Wives Who Work Outside of the Home

Photo by Stockimages, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo: Stockimages, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Few subjects in Christianity are more controversial than that of working wives. Many Christians feel that it is wrong for married women to be employed full time outside of the home, especially if children are involved. However, for many families, especially low-to-middle income families, the alternatives are few. Many mothers are required to work because they are single parents, but this article deals exclusively with mothers and wives of families in which both parents/spouses are living at home.

Our society
It is commonly accepted in our current American society that in most households the cost of maintaining and operating a home requires that both spouses work. It doesn’t take much arithmetic to determine that the costs of new homes, cars, food, private school, and clothing are beyond the income ability of the average one-income family. Currently, the housing expenses on the average new home would require almost 70% of the average husband’s income. So, logic dictates that two incomes are needed to maintain the average American family lifestyle.

More and more married women are beginning to accept the pressures of a job as normal. That is unfortunate, because wives provide a good family balance for their husbands, who generally have a tendency to work too much and too long. If wives begin to adjust similarly, then ultimately the family will suffer. Since many women are the primary organizers and planners in the home, these gifts may be lost to their families if they become burdened by the daily work routine.

Loyalties and priorities
When wives shift their need for approval from the home to their work, problems generally follow. There is often a mixed loyalty between the demands at work and at home. On one hand, a wife may sense a lack of closeness to her family as a result of the time spent away from home and the normal mental fatigue of work stress. On the other hand, she may recognize the need to dedicate even more time to the job in order to succeed.

Just as many Christian husbands/fathers abandon the important priorities —God and family —because they believe they must be a success for their families, many wives/mothers rationalize in the same way.

Because there are negative side effects of working wives/mothers does not mean that it is scripturally wrong for them to work outside of the home. The fact that many women choose to work outside the home is not the problem. The fact that so many women have to work outside of the home to maintain the family’s finances is the real problem. If the family is so overextended that the wife/mother has to work, then the family has too much debt and changes have to be made.

Biblical priorities
There are 4 priorities that should be prerequisite with regard to wives/mothers working outside of the home:

1. Desire. Nowhere in God’s Word does it say or imply that wives/mothers should not work outside the home. But the lack of prohibition does not necessarily mean that it is best for families. The first prerequisite of a working wife/mother is a desire on her part to work. When a wife is compelled to work by design or circumstance, resentment often will develop.

2. Husband’s approval. Many working wives are able to gain approval from their husbands by pressuring them. Although some husbands don’t actually agree with their wives working, they relent under pressure. This is not the approval that a wife should seek or desire. Pressured approval will eventually undermine the marriage relationship.

3. Disciplined children. The role of the mother as the teacher of her children is incontestable. The father usually provides the policy decisions, but it is his wife who establishes discipline and direction on a day-to-day basis. The successes or failures of children as individuals will, in great part, depend on the mother’s success or failure as their guide. The greater the trend toward women’s fulfilling their emotional needs outside the home, the more children seem to become undisciplined.

4. Confused authority. God’s Word establishes the husband as the head of the household. For the working wife/mother, the loyalties between job and family may get confused.

Possible dangers
If both husband and wife feel the need for the wife to work and both agree that she should work, some very specific goals should be established for the wife’s income; otherwise, additional debt will result. At least once a year every working couple should reevaluate their goals and objectives, particularly the purpose of the wife’s income. A young couple would be well advised not to merge the wife’s income into their budget. To do so invites future disaster in the event of the birth of children, illness, or the husband’s job change.

They should learn to live on the husband’s income and use the wife’s for one-time purchases (car, furniture, or down payment on a home), debt reduction, or comfort and special occasion purchases (presents and gifts, vacation, or private school).

God’s Word describes the wife’s role as equal spiritually and dependent materially. She is her husband’s helpmate —supporter and companion. The husband is commanded to love his wife, care for her needs, and accept the responsibility for the family. If a wife’s working outside of the home doesn’t interfere with these biblical priorities, then the decision should be one of mutual consent. But if it does, then the marriage continuity must come first.

This article is an adaptation of Larry Burkett’s book, Using Your Money Wisely: Biblical Principles Under Scrutiny, published by Moody Publishers. This and many other wonderful financial concepts are found on the web site for Crown Financial Ministries at www.crown.org. We can’t recommend this ministry enough to obtain straight-forward, Biblical financial help and resources.


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Filed under: Finances in Marriage

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34 responses to “Wives Who Work Outside of the Home

  1. (ZIMBABWE) I don’t agree with this idea that women should not work. In my case I earn much more than my husband and am responsible for almost 95% of our expenses. He insisted on joint accounts but I am not happy with this as I feel he is not responsible with money and I worry about him using my money to betray me, for example. How can this situation be dealt with? Is it bad if I start a private safety net account? What is the biblical thing to do here?

    When we got married I was under the impression he was going somewhere with his career and now I feel cheated coz it doesn’t seem he is making any progress. I feel so resentful each time he refers to the money I earn as “his” money. I really need help. I feel like I’m fast losing respect for him.

  2. I am about to get married, and this topic confuses me greatly! I have always had the desire to be a wife and mom. I have always desired to take care of the home and my family. But now that I’m about to get married, I find myself in the position of needing to work full time even to be able to afford basics like rent and food. My husband-to-be is in ministry full time so a second income is really necessary. I know that his desire is to be able to provide for us fully so that I will be able to take on the management of the home and family, especially when we have children. I believe that God desires for wives to be busy about the home and to make the home their priority.

    But at what point, if ever, should we decide that keeping this job, which takes up so much time and is very draining, is not worth the strain it causes that will prevent me from truly taking care of the home? Will God provide for us if only He is working? Or does God provide through wives working? I don’t think that makes sense. Lord, teach me the truth.

    1. “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

      “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

      “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:24-34)

      Your husband is a man of God and God will take care of those who is living for Christ and teaching others to live for Christ. We must truly get to know our Father and how much He loves us. Seek to get to know Him and you will learn to truly trust in Him and what He has said He will do for His children. Talk to your soon to be husband about how you feel and pray for God’s wisdom in the situation. Until then, support your husband until you have children.

  3. I am in the same situation like you ladies. I am providing 90% of our income and my husband does not have problem with that as he is working hard as he could until the Lord opens a door for him to be the major bread winner. But I had a problem. I used to feel that it is not fair that I should financially support our family because I would prefer to stay at home and take care of the familly but I have no option. I complained to God about it and this is what He told me and settled all my confusions “IT IS I WHO PROVIDES AND I CHOOSE THROUGH WHOM I SHOULD DO.” We have same account and we are all responsible for our expenses.

    So for any woman there who is the main provider for the family be grateful to God that He chose to use you, but your husband should not take you for granted and use you. Some men are just lazy without goals and focus and plans and those are the ones Paul talked about in 2 Thessalonians 3:9-11 “not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.…”

    For example Jemila’s case is very obvious, for how long will you continue to finance his extramaritual affairs?

    1. Thank you Flora, for sharing the insights the Lord has given you. They truly are profound! May He bless your marriage in every way you need Him to do so.

  4. (US) There are cases in the Bible that shows women working out the house. Marriage should be the first priority for both the wife and the husband. The husband needs to be home too. He can’t just be working all day just for money. That isn’t healthy. Same with the wife. Of course, motherhood is important but so is fatherhood.

    One thing we forget is that a father need to be home too. That’s why the wife should help and she doesn’t need approval from her husband. They can talk about it but that’s her choice. Also wive’s will have free time on their hands and a lot of it. Kids go to school and she’s the only one in the house with nothing to do. A lot of housewives end up depressed cause their kids don’t need her as much and her husband is busy. That isn’t fair to her. God didn’t create women just to be housewives but more. Women have so much to offer.

    I personally think if women work more it will make this a better world. Women are intelligent and everyone knows that. Her skills are far more than cleaning cooking and etc. Why not let her pursue that and have an identity of her own? We now live in society that women don’t have to be protected all the time. Now they have rights. But back then women were easily used degraded and insulted; that is why she is to stay home.

    People think a little. Does it seem fair for a wife to stay home while her husbands and kids go into the world? She has dreams, just as anyone. She went to school and college to build herself. Why let it go to waste? Now-a-days people have jobs built from what they love and dream. Whether the family needs her to work or not doesn’t matter. If there’s something she wants to do that she loves, her husband shouldn’t stand in front of her and say no, but encourage. Some wives on the other hand think that being a housewife is all they are, and that is who they are, but let’s face it most wives aren’t like that. If EITHER spouse’s job is effecting the family, it is wrong. The husband needs to be home, just as much as the wife.

  5. Males come into this world with more power than females. Females need incomes more than men to have any chance of eventually getting equal power with men.

    Spouses incomes should be equally important. Females often need more time to do their hair, etc. than males so males need to do more housework for this amount of time. Also males have more energy than females so males should do more than half the housework and childcare (everything else being equal).

    I’m an unemployed married female. I’ve always been willing to work overtime so I don’t have to do my share of housework and childcare. I will not be punished with extra housework just because I’m unemployed. In fact we’re able to have a live in household helper but my husband will not allow it. Therefore my husband and I will be living separately so I can have a live in helper to do most of my share of housework. I will need a reclining power chair in order to work because I have very limited sitting and standing time compared to the able-bodied. I do not know if I’ll be discriminated against, so I may have to rely on the proceeds from our current home, which my husband paid for 100%, to invest in real estate (in my name only ASAP) so I can have any chance to make a living.

  6. I have had difficulties with my husband as well; together 14 years. I opened a local cafe which has totally taken all my time. He has chosen not to help or be any part of it yet our plans going into this is he would help.

    We have 3 children, at times he feels like a babysitter he says. I also found he had been sexting and online chat with other women and he says its because I’m not with him…beside him. He has taken on an extreme jealous streak lately and I have also learned that he stalks me. He isn’t responsible with the financial stuff either. I have had to call police on him twice in the last month. I feel stuck and considered divorce but feel like that’s not fair to us as a couple or the children.

    advice please…I even had to get a church to help me with bills this past month due to his unwillingness.

  7. What about men who recent their wife for NOT working outside the home? My daughter wants to stay at home to raise the children but my son-in-law seems to be very resentful. He comes home after work everyday almost starting an argument about nonexistent stuff, like stuff she’s not doing around the house, pretty much implying she’s lazy.

    Also, if the woman works shouldn’t the man do housework and cook?

    1. I think so. I think a man who wants his wife to work outside the home should walk as a servant. Our Lord walked as a servant. It is not loving your wife as Christ loved the Church by giving his life for it to make your wife work 40 hours a week and come home and work another 20 hours on top of that. In my opinion, knowing the graciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, this man might have a letter of the word interpretation of the Word and not a rhema – filled with the life of Christ’s spirit understanding. Christ is ever the servant. He who is a servant is the greatest of all.

  8. For some of you women who claim to be Christian, your responses and mindset about these issues seems to be very worldly. If they are not worldly, then they seem to be very selfishly motivated by personal gain or glory. We as women were designed to express the lives and will of our husbands. It’s the same as Christ being the head and we are his bride. We are expressing Him to bring him glory not ourselves. He is our protector, provider, and our Lord. That is why the name of the wife changes to the husband’s after we’re married. Wives submit to your husbands in everything and learn to keep your home. Learn to love your children and husband.

    1. I’m so sorry that you feel that way, Angelina. It is not worldly to want to dialogue. In fact, Christ opened up the dialogue between the Father and us. It grieves me when women point the judgmental finger at other women and are not willing to listen, pray, and find out what the Spirit of God is saying. It is not fair of you to point the finger at other Christian women. It is a very serious to do this. We are called to understand and to grow as believers.

  9. What I find so difficult about this article is the man who wrote it. While I respect Mr. Burkett his suggestions just are not practical. It is sincerely and from the bottom of my heart not my intent to disparage any of his advice, but his ideas simply shut down rather than encourage dialogue. Today’s young men and women are simply moving forward to define the working partnership wives and husbands are meant to have in their relationship.

    It has been my experience that whenever you give someone a title of authority, they have a tendency to use it as “lordship” over others. For instance, a husband can no more give his “approval” for a wife to work outside the home than a man can “not ask for his wife’s approval” to buy a new cadillac or sell the home. This is not a partnership this is despotic at best. It causes a lot of heartache in a marriage when a man does not treat his wife a co-laborer and partner. If he ignores her witness, he is destroying the marriage or he is destroying her internally – creating unseen emotional and ultimately health issues. I really like your column, but some of your advice is so religious, letter-of-the-word and the letter-of-the-word killeth and it has been killing marriages for centuries.

    1. No disrespect to you Susan but as Christians when we marry, we make a vow to our spouse. It’s very sad to see these Christian women on here speaking bad about their husbands. It sickens me. I’m sorry about these situations but could you imagine if Jesus gave up on us and said he doesn’t love us or divorces us because of our flaws? How would you feel? It’s sad that divorce would be considered. It hurts me to see this.

      A woman’s main focus should be the home. Working is fine but it should never override the authority of your husband. No wonder the divorce rate is so high here in America. There is no unconditional love. It pains me. Christians should not ever talk bad about their spouse or even let divorce roll off of their mouth. I see so much victim playing but not enough humility. I’m not judging; I’m calling what I am reading.