The family is in trouble! Never has understanding God's point of view on the junction of mothers and homemakers been more important.
Paradox of paradoxes! The family is that sacred institution God created as the warm haven and positive foundation for facing the storms and stresses of life successfully. Yet today, far too often, the family is a ferment of psychological terror and even physical danger. The resultant emotional scars are sometimes nearly impossible to live with. The family, the bedrock of all decent society, is in convulsion. The result? Staggering human tragedies and social problems piling atop one another like debris from an earthquake. Bible prophecy stands fulfilled (Isa. 1:9)! Sodom and Gomorrah cannot be forestalled much longer (verse 10)! Personality weaknesses, social fragmentation and hopelessness grip millions upon millions of people (II Tim. 3:1-4). Yet few seem to equate the skyrocketing rise of these problems with the undermining of family life in the Western world.
A pillar of the family
Even into the 1960s, one pillar upholding the family was the mother and homemaker. Honor was attached to this responsibility. Yes, few other options existed. But the easy affluence of the 1960s, the growing presence of women in the work force and a generally self-seeking attitude on the part of everyone began to change that. Increased mobility, the tediousness of modern life, the economic downturn (which fueled the need for two breadwinners) and the movement to "liberate" women all combined to erode the woman's position in the home. So today, the hand that rocks the cradle is often that of the babysitter! How tragic, for there is no satisfactory substitute for the sense of warmth and security generated by capable, concerned mothers. What else steers young minds and bodies through the minor but significant slips and starts of childhood, or the bewildering physical and emotional changes of adolescence? What an enormous responsibility falls upon mothers! They bear the minute-by-minute supervision of their children, little personalities made in the miniature image of God. It is no joke that mothers need the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, the watchfulness of an eagle (Deut. 32:11) and the stamina of a thoroughbred horse (S. of Sol. 1:9). The stakes are literally life and death. God's Word is emphatic: " The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it" (Prov. 30:17). "Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands" (Prov. 14:1). "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother" (Prov. 10:1). How unerringly accurate God's Word is! What a tragedy that for many people the later years of life are not lightened and immeasurably gladdened with the sure knowledge of their children's successes. And all because of the lack of solid parental guidance in the early years (Prov. 17:25, 22:6).
Fight for the vision
What is happening to the institution of the family? Our industrial societies value systematic efficiency and technical competence over the nurturing gifts prized by other generations (Matt. 24:12). Secretarial skills, keypunching, managerial roles, computer operations, competing in business — that's where the action is, society tells us. It's not that women should not acquire certain job skills, but solid, enduring human values like tact, patience, understanding and sympathy or the skillful and concerned direction of offspring based upon years of keen observation — these skills are often considered of lesser or no value. "Surely you have things turned around!" exclaims the great God (Isa. 29:16). This society is in desperate trouble (Matt. 24:22). Even God's own people need to fight today for the vision of the mother's responsibility in the home. Indeed, there is no substitute for this responsibility. God's viewpoint on the seemingly ordinary tasks of the everyday housewife is plain indeed (Prov. 11:29)! God in His Word lavishes praise on individual mothers as an enduring witness to their matchless contribution to His plan.
The example of godly women
God values the role of homemaker. He sees the mother's function as one of the best bulwarks against the encircling hopelessness of a dying civilization. Godly women have helped transform society more than once. Sound farfetched? Then why did God place this record in His accounts of the kings of Judah? "In the second year of Pekah... Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done" (II Kings 15:32-34). Did you catch it? A righteous king, yes. But "his mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok." What more precious gift, what more outstanding contribution could a woman make to society than the steady character of a strong, wise leader, one who could turn God's blessings toward a whole nation? Read on: "Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sigh t of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done" (II Kings 18:1-3). Jedidah, wife of wicked King Amon, is praised in the same way (II Kings 22:1-2). Her son was Josiah, whose personal righteousness prolonged the life of his country (II Chron. 35:25). What made these women so successful — what caused God to record their names for all eternity in His Holy Bible (I Pet. 1:25)? Jerusha, Abi and Jedidah had one thing in common: They found fulfillment in serving their families and pointing their children in the right direction. They prized obedient, stable children. They believed that expanding and improving a child's mind was a full-time job (Prov. 23:26). They strived to eradicate the bad habits of the neglected child (Prov. 29:15). They were happy to work quietly, out of the limelight, providing the support, encouragement and correction that all children require (Prov. 29:17). Their warm attitudes, their calm strength provided their homes with a background atmosphere of quiet confidence and stability. They were an ever-present source of solace, answers and kind direction. Else God would not cite them so conspicuously as admirable mothers (Prov. 22:1). Evil King Amon must have been an awfully antagonistic mate sometimes, yet Jedidah, with God's help, produced a Josiah. What an example! Some women have actually helped alter the course of history through their children! Jochebed was one of them (Ex. 6:20). This courageous, intelligent Levite outsmarted the genocidal policy of an evil nation (Ex. 1:22). With God's help, Jochebed concocted a plan whereby her infant son would not only survive but be reared by her. Read the whole account carefully in Exodus 2. God blessed her faith and boldness (Ex. 2:9). She is not well-known to human historians, but she is permanently inscribed in God's spiritual hall of fame (Heb. 11:2). Her son is still ranked as one of history's greatest leaders (Acts 7:22). His name was Moses! Moses' early sense of mission was undoubtedly instilled to a large degree by his daring, dauntless mother (Acts 7:25).
Mary's important role
Few servants God chose ever walked a more difficult path than that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She had to endure sneers and sarcasm because of what was considered a premarital pregnancy. In fact, though, it was a major extension of God's great plan (Matt. 1:18). This required mental toughness, tact and sensitivity few mortals possess. Mary came through with flying colors (Luke 1:30)! The misguided veneration given her by some religionists should not blind us to her high human qualities of competence and coolheadedness. Imagine being chosen as the mother of the Savior of humanity. What a stupendous responsibility! Thankfully, she had the case histories of righteous Sarah, Rebekah and Hannah to glean from (II Tim. 3:15). All these mothers received children through divine intervention (Ps. 113:9). Yet the tone and atmosphere of Mary's rather large household (Matt. 13:55-56) had to be extra special. She had to nurture that robust and vigorous yet brilliant and perceptive child who grew up the sinless Savior of us all. What a task! With God's help Mary succeeded. As a child Jesus reflected sound parental teaching and instruction. By the age of 12 the learned doctors of law sat stupefied at His insight (Luke 2:46). Jesus' stable home life emerges indirectly in His teaching. Think about it for a moment. Remember the spiritual principle He gleaned from one of the most common household chores, patching old garments (Luke 5:36)? Certainly the neatness displayed after the miracle of the loaves reflects the personality of a well-trained child (Matt. 15:37). Then there is the simple, homespun account of the neighbor borrowing three loaves from his friend in the middle of the night, probably a warm recollection from Christ's childhood among the common people of Palestine (Luke 11:5-8). What about the parable of the woman carefully measuring the ingredients for three measures of meal (Matt. 13:33)? See how Jesus' analogies revealed a firsthand acquaintance with normal housework? Jesus probably spoke from warm personal knowledge in His discourse of Luke 15:8-9: "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!'" Where did Jesus derive these insights into normal family life? Mary, evidently widowed from an early age (Matt. 12:47), must have been the source of most of them. It's a good thing for God's plan that she didn't feel her combined roles as homemaker, mother, counselor, domestic engineer, nurse, clerk, teacher, home economist, cook, seamstress, dietitian, physical education adviser — all of the jobs that make up the daily lot of the "everyday housewife" — were beneath her, unimportant or unchallenging. It's a good thing that Jesus' mother didn't seek status or fulfillment elsewhere. Where might God's Work be today? Jesus obviously respected this intelligent, sensible woman (Luke 2:51). He knew her deep reserves of inner strength and quiet confidence. He knew how often she had to subordinate her deep feelings in a humble surrender to the sometimes mysterious ways of God (Luke 2:51, Matt. 12:46-50). Jesus' last earthly thoughts revolved around the woman who helped train and inspire Him and who stuck with Him to the bitter end (John 19:25), even in partial spiritual blindness. Mary was a living fulfillment of Proverbs 23:24-25: "The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice."
The virtuous woman
Proverbs 31:10-31 presents a brilliant and tasteful tribute to the best that is in women. Let's review this section and notice how many challenging and demanding traits and skills effective mothers and homemakers must exemplify. The word virtuous in Proverbs 31:10 actually conveys more than moral purity. It also implies forcefulness or strength. "Full of mental energy" is how Adam Clarke's Commentary defines this word. Perhaps "capable" is a good modern rendering. Verse 12 celebrates stability, consistency and maturity: "She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." This model woman is not a shallow person. She puts first things first. She knows her priorities. She derives her emotional and psychological sustenance from seeing her family succeed. This is the first but most important observation! Therefore she "willingly works" at her household duties (verse 13). She has vision. This is seen from her enthusiastic devotion to sometimes tiresome and unglamorous chores. Think what enormous financial savings each year derive from a wife's diligent patching, sewing, shampooing, refinishing, polishing and scrubbing. Maintenance prevents speedy deterioration. Every man should appreciate this continual contribution the Proverbs 31 wife makes to the family income — "no lack of gain" (verse 11). The diligent wife actively shops for bargains (verses 14-16). She has a keen eye for enduring commodities, alert to the expanding needs of her growing family. No wonder she is in good shape physically (verse 17); she is a fit, healthy person who likes the out-of-doors (verse 16), not a self-pitying recluse (S. of Sol. 1:6). The virtuous woman shops for the best quality her budget allows (Prov. 31:18, 21), and she has time and resources left to help the truly needy (verse 20). Yet she is no do-gooder or gadabout (I Tim. 5:13). She is productive. Her dressmaking and tailoring skills supplement the family income — note the surplus commodities (Prov. 31:24). "Her husband is known in the gates" (verse 23). No wonder! Yet how many men foolishly squelch the talents and abilities of their wives, unwisely believing that they — the all-powerful Supermen — must have complete charge of every last detail in the home (Prov. 11:29)? The author of Proverbs 31 knew women better than that. He respected their intelligence: "She opens her mouth with wisdom" (Prov. 31:26). He could see from the many examples she set that "on her tongue is the law of kindness."
Emphasis on child rearing
"Her children rise up and call her blessed" (verse 28). The children don't fear school. They are intellectively curious from an early age. Why? Their mother doesn't believe in letting young minds stay idle (verse 27)! Therefore it's certain that "she shall rejoice in time to come" (verse 25). The real payoff for a successful mother comes years down the line, as well as good report cards in the short run. Why? Because the exploits of her offspring provide joy and satisfaction for the second half of her life (verse 31). Successful children are a healthy source of interest and fascination to people in their senior years — a source of right pride for parents. The rootlessness and frustration that senior citizens can feel today could be cushioned tremendously by the jubilation that diligent parents experience in their extended families, attending joyous weddings, occasionally baby-sitting grandchildren and even offering financial assistance (Prov. l3:22).
Grasp God's perspective
No wonder Paul was so emphatic: "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house" (I Tim. 5:14, AV). And, "Admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands" (Tit. 2:4-5). Mothers and homemakers: What a future is yours if you can grasp God's perspective on your vital purpose! Here are three ways to help crystallize your priorities, to help counteract the propaganda that surrounds us: 1) Never downgrade your responsibility in your own mind. While society downgrades the sanctity of the family, remember God labels our world as modern Sodom and Gomorrah (II Tim. 3:1-4). You aren't missing a thing. God has something much better to offer: peace and fulfillment now and blessings for all eternity through the family unit (Prov. 23:17-18). 2) Study godly women; build their traits into your life. "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). How do tennis players improve their game? They watch the pros, read their books, study their moves. Mothers and homemakers need to regularly read Proverbs 31, Ruth, Esther, I Timothy 5, Titus 2. With the help of a concordance, study the lives of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah and Mary. Make them armchair companions. Take notes on your reading. Write down their strong points, the lessons they learned, their blessings for faithfully supporting their husbands. 3) Don't lose the vision in child rearing. Dishes, scattered toys, messy clothes — these are the present realities. They are vivid, immediate and must be dealt with. But apply Proverbs 29:18. Today you may be only trying to get your 8-year-old son to pick up his overcoat, but the principles you are teaching are neatness and responsibility. These last for all eternity. Try to see things in the light of building permanent character traits in your children, future children of God, and you will be more vigilant, more motivated. Mothers and homemakers, awake to your high calling! Don't surrender your birthright! The future payoffs are worth every effort now. Hasn't God Himself promised it (Prov. 22:17- 20)?
Home Economics: Becoming an Efficiency Expert by Ann Hays
Food for the dinner table, clothing for the children and on occasion a night out — day-to-day money management weighs heavily on the minds of many. You are not alone in your struggle to make ends meet. With high unemployment, inflated prices and devalued currency, homemakers the world over are faced with the battle of managing the funds available to them. Providing the best possible services for your family is of primary importance. Every woman is in a position to greatly contribute to the financial stability of her family simply by using most effectively what money she has. And in doing so, she can become an efficiency expert. Buying less expensive items, buying less often, eliminating waste, making it yourself and simply doing without are a few of the many ways to save money. These principles can be applied to many areas in your budget.
Family food budgeting
Certainly one of the biggest weekly expenditures in the home is food. An effective way to minimize grocery bills yet still provide nutritious, creative meals for the family is by efficient meal planning. Before doing the weekly grocery shopping, plan the meals to be served during the coming week. Use the four food groups — milk and dairy products, grains and cereals, meats and proteins, fruits and vegetables — to meet nutritional needs. Be familiar enough with the alternatives within the groups to substitute certain items, based on store specials. By putting this information down on paper, you will be able to ensure variety in your meal planning and have an organized shopping list at the same time. Another important tip is to plan meals around foods that can be served in several different ways. This enables you not only to add variety to your meals but also to utilize leftovers more effectively. The next step in your shopping strategy is to select a market that has the best buys and specials. Based on accessibility in your area, you may want to consider a "no-frills" supermarket. "No frills" generally means picking a product out of a cardboard box instead of neatly organized shelves and then bagging your own groceries at the checkout counter. You will save the cost of the service of these added conveniences on the price of the products you purchase. When shopping, read labels for content, weight and grade. Purchasing the supermarket's own label or a generic name can provide additional savings without losing nutritional value. Buying cheaper cuts of meat can give you basically the same nutrients and taste if cooked properly. Be aware of advertising and merchandising gimmicks. You don't want to be induced into buying a product that you don't really need. Another way to save is by buying in bulk or large quantities. If the price is right and the product is something that your family regularly needs, you may want to consider stocking up. Don't be tempted to use these goods to excess, however, just because they are available. In most areas, it is possible to include the use of coupons in your shopping strategy. Don't use them, however, on products you don't normally use or need. And check to see if another brand is less expensive. Perhaps one of the biggest ways to stretch your food dollar is by eating at home. According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the average, meals eaten out cost at least two and one-half times more than meals prepared at home. By preparing it yourself, you can also be certain of the quality and preparation of the food your family eats.
Cutting clothing costs
Another area where costs can be cut is clothing. In most areas, clothing is seasonal. Just before the start of a new season is the time when prices are the highest. If you are able to wait until end-of-season sales, you will be able to save money. Waiting can also help you avoid the pitfalls of the latest fad, which is not so fashionable in a few months. Plan your wardrobe around classic, timeless styles. Buying quality clothing can save money in the long run, even though the initial cost may be greater. Purchase only what you are able. If you simply can't afford certain items, even a few accessories can give a new look to some old outfits. Sewing your own clothes can result in significant savings. Developing your talent as a seamstress can also be a marketable skill. One other way to save on clothing costs is by seeking out used-clothing stores. Also, check garage sales in more affluent neighborhoods. This can be particularly economical in the case of small children's clothing. Children often outgrow garments long before wearing them out.
Other ways to save
Have you ever considered bartering for the goods and services your family otherwise couldn't afford? Bartering is simply a cashless exchange of merchandise, skills or services. It can be as simple as exchanging baby-sitting services for a neighbor chauffeuring your child to school or other activities. A more complex exchange may be ironing, mending and sewing in return for music lessons for your child. What about that occasional night out? Can you really afford it? Recreation and leisure time spent with the whole family is extremely important. If dinner at a restaurant is simply unaffordable, consider having a picnic at a park. Commercial entertainment such as going to a movie can be quite expensive. An evening at home with popcorn and games can be just as much fun and more profitable. Even a weekend camping trip can be surprisingly inexpensive. Home gardening, family haircuts at home — once you've become a trained efficiency expert, you'll think of many more ways to economize. For more information on building financial stability in your family, read our free booklet Managing Your Personal Finances.