A Woman’s Mandate

elisabeth elliot - a woman's mandate

When speaking to a group of pastors’ wives I learned that 80 percent of them were working full time outside of the home. I was shocked.

Is it wrong for a pastor’s wife—or any other wife—to have a job? There is another question that should be asked first: Has God said anything about women’s work?

The consensus among Christians seems to be that careers for women are not only permissible but to be encouraged. If we take a careful look at the scriptural lists of womanly responsibilities (1 Tim. 5:9, 10 and Titus 2:3–5), we may ask whether there is time to do those things which are clearly the will of God when we have set for ourselves so ambitious an agenda. Paul’s letter to Timothy spells out which women qualify for the widows’ list. First on the list of “good deeds” is bringing up children.

Who of us has not noticed, in airports, grocery stores, and at church suppers, the wild and uncontrolled children, racing and screaming, while parents stand helplessly by, rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders, and saying, “They’re just kids—what can you do?” Bless their hearts, they do not know there is something they can do, because no one has taught them. But where, I ask, are the older women who could teach the younger? They don’t seem to be at home anymore.

“In the dim and distant past
When life’s tempo wasn’t fast,
Grandma used to rock and knit,
Crochet, tat, and babysit.
Grandma now is at the gym
Exercising to keep slim.
Now she’s golfing with the bunch,
Taking clients out to lunch.
She’s going north to ski and curl,
And all her days are in a whirl.
Nothing seems to stop or block her
Now that Grandma’s off her rocker.”
—Source unknown

My own life has been blessed by having, first and foremost, a godly mother who was always there. She stayed home. She raised six children, and she set for us a holy example of femininity, self-discipline, discipline (An 18-inch switch lay on the lintel of the door of every room in the house.), humor, and love. I have also been greatly blessed by spiritual mothers—older women who happened to be there geographically when my mother was not, women who had time for me. They would not have thought of themselves as spiritual mothers. They were simply being kind to a young woman who needed their example, their steadfastness, their godly counsel, their prayers.

I have called such women wotts: Women of Titus Two. Someone asked for guidelines, structure, organization, information about how to establish a wotts group in her church. God forbid that we start another organization. What we do not need is another meeting. But perhaps we could try this:

1. Pray. Ask God to show you the needs and ways in which you yourself can help. Pray with one or two others who understand the need and don’t balk at the sacrifice (perhaps on the phone if it’s difficult to get together). The measure of our love is the measure of our willingness to be inconvenienced.

2. Ask your pastor if he might preach on the two crucial passages (1 Tim. 5:9, 10; Titus 2:3–5). If he consents, he’s a man of uncommon courage.

3. In Bible studies, Sunday school classes, over your kitchen table, or wherever you have opportunity, raise the subject of spiritual mothering. Tell others of the blessing older, wiser, godlier women have been to you. If you have no such examples in the flesh, try finding them in a book. Amy Carmichael became one to me as I read her books. Her biography, A Chance to Die, has helped many.

4. Post a list on the church bulletin board of wotts—women who earnestly desire to be available and who are humble enough to be unsung. No one, of course, can promise to be available all the time or to meet all demands, but it would help younger women to know there were a few listening ears when they don’t know what to do with an uncommunicative husband, a 25-pound turkey, or a two-year-old’s tantrum.

It is doubtful that the apostle Paul had in mind Bible classes or seminars or books when he spoke of teaching younger women. He meant the simple things, the everyday example, the willingness to take time from one’s own concerns to pray with the anxious mother, to walk with her the way of the Cross with its tremendous demands of patience, selflessness, lovingkindness—and to show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart.

These lessons will come perhaps most convincingly through rocking a baby, doing some mending, cooking a super, or cleaning a refrigerator. Through such an example, one young woman—single or married, Christian or not—may catch a glimpse of the mystery of charity and the glory of womanhood, so perfectly exemplified in the response of a humble village girl of long ago when she said, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it happen as You say.”