Is Domesticity a Bad Word?

Domesticity Defended

Creating the ambiance of a loving home and church is a woman’s prerogative and privilege.

A friend of mine was discipling a young woman who was a “major messy.” They had worked on cultivating the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and Scripture memorization. Then one day my friend said, “Now we have to do something about your house.”

The young woman was surprised. “It doesn’t matter. My husband is just as messy as I am. Neither of us would be happy without our clutter, and the kids would probably think they were in the wrong house.” My friend persisted. On Sunday, the young husband talked with my friend and assured her that he was quite happy and really preferred things as they were.

My friend still persisted. “This is an aspect of your discipleship.” Then my friend marshaled the troops to help the young woman. One woman in the church who had organizational skills spent a day helping her organize her cabinets and closets. Another taught her how to plan meals and shop with a list, and another taught her how to clean and how to delegate chores to her children. Then another woman helped her decorate her home. The transformation was remarkable.

The true woman does not compartmentalize domesticity, nor does she reduce it to a set of behaviors.

Several weeks later, the young husband again approached my friend. “I didn’t think it mattered, but it does. I can hardly wait to get home now. Home has become a haven from the chaos of the world. The amazing thing is that I feel closer to my wife and appreciate her more than I could have imagined.”

The Puritan perspective of family life verifies the validity of my friend’s insistence that the young woman learn domestic skills. J. I. Packer writes:

Puritan teachers thought humane family life, in which Christian love and joy would find full and free expression, could not be achieved till the ordered pattern they envisaged—the regular authority-structure and daily routine—had been firmly established. Their passion to please God expressed itself in an ardor for order; their vision of the good and godly life was of a planned, well-thought-out flow of activities in which all obligations were recognized and met, and time was found for everything that mattered: for personal devotion, for family worship, for household tasks, for wage-earning employment, for intimacy with spouse and children, for Sabbath rest, and whatever else one’s calling or callings required.1

A Home in Heaven

My thirteen-year-old friend Jessica Jakes is a true woman with a heavenly perspective of home. Jessica and her family made several moves in a short span of time. A sympathetic adult was talking with her about how disorienting it must be to have moved so much. “When you think of home, what place do you think about?” he asked. Without missing a beat Jessica replied, “Heaven.”

The True Woman

Susan Hunt

This book explores a woman's God-given purpose, looking at Scripture and the lives of real women who serve as examples of what it means to reflect their heavenly Father in every season of life.

When a woman is gripped by this perspective, she will sacrificially care for her own family and the family of God. She will do all she can to put them under the protective, cleansing blood of Jesus. Then she will make home a place where family loves to gather, where troubled hearts find safety. She will make home a place that reflects her heavenly home. “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. 24:3–4). I don’t think this means material riches; it is the knowledge of Jesus wisely worked out in practical, pleasant family life.

The true woman does not compartmentalize domesticity, nor does she reduce it to a set of behaviors. Yet she does not minimize domestic tasks because she sees them as a sacred trust. The lessons from Rahab and Dorcas may look different, but they are the same message. They blend together to give a balanced, substantive view of domesticity. When we radically embrace the gospel, we will be devoted to caring for God’s people. For the wife and mother, this begins at home. For all of us, it includes the church. When home and church are safe, homey places, this domestic influence is felt in society. As with every virtue, the reference point for domesticity is our relationship to God. John Angell James reminds us of this:

You may have been the most exalted, noble, and learned of women; the most faithful of wives; the most devoted of mothers; and the kindest of mistresses; but if, with all this, you have not had repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus, and true holiness, your domestic virtues, as they had in themselves no relation, and in their performance no reference, to God, will, in the end, meet with no recompense from him, and instead of “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you will hear nothing more than, “They had their reward.”2

1. J. I. Packer, The Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 272–73.
2. John Angell James, Female Piety (London: Hamilton Adams and Co., 1860; Pittsburgh, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1994), Female Piety, 377.

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