Wives Working

Not that this is something I need to be concerned about at the present time, I was listening to a series of messages from John MacArthur (Grace to You podcast).  He said in both of his sermons on wives and husbands in a Christian marriage that it is bad for a wife to work outside of the home because it sends her out into an unGodly world out from under the protection of her husband.

Both times I’ve heard this, I’ve bristled at it.  While it makes sense to a certain degree, it also says to me that there is an idea that a wife cannot function without her husband.  Its absurd extension is abuse and isolation (which are NOT part of a Godly marriage.  A man truly modeling Jesus Christ would NEVER do that kind of behavior.)

What do you think?



  1. Katherine Coble · May 28, 2008

    Way to bring up a topic I’ve wrestled with for, uh, 17 years now. ;-p

    I’ll be honest. I prefer staying home and taking care of the house things and writing and doing freelance from home. But only because I’m married. I’ve got a strange sort of wiring that sends me completely devoted to whatever I’m involved in. If I work outside the home I get so caught up in my job that my marriage truly suffers. As does my spiritual life. I start getting too busy and tired to have devotions or quiet time with my husband. I spend my hours at the office wrapped up in petty work things and preoccupied with office politics. I spend my hours at home thinking about petty work things and office politics.

    Of course, I’m always very good at what I do and tend to get promoted quickly. It just wrecks my marriage.

    Then there’s always the concept of the “work husband” that people joke about, but I swear it’s true. Whenever I work in an office I usually end up with a pretty close friendship with at least one man. While it never has gotten sexual, I can see upon reflection that some of the natural spark of personality that would be best served toward my husband gets diverted to the “work husband” and with it goes a level of intimacy–which gets dangerous. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing that MacArthur is talking about.

    But…and here’s the big but… I think maybe MacArthur needs to think about what he’s saying and say it a little differently. His way makes it sound as though the woman is a kitten or a turtle who needs looking after. There are legitimate points to what he has to say, because I do think that marriages where both people work outside the home suffer in core intimacy. But the woman is not a lesser creature.

    This month’s Christianity Today has a set of articles about this very issue. Apparently people who espouse MacArthur’s view are called “Complementarians“. The Complementarian’s essay had a very good point:

    “Adam’s first sin was his silence when Eve was being tempted. His subsequent sin has been to silence the voice of his God-given partner.”

  2. Jonnelle · May 29, 2008


    I think you are right about how MacArthur says what he says. As I listened to it, I felt more and more like a helpless little kitten than a grown Christian woman who is maturing in her faith with God.

    In reading that wikipedia link, Mark Driscoll is listed as one of the supporters of complimentarianism. It was a very duh moment for me. Yet, as many times Pastor Mark has talked about that or taught about that from the pulpit, I cannot recall wanting to run screaming from the idea. Then again, he’s probably alot more media savvy than MacArthur. But Driscoll isn’t known for beating around the bush. Though, I cannot recall a teaching where he said WIVES stay at home. He does call for mothers to do so if they are able. And if they have a husband, he should be making it so she can stay at home.

    He does put alot on the man’s shoulders.

    Part of it does really grate against my upbringing and years of feminist study. With a divorced mom who did not trust men, that was passed on to me in a big way. She told me she would have been happy to see me living with a nice guy and not married. Maybe even deep down, I still struggle with that.

  3. Elena · May 30, 2008

    Kat, I love how you put this: “some of the natural spark of personality that would be best served toward my husband gets diverted to the ‘work husband’ and with it goes a level of intimacy, which gets dangerous.” I too am wired to divert a large amount of emotional “currency” to workplace friendships with men. Not a bunch at a time…more like one significant friendship. And at this time in my life both I and my best guy pal at work are singles. But I can foresee that if I am not careful, I could jeopardize my yet-to-be marriage with such a habit of bonding quickly and intensely with available men.

    I’ve been a complementarian for a while and have wrestled with the idea of working fulltime outside the home while married and before children arrive. My preference has been that when I marry, if we can afford it, I go to working parttime and we put my salary in savings or use it to invest or something like that. And then when we have children, I definitely would stay home with them.

    The logic of being “out from under the protection of her husband” seems a bit flawed. And perhaps it is not that the woman is not in the presence of her husband when she is working — she’s not necessarily 24/7 in his presence anyway! — but that she is submitting to a boss’s headship of her work, which is sorta mimicking the husband’s husbanding/marshalling of her efforts in the home and in the church and that the boss’s doing so could take away from the husband’s protection of her and leading her. (I’m think of the analogy of the grape farmer[?] who takes care of the vines so that they will produce more and better fruit.) Might it be different if she is working for a Christian company or a denominational agency, as I am?

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