There is an article going around by Dennis Prager. It was sent to me and I was asked to comment on it. Normally, I don’t have time to comment on every hair-brained idea that floats around on the internet, but this one is being shared positively by many Christians. I would suggest that you read it before you continue so that you know what I am talking about. Or not. The gist is the same tired thing that I’ve been hearing since the 60s. “Gals, you won’t find fulfillment from a career. You will only find fulfillment from marriage and children. Get married and have children before it is too late.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage. I love children. My dear wife is an intelligent, strong and industrious woman and she stayed home and took care of the house and children. That is not my beef here. By beef is that the gospel is at stake here. It really is.
For some reason, we as protestant children of the Reformation are very, very clear when it comes to debating with Roman Catholics or Arminians about justification. We are saved by the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to our account by faith alone, and that, not of yourselves. It is a gift of God.
Amen. We believe it. We confess it. We celebrate it. We can quote Edwards and Owen; Calvin and Turretin; Machen and Bavinck. We can construct fool-proof logical arguments about the dangers of a “works-based” system and warn most ominously against it. Put us toe to toe with a modernist, and we’ll go to the mat fighting, without mussing our trendy beard or spilling a drop of our IPA.
And then we talk to our wives and daughters, and all of it goes out the window. And all we can do when it comes to the women in our churches is say, “Do this, and you will live.”
But this is the law; not the gospel. Please read Romans 10 carefully, and you will see what I mean.
The problem with the article is NOT whether women should have a career, or whether they should stay at home and have children. The facts seem pretty clear. If you put every minute into your career in your twenties and thirties, you will have a hard time raising children and getting married. God only gave us a certain amount of time.
But so what? I am a full-time pastor. I could also go to work as a lawyer and become a professor as well. But I wouldn’t do all three of them very well, and I’d probably die trying. This is just wisdom. I won’t ever be infinite. Wisdom dictates that I embrace my finitudevand give God glory, as the only infinite, wise God.
If the caller had merely said, “If you pursue a high-powered career, marriage and children might be difficult. You only have a certain number of years on the earth” I would have no problem. But that isn’t what she said.
Let’s go back to the beginning of time.
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27 NKJ)
This is the purpose for human-kind. We were never made to be originals. We were made to reflect God. We either bear the image of God, or we bear the image of the devil. But we cannot be original. In Eden, man and woman walked and talked with God. This was their purpose. In their relationship with God, they were rightly related to one another, to creation, and to their own bodies.
In this relationship with God, they found their identity, their self-worth, their purpose. They found respect and dignity. They were naked and not ashamed. The weren’t objects, but humans in God’s image.
But as you know, man fell and was driven from Eden. The desires that men and women were created with were still there, but now they sought to fulfill those desires with created things, not in relationship with God.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 1:22-25)
They thought that they could restore dignity and worth, intimacy and significance, through the things under the sun.
And what they found is what Solomon wrote about in the book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Everything under the sun – empty, vain, useless. Is it anything?
Nope. Not here. Nothing here.
The fact is, back to our original article, you can be a career woman of the highest degree, you can accomplish everything you set your heart to accomplish – Solomon did. And you will find what he found: One event happens to all. You die. Worms eat you. Everybody forgets you existed.
OR you can stay at home and raise your kids. You can master Classical education and parse sentences in three languages while wiping spaghetti-o’s off of the kitchen counter, balancing a perfectly well-behaved child on your lap the whole time, while picking up LEGOS with your toes.
And your kids will leave the home and go their own way. You will grow older. And then you will die, they will bury your body in the ground and worms will eat you.
You could even be buried right next to the wealthiest CEO in the world. This is what Hamlet was talking to Yorick about centuries ago. In fact, it is probably what Willis was talking about as well.
It is just wisdom. We forget it, because we have banished death to the back corners of soft organ music and the curtains of the hospital bed. We forget that it is ugly, harsh, cruel, relentless, and without regard to whether you are a CEO or a peasant.
The gospel isn’t about a rosy colored view of the world, about making your mark under the sun or finding your fulfillment in the arms of a man.
It is far more substantial than that. Please do not confuse conservative politics with Christianity. They are not the same thing.
The problem with this woman was NOT that she had a career. It is rather that she thought that a career would give her life. She thought that if she did things right, and climbed the ladder high enough in the corporate world, she could kick her way past the flaming sword and crash her way into Eden.
And then when that failed – when she found that she still was unhappy, unfulfilled, empty – she mourned the loss of children and husband. She wished she had substituted on law – corporate climbing – for another law – married with children.
But whichever way she went, neither way was back into Eden. Career woman? Or married with children? Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. The voice in the back of all of our minds is still shouting, “And then what? What good is it?” This is the knowledge of the wrath of God. It is shame, that voice that tells us that we aren’t enough, we aren’t loved, we aren’t worthy. And it won’t be fixed by mastering a career, or by having a thousand children. Our worth can only come from one place, and that place was lost to us when we were thrown out of the Garden.
There are a lot of ways to move away from Eden. But there is only one way back in.
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19-22)
Jesus is the express image of the father. He is the second Adam, who fulfilled what the first Adam failed at. To use the Old Testament imagery, he took the sword of the wrath of God against sin, though he was without sin. And since he is perfect, without blemish and without spot, he now stands before God in our place.
And if we are united to him by faith, we are already there.
Women, I will speak to you directly now, for you probably haven’t heard anyone say this before.
You will never find fulfillment and purpose by a career. And also, you will never find fulfillment and purpose with a husband and a quiver full of children.
Notice how the writer of this article depends upon the approval or disapproval of a man for her own worth. “Men don’t want competitors. They want a partner.” True. Probably. I don’t know. Who cares?
Your life will not be found in the arms of a man.
Just like all of you men reading this. Ecclesiastes spells it out perfectly. Under the sun, all is vanity. Married, career, pleasure, mirth, wisdom, foolishness…
There is no life there, for the ground is cursed. The relationships are cursed. Bearing children is cursed. Unless God does something to restore Eden, what does it matter if you have 10 children or die childless?
But God has done something. He sent his Son, the perfect image-bearer of the God, so that in him we DO have purpose, meaning, significance.
He took the thorns of the ground on his head, so that work was no longer cursed, but had eternal blessings – the cup of cold water and the meal prepared for the hungry. He was stripped naked, so that we might be clothed and dignified. He was beaten for our iniquities.
In him, we have significance and worth, and we will never, ever find it under the sun. You will never find pleasure in your work, and you will never find peace in your home as long as you continue to think that life will come by doing everything right. Life comes only by faith.
So should a woman in her twenties strive for a career? Or should she strive for a husband and children? Should she somehow do both?
Here’s the answer:
If Christ has died for you, then God already has accepted your work. In him, you have life and love and joy and peace. In him, you are complete. Now live like it.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecc 9:10)
Or, to put it like Paul does:
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Co 10:31)
If you get married, marry in the Lord. Look for worth in the arms of the savior, and be a wife and mom to the glory of God, if that is what you choose to do, and God gives you children.
If you work as a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer, a mail carrier, do it well, reflecting the image of God in your work, to the best of your ability.
And whatever else you do, don’t get caught up in the opinions of men. You have one master, and he is in heaven. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.