This is the third in a series of articles on Family Life by Ben Pitcher
Motherhood is one of the most highly praised roles in the Bible. It is designated as even more important than any role that a husband might aspire to. For instance, whilst Paul says in 1 Timothy that aspiring to be a ‘bishop’ is a ‘good’ thing (1 Tim 3:1), in the previous chapter he describes motherhood as far more than a ‘good’ thing — he says it is a work of salvation if it is linked with constant ‘faith and love and holiness with sobriety’ (1 Tim 2:15). Whereas the diligent labour of many brethren in ecclesial life might be public, the unseen work of godly motherhood is often more effective and receives a wonderful endorsement from God as being both precious and valuable.
Not all sisters end up being mothers to their own children, but all sisters can be ‘mothers in Israel’ in the ecclesia, either literally with children in Sunday School, or through motherly care and affection as they minister to those in their ecclesia. The principle is still the same; it is a highly prized role in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.
The reason I believe that motherhood is so highly prized is that often the day-to-day occupation of a husband ends up with temporary results. In the kingdom age, much of his employment skills and knowledge may have no lasting account. In contrast, the character development of our children and the godly growth of those whom we can influence through being ecclesial mothers, both have the potential to produce everlasting results.
This is because those who are trained to willingly obey God as children often willingly submit to Him in baptism by following a conscience that has been developed in them by a loving and diligent mother. And how wonderful it will be when those character traits of their Heavenly father that have been developed in them as children will be perfected in immortality.
There are few employment roles that can offer so much potential and that are so completely in tune with God’s purpose to manifest Himself in others. A mother’s role is to start this process of manifestation in their children by teaching them about God and instructing them to be loving, kind, patient, truthful, and longsuffering just like God. Their nurture and care will begin to develop in them the fruit of the spirit.
Coming back to our earlier quotation from Timothy, the original Greek is not talking about the act of giving birth; instead, it refers to the whole growth and development of a child being a work of salvation. A better translation of 1 Tim 2:15 would be: ‘She shall be saved in childrearing (rather than childbearing!), if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.’
So, a mother’s responsibility is to rear up her children to have the characteristics of our Heavenly Father: faith, love, holiness, and self-control. These are all key aspects that make up God’s character in Exodus 34:6-7, and they form part of God’s glory and purpose.
As parents, we have an incredible opportunity to work together as a team in God’s purpose. We can share and work with the things God is interested in, and this includes the development of the minds of the children that He has entrusted to us.
In society at large, motherhood is severely undervalued, and seen as second rate compared to a career. But in God’s eyes, it is a precious work of salvation that directly speaks to who He is, His purpose, and His character.
In many places it is hard or even impossible to make the family budget work without some economic input from the wife as well as the husband. If this is the case, ensure that you are still as available as you can be to your children; always prioritise flexibility of hours over higher pay. Or, maybe have the courage to choose to live somewhere with a more moderate cost of living, where the husband’s employment will largely suffice along with reduced expectations for material things. We need to have godly priorities and view these roles and responsibilities as He does, not as popular culture does.
To help us see the seemingly mundane from God’s viewpoint, consider Matt 10:42 and Matt 25:31-40 in relation to the role of a mother. How many glasses of water does a mother give in her lifetime, and how many little bodies does a mother feed and clothe? Her work is all part of building a godly home.
And, if we are an ecclesial ‘mother’, we will be visiting others often, just as the Lord commanded us.
These seemingly insignificant, unrewarded, and unvalued tasks are part of the naturally caring nature of a mother that form part of her role — a role that Paul says is a work of salvation, and a role full of small tasks that our Lord will reward in the future.
Husbands need to support that work of nurturing and caring, ensuring that they don’t undo the development of godliness in the home (see Eph 6:4, Col 3:21). By supporting the work of their mother, you participate in that same work of salvation.
Therefore, as an ecclesia and family of God, we should highly value and support the work of nurturing and caring , whether by young mothers or those in ecclesial service. And no mother should ever feel second rate or demeaned if they have decided to be a ‘maker at home’ instead of actively pursuing a career.
The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 has the prospect of her children and husband calling her blessed; but I hope from this insight you can see, as mothers, that you actually have far greater praise in store if you choose to fulfil your God-given role of a caring mother to the best of your ability. In the end, you will be blessed by God for undertaking a ‘work of salvation’ in His name.
Previous articles in this series on Family Life:
This article was previously published in The Lampstand magazine.