Mailbag

The Mailbag: Christian Women Working, Using Birth Control, and Limiting Family Size

 

I have a question [as] to what your convictions are about a woman working at all in the first place, in reference to your answer to the question “Is it ok for a woman to make more than her husband?

What also is your position on birth control or having a planned family size? You are very openly pro life, and amen to that, but it seems you also are supportive of a woman working outside of her home, and with that I can only generalize and forgive me if I am wrong, that you also support a woman limiting her family size because a mother of many children, which is usually the natural order of things when no contraceptives are used, would very difficultly work and also be able to look well to the ways of her household. Can you clear your position up for us wondering? Thank you Michelle! God bless you!

Thank you so much for your questions and kind remarks. These are important issues that women and their husbands need to prayerfully consider in order to arrive at a biblical conclusion for their family.

One thing it’s imperative to remember is that situations differ vastly from family to family. We can easily slip into a pattern of thinking that “every family is just like mine so every family ought to make the same decisions we’ve made,” and even to consider our family’s decisions as the biblical standard for every family. That’s not the case, and that’s not a biblical way of regarding others. It’s important to broaden our view to realize there are scads of family difficulties, logistics, and situations that we’ve never had to face before and that two families can make different decisions on these issues – due to the unique circumstances God has placed them in – and still both be in obedience to God.

The reason it’s possible for two families to make different decisions on these issues is because the Bible doesn’t give any clear cut commands that women should never “work at all in the first place,” or that family size should never be limited, or that no form of birth control should ever be used. We may have strong convictions about these things, but God does not specifically prohibit them in His Word, and that’s what we have to go by, not only when making decisions about our own families, but also when considering the decisions other families have made.

I took a closer look at what God’s Word says (and doesn’t say) about women working in my Mailbag article Stay at Home Dads? I would encourage you to read that article and look up the Scriptures I referenced, but, long story short, the Bible does not make an across the board prohibition that no woman may ever work to earn income. In fact, we see several examples of women in Scripture working, and God does not condemn these women for doing so. In some circumstances, it is perfectly biblical for women to work.

I think the confusion you may be experiencing stems from the fact that you’re assuming several “facts not in evidence” when it comes to women working outside the home. Your questions seem to be predicated on the idea that “working woman” necessarily means a married woman who has small children and who doesn’t want children to get in the way of her career. That may be the case for some women who work but it’s not the case for every woman. Not every woman is married. God has not blessed every woman with children. Some women have children who are grown and on their own. Some women are single mothers and have no choice but to work. Some women have disabled husbands who can’t work. Some women can work part time from home (or outside the home) and their jobs don’t interfere with raising their children and managing their households. Occasionally, when a couple marries, the wife is already well established in a lucrative career, while the husband hasn’t had the same educational/career opportunities, and regardless of how hard he works, and considering all other circumstances, the wife and husband agree that it just makes more financial sense for a particular season of their family’s life for her to work and for the husband to stay home with the kids. We cannot make a blanket statement that godly women in these circumstances, working outside the home (or from home), are necessarily violating Scripture. As I said, we need to be aware of the vast array of circumstances taking place in various families, and not judge those families by our own.

Your next question was about birth control and limiting family size. Again, we must look to Scripture to see what it says.

Since the Bible was written in a time before birth control pills and surgical sterilization were invented, naturally it does not address those specific types of birth control, or, really, any type of birth control. People have tried to make the case that a couple of passages address the issue of what we might call “natural family planning”:

The story of Onan describes Onan engaging in coitus interruptus (withdrawal) and God subsequently putting Him to death. This passage is sometimes offered as evidence that God is against even “natural” birth control. However, all you have to do is read the passage in context, and it’s clear that it wasn’t that particular sexual act itself that cost Onan his life, but his selfishness in refusing to obey what would later become the law of levirate marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:5 permits husbands and wives to engage in mutually agreed upon periods of abstinence which could be stretched like Silly Putty into a biblical endorsement of the rhythm method (natural family planning), but again, the context of the verse makes it clear that the abstinence mentioned in this verse is not for the purposes of birth control, it’s for the purposes of concentrated prayer, sort of a “fasting from sex” idea.

So birth control, even natural forms of it, is not really addressed in Scripture. It’s neither prohibited nor endorsed. And as a consequence, limiting the size of one’s family isn’t addressed either because that wasn’t normally, biologically-speaking, a realistic option.

The Bible does, however, speak to the issue of abortion. Abortion is the murder of an innocent human being, so all the biblical passages prohibiting murder also prohibit abortion. This includes any form of birth control that kills an already conceived baby.

Another biblical principle I think it’s important to take into consideration is that the Bible seems to assume that procreation is one of the main goals of both sex and marriage. While God created sex to be pleasurable, gratifying our desire for physical ecstasy is dessert, not the main course of sex, as our libidinous 21st century sexual ethic would have us believe. God created marriage as the boundary lines for sexual activity, and the foundation for creating families. The Bible knows nothing of a man and woman getting married and proactively deciding for fleshly or selfish reasons (career, travel, freedom, spending habits, etc.) not to have children. The Bible takes for granted that married couples who are physically able will form families by having children. That is His plan for propagating human life.

The Bible also views children as a blessing to families and views motherhood as an honor, a vocation worthy of respect and value. I’m very disturbed at the increasing attitude in our society, and even among some Christians, that children are an annoying inconvenience and a hindrance to women pursuing their own personal goals. I remember seeing a billboard ad for condoms a few years ago that featured a picture of a screaming toddler emblazoned with the caption, “You should have used X Brand condoms.” Recently I saw a TV commercial for an IUD that said something along the lines of, “It’s easier to make an appointment with your doctor to get this IUD than to deal with a thee year old.”

And just last night, I saw part of a sitcom in which a stay at home mom comes home from a night out with friends (all career women) and complains to her husband that ever since the kids were born she’s been stuck at home, that her friends are doing exciting things and all she’s doing is raising kids, that she needs to get out of the house and do something. So she decides to get a job. As if being a mother is an unexciting burden and she’s not really doing anything worthwhile.

Children are a precious gift of God and deserve to be treated with love and dignity, to feel like they’re wanted and valued by the person they love most in the world – Mom.

So taking all of these things into consideration, where does that leave us when it comes to making godly decisions about these three issues of women working, birth control, and limiting the size of one’s family?

Here are some biblical conclusions we can draw:

•Christians should not have abortions or use any type of abortifacient birth control. Barrier methods, true contraceptives (birth control that prevents conception), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation/vasectomy), and natural family planning are not sinful in and of themselves, but we need to prayerfully consider whether or not we have sinful or selfish reasons for wanting to use them.

•As with any decision, Christians should examine their motives for wanting to use birth control, limit their family size, and for wanting Mom to work outside the home. Are these motives sinful, fleshly, selfish, based on a lack of trust in God? If so, that’s the root issue that needs to be dealt with, because Christians should have biblical and godly motives for their decisions, not sinful ones. Godly decisions spring from godly motives.

•Generally speaking, in families with children at home, God’s pattern is for Mom to stay home, manage the household and raise the children, and for Dad to support the family financially. For many couples today, that will necessitate limiting the size of their family at least to a degree. The Duggars might be able to support 20 children on Jim Bob’s salary alone, but that is not the case for most families. Most couples will, at some point, have to make a decision as to whether or not they are physically and financially able to care for additional children, or if having additional children will force Mom to get a job, leaving a day care or someone else to raise the children.

•Because God’s general pattern for families is for Mom to stay home and Dad to work, husbands and wives should try to follow this pattern if at all possible. Explore all possibilities of reducing expenses, bringing in extra income, and keeping Mom at home:

  • Cut your expenses- Move to a cheaper area or into cheaper, possibly smaller, housing. Get a cheaper vehicle. Cut extraneous expenses like cable, going out to eat, recreational shopping, buying name brands, mani-pedis, gym memberships, organizations that require dues, lawn and housekeeping services, etc.
  • Think outside the box when it comes to employment. Bringing in income doesn’t have to mean working outside the home 9 to 5 as someone else’s employee. What about working online or starting your own business? Creating/crafting things and selling them online? Taking in laundry, ironing, or sewing? Babysitting? Homeschooling other people’s children? Working a late night or early morning shift while the kids are sleeping?
  • I highly recommend the late Larry Burkett’s book Women Leaving the Workplace: How to Make the Transition from Work to Home. It came out in 1995, before the internet was really a thing, so it doesn’t have much information on working online, websites you can go to, etc., but most of the practical advice he gives is timeless, and it’s easy to think of online alternatives to some of the “analog” things he mentions.

•Christian wives need to remember to obey Scripture’s instruction to submit to their husbands. If your husband does not want you to work outside the home or has made another decision (that does not violate clear Scripture) about one of these three issues, you are to lovingly and graciously submit to that decision. Remember, there isn’t an explicit biblical command (outside of the prohibition of abortifacients) one way or the other about any of these three issues, but there is an explicit command that you’re to submit to your husband.

•Pray. Making wise and godly decisions about things that aren’t prohibited or endorsed by Scripture can be tough, but this is one of the ways God grows us in dependence on Him. Ask Him for guidance and wisdom. He delights to answer such prayers.

•Get counsel. Set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling or contact a biblical counselor. It can be very helpful to get objective biblical advice when you’re working through these issues.

In some seasons of life and family circumstances it can be perfectly biblical for a woman to work, as long as her home and family remain her first priority and do not suffer because of her working. Abortifacients should never be used by Christians, and Christians should carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not they have godly motives for wanting to limit their family size or use non-abortifacient types of birth control. Christian couples need to make certain they aren’t violating any explicit commands of Scripture, seek to align themselves with biblical principles, and prayerfully make the wisest and most godly decisions for their families that they can about each of these issues.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Tithing, Beth Moore on abortion, wife earning more than husband…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Any good info you can send in about tithing? Is it for NT believer? Are we in sin if we don’t?

Great question – and it’s one that a lot of Believers probably wonder about. For the long answer, check out my article To Tithe or Not to Tithe… (and don’t forget to click on the links in that article to the helpful resources I’ve included).

The short answer is no. Christians are not required by Scripture to tithe. The main Scripture that covers the principles for New Testament giving is 2 Corinthians 9:7:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We are to give thoughtfully, decisively, generously, willingly, and gladly. Now, if you consider your finances and the needs of your church, you and ask God to help you make a wise decision about how much to give, and ten per cent is the prayerful conclusion you come to, then by all means, give ten per cent. If it’s fifty per cent or two per cent or 97 per cent or some other amount, give that. New Testament giving is about glad generosity of heart and godly decision-making, not rote fulfillment of a non-applicable Mosaic Covenant law.

Are you in sin if you don’t tithe? It depends on the reason you’re not tithing. If you’re not tithing (or giving) because you’re selfish and greedy and you don’t want to give anything to the church, then, yes, you’re sinning. If you’re not tithing because you’re barely scraping by and can only afford to give five per cent to the church, which you give with a joyful and generous heart, no, you’re not sinning. But for sure, if your pastor or someone else is attempting to coerce or compel you to tithe, he is putting you under the yoke of the law, he is violating 2 Corinthians 9:7, and he is in sin.


What is Beth Moore’s position on abortion?

I received this question from several readers in connection with the publication of An Open Letter to Beth Moore (which you can still sign if you haven’t yet, ladies).

I don’t know what Beth’s position on abortion is. I Googled “Beth Moore abortion” and the closest thing I came up with was a tweet thread from 2016 that had something to do with the presidential election and whether or not Beth supported Hillary Clinton (it wasn’t 100% clear since some of the tweets have since been deleted or made private). Some questioned Beth in that thread about her stance on abortion since they believed she supported Clinton, but while Beth clearly said she did not support either candidate, unless I missed a tweet or it was deleted, she did not state what her position on abortion was.

If you want to know Beth’s position on abortion, you will have to ask her. Since she is Southern Baptist, you may wish to ask her if she agrees with the portion of Article XV of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM2000– the SBC’s statement of faith) which states,

“We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

It is possible Beth would be willing to give a pro-life answer since it is likely much more acceptable among her followers for her to stand against abortion than to stand against homosexuality. But since she has already demonstrated that she is unwilling to take a firm biblical stand on an issue when doing so might diminish her popularity, I imagine she will respond to questions about abortion the same way she responded to our questions about homosexuality: ignore the questions as much as possible, or answer them in an obfuscatory or cryptic manner when pressed.


As a woman, am I sinning by witnessing to a man?

Nope. Not under the auspices of 1 Timothy 2:12, anyway. What you’re doing is carrying out the Great Commission, Jesus’ mandate to all Christians. A couple of articles that explain more and that you might find helpful:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#11)

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?


One of my loved ones says she hears God’s voice, still small voice, a new revelation from Him and so on. How can I search your website to get information on this?

May God bless you for wanting to help your loved one! I think these articles will help:

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Michelle’s a money-grubber, Still small voice, Husband of one wife…)


Wondering what kind of instruction you received to teach what [you] have on your website. I have studied the Scriptures for many years, but am disappointed that I did not spot some of the false and lacking “teachers” you have written about. I found you, thankfully, by following a rabbit trail regarding false teachers. Thanks.

Thanks for asking! The biblical instruction I’ve received:

•Sitting under good preaching and teaching at my own church

•Studying straight from the Bible itself (not workbook/DVD studies, etc.) during my daily Bible study time

•Listening to good sermons and Bible teaching online

•Reading good, solid theological books by doctrinally sound authors.

I have audited one or two online seminary classes, but I’ve never been enrolled in a seminary, nor do I have a seminary degree.

I’ve explained a bit more about how I got started learning discernment here. Many of the authors, pastors, and teachers I’ve listened to can be found in the sidebar to your left (Blogs and Podcasts I Follow and Links I Love) and at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.

This is part of the reason I’m forever hounding women to put aside the “canned” studies and systematically study straight from the Bible for themselves and to get faithfully invested in a doctrinally sound church – it’s not only biblical, it works.


Biblical views on a wife making more than her husband financially?

To my knowledge, there is no passage in the Bible that explicitly prohibits a woman from having a larger salary than her husband’s, assuming that they are both employed in a manner that doesn’t violate biblical standards. (Readers- For the purposes of this question, let’s assume that neither spouse is neglecting his/her biblical duties to the marriage, children, or home by being employed in this season of his/her life.)

In other words, if they’re both employed full time and her position or field just happens to pay more than his position or field, that doesn’t violate any Scripture I’m aware of. Or there could be situations such as: a husband is ill or disabled and unable to work full time (or at all), or the husband has had to reduce his workload temporarily to care for an ill family member, go back to school, etc. However, if it’s a situation like the wife is making more money because the husband is a lazy bum who refuses to work enough hours (or at all) to support his family, that would be sinful on his part.

If there’s nothing unbiblical about the wife’s or the husband’s employment situation but it bothers one or both of them that her salary is larger, they should sit down, talk it out, and pray through the issue to discover and resolve the problem. I would also recommend setting up an appointment with their pastor or a biblical counselor for counseling (see Biblical Counseling Resources tab at the top of this page).


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.