April 24, 2017

The Role of Mothers in Building a Kingdom-Driven Family *

mothersrole

I dedicated my most recent book: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family to my husband with these words:

To Ford, who relentlessly encourages me to boldly pursue the Kingdom of God. And although at times I’m sure I’m a handful to deal with, without his leadership, encouragement, and patience, pursuing my calling under God would be severely limited.

I am the mother of three grown children, and the grandmother of three. I have written a number of books that were inspired by my experiences as mother and educator for over twenty-eight years. When I ran out of children to teach, I answered God’s call to share what I knew and had learned with other wives and mothers. That is what occupies a good part of my life these days.

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Rushdoony from 1985 till the time of his death in 2001. However, my relationship with him began earlier when I first read the Institutes of Biblical Law. As a result of going through that book, Rushdoony became a trusted advisor long before I met him in person. Subsequently, I’ve read almost everything he has written. I began working for Chalcedon as a volunteer and am currently an employee of the Chalcedon Foundation. In the thirteen years since I last spoke to him, I have continued my relationship with him by listening to his sermons and reading and often re-reading what he wrote. His books continue to be a source of valuable wisdom to me and I use them in my teaching and regularly recommend them to others.

I recall one conversation I had with him. A pastor asked me to ask Rush the following question: How would you describe Christian Reconstruction in a couple of sentences? Well, Rush didn’t need a couple of sentences. He answered with one: Reading the Scriptures as though every verse was written for you and applies to you.

I’ve carried this perspective as I read and apply the law-word of God (as Rush would call it) to myself as an individual and also in my joint-calling as wife, mother, and grandmother. And, at the encouragement of Dr. Rushdoony’s wife, Dorothy, I assumed the role of the “older woman” as described by Titus 2, making it a priority to be a teacher of good things; to teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Our subject today is the role of wives and mothers in building a Kingdom-driven family.

First, I will define my terms so that you know what I mean when I say Kingdom-driven. When I speak of the Kingdom, I mean the realm of the King of kings and Lord of lords—Jesus Christ. I mean every square inch, not only of the physical world, but the world of thought, emotion, spirit, and my entire soul, strength, and might. After all, Jesus told us that we are to make a primary focus of our day-to-day lives the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I submit that fulfilling that command is impossible if God’s law-word is not embraced as the standard of righteousness, or its synonym, justice.

Wife is easy to define—the covenanted partner of a husband.

Mother: the person, either by biology or through adoption, who is given the responsibility and privilege of raising children.

To be specific, wife and mother are gender specific terms, and no matter how anyone tries to twist them, they are roles assigned to women. Likewise, the terms daughter and sister are gender specific, and when a female interacts with the words of the Bible, she must interpret them in terms of the roles given her by the Creator. It would be faulty to assume that when I speak of these roles that I am referring to many of the stereotypes presented from the left, the right, and within Christian circles. But more about that later.

Finally, family is defined as the primary institution and social group—both in terms of creation and in terms of priority—within which mankind is to operate. The parents are father and mother—not father and father or mother and mother—they are gender specific roles that are governed in the creation/dominion mandate. Rushdoony notes:

The sexual character of men and women is not a blind and accidental product of evolution but the purpose of God and basic to any understanding of man. Attempts to deny the validity of Biblical sexual regulations, to read homosexuality as an expression of a primitive development or as another form of man’s free sexual expression, or to deny the psychological differences between a man and a woman, are thus morally as well as psychologically wrong. The facts of maleness and femaleness are basic and constitutive of God’s purpose for mankind, and any psychology which denies them is thereby sterile and void of understanding. Ironically, the humanists, who condemn Biblical standards as puritanical and inhibited, are themselves guilty of the worst inhibitions in their denial of sexual differences and their psychological validity. The equalitarianism of humanistic psychologies works towards a basic castration of the sexual nature of man and woman and is a major force in modern society.1

The family model in Scripture is not the atomistic family: dad, mom, and the kids, or the extended family, throwing in a few grandparents, aunts, and uncles here and there. The Biblical model is the trustee family, with emphasis on health, education, and welfare of the family being maintained by a network of relatives. Because the church did not teach and maintain this Biblical emphasis, it opened the door to the nanny state.

Within these definitions, I will explore the vital role that the wife and mother plays in the building of a Kingdom-driven trustee family.

As I was preparing this talk, I was concerned that the men, who will never be wives and mothers, would not be interested in what I have to say on this subject. Will they view it as just a talk for women? Will husbands say, “I sure hope my wife gets something out of this talk”?

Or how about the unmarried men? Will this be a time to check their email or see how their favorite baseball team is faring? Or how about the unmarried women? If they are yet to become wives and mothers, will they feel that they are not a part of my targeted audience—wives and mothers?

I expressed this concern to Ford, and he assured me that anyone who takes God’s command to seek the Kingdom seriously should most decidedly be interested in this topic because

•    Men were never intended to pursue dominion apart from having the assistance of a wife. So, for the married man, it is profitable for him to understand what his other half can and should be doing.

•    For the unmarried men listening, they should be keenly interested in the Scriptural demands for being a wife and mother in order to pursue a qualified candidate and make a righteous selection.

•    For unmarried women, becoming expert in applying God’s Word will make them better able to step into a godly and fulfilling marriage to a man they can honestly submit to.

So, he reassured me this was not just for the ladies.

The book of beginnings (the Book of Genesis) lays the groundwork for building a Kingdom-driven family by identifying God’s purpose for creating man. God created mankind for dominion under Him. God had Adam establish himself in his dominion work of tilling the garden and classifying the animals to allow him to understand what the focus of his life should be—God-ordained work.

Rushdoony points out in Revolt Against Maturity,

The exercise of dominion under God is the development of man and the earth by means of work in order to strengthen, prosper, and heighten man’s life and service under God. True work and true dominion further life and the potentialities of life.2

In the process, God was willing for Adam to experience his calling and come to understand there was a void in his life. Have you ever asked yourself why the first “not-good” of the Bible was God saying there was need for a woman? God stating that it is not good for man to be alone? Why did God wait for Adam to realize that none of the animals would serve as a suitable helper for him before he was given a wife? I think it is safe to say that God didn’t want Adam to be a loner in his task for dominion. And, although God could have propagated the race with some sort of cloning mechanism, He determined that offspring would proceed from the bone of Adam’s bone and the flesh of Adam’s flesh.

Based on this, I can unabashedly say that the foremost calling for me as a woman is to help my husband in his dominion calling, i.e., in his work, and, as part of that assistance, bear him children and nurture them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. As a wife and mother, my role is to read the Scriptures, knowing that every verse was written for me and applies to me, and knowing they are that which will equip me to build a Kingdom-driven family—in other words, making God’s priorities our family’s priorities.

Too many women come to the conclusion that it is not necessary that they delve deeply into the law-word of God—that their husbands should do the “heavy lifting” and then teach them. So they focus on the domestic aspect of managing the household (which is fine and good); but too often that leaves them seeing themselves as nothing more than unpaid tutors, maidservants, and chefs. I’m not advocating for abolishing this aspect of running a household, but I have discovered, over time, that the women who come to me for mentoring are often married to men who are serious students of God’s Word and avid readers of Rushdoony’s books. Many of these women look at the sheer number of pages of the Institutes of Biblical Law and become overwhelmed that they’ll never ever be able to get through it, let alone digest it. Once they understand that by avoiding the study of God’s law they are limiting their role as a helper to their husband, they are willing to give it a try. The method I employ as a mentor is tackling a section at a time, letting each woman move at her own pace.

I have taught through the Institutes twice (both in person and online) with groups of women across three continents and a number of my previous students are attending this conference in person or online today. Let me assure you, we got through it. I jokingly referred to it as the “dos equis study” which in Spanish means 2 x’s because one had to have 2 x chromosomes to attend. Little did I know that at times there were men on the other end of the Skype call quietly listening in.

I am currently engaged in another run-through with a group of women on Tuesday nights. We have just embarked on the chapter dealing with the fourth commandment. This doesn’t cover the individual studies I have had or am currently having with various women using Rushdoony’s seminal work on the law on a one-on-one basis.

In all cases, what has become apparent to me is that the life of the family and the family culture become much more Christ-centered when both husband and wife have a working knowledge of the law.

God never intended for Adam’s helpmeet to be just a pretty ornament. That stereotype is a carry-over from the Enlightenment and cheapens the institution of marriage that God chose to use as analogous to Christ’s relationship to the church.

Another stereotype that has made its way into some aspects of Christian culture today is the fallacious standard that women in the course of day-to-day life are to be muted and blindly submissive. As Rushdoony cuttingly states:

Adam in Eden no doubt had at least one pet dog from the moment of his creation as a mature man … If all he needed was someone or something to boss and to order to come at his whistle, or his beck and call, a dog would have been sufficient. But God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him” (Gen. 2:18). A helpmeet is not a doormat, but a subordinate and necessary partner.3

So the role that the wife/mother carries out in the household is not one of unquestioning obedience to her husband. That is why knowing and understanding the law of God is vital to a healthy marriage. What if her husband is wrong? What if he is sinning? For a woman to render unquestioning obedience to her husband is sin.

Deut 29:29 states:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Wives and mothers must do all the words of the law and a godly husband should relish his wife’s input. All authority is bounded by God’s law and it severely diminishes the family if one member of the partnership is silenced and sidelined in important matters. Rushdoony noted that:

The Puritan wives were not given to servile obedience, and they provided the strong-willed helpmeets necessary to the conquest of a continent. The Puritan men held that the Kingship of Christ was the only absolute power, and they acted on that principle.4

Rushdoony goes on to state that any other view is a throwback to pagan antiquity. He concludes,

[T]he people of God must be taught that it is a sin to require unquestioning obedience, and a sin to yield it. We are not God: we cannot require or expect for ourselves the absolute obedience due unto God. We are not man’s creature: we cannot yield to any man the absolute and unquestioning obedience due only unto God. The church must be cleansed of the requirement of pagan obedience or it will continue under the judgment of God.5

A man carrying out his dominion calling in his profession or livelihood needs to count on his wife to handle the affairs of the household while he works in the “city gate.” This concept of the city gate has applicability across many institutional and professional lines.

A way to look at this is men disciple the nations while women train up the next generation to work alongside those who are bringing the law and the gospel to every aspect of life and living. I am not referring to stereotypical views of what it means to train up the next generation. While teaching children to read and write and compute is part of the package, it is not, nor will ever be the point of the entire endeavor. The purpose remains to “seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” If you fail to equip the women whom God has ordained to keep watch over the next generation as they grow into maturity, then those converted to the faith will not have any good models and paradigms to see how, as new creations in Christ, they must live their lives. Our children are thus integral to discipling the nations.

Men conquer the world for Christ; women work to preserve that which is conquered. But we see a dearth of training for women really to do this. That is why my emphasis remains on helping women realize and embrace the power-base that resides with a woman educated in God’s law, who makes her family the center of her concern, and focuses her teaching on the law of God. This doesn’t mean that she has no other concerns, but if her family is relegated to the back burner, important Kingdom work is being shifted from God’s first choice (her) to state nannies, paid substitutes, or the ungodly. Someone has to be managing the household. That someone is the kind of woman that unmarried men should be looking for to marry. Married men should be encouraging their wives to model the description of a Kingdom-driven woman laid out in Proverbs 31.

Note that it is King Lemuel’s mother whose words are described as prophecy. In other words, she was speaking for God! Let’s go through the criteria for a Kingdom-driven wife and mother.

1. She is a virtuous woman whose price is far above precious gems: The Geneva Bible uses the word pearls. Other translations use the words jewels or rubies. So whether this is referring to the amount of dowry the law prescribes to show good faith on the part of a man in proposing marriage or just detailing that a good wife is extremely valuable—we’re told this is something for a man to pursue.

2. Her husband’s heart safely trusts in her. How can a godly man trust his wife if she does not know how to live her life lawfully, under God—not making up the rules as she goes along? Can he trust her not to spend more than their income allows? Can she be trusted not to enter into financial agreements that he has not approved? A husband needs to know that his wife “has his back” and that she will stand by him when he has tough decisions to make. The notes in the Geneva Bible add that such a virtuous woman is a check against her husband using unlawful means to make a living.

3. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. The implication is that she can ascertain the difference between good and evil, and that her actions will be in harmony with the Scriptures. This very much ties in with a husband trusting his wife with their children as she establishes godly standards in their lives.

4. She is a hard worker and is entrepreneurial in her efforts. She is the multitasker that God designed a woman to be. It is no small feat to be able to grow a child inside of you, nurse another, and manage the rest of the children of the household. I know many a woman who manages to do just that. Why wouldn’t a man relish such a wife who holds down the fort allowing him to single-mindedly pursue his work of dominion?

5. She is not an emaciated flower consumed and distracted with the world’s standard of beauty. She is strong and healthy, both physically and mentally. The skinny supermodel type is the antithesis of a virtuous woman. As the virtuous woman works to maximize the prosperity of her family, she provides good wholesome food for herself and the rest of the crew to maintain her own health and that of those under her charge.

6. She is industrious and is pleased with the work of her hands. She knows the product she is striving for and evaluates herself by God’s standards. She can be confident that if she is putting the law into practice, the unrealistic and shallow standards of the world are not a threat to her nor do they condemn her. She is pleased with progressive sanctification and relies on the guidance of her husband and the Word of God to correct and instruct her.

7. Her care and concern for the poor and needy is tied in with her availability, not only to perceive the needs of others, but (along with her children) to be ready to address those needs. Her volunteerism and instilling that quality in her children makes her a beacon to those who need guidance and assistance.

8. She is providential regarding the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of those in her care and seeks answers to problems that arise. She is not intimidated by threats from statists or school boards or nosey neighbors for she is not surprised or taken off guard by the attacks of an ungodly culture. She is well-read when it comes to medical issues, learning problems, and matters of health, so that her children are given the time and attention to thrive. Her commitment to her children involves networking with other women to deal with situations not familiar to her.

9. She cares for her own needs as she cares for those under her care. She’s not a martyr or a bondservant in her work. Her clothing being “purple” signifies her regard for her God-ordained status and authority. She is the manager of the household, not the household slave. That is why she starts early on to teach her children their place in the family and instructs them in household responsibilities.

10. Because she is competent about decisions that need to be made and doesn’t burden him with trivial matters, her husband is known in the gates—in other words free to transform the culture around him. She knows his preferences and is used to discussing family matters with him, heeding his counsel, so she can act in ways that will please him and bring him honor among those in the public square.

11. If, with her skill or training, she can add to the family income, she does so. However she must never neglect her first area of concern—the ways of her household. Even if other family members or friends watch over her children in her absence, she must maintain their well-being as a first priority.

12. She is known for her strength, honor, wisdom, and grace in her actions and her speech. This means that other women seek her out and know that she will counsel them Biblically, not engaging in pity parties or slams against their husbands. Her experience with children will allow her to help younger mothers who may be struggling.

13. She is the household manager, and, rather than shirking work, she pursues it with vigor, all the while being a teacher and example to her children so that in her absence they can manage and care for the demands of running the home.

14. In the end, her biggest fans and supporters are her husband and children because she creates an atmosphere where they can all thrive. Their successes are her successes and she need not seek acclaim outside her family. In the end, she has her priorities in order and receives honor and appreciation from her family, extended family, and brothers and sisters in the Lord. Because she fears God and keeps His commandments as her whole duty, she leaves a legacy to future generations, helping to create the context for dominion.

She truly is the glue that holds the family together, bridging the gap in conflicts and always stressing the need for repentance, reconciliation, and restoration.

Do any of us do this flawlessly? No one that I have met. But these are the criteria that we should make a priority, trusting that God will bring the wisdom needed to correct mistakes and rectify faulty thinking.

If the description sounds challenging, that is because it is. Although redeemed, we still have that tendency to buck against responsibilities. As Rushdoony expressed it, every person born into the world comes embedded with a revolt against maturity—a desire to take the easy way out and shy away from our duties.

He points out,

A central error of humanism and modernism has been the belief in “the natural goodness of man.” By its failure to take into account the fact of the fall, humanism has been unable to cope effectively with the problem of sin. It has consistently added to man’s predicament by ascribing evil to the environment rather than to the heart of man, and it has been unable to penetrate man’s psychology because of its willful blindness.6

I hope you see why it is so important for the woman of the house to understand this. If she is going to assist her husband in his dominion work and disciple her children to be people of character and integrity when they reach adulthood, she must not be blinded by the lie that those around her are basically good. She needs to identify and confront sin when she sees it, and with little sinners running around, she will see it.

That is why when I begin a mentoring relationship with women (whether single, married or widowed), I begin with a study of God’s law using Rushdoony’s Institutes. Nothing is more fulfilling for me than seeing their sanctification unfold as they begin to think lawfully and turn the corner from struggling to find the Biblical answers to having a clear method to ferret them out.

Some say that the husband should be the one to teach his wife. I don’t disagree. But many men don’t. I believe that the best teachers teach their students how to think, rather than what to think, and I am willing to help someone who wishes to learn. I make it a point to let them know that I have no desire to replace their husband, father, or pastor. I explain that in my own life, when I have a question regarding something I don’t understand in the Bible, I do what the Scripture says and ask my husband first. We’ll discuss it—bringing to bear our understanding of the Word to figure it out. If we end up without a conclusion or disagree on something, he often suggests we seek out people we trust to help elucidate the issue. (Two of those men, Mark Rushdoony and Martin Selbrede, are often whom we go to.)  Besides, there are times when a woman’s perspective can help another woman sort out problems in the household and I endeavor to be that “Titus 2 woman” showing a woman how to better love her husband and children.

Is it any wonder that the enemies of God want to remove women from the sphere of power and dominion in their homes and divert them from the high calling of being the Woman of the House—the term I like to use for wife and mother?

Please don’t get me wrong. If you are currently working outside the home for financial reasons, I’m not saying you should immediately quit. What I am saying is that your responsibilities are not lessened because you have an outside job. You may need to continue in your work, or choose to do so, but your role of wife and mother cannot be a secondary priority. In essence, you will need to work double-time in order to be found faithful before God.

There are so many things that fall to the trustee family to maintain.With families going in all different directions, one such area is the care of the elderly and the sick. Without the woman of the house to oversee this, it falls to paid substitutes and government handouts. One of the great learning experiences of my life was the opportunity and privilege of caring for my husband’s mother—my mother-in-law—in the last years of her life. Not only was it the correct thing to do, but it was a living example to my children that this is what families do.

So what is the Woman of the House responsible to do?

1.   She is to love God with all her heart, soul, and strength.

2.   She is to equip herself to be ready to give her children the reason for the hope that is within her by knowing what she believes and why.

3.   She is to teach her children that they are God’s creatures and therefore subject to His law and she must instruct them in that law.

4.   She is to be a model for them in what is lawful and acceptable behavior.

5.   She is to help them understand that sin is doing other than what God commands—either by commission or omission.

6.   She is to discipline them, not based on arbitrary standards but godly ones, and apply timely correction when they have violated God’s commands.

7.   She is to teach them how to think in terms of God’s law as the means to avoid trouble and problems.

8.   She is to provide them with a regular interaction with faithful Christians outside the immediate family in order to have buffers when difficult times arise.

9.   She is to trust God to equip her in her weakness—knowing that His grace is sufficient and that His strength is manifest in her weakness.

In closing, I’d like to remind us that building a Kingdom-driven family is not an end unto itself, but the means by which we fulfill the Great Commission and pursue the Kingdom of God. As a result, we need not be fearful of our tomorrows, nor the problems we face today.  That very same law that will usher in the Kingdom of God, gives us the assurance that as we providentially work to serve God’s Kingdom, the necessities of life will be supplied.

 

*[This was originally presented as a lecture in June 2014 at the Law & Liberty Conference in Campbell, CA]

 

1. R. J. Rushdoony,Revolt Against Maturity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1987), 10.

2. Ibid., 20.

3. R. J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, [1983] 2004), 495–496.

4. Ibid., 498.

5. Ibid., 498–499.

6. Rushdoony, Revolt Against Maturity, 13.

Speak Your Mind

*