Monday, January 18, 2010

from the archives: being kind and doing good

An ongoing issue for me - both when I wrote these posts, and now, over a year later - is how to maintain a healthy balance between ministry inside and outside the home. You'll find an extended discussion about this issue in balancing homemaking and ministry. The following post is where it all started.

Our houses ... should be pleasant havens for our husbands and children, sanctuaries where we offer care and hospitality to other Christians, and gateways from which we extend the gospel to family, friends, and neighbours ... We should be renowned for good works at home, in our churches, and extending into our communities. (Carolyn Mahaney Feminine Appeal pp.114, 128)

How should we balance ministry inside and outside the home? ... I thought I'd start by telling you how the word kind in Titus 2:3-5 opened this particular can of worms for me.

It seems to me that teaching on homemaking can sometimes put home and family on a pedestal, to the neglect of the wider church and world. I felt this occasionally with Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal (I liked Nicole's comments here) although I love how she interweaves good works inside and outside the home in the quote above.

This concentrated focus on home and family concerns me particularly as we come to the word kind.

You see, the word kind in Titus 2:3-5 is from the Greek word agathos. In 89 out of the 102 times it appears in the New Testament, it's translated good. In 2 of these examples, it's describing the good deeds women do, for people outside as well as inside the home (Ac. 11:24; 1 Tim. 5:10). Over and over again, including in Titus, Christians are encouraged to abound in good deeds (Tit 1:16; 2:12-14 and e.g. 2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10; 2 Thess 2:17; 2 Tim 2:21; 2 Tim 3:17; 3 Jn 1:11).

It would surprise me, given all this, if the word kind or good in Titus 2:5 doesn't have a wider focus than the home.

But maybe this wider focus is only for older women. Young women are told to "to marry, to have children," and "to manage their homes" (1 Tim. 5:14). A woman over 60, on the other hand, should be "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 (agathos) deeds" (1 Tim. 5:10), like Dorcas, who's "always doing good (agathos) and helping the poor" (9:36).

Are young women to be devoted solely to home duties, then as their children become independent, to devote themselves to good works outside the home?

The Proverbs 31 woman, however, famously does it all: she helps her husband, cares for her children, dispenses wise counsel, manages an extended household, makes clothes and linens, oversees servants, runs a thriving home business, speculates in land, plants vineyards, and cares for the poor. But this is an idealised picture, and I assume a woman won't do all of these at once during every season of life (or ever!).

And what about Jesus' statement that "anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me", and "anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me"? Of course, this doesn't negate our responsibility to care for home and family (1 Tim. 5:8), which is the main way we serve Christ if we're wives and mothers. But the radical demands of the gospel will still have an impact on us and our families.

So I'm left with some questions. It's clear that the first priority of a godly wife and mother is to love her husband and children, and manage her home. But it seems that a godly woman will also be known for her good deeds outside the home. I assume that the balance between ministry inside and outside the home will differ according to the season of life a woman finds herself in, but that "kindness" or "good deeds" will always reach out as well as in.

images are from stock.xchng


Cathy McKay said...

I am enjoying reading over these old posts, Jean. Thankyou.

I wonder if we treasure home as our own family's territory, meaning we want to hedge it off from others and can't imagine how we can be home and still be outward focussed.

Perhaps we are meant to be a blessing to people outside our home by welcoming them in?

Thanks for your bravery with the "busy at home" post too. Challenging.

Jean said...

Thanks, Cathy.

Yes, I think you're right. I think the key is the open door. Edith Shaeffer, in her book "What is a family?", has a wonderful chapter called "A door that has hinges and a lock". That puts it perfectly: the door of a home can be shut when needed, but it also opens to welcome others in, and to let us out so we can reach out to others. The home should be a base of blessing for those within and without.