On Mother’s Day families pay special tribute to their moms in various ways--cards, flowers, breakfast in bed or at McDonald's, lunch at a fine restaurant, long distance calls, and special gifts. These are just some of the ways families will say thanks to mom, and that is as it should be. But too often Mother’s Day is simply a time when families attempt to atone for an entire year of neglect, indifference, misuse, disrespect, and a lack of thoughtfulness and genuine appreciation. How typical of people--especially Americans. And how hypocritical!
I’d like to devote this study to some biblical reflections for mothers as well as the entire family.
Most present day philosophers, both Christian and non-Christian, would tend to agree on one point: that Western man is now living in a post-Christian era.1 In other words, this is no longer a truly Christian nation due to the choices we have made as a nation in the last thirty years. Our coins still say “in God we trust,” but certainly by the choices we have made, especially since the ’60s, we are not trusting in God as a nation. We have a form of godliness, but we deny the power and reality of God by our true beliefs and actions.
What is meant by the statement we are in a post-Christian era? Does it mean Christianity is dead? Of course it doesn’t, for that can never be. Anticipating the constant antagonism of Satan’s world system throughout the ages, the Lord declared He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). Post-Christian means that the influence the Bible once had on our nation’s social and moral behavior has diminished to a level hardly recognizable today. This applies not only to morality, but to all areas of life. Education, sexuality, political theory, law, justice, the family, and most importantly, parenting, are now under the failing influence of man-centered opinions.
Have you noticed how, though people may not be a specialist in an area, everyone has an opinion about every aspect of life. Non-Christians (especially today) usually form their opinions apart from Scripture. When people do that they remove God from consideration and raise man’s opinion above God’s Word. Some non-Christians may quote the Bible, like politicians, but they do so either to gain votes from the religious right or simply as one would quote Shakespeare.
Our subject in this study is the home, families, and particularly, motherhood. What, therefore, are the effects of this post-Christian era on the family? It is simply this--human reason or secular humanism thinks it is free to set the parameters for the family, for the home, for marriage, and for child development. This opens the door for man’s speculations about man and who he is, about what marriage is and should be, and about what is right for the home--for moms, dads and children. But because of the fall of mankind as recorded in Genesis 3, children are born with sinful natures and go astray even from their mother’s womb (Psa. 58:3).
By contrast, a Christian is one who ought to see the home, marriage, and parental responsibilities as framed within the parameters of God’s infallible and authoritative Word to man--the Bible. These truths from God’s Word should not only shape our beliefs and practices in all areas of life (including the home where life makes up its mind), but they also make them legitimate, indeed, absolutes to guide us in our trek through life. Our opinions and beliefs are legitimately Christian only to the degree that they are truly founded on the Bible as the Word of God.
This, of course, raises a significant concern. It is to be expected that the non-Christian will hold a view on marriage, the home, and parenting that is basically humanistic or man-centered in origin and purpose. But what is alarming is the vast number of Christians who hold similar viewpoints. Many Christians think they are Christian in their viewpoint, but in actuality they are Christian or biblical only up to a point and much of the time do not even realize it. Although they may acknowledge the sufficiency of God and the Bible, they do not see a need to subject their personal opinions, reasoning, and emotions to the guidelines of Scripture in all areas of the family.
Passages like Romans 12:2, “be not conformed . . . ” are seen as applying primarily to morals, but not to things like child discipline and problems in marriage. The thinking is, that for these issues we need the expert advice of the social experts and psychologists. But this creates a false dualism--the notion that there is a sacred and a secular side to the family, marriage and parenting. Dualism fosters the belief that God’s Word is sufficient in the realm of religion, but wanting in other areas of life. But to the biblical Christian, all is sacred; nothing is secular. All our relationships are to be directed by the truth of Scripture whether in education, finances, law, government, employment, sexuality, marriage, or parenting.
Proverbs 31:10-31 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She looks for wool and flax, And works with her hands in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night, And gives food to her household, And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor; And she stretches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 29 "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.
In this passage in Proverbs, God presents us with His description and estimation of what a godly wife and mother looks like. In this passage we are given a glimpse of a woman who is a wife and mother, and one who diligently cares for her household, the extended family unit including servants, business associates, and those she helps in the society in which she lives. This woman, whom God praises and defines as "excellent" (NASB) or "of noble character" (NIV) or "virtuous" (KJV), and whose value is far above jewels, is shown to possess at least five characteristics or qualities. But before we look at these five qualities, let's consider the word translated "excellent" in the NASB.
The word "excellent" (vs. 10) is the Hebrew word chayil which means "strength, efficiency." To illustrate something of the nature and power of this word, it is helpful to note how it used and translated in other passages of Scripture. It is translated in the NASB by "able" (5 times), "strength" (10 times), "army" (82 times), "valiant" (over 40 times), and "capable" (3 times). In the context of Proverbs 31, it refers to moral strength, but also to domestic ability and efficiency.
The five qualities are:
1. She is a devoted wife (vss. 11, 12, 23). She is one who has the confidence of her husband, who seeks his welfare, and enhances his reputation.
2. She is a diligent partner (vss. 13-17, 18b, 19, 22, 24). As a woman with God's viewpoint, she is a willing worker, a wise shopper and planner who is able to minister to her family because she keeps herself fit spiritually and physically (cf. vs. 18a, 25).
3. She is a dutiful servant to the needy and the poor (vs. 20). She has a vision for ministry not only to her family but to her society.
4. She is a dependable mother (vss. 15, 21, 27). She is devoted to the needs of her family. She is well groomed, attractive, organized, and disciplined and as such, is a testimony to her children.
5. She is a doctrinally oriented woman (vs. 26, 18). She is a woman full of God's wisdom.
Well, after this description, you are probably saying, “I give up! This doesn't describe a woman, it describes superwoman"! Not exactly, though you are close. It describes a woman who is living in a supernatural way with a supernatural God.
As we look at this passage we can see that being a wife and mother is a tremendously challenging task in any age. But in our day it is even more challenging because of the distorted values and inroads of secular humanism and the moral breakdown in our society. And it is especially difficult for single moms without the help of a husband, and many times without the help of a caring church.
But may I inject here an important statement. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important to a society than godly motherhood. The family is the foundation of society, and while fathers are responsible for the way the family goes, mothers are the glue that holds the family together.
Since this is so true and mothers are so important to our society and to each of us in our own families, I’d like us to consider some of the problems that moms and families face as a means of protecting motherhood and increasing our thoughtfulness for mom.
As mentioned in the introduction to this study, we face the deception and threat of shifting values and attitudes that are destroying the family--especially motherhood. Perhaps nothing expresses what is happening in our society better than the Virginia Slims slogan, "You've come a long way baby!"
In discussing the enticement the world is having on our society through what is called fulfilling employment, Rita Carver writes, "In today's world one wonders if mother is not headed for extinction. . . . Some of our feminist sisters have declared that as non-working mothers we are only maids doing the job any eight-year-old could accomplish" (quoted from Civilization in Crisis, Richard A. Fowler and H. Wayne House, Baker Book House, p. 6).
Erwin Lutzer has some timely remarks on the nature of the ERA movement in America in his book, Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America. He writes:
What is wrong with ERA? The problem lies with the definition of the word equality. The feminists interpret it to mean that women would have equality so far as their roles are concerned--that is, the place of women in society would be interchangeable with that of men. Whatever men do, women would be able to do. All gender-based roles would be abolished. Toward this end, the media, greatly influenced by the avant-garde mood of the feminists, is attempting to dismantle the traditional concept of what a woman should do and who she should be. Gone are the days when femininity and motherhood were looked upon with respect.
A listener of Dr. James Dobson’s radio program “Focus on the Family” wrote saying that she had discovered thousands of books had been taken from her public library. Investigation showed that these books were the ones based on the traditional roles of father and mother—father the breadwinner with mother staying at home to rear the children. Now the shelves were stocked with books that portrayed the contemporary woman who pursues her career outside the home. The children are at a day-care center and the father is equally involved in their upbringing. The woman portrayed in that manner is in every respect equal to a man.
The radical feminists have clearly defined goals they wish to achieve. In the process they believe they must smash the traditional understanding of marriage, children, and religion so that equality can be brought about. The woman’s role is being redefined. (Erwin W. Lutzer, Exploding the Myths that Could Destroy America, Moody Press, pp. 92-93).
Scripture warns us over and over again about the anti-God, adversarial forces that are constantly at work to get us to adopt the values and attitudes of the world.
Romans 12:2 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.
We should note the context of the 2 Timothy passage in 2:25-26. Note also the element of warning in 3:1, and the key elements that characterizes the world in the last days--self love in one form after another. Self love stands in stark contrast to the Christ-like mentality of ministry to others (servanthood) that should characterize the body of Christ.
Related to this self-love in 2 Timothy 3 are three things that stand out in connection with the family: (a) "disobedient to parents," (b) "without natural affection" (is the Greek, astorgos from astorgh, family affection, love of kindred, [G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, T. & T. Clark, 1973, p. p. 65]), and (c) "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." When these three exist, the family is destroyed as a protective force in society. In the radical feminist movement, all of these can be observed.
Moms face two tremendous forces of persuasion. First, they face the deceptions of Satan and a satanically-controlled system which have as their goal the destruction of the home and especially motherhood because of their importance to the stability of society. Satan's first attack was against the mother of humanity (Eve) and it immediately affected the home.
But there is a second force that has aided the first. This is the abuse of women by men. Man's mistreatment of women has made women ripe for the propaganda and humanistic ideas of the world.
Richard Fowler and Wayne House address this in their book, Civilization in Crisis:
The problems created for the Christian in regard to working wives comes both from the historical feminist movement and the distortion of God's original intention for husband and wife (Gen. 1-2). The root misconception is not the equality of creation of male and female, but the created function of husbands and wives.
In general, secular society (including evangelicals) has defined the traditional family structure and assumed the husband to be the superior ruler and the wife to be the inferior servant. That concept lies far to the right of what God ordained. On the other hand, the feminist movement has swung the pendulum far to the left, largely refusing the family structure and roles God has given (Richard A. Fowler and H. Wayne House, Civilization in Crisis, Baker Book House Co., p. 19).
This can be illustrated by the following chart or graphic.
The Pendulum Swings of Society
View of Equality
Husband and wife viewed as equal in all three positions
View of Roles
What can I get from this relationship?
What can I give to this relationship?
How can I sustain this relationship?
families, we need to be alert to the destructive influences of both extremes and correct them as we become aware of them in our lives.
Ephesians 5:23-29 is the classic passage on headship. This passage clearly gives us God's perspective of the husband as the head of the wife, not as a dictator but with a loving servant-like responsibility to their wife. When we neglect the admonitions and example of this passage, we sin in several ways:
As husbands we are told to care for our wives in two ways:
(1) As Christ is the Savior of the church, so husbands are to provide for their wives, not simply by putting food on the table, but by emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental support. Our wives have all kinds of needs, but many men are like bulls in a china shop--totally oblivious to the makeup, the value, needs, and sensitivities of their wives (cf. 1 Pet. 3:7).
Some men are concerned solely with what they can get from their wives, but are deaf, blind and dumb to the needs of their spouse. She can change her hair, make a new dress, but does he notice? Does he say, "Hey, sweetheart, I love your hair, or you really look great." Does he sit down to just spend time talking with her about what's on her heart and on his? Too often, the answer to this question is--rarely! Men take care of their hunting rifles and shotguns, their gardens, their car, their boat, and their business, but do they notice the strain, the tension, and the desire of their wife to be loved and cared for as a person?
(2) Two examples are given to show men how to love their wives. We are to love them as Christ loved the church and as we love our very own bodies. Ask yourself these questions. Do I want for my wife what I want for myself? Do I want to avoid for her the unpleasant things I want to avoid for myself? Life and the home are filled with opportunities for husbands to show their love and concern for their wives.
From Proverbs 31:28 we read, "Her children rise up and bless her." Mom is far too often taken for granted. She provides the ride to little league, to ballet, or to piano lessons. Or she provides good meals for seemingly never ending empty stomachs, or provides a shoulder to cry on when in trouble. Far too often, mom is the blunt end of cutting remarks or of unspoken angry looks and attitudes, of disrespect, rebellion, and neglect because she didn't give in to some whim because she loves you.
Too often she fails to see or hear what her heart longs for in your attitudes and words like, "thanks mom, I really appreciate that." Or "thanks mom, I really appreciate you."
In Ephesians Paul mentions two commands with a promise.
Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
God is very serious about children obeying and honoring their parents; so serious that he gave this vital command in the Old Testament with a special promise. In the context of the Old Testament in which this promise was given, the promise was first of all national and applied to God's blessing on the nation so they could remain in the land under the care of God. It illustrates the fact that when there is breakdown in the home, there is also breakdown in the society as a whole. For Israel, this would result in disobedience to the Word of God and, ultimately, if there was not repentance, the nation would come under the curses of Deuteronomy 28-30 and dispersion.
The promise for those who obey their parents is that they enjoy a prosperous and long life on the earth. This states a general principle that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. (Stated conversely, it is improbable that an undisciplined person will live a long life. An Israelite who persistently disobeyed his parents was not privileged to enjoy a long, stable life in the land of Israel. A clear example of this was Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas [1 Sam. 4:11].) Though that promise was given to Israel in the Old Testament, the principle still holds true today. (Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.
How serious is God about obedience? So serious that in 1 Samuel 15:23 He likens rebellion and insubordination (disobedience and dishonor) to divination (demonic activity) and idolatry.
To honor your parents means you respect, esteem, or value their opinions and listen to their instruction. You may think mom and dad are out to lunch and do not understand you, but they do and they are there for your protection.
The demands on mothers are awesome, as we see from Proverbs 31. Some of these demands include planning meals, grocery shopping, meal preparation (often for finicky kids and husbands), shopping for clothes for the family, mending, washing, and ironing; housecleaning, caring for the many other needs of the family from the broken arm to the runny nose, from the fight with the kid next door to the quarrel with the boyfriend. Then there is home work (and for some even home schooling), and last but not least--mom's taxi service--little league, dance class, the dentist, band practice . . . you name it.
How can mom handle all of this and not only remain sane and strong but joyful?
In addition to the need of a loving and caring family, Luke 10:38f shows us another tremendous need and priority. This is a passage of contrasts--contrasts between a woman (Martha) who was distracted over her responsibilities in the home, and a woman (Mary) who found time to sit at the feet of the Savior to take in His Word. (This is the same Mary who anointed the Lord’s feet in preparation for His burial.) She had penetrated into the mystery and truth of His life and death. How had she come to grasp these things when even the disciples were too spiritually sluggish to do so? She had grasped these truths because she had seen the need to sit at the Savior’s feet that she might carefully hear His word.
Only those mothers who make Mary's priority their own priority will be able to enter into the secret of Christ's death so they can live in the supernatural power and quality of His life. This does not imply ignoring the responsibilities of motherhood, but developing priorities with the Lord that allow for the exchange of Christ’s life in hers.
The danger is to become like Martha, so cumbered about with carrying for the family and the details of life that sitting at the feet of the Savior takes a back seat. Yes, ministering to the Lord and his friends was needful for Martha, but not by comparison.
"Cumbered" (KJV) or "distracted" (NASB) in verse 40 is the Greek, perispaw, "to be pulled, drawn away, detached, distracted, overburdened." What was the result? Martha's request in the second part of verse 40 shows us she was not only full of care and anxiety, but she was also full of resentment, self-pity, and tension. There was little or no joy in her ministry to the Savior and to others.
As an illustration compare our Savior’s advice to his disciples after an extremely busy time of ministry in Mark 6:31. Here is a piece of advice that is very applicable not only to moms but to all of us. We all need quality time alone with the Lord in His word, for the tendency is to get so busy that we meet ourselves coming and going. The Lord Himself was the perfect example for finding time alone with God for personal fortification and recuperation (see Mk. 1:35f).
An important question for moms is: Are you so busy coming and going that you do not take time to sit at the feet of the Lord to listen to His Word and take your burdens to the Him?
It is significant that among the epistles of Paul there are two extended passages that deal with the family or the Christian home, Ephesians 5:22-6:4 and Colossians 3:18-21. But vital to the directives of each of these passages is the context--just as the root is vital to fruit. For Ephesians, the context is the Spirit-filled (controlled) walk in the wisdom of Christ (Eph. 5:15-18), and in Colossians the context is the Word-filled (directed) life that does all in the name and power of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:16-17). No wife or husband or mom or dad can be the kind of spouse or parent God has called them to be, nor can they meet the demands of family life, without this supernatural fortification.
Isn't it interesting that before the Lord told the Israelites to teach their children diligently in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, He first told them, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." (Emphasis mine). See also the same thrust in Deuteronomy 4:9.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 "And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Deuteronomy 4:9 "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.