Why Managing the Home is a Significant Calling
Words by Carissa Belford
I am standing in a Minnesota parking lot in zero-degree temperatures, digging through a disordered purse to find my keys (again). I find old receipts, empty candy wrappers, and last week's church bulletin, but no keys. The longer I look, the colder I get and the more my frustration builds. When I finally find my keys among the crumbs at the bottom of what my husband calls “the deep pit,” I resolve to clean my purse as soon as we reach our next destination.
After reading about an episode like this, few people would ask why I should clean my purse. The answer seems obvious: families, churches, and purses function better when they are uncluttered. But chaos, clutter, and mess characterize many of our lives, and yet so many women ask why organizing our homes or managing them well matters.
Does it really matter if the laundry isn’t done? (And I do understand that it really is never done.) Does it matter if the dishes are finished, because the mess will grow quickly again? Does it matter if the beds are made or the toilets wiped down? It may be true that these tasks seem menial and monotonous, but there is a great need for women to know that they are to manage their homes well. Our knowledge of God’s character, his calling, and our motives for serving will transform the way we work for our families. Being a keeper of the home is not checking off a “to do” list that wears us out or makes us look better to others. This is Kingdom work in which God gives me the privilege to participate (Titus 2:3–5).
If we are to manage our homes well, we need wisdom. The book of Proverbs addresses this: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Prov. 14:1). “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Prov. 24:3). In the book's final chapter, Proverbs 31, we meet a woman who fears God and works diligently in her home for the Lord, her husband, her children, and for others in her community. She is a woman who asks God for the wisdom to manage her home well and who creates an ordered and peaceful environment.
Whether a woman works outside her home as well as inside, her home is to be her first priority. This means that she is a counter-cultural woman who knows what’s going on in her home and she is prepared to take care of those needs first. The counter-cultural woman is not afraid to study the Proverbs 31 woman. Did you know that Proverbs 31 was written by a woman for her son? This description of a virtuous woman did not come from a demanding man who wanted a perfect woman. No. This mother writes to her boy about a woman who is characterized by wisdom, fears God, and is virtuous because of her relationship to him. Her work does not make her virtuous. Virtue is hers because of her walk with God. This dependence affects the way she works inside and outside her home. Proverbs 31:27–31 says:
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women have done excellently but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
Her love for God and awareness of his presence drives her work.
I am fully aware that all of us have different personalities, homes, families, and responsibilities, but many women excuse their call to manage their homes well with the pressure to excel at other things outside their homes. These women may look put-together, but their homes are falling apart. Other women love a clean and clutter-free home and are genuinely wired to think in neat and fine lines, unable to function with anything out of place. But our goal in managing the home well is not that our homes look like a set for a magazine cover. We must obey God and order our homes in a way that creates an environment for our families to function well. All women must ask God to give them an awe of him, which enables them to serve effectively.
Chaos, clutter, and mess have definite effects on our families. When we decide that the dishes can wait a few days or that putting clothes away doesn’t matter, that decision affects our environment. More strife and fights occur when we are surrounded by chaos and clutter. The frustration of not having a place for our piles of “stuff” or for the kids’ shoes or toys results in cluttered minds and an inability to function well with each other. A 2011 study by the Princeton University Neuroscience institute found that people function better in an environment where there is order. First Corinthians 12–14 mentions order and its effect of “building each other up.” These chapters describe chaos in the church when people do not use their gifts for building others up. Paul concludes, “But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). If this instruction was given for well-ordered churches, perhaps we should apply these principles to our homes and families as well.
If God thinks that it is important for our homes to be managed well, then this is a significant call! This call includes training our children to help, asking God for wisdom so that we can teach and prepare our children to work well.
I’ve told all our children that they are serving God and our family when they pick up after themselves. Managing the home is training my boys and girls to think about God’s eyes on them when the jobs seem hard and boring. God has provided Gospel opportunities for us to minister for Kingdom purposes.
This calling is so rich, so important, and eternal. A renewed focus on serving Christ energizes us for the menial tasks of daily chores. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God chose these works for me to serve my family. This is a high calling.
I recently read two examples of people who served out of a heart that feared God. Nancy Leigh DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts writes about a 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence whose job in the religious order was to work in the kitchen. He learned to do it with a cheerful heart and a love for God. His classic work, The Practice of the Presence of God, encourages us as women as we do our work. He said, “My job, my work, does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons at the same time are calling for different things, I possessed God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees in prayer.” His example of being aware of God is a great challenge to me. Nancy Leigh DeMoss says, “Most menial and manual labor becomes holy. It becomes sanctified, consecrated, when I give it up to God as an offering.”
DeMoss goes on to quote a description of Sarah Edwards written in the preface to the collected works of her husband, Jonathan Edwards. “In the midst of these complicated labors [during the Great Awakening, when life was very, very busy for Jonathan Edwards], as well as at all times, he found at home one who was in every sense a helpmeet for him. One who made their dwelling an abode of order and neatness, of peace and comfort, of harmony and love to all who lived there, and of kindness and hospitality to the friend, the visitor, and the stranger. She rendered everything in the family agreeable and pleasant, considering it her greatest glory, and that wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting her husband’s usefulness and happiness.” DeMoss states that Sarah considered it her best means of bringing glory to God and fulfilling God’s purpose for her life in her generation by promoting her husband’s spiritual usefulness and happiness. She knew that if she could create a climate in the home where her husband was encouraged to become spiritually mature and fruitful and to be used by God, then she would be the helper suitable to him.
Our lives and homes can be characterized by clutter, chaos, and mess, or they can be characterized by peace and order. This is our ministry.
This is the gospel life lived out to those within our four walls—keeping the laundry loads going, choosing meals, grocery shopping, wiping down toilets (yes, I have a young son), or planning ahead to eliminate stressful mornings. We are doing it “for the Lord” (Col. 3:23).
The Proverbs 31 woman works willingly with her hands. She is not lazy. When we are the last ones to go to bed or the first ones up each day, may we be driven by an awareness of God’s presence and gratitude to serve the families that he has placed within our care. May God give us grace and wisdom to manage our homes well for his glory!
Content originally published in Deeply Rooted Magazine Issue 05: Life