Biblically, is it wrong for a woman to have an education and a career? Is it wrong for her to pursue a job after marriage?
@ammu, your question reminds me of Proverbs 31:10-31. The writer lists many traits of an “excellent wife” (Proverbs 31:10, ESV). Verses 16 through 19 most pertinently answer your question. She carefully invests in land “with the fruit of her hands” (verse 16, ESV). She works hard and makes a profit with what she produces. In verse 24, she makes and sells clothing. She brings honor to her family with her activity, wisdom, and strength, but she also supports her husband in what he does. In the New Testament, in Acts 16:14-15, we meet a woman named Lydia in Thyatira, who models these traits.
The Bible mentions and honors many women who played key roles not only in Israel’s history but also our Messiah’s royal lineage. Women supported Him throughout his ministry. My wife works hard, too!
This is a matter of conscience for many Christians, though. Paul writes in Romans 14 that we should not “quarrel over opinions” (verse 1, ESV). Brothers and sisters should not judge each other over disagreements such as this. It is okay, however, for us to ask each other who disagree, “Can you please help me to understand how you support your position from God’s Word?” If someone were to tell me that my wife should not be working outside of the home, I would ask, “Can you please square what you said with Proverbs 31?” Hopefully that would lead to further profitable dialog about this matter.
I hope that answers your question. I am curious to know if you can clarify what situation or situations may be causing you to ask it. Can you explain in further detail without embarrassing or endangering yourself or anyone else?
Thank you so much for your answer. Of course, it just came up in a discussion with one of my friends. I am a single woman who is doing doctrate and he thinks biblically, I am wrong to be doing so. According to the verses Paul quoted in Titus, a woman ought to be married and stay in the home which means she’s discouraged from any other pursuits. I have nothing against being a wife and a mother. In fact, I can’t wait for my turn! I think it’s an amazing privilege that God gives a woman to be a wife and a mother. I just wanted to know if that means a woman ought not to be doing anything else.
I know it’s quite a controversial topic these days but all I want in my life is to do God’s will for me and serve my purpose God has placed on my life. And I was worried if I was really wrong to be single and focusing on my research, biblically. That’s all!
@ammu Thank you for clarifying the context of your question. I think that your dialog with your friend illustrates the importance of listening to those who disagree with us and seeking answers from all of scripture, not just the portions that seem to fit your perspective. I think that St. Paul would commend you for searching the scriptures.
I am a single, middle-aged Christian woman with a doctorate. I’d like to marry someday but don’t want children. From my experience, I’ll tell you this: Many men find a doctorate intimidating in a woman. Many Christian men find it “unfeminine”. The men who do like it often want a woman to lead them, rather than to lead her or be equals. And if you don’t snag yourself a man by the end of your 20s (in the West, at least), nearly all of the Christian men will be married already. A doctorate can take a long time, and that window of marriage opportunity can pass you by before you defend. So if you want to marry, don’t let that happen.
Personally, I prefer the view of marriage I once learned from an Israeli: In the Bible, when God creates woman, it says that He made her, “sh’lihiyot c’negdo”. That literally means that she was made “to be against him” (against man, that is), but if you visualize it, it’s like when two people stand with their backs to each other and walk their feet away from them, so they support each other in standing by pressing against one another. (Try it with a friend. You make a kind of triangle with the floor.) She’s “against him”, but in that way, she holds him upright. I don’t think a dramatic difference in education or ability between a man and a woman can achieve that ideal.
I was also once told by a Jewish couple that men want to marry a woman they love, but women want to marry a man they respect. I pondered that for a long time, and it’s true in my opinion (though possibly not for all). I would not respect (as a husband) someone who is intimated by my education or who has not himself achieved something comparable (even if it’s not educational) in his life.
I don’t know if that helps you, but if you feel called by God to get your degree and do the work it leads to, then answer God before you answer any man, because any man who calls you away from what God has made you for is not the “head” you want.
Thank you. It’s very helpful, especially some points you made regarding marriage.
Interesting discussion and I wanted to add my opinion too. I like the triangle example given by Jenni and the points mentioned by Bossard.
I hold a doctorate degree from IITM (South India), married to another doctorate guy from the same college. We knew each other as friends before marriage. I was 29 when I got married, quite late according to many in our culture and before saying anything else I want to tell you that marriage life is awesome! If God is calling you to married life, wait in His presence, let Him tell you whom to marry. (If you are called to be single by God, there would probably be others in the group who could help you with that too.)
The question of whether a woman can have a career too, or consider it important is quite a tricky question to answer. And I do believe very strongly that there is no one common answer to that question. I can tell you how we do it in our family and give some points which I think are relevant and some practical things to think about.
As Jenni was pointing out, respect and love are quite crucial for a married life. My husband is God fearing. He loves me dearly and He respects me and my dreams. So, I believe that in marriage if the man respects and loves the wife, irrespective of what choices they take as a family, they would be able to hold on strong. My husband has told me that he always wanted to marry a smart woman and he often refers to me as his partner, his competition and source of encouragement. Though he finished Ph.D. a year ahead of me, he stuck around doing some projects, so that I would complete my Ph.D. Also, he never hurried me in the process. We shifted to Bangalore for his work and I soon found an engineering college nearby where I could work. We both share household chores. We are both waiting on the Lord to tell us when to have children. We are active in our church fellowship.
Coming back to career, He is much more passionate in his research career than me, so we have decided that we will move wherever he gets a permanent research position. I could surely find something to do there, for my passion lies in theology and I thought I could read and do correspondence courses irrespective of where we are. So, putting my career in the back seat, was because of our priorities, and I never felt constrained. (I hope you understand that I am not advocating that women should ALWAYS be the one to put their career in the back seat.) But, even as I care for his dreams and want to move with him without any second thought, my husband cares for my dreams and wants to be in a place where there are good theological colleges. He urges me very strongly to follow the passion and the gifting God has given me, even to the place where he wants to put my dreams above his. I guess if you end up with such a dynamic that is so amazing.
For that, one practical tip I would give you is that it would be good to know who you are going to marry. Just marrying someone whom parents have told without questions asked, might lead to difficulties. Of course, all of it in prayer. I really pray and request you with all my heart, do not marry in a hurry. Take your time on your knees, get your assurance from God and then marry. For, even lovers have quarrels after marriage. So, even if you know the guy, it does help, but not always. The only sure solution is PRAYER and OBEDIENCE to God’s leading. So though I agree with Jenni that statistically, the window of opportunity can go off if you are waiting to finish your Ph.D. our God who gave Isaac and John to Sarah and Elizabeth can sure do miracles. Time and statistics can never stop Him. If you want to know more details about whether or not to marry during the Ph.D. time, one of the Christian professors I know had a presentation made on the pros and cons of marrying during a Ph.D., and I can try to get you a copy.
One more story which always puzzles me was told to me by a friend. Two young missionaries were in a romantic relationship. Yet, in prayer when they sought the Lord, they realized that marriage was not for them and that God had called them to different places to do ministry. They obeyed the Lord. I used to wonder about this a lot. But, thinking of it more deeply, a family unit should have one direction (set by the Lord) in which it has to go. The husband and wife can’t be taking the family in different directions. Then it can’t move anywhere. The reason I gave the above example is that, whether the reason is presumed to be Godly (as going as a missionary to a place) or apparently secular (career or research), it doesn’t really matter. God’s purpose for one family could be to do high-quality research as husband and wife and uncover the mysteries that God has hidden in the natural world. God’s purpose for another family could be to minister to the lost tribes in a remote place. Or He could have one person as a missionary and another as a breadwinner. Only He knows and only He can guide. Nothing is superior or inferior. Only obedience in humility is expected. So, for any family that you want to build, consider career options based on God’s Kingdom purposes. For that to happen, it is conducive if the vision of the man and woman align with each other and with God. In that case, career and every other decision you take will come out of that fundamental priority of building God’s kingdom.
Just a quirky thought to ponder: According to Genesis 3, man had to toil for food - probably just farm or hunt. According to Proverbs 31, a man has to sit at the city gates. But not many men these days take it literally. When the definition of how men provide has been modified according to the times, why stick around with an outdated definition of how a woman should be? The Biblical principles still hold true and none of it is to be taken lightly. But if Lydia of Thyatira could be a dealer of purple cloth, I don’t think having a career or doing research is as such unbiblical.
(I hope after reading this long reply, it helps at least a bit.)
Thank you very much. Some of the points you made were very helpful and some of them gave me great hope
Keep going with that PhD, @ammu! May God bless you in your studies and may you be free to flourish and know God more through this avenue you’re on right now.
Thank you Kathleen! Such encouraging words
I’m from Peru and I have risen my girls encouraging them to develop all their potential, in every area (studies, sports, etc.) and I think they are feeling free to go ahead with their interest (I would say they are more traditional than I would like, but I’m fine with that if that is their choice). So far, they love the Lord and are strong believers, so this has empowered them to freely choice giving their hearts to God and following their potentialities in life.
About you (and our sisters who have been writing answering you), I’m proud of having such a brave Christian girls pursuing the goals you are setting according to the gifts the Lord gave you!
Go ahead and show how women can be whatever they want in the loving arms of our God, as everybody else can! Many samples in the Scriptures exemplifies that.
There is nothing wrong with education or career success for women.
Here, your fellow Christian male partners support you all!
Blessings from Peru, Aldo
Thank you for such encourage words
What a great question! And I agree with you:
I think it’s an amazing privilege that God gives a woman to be a wife and a mother.
I see from your other post that your friend referred to the book of Titus as source for his thoughts. We truly serve a God of order who gives us structure for relationships, and righteous living! In Titus we observe a quick overview of the responsibilities of women helping to inspire other women to right living and healthy marriage. But it doesn’t indicate that work outside the home is unapproved for women. Rather, the passages are specific to the godliness of the woman.
I just wanted to know if that means a woman ought not to be doing anything else.
The first place I want was the same as @ChristinaGraceDanny with Lydia, the professional woman in Acts 16. She is a godly and gifted business woman of the trade of purple cloth. She would have experience with not only the supply of the purple dyes (from the secretion of mollusks) but the production, sale and all the people and cultural engagements in doing business in this type of elite good. Paul doesn’t condemn her work, but rather looks at her heart and admires her for being a woman who loves God, and offers her resources with generosity.
Would it seem reasonable that the lifestyle outlined in Titus is true and valuable, but doesn’t contradict a life such as that of Lydia?
Can she be both a godly woman of influence and a business woman?
It doesn’t appear that Lydia was married because of the reference in Acts 16:15 designates “her household” and she says, “come stay at my house” which fails to mention a living or current husband.
As we are called to trust the Lord’s timing for our lives, and we know that He is interested in all the details; we also must practice our trust in His provision of spouses, jobs, talents, education, etc. Sometimes these things don’t come in the timing we expect or prefer. But that doesn’t keep Him from giving us work to do in the meantime! And in the event you cease to be a professional in order to become a full time wife and mother, God will use the education and talents He provided for you in some unique way as you move to the next season of life. He doesn’t waste anything! And He will give you joy as you move on His path for you!
It is true that different cultures observe the working woman with different gravity. But I have observed amazing work enabling professional development among persecuted Christian women, and the poor around the world so they can provide for themselves and/or their families and express their gifting in ways that glorifies God. And being fulfilled in this way is a unique blessing of the Lord.
May God richly bless you as you seek His face in your life!
Thank you! That’s very helpful