded on the connection between fulfillment and self-actualization. You can only be fulfilled, happy, or valuable if you’re doing everything to realize your potential. But think about it: where does that mentality lead?
If life and fulfillment are all about self-actualization, then people who stand in the way of you becoming all you can be become annoyances that need to be minimized or manages. So you think of kids as accessories to your life, rather than a gift from God you would die for. Get pregnant? Abort the baby. Kids in the way of a career? Ship them off to someone else. Parents becoming a strain in their old age? Shove them in a home and forget about them.
Hirschman’s mentality doesn’t lead to fulfillment. It doesn’t lead to empowerment. It leads you to use people instead of loving them. But Christians know that fulfillment comes in service to God, not in pursuit of the self. And that always involves sacrifice.
Want a model in this? Jesus himself found fulfillment in washing feet because that’s what the Father had told him to do. Washing feet isn’t a very important task. But Jesus didn’t find fulfillment from the task’s importance; he found fulfillment in the Father’s approval. So if for a time God has assigned you to care for children and establish a home, find your fulfillment in knowing you have been a faithful servant, not in the praise of the world. If Jesus could find fulfillment in washing feet, you can find it in wiping butts for a season, too.
One last thing: Paul directs this to mothers, but it applies to you fathers as well. If you have kids, God has given them to both of you, not just to your wife. And that should mean you sacrifice some other ambitions for them. The philosopher Peter Kreeft, when asked which of his books was his favorite, rightly replied, “The one I didn’t write when my kids were young.”
Dads, you only get one season with your children. Don’t waste it on weekly golf trips, consistently late hours in the office, or hobbies that take you away from your family. Find your fulfillment in being a faithful father, even if that means not climbing to the top of your field. Because one day, when you and I stand face to face with our God, everything we’ve built and accomplished will be turned off. It won’t matter how much money you made, how many books you wrote, how big of a platform you had. The only light that will be left on will be the light of faithfulness. And it’s the only light that matters. What will your life look like in that light?
 ABC News, “How to Raise Kids: Stay Home or Go to Work?” 2/23/06. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/AmericanFamily/story?id=1653069.