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You can work: As long as it’s volunteer work – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Aug 202008

I’m very disturbed by some of the things I’ve been reading lately. It’s nothing that is in the news. I’m researching the opposing side for my book proposal, the complementarian side (I am not putting in links because I refuse to refer traffic to their sites. If you Google “complementarian,” you will find plenty of sites). This is a group who thinks that men and women were created equal as humans but that they have different roles due to their genders. They believe that woman was created to be a helper to her husband and must always submit to a man’s authority. They believe men were created to be leaders, protectors, and guardians. Women are to be helpers, nurturers, and mothers. A women’s place should be in the home, and she shouldn’t aspire to work outside of the home to keep herself free for ministry. When she doesn’t work then after she takes care of the kids and the house, her free time will be left for building God’s kingdom. Some of the voluntary suggestions for “ministry” are:

  • prison chaplain
  • ministries to the handicapped
  • ministries to the sick, including nursing and hospice work
  • being a teacher, including K-12 teacher

These are all full-time jobs, which take education and training to perform. Now they also suggest the truly voluntary ministries of music in the church, Sunday School teacher, PTA, and volunteering for organizations that work with the poor, abused, and addicitons. But several of these “voluntary” ministries are full-time positions and careers. So it’s okay for a woman to technically work full-time as long as she doesn’t get paid?

In her book Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull points out that once something that women did becomes something men do, then it’s worth charging for. How much did midwives make? Really? When men took over medicine then money came into play. Things that women do are normally seen as less valuable economically than what men do. Women having been cooking and feeding their families for years. But a small percentage of women are chefs who bring down big money.

When you consider the careers that women had in the Bible, I do not understand this “you can work as long as you volunteer” mentality. Deborah was a prophet and judge. The Proverbs 31 woman made and sold textiles and materials plus bought and sold land. She was a merchant. In the New Testament Lydia was also a merchant, and Priscilla worked with her husband Aquila to make tents. None of them volunteered their services. They worked, made money, and helped support their families economically.

I think Christians need to reclaim the word “vocation.” At one time Christians believed that you brought God with you on any job you had, whether you were a priest or a blacksmith. You did your work as unto God because God governed all of life. You built God’s kingdom in whatever career you had. It did not have to be a church position. We need to reclaim vocation, especially women. God calls women, as well as men, to work in the secular world in business, schools, government, and a myriad of other careers. We are called to bring God with us, and build God’s kingdom where we’re at. Just as the women in the Bible worked outside of the home, so can women today.

Related Posts:

Why Career Women of the Bible?
Does It Really Mean “Helpmate”?
The 12th Century B. C. E. Career Woman
Made in the Image of God: Female

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Did you know there are only eight verses in the Bible that discourage women from speaking and holding leadership positions in the church? Did you know there are thousands of verses in the Bible that tell the stories of women who were leaders in their homes, towns, and religious circles? Meet the women in the Bible who were religious & civic leaders, business women, & women who challenged both Jesus and Moses in What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School. What else didn’t you learn in Sunday School? Find out when you buy What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School: Women Who Didn’t Shut Up & Sit Down from Wipf and Stock Publishers or Amazon.com today.

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  9 Responses to “You can work: As long as it’s volunteer work”

  1. Ah, goodness…yes, I always loved people like Elisabeth Eliot who railed on women holding authority or teaching but then who went on to write books and give talks about God and spirituality to men and women…and somehow that was ok as long as she wasn’t paid to be a pastor? I’d kind of forgotten about the complementarians, but I was certainly inundated with their views when I was in college (I went to Wheaton…I still appreciate much of my experience there, but I imagine they’d want to disown me if they ever took a look at my theology now! 🙂 ).

  2. Excellent post, Shawna!

  3. BTW, I’ve just been reading some of your older posts on depression, and, oh, I LOVED the one about the fog. As someone who has dealt with depression, I found that image insightful and so *right*. My deepest healing has really come through surviving a recent bout of post-partum depression and realizing just how intensely my light, my ability to love, my fierce power to nurture and protect, and mother could still come forth even when I was at my absolute lowest…Thanks.

  4. Thank you Muser and Mermade. And thank you Muser for sharing your story. I really appreciate it. I always mean to write more on depression. It looks like I need to start doing instead of just thinking about it.

  5. What a great post, Shawna. There seems to be such a groundswelling of ideas I had thought ended millenia ago: the make up and function of the trinity, whether or not women are made in the image of God and so on.

    It might seem like a crass example, but it makes me think of a zit that’s about to pop. When it does it’s messy and pretty painful, but then healing can happen. Someday, I am sure, people will look back to this time and shake their heads and wonder how some of these things could have happened. Sort of like we do now regarding slavery.

  6. I saw the picture in this post in an article from the Guardian about three women who run their households in different time periods. The dressing up part wasn’t creepy (I’d wear Dior’s “New Look” every day if I could) but the ideas you’ve highlighted.

    If women are really “equal as humans,” they should be allowed to express their Godly vocational calling in every way. Saying that women have different “roles” solely based on their gender is just a way of stripping 50% of the population of it’s individuality and blaming biology for a societal structure that’s all about power. Especially in a capitalist society!

  7. Yes, nothing irritates me more than the women who have made a career of bashing “career women”.

    Great post, Shawna!

  8. Thank you Tami, Abby, and Lainie. Tami, I think your zit metaphor is very apt.

    I hate what comps are doing the doctrine of the trinity just to back up their screwy view of women. I guess keeping women in their place is more important than creating blasphemy.

  9. […] You Can Work: As Long as it is Volunteer Work| […]

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