Does God’s Word Allow Women to Work?

working womanMind if I share part of my resume with you? I have a bachelor’s degree in communication from Missouri State University (go Bears!). I have a master’s degree in education from William Woods University. I have worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school journalism teacher, a public speaker, and a freelance writer. Currently, I work from home as an author and speaker. I also happen to have yogurt smeared on my shirt by my one-year-old, dinner on the stove to take to my hubby at work, and a pile of laundry on my floor nearly as tall as Mt. Everest.

I tell you all of that so you know where I’m coming from. So many of you are just beginning to consider what a godly future looks like. Your desire to embrace God’s calling as women is clear. It tickles me pink to read about your genuine interest in sticking to God’s plan. But amidst a flurry of conflicting opinions, I’m not surprised that you’re feeling unsure about how to manage future careers, marriages, and families.

In the context of God’s plan for us as women, where does education fit? What about working outside the home? What is the right thing to do when kiddos come along?

Even among Christian woman you will find varied answers to these questions. That’s why I think we should look to God’s Word as our standard as we seek to define godly womanhood.

In fact, there is one woman in Scripture who I think has the most to teach us about God’s design for women. She can be found in Proverbs 31. This may be a familiar passage to you. The woman described here is often held up among Christians as the gold standard when defining biblical womanhood. If you don’t mind, I’d like to revisit these verses, especially when considering how to manage work, family, and planning for the future.

I won’t copy the entire passage into this post. But I would encourage you to grab your Bible and read about the Proverbs 31 woman for yourself. You can find the details of her life in Proverbs 31:10-31. For this discussion, I just want to highlight those verses that help us understand the role of work in this woman’s life. We are going to look to these passages for an answer to the question, “Does God’s Word allow women to work outside the home?”

In Proverbs 31:13-18 we read “she seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hand she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.”

What kind of woman is she? She’s a hard worker, accustomed to working with her hands (v. 13). Her work is meaningful and provides for the needs of others (v. 15). She is an investor (v. 16), an entrepreneur (v. 16), a strong and capable woman (v. 17). She earns income (v. 18). If we jump ahead to verse 27, we learn that she doesn’t sit idly by waiting for others to care for her and her family.

But this gal is more than a workhorse. In verse 20 we learn that she ministers to the needy around her. In verses 10, 11, 12, 27, and 28, we see clearly that caring for her husband and children is her highest priority. Much of her effort is spent toward managing the affairs of her household.

Does she work? You betcha. She buys real estate, plants a vineyard, sells garments to merchants. But she also does what is best for her husband, her children, and the needy in her sphere of influence.

In 1 Timothy 5:9-10 we meet a similar woman.

“[She] has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”

I’d imagine that if the Proverbs 31 woman got together with the woman from 1 Timothy, they’d be fast friends. That’s because they have shared priorities. They work hard to care for the needs of their families. They use their homes to serve others. Despite commitments and relationships outside the home, they are functioning in their design as women by making their households their primary area of focus. I’d love to have lunch with those gals because while I value my education and my work outside the house, my highest priorities and greatest successes are my husband, son, and home.

In Lies Women Believe, Nancy puts it this way, “The Scripture is clear that a married woman’s life and ministry are to be centered in her home. This is not to suggest that it is necessarily wrong for a wife and mother to have a job outside her home—unless that job in any way competes with or diminishes her effectiveness in fulfilling her primary calling at home” (Lies Women Believe, 127-128).

And do you want to know the best part? You don’t have to wait until you’re married with children to live out God’s standard for womanhood. Making your home (and the people in it) your priority, serving others with your time, talents, and resources, and working for God’s glory are all possible within your current circumstances.

In fact, in tomorrow’s post I’ll be challenging you to find ways to live out Proverbs 31 right now!

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

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  • Pete Watchman

    1. Sigh!
    2. Once a girl attains maturity (16 years was normal) she should get married and build her home by taking care of her family with the help of her close blood relatives or her husband’s close blood relatives
    3. Once a boy attains maturity (16 years was normal) he should love his wife and start providing for his family ASAP until then his father can provide.
    4. Go to point 1 🙂
    5. The above aligns with God’s plan.
    6. Maligning God’s plan as mentioned above causes unimaginable horror in the girl’s or boy’s married life. E.g.: 50% of marriages break-up in a “Christian nation”.
    7. Any clarifications can be made.

    • Jo316

      it is tragic that so many “professing” Christians make God’s Word into what conveniently suits them, and this is a classic but unfortunate example which pours directly out of the visible church and religions. Erin, please read 1 Corinthians 2, and you will immediately discover the source of your confusion.

      • ?!

        • Jo316

          Here is an appropriate and proper exposition of Proverbs 31: 16; we can see the distinct different between which is human opinion and spiritually discerned.
          She considereth a field, and buyeth it,…. The field are the Scriptures, in which are hid the rich treasures of Gospel doctrines and promises; and the church, and all truly enlightened persons, consider to what use this field may be put, to what account it will turn; how profitable the Scriptures are, for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; what a rich mine and valuable treasure is in them; things more desirable, and of greater worth, than thousands of gold and silver; and therefore will buy this field at any rate, and not sell it; will part with all they have before they will part with that; even life itself, which in an improper sense is called buying of it, though it is without money and without price; see Matthew 13:44;
          And it is observable, that in the Hebrew text there is a double reading; the “Keri”, or marginal reading, is feminine; but the “Cetib”, or writing, is masculine; to show that she did it by means of men, she made use of in her vineyard for that service; it being, as Aben Ezra observes, not the custom and business of women to plant vineyards, but men. It may be rendered, “he planted”, and be applied to her husband, Christ; who, through the ministry of the word in his church, plants souls in it; and happy are they who are the planting of the Lord! trees of righteousness, that he may be glorified, Isaiah 61:3.

          • 80% of my loved country USA is mentally ill. 🙁 women liberation, empowerment, equality are a conspiracy to the greedy to become richer n richer. Sigh!

          • Jessica Barney

            Hi Pete,
            Hope you are having a blessed day. Woman are not demanding to be equal in this post. We are not demanding empowerment. We are not demanding anything. We, as woman are simple educating one another about God’s word. What our role is in the Bible and in our homes. The bible does not specifically state what exactly a woman shall be in her life but it does state how a woman’s character should be. Esther was a Queen. A well educated Queen I am sure. What can you say about that? She didnt demand equality. She was given a position among royalties and God used her for her faithfulness. All woman no matter what role should educate herself to fulfill God’s purpose in her life. Are you stating a woman only has one purpose? We both know not every woman on earth is the same. Same as no man is the same.

          • Roberto Montañez

            First, if you think there are two contradicting commands in the Bible ALWAYS follow the NEW TESTAMENT or the LAST command. (For example: men could have many wives in the old testament, not so in the New Covenant)
            JESSICA WROTE: Woman are not demanding to be equal in this post (oh! yes, more or less). We are not demanding empowerment (Oh! yes, indirectly). We are not demanding anything (Oh! yes, implied). The bible does not specifically state what exactly a woman shall be in her life (Oh! yes it does- Titus 2:5 English Standard Version: To be self-controlled, pure, WORKING AT HOME, kind, and SUBMISSIVE to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be REVILED.) Esther was a Queen (Esther was a queen of a PAGAN empire; it was chosen because of her BEAUTY and graciousness, not because of her Christians vows, even though GOD used her pagan position to help Israel). A well educated Queen I am sure (No, she was not, maybe wise because of GOD given wisdom and Mordecai instructions; Mordecai even confronted her when she became afraid to confront the king). All woman no matter what role should educate herself to fulfill God’s purpose in her life (Women should not educate or lost time in secular college matters, just the word of GOD). Are you stating a woman only has one purpose? We both know not every woman on earth is the same. Same as no man is the same. (Women have two roles in the NEW TESTAMENT: Bear and raise children, Timothy 2:15, or be single and serving GOD FULL TIME, no secular careers outside church, like ANNA: Luke 2:36-38 New International Version: “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. SHE NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE BUT WORSHIPED NIGHT AND DAY, FASTING AND PRAYER.”)

          • Justine Ide

            What about Priscilla the tentmaker? Acts 18:2
            Lydia the merchant?

            I don’t know why you’re making a distinction between “secular” work and serving God “full time”. Every christian is called to serve God full time.

            I believe many men and women who work in secular jobs are missionaries to the people they meet. Just as it is serving God to scrub toilets and cook family meals,it can also be serving God to nurse people back to health, encourage them to appreciate the world God designed, or help them learn to read. Each one of us has different focii and gifts and we support each other in our efforts to reach everyone.

            Would you please elaborate on your position? It is clear you take the bible seriously and trust God’s gospel for salvation, and as this is the case, we have much more in common than any disagreements we have.

  • April Smith

    This is kind of confusing. Why do you think that God would give the woman so much responsibility to make an income and to work and to support her household but then to the men only to also support the household? I don’t see how the roles are separate if we have all the same responsibilities and cares except when it comes to the home. This is confusing. And I don’t know why people also encourage women who are not wives to do such things,verses that are about wives are about wives. Why would you burden an unmarried woman with these things?

  • Beth Giesige

    I would like to say that my child is grown and out of the house. I am married and recently became laid-off. My husband recently told me that no woman should not work in a factory as it is biblical. A woman’s place is in the home. My husband likes his toys and without my wages they would not be possible or I would do without what I need. My husband is a professed Christian put does not practice what he preaches. I am not looking for advise but I am thank for the information that you have provided. People interpret the Bible to excuse the way they think.

    • Carrie @ Revive Our Hearts

      Thank you for sharing, Beth Giesige. We’re thankful the Lord has encouraged you through this post. Know that I’ve prayed for you and your husband today.

      Grace and peace,

  • Jessica Barney

    Not sure if im too late to chime in, but here it goes. So, I stumbled across your discussion to get more insight on a married woman educating herself at a university or even higher, medical school. Which my husband is very happy for me to pursue as he is studying to become an Engineer. I continue to get backlash from others who may see it too ambitious or maybe selfish to pursue such goals as a christian female. They see it as not doing my duty as a married woman not focusing all my time on my husband. Some are happy for me and some state are not supportive. In any case, I will continue to ask God to open doors where he wants me to be(those doors are swinging open) and close them where he needs them closed. All I care about is doing God’s will in my life. Completely devoting myself to others where I know he has given me a well capable brain to do so. The point I am getting at is, what would you say to the Verse 1 Timothy 2:12? I did notice you talked about the examples of 2 different woman in both verses, would be friends, would they still agree after reading 1 Timothy 2:12? Not sure how to interpret this verse. Looking more from insight from others to chime in. Thank you and God Bless you all.


    • Sarah @ Revive Our Hearts

      Jessica… This is a very controversial question, even among Christians. Some believe that the role of women in the church today should not be limited and women should be allowed to preach. We believe, however, that the words found in 1 Timothy 2:12 still apply to us today in that women should not be the spiritual leaders of men. Our ministry’s understanding of Scripture is that women should not be senior pastors or even the primary leaders of mixed-gender Sunday school classes.

      However, we don’t believe that occasional teaching by women in mixed audiences is inappropriate, as long as two things are clear. First, that it is taking place under the headship of male spiritual authority. (The word translated “have authority” means “to exercise authority on one’s own account; to domineer over—one who acts on his own authority; to have dominion.”) And, second, as long as the woman involved is not put in a position of ongoing responsibility for the spiritual direction of men. (The word translated “to teach” in 1 Timothy 2:12 is in a tense that indicates ongoing instruction.)

      • Jessica Barney

        So this interpretation may mean teach in a spiritual way and not an actual education instructor way? What do you think about some translations of this verse where woman should remain quiet? Thanks for the insight.