Book Review Series, The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace, Complementarian Doctrine, Keeper of the Home
This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.
One might think (and hope) that since we’re on chapter eight we would be at least half way through the book. I’m sorry to say we are not, so you’re stuck with this book review for a while longer. We might as well get a move on.
Chapter eight’s focus is on the home, a.k.a. “the wife’s domain.” It should not come as a surprise to anyone that Peace’s main point of this chapter is:
Staying at home and organizing a clean, well run household is a major biblical emphasis in the God-given ministry of the wife.
I find it interesting when someone such as Martha Peace makes this statement. They are only referencing three verses in the Bible. Proverbs 31 (which could also support a woman working outside her home), 1 Timothy 5: 14-15, and Titus 2: 3-5. Of course, this statement does not take into account the purpose of the writing of any of these verses. Proverbs 31 is a poem and not a wife’s check list. 1 Timothy and Titus are letters addressing issues within specific churches and culture during a specific time in history. If the “major biblical emphasis” of a wife’s ministry is to be the keeper of the home, I would think that it would be discussed more in the Bible.
What if the wife wants to work? Peace challenges wives to look at their motive for working outside the home.
What is it she really wants? What is her heart set on? Is it more material things? Is it wanting to be out from under the demands of child care? Is it to relieve her husband from his responsibility to work? None of these motives are for the glory of God. They are self-serving and sinful.
That’s lovely. It’s nice to hear that Peace knows exactly what brings glory to God and what is sinful. So what would be a “Godly motive” that makes it alright for a wife to work? Guess what…she doesn’t offer one. I guess there is no good reason for a wife to work.
Except, what if the couple is in debt? Is it okay for a wife to work to help pay off debt?
A couple who is in so much debt that the wife may have to work should consider making sacrifices in order to live within their budget while systematically working towards debt reduction.
I understand the sacrifices that have to be made to live within your means. I also understand that life happens and sometimes you have to go into some debt to afford medical, housing, or car repair bills. Why lay all the financial burden solely on the husband if the wife is able to earn some money to help pay the bills as well?
What if the husband wants the wife to work?
Is she to be submissive? Yes, unless the wife can show him that she would be sinning by working. It would be sinful for her to financially support her husband so that he could be irresponsible or lazy.
Again with the sinning. She focuses too much on this topic. Speaking of sinning, what about the sinful lazy husband. Oh, that’s right. She can’t address that because this is a book about wives.
What if the husband becomes ill or the wife becomes a widow?
In some cases, I believe her church has a responsibility to help her be able to stay home with her children (see 1 Timothy 5: 1-16). If the church will not, she may have to see employment either from her home or outside her home.
Of all the churches I attended over the years I never saw one have funds to support widows or wives with ill husbands. If there are churches out there who support these women, that’s wonderful. But how realistic is it that a church would support these women financially for the rest of their lives?
The remainder of this chapter is all about the attitude of the wife at home. She is to be joyful, not brood over problems, put others in her household first, express interest in everyone, not be selfish, be “biblically optimistic” (trusting in God), and gentle and meek in spirit. Individually, these are not bad attitudes to have. But, put them all together and it sounds like you have a robot running your household. The way Peace describes how a wife should act makes her sound fake.
There is no room offered in this book for the hard moments. There are days when it’s hard to feel joyful when you’re worrying about your financial problems. There are days where you feel like everything is out of control and you may not be in the best mood. There are moments when you need a little bit of time for yourself with no tiny humans around. There are husbands who are abusive and you just can’t fake the joy and “biblical optimism” any more. Basically, this book offers no room for difficult feelings. Feelings of sadness, anger, despair, the need for love, or the need of being wanted and desired. None of these feelings are sinful or selfish. We are made to feel ,and all of these are universal human feelings.
I have an idea….why don’t Christians stop telling women that they are sinning if they work outside the home because it goes against their God-ordained gender role? Instead, simply let couples decide between themselves what works best for their family. There is no reason to continue to use the Bible as a weapon to keep women “in their place.”