WOMEN IN THE WORFORCE: Placing God First
Yvonne Chan — Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The phrase “Women in the
Workforce” is one that requires special thought or consideration. The question
of equality surfaces—an issue that contemporary society is still grappling
with, even though social views of working women have changed dramatically over
the past hundred years or so.
Gone are the days when women were
expected to remain at home after marriage.
In many countries where girls and boys are given equal opportunities in
education, girls are entering the workforce equally ambitious.
The type of work women take on can
no longer be stereotyped. In the business world, for example, where women used
to be seen as secretaries or junior assistants, many are now rising to positions
of authority, becoming key players and decision makers.
This trend of change can be seen
in almost every type of job. Even in
traditionally male-dominated areas like construction, women are entering the
field to work alongside men.
The Bible certainly encourages us
to work hard. The book of Proverbs especially is full of wise sayings about the
positive effects of hard work. “He who tills his land will be satisfied with
bread,” says Proverbs 12:11, “But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.”
The Bible teaches us that “The
hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor”
(Prov 12:24), and “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person
will suffer hunger” (Prov 19:15). Proverbs
12:27 also tells us that “diligence is man’s precious possession.”
It may surprise some to learn that
the Bible encouraged women to take on active roles in the workforce. Women’s
contributions were valued even within the patriarchal structure of the Old
Our Lord Jesus certainly included
women in His ministry, and we are also able to find examples of working women
worthy of our attention in the Bible.
EXEMPLARY WOMEN IN THE BIBLE
There are outstanding women in the
Bible with successful careers or vocations. Three of these women are mentioned
below. They are noteworthy because their success stems from the way they placed
God in their hearts.
These are three exceptional women
in the Bible who had careers of their own. What were noteworthy about their
success, however, were not their own capabilities. Their success stemmed from
how they placed God in their hearts.
Acts introduces Lydia, who was “a seller of
purple.” She was a merchant and thus a businesswoman. From all accounts, she
was a very successful entrepreneur.
After Lydia believed in the Lord, she got
baptized with her entire household. She then opened her house to the members as
a meeting place. Paul and his companions were able to evangelize and strengthen
the faith of the believers because of her hospitality, offered despite her busy
business schedule (Acts ,
was the first European city that Paul preached in during his ministry. Lydia set such a good example that Paul later
wrote to the established church at Philippi—thanking
the members for their generosity and support (Phil 4:14-20).
The spirit of hospitality and
generosity displayed by her became a mark of the church in Paul’s time.
Priscilla, another woman
mentioned in the New Testament, shows us that a married woman can be actively
involved in business as well as evangelism.
Paul met her and Aquila, her
husband, at Corinth
(Act 18:1-3). She worked with her husband in the tent manufacturing business. Since
Paul was in the same trade, the apostle stayed and worked with them. Priscilla also
traveled and worked with her husband as evangelists.
Later, when Paul left for Syria, the
couple accompanied him (Acts 18:18). Paul left them at Ephesus, perhaps a
provident move, for it was here that the couple were able to teach a dynamic
young preacher named Apollos the correct way of God (Acts 18:24-26).
Apollos became one of the most
active evangelists of the church. He was able to keep to the true message of
God due to the diligence of Priscilla and Aquila. They were willing to put God at the center of
their lives as husband and wife and as business partners.
There are also examples of working
women in the Old Testament.
Judges 4:4 tells us that Deborah,
“a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” The “children
of Israel came up to her for
judgment” as she sat under “the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of
Ephraim” (Judg 4:5).
Although we have no information
on Deborah’s early years, we already know that she was a prophetess who judged
the people. Here was a married woman who was also a judge. She gave orders to a
commander, Barak son of Abinoam, to deploy troops against their enemy. When
Barak insisted that she come along with him, she did not hesitate. She went
with the army into the war zone as courageously as any modern-day woman in the
Deborah listened carefully to
God’s call (Judg 4:6-7) and showed her leadership qualities by delegating tasks
accordingly. She willingly went into danger for the people of God (Judg 4:9-10)
and inspired the army of Israel
to fight their enemies with faith (Judg 4:14-16).
In all that she did, Deborah
placed God at the center of her actions and her trust.
There are of course other
examples of women in the workforce, like Shallum’s daughters who worked on
construction; a male-dominated line of work even by today’s standards. This is
recorded in Nehemiah 3:12.
The two women worked to repair
the wall of Jerusalem
together with their father, using their talents and offering their time for the
people of God.
In the medical profession, two
well-known midwives were Shiphrah and Puah, God-fearing women who put their own
lives at risk by disobeying a direct order from Pharoah by sparing the lives of
Hebrew male infants (Ex 1:15-17).
By doing this, the people of Israel were
preserved, and God’s plans for His nation were not thwarted by evil
FOCUS ON GOD FIRST
The women in these examples show
us that, in whatever we do, we should focus on God first, and everything else
will fall into place.
Lydia did not abandon her business,
but she prioritized her time differently. Finding the time to offer her house
as the center of worship for the believers in the area became something that
was very important to her.
Priscilla willingly uprooted
herself, setting up her home in different places like the nomads of old, in
order to assist Paul and evangelize. She accepted the uncertainty this must
have caused in her life, and she was able to support her husband in their
business and spiritual life wherever they went.
Deborah also put aside her family
life temporarily, when God needed her to motivate His army to defeat their
enemy. She risked her life to answer God’s calling.
These women encourage and inspire
us to offer our time, our talents, and our lives to God and His people.
We live in troubled times, and life
can become stressful. Many are caught in the never-ending struggle to carve a
better life—better lifestyle!—for our family. Couples are coming to the
conclusion that both partners must work for economic reasons.
The marketplace constantly
encourages this trend, offering new gadgets, new technology, and new designs in
clothing or decorating. The media continually defines the image of success for
us. Business moguls, movie stars, musicians—these are the beautiful, well-built,
smart, and rich people who typify success in our modern world. Hence, those who
do not have these things aspire to get them.
All of us, men and women, work in
such a materialistic environment. As we strive to carve out a better life for
our families and ourselves, we must remember our priorities. We must not allow
ourselves to be overwhelmed by the need to survive or to continue improving our
lifestyle to the exclusion of all else.
JESUS TELLS US NOT TO WORRY
Remember Jesus’ advice in Matthew
6:26-34. Here, our Lord tells us not to worry about our life, “what [we] will
eat or what [we] will drink.” He asks if life is not “more than food and the
body more than clothing.”
The heavenly Father feeds the
birds of the air even though “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns.”
Consider the glory of the lilies of the field. They look more glorious than even
Solomon in all his glory. The important thing, Jesus tells us, is to
Seek first the kingdom of God
and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore,
do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.
The successful women mentioned
above truly understood this. They were able to apportion their time and set
priorities to determine what was important to them.
In the passage above, the Lord
tells us to place the kingdom
of God first in our
hearts. When we do that, all things fall into place as God provides everything
else that we need.
The examples Jesus gave are simple
ones. What could be more beautiful and simple than the birds flying free in the
air or wildflowers blooming in the field? Our basic needs, likewise, are
God provides us with what we need,
not what we think
we need. Sometimes there is a discrepancy between the two. Hence, as we try to
prove ourselves as women in this modern society, we must remember to keep our focus
and our priorities right.
We need to consistently assign God
first place in our hearts (Mt.6:33), consult regularly with our Father in
heaven through prayer and quiet time (Ps 55:17), examine our own heart to
determine what is appropriate at any given time (Eccl 3:1), and keep ourselves
spiritually fit (Eph 6:11).
Only then will we be able to keep
our balance as women chosen by God for His purpose.