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.
Chapter One – Chapter Two – Chapter Three – Chapter Four – Chapter Five – Chapter Six – Chapter Seven
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.”
27 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Eight – Home: The Major Biblical Emphasis of the Wife”
Kathi, thanks for doing the hard work of reading and reviewing this book. What in the world us “biblical optimism”?
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Cindy – “What in the world is ‘biblical optimism?'”
That is the million dollar question! The only thing I can think is believing in the promises God states in the Bible. Otherwise, no definition was provided. She says at one point,
“Biblically deal with your husband or children’s sins and replace sinful thoughts with biblically optimistic thoughts.”
Your guess is as good as mine for what that means. Anyone else want to take a stab at that nonsense?
Once again, she is writing from her own 1st world bubble. The rest of the world operates in a different paradigm. Most families, especially in 3rd world countries, all work together just to survive. Not every woman has the luxury to spend all her time “organizing a clean well run household”. I can’t imagine handing that book to a tribal Christian woman in the jungle and telling her this is “a major Biblical emphasis” for her and to STOP going out to work in the fields with the rest of the family… just stay home and keep sweeping the mud floor of your hut all day… LOL.
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And, how exactly do you “biblically” deal with your children’s sin? Deuteronomy 21: 18-21 says that a parent can take a disobedient child to the elders to have them stoned to death.
It’s in the Bible.
This is a book for people who are looking for a checklist to live by. What about following your heart and doing what brings you joy? What about using your talents and skills to help others and express your own unique personhood? God made you the way you are so you could rejoice, not so you would have to stifle yourself.
The funny thing is, I love home and all things home. I loved being a stay at home mom and was thankful I could do it. All I ever wanted to be was a mom & housewife! And now, looking back, I have no regrets. This is what I was made for. HOWEVER, that’s just me! I have no idea what is right for you. I support every person’s right to follow their own path, the one that they were made to walk, to do the things that resonate with them. We are not all the same! How could we think one way of life would suit all of us? It’s absurd!
I think this book could have been worthwhile if she had written it to encourage those women who do want to be homemakers, to reassure them that it’s okay to be “just a housewife” and that their contributions are important and meaningful- without shaming anyone else into thinking that it’s the only way to live, and without all the rules and limits. Following this book would be like wearing a straitjacket. Why live that way? The world and the possibilities are too big to write off and say, no, your life must fit within these tiny, narrow parameters. And all this stuff about “sin”. If you are hurting or harming other people, then think about sin and repentance. Otherwise, you don’t have to always be in fear that just living your life is “sin” this and “sin” that.
Someone mentioned this book being a massive case of First World Problems. I totally agree. However, many of us in the “first world” can’t afford to be on one income. My daughter was born when I was doing my doctorate. I made a $12,000 per year stipend as part of my GTA. We couldn’t live on that, so my wife worked. When I got a full time job, my wife stayed home for two years. The first year she loved it, but the second year she realized she wanted to go back to teaching. She now is the assistant director at a preschool.
All this to say, it is very elitist to assume that every family can afford to live on one income. We lived on a very low single income (second to lowest income quintile, or “near poverty”). And none of this was due to “laziness,” it was because of how hard it is to get started non tenure track in higher ed. We had no margin for error. If our car would have died or if we had big medical bills, we would have gone into significant debt and she would have had to go to work. That would not have been “sinful,” it would have been responsible.
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Excellent comment, Martin! Thank you!
Martin – You are so right. There are other “godly women” bloggers out there who have the same message as Peace in regard to working women. One side of their mouth will say, “Of course I don’t condemn working women. I care about all women.” While the other side of their mouth will say, “If you are a working married woman you must not trust God enough to provide for your needs.”
My opinion is that there are far worse things going on in the world for God to be concerned about other than a married woman who is working. At least I would hope so.
Lea and I were talking about this topic – either here or at the other blog.
Apologies for this being a little off topic, but it’s still kind of related, IMO, because many women are socially conditioned to be care-takers, but not so men.
Which may play a role in explaining why so many men walk out on their wives or girlfriends when they get sick (just a guess).
From The Sun:
_‘My partner left me 3 months after I was diagnosed with breast cancer – even though I’d just had his baby’_
Sorry for being off topic, but Julie Anne, didn’t you do a blog post or two about Kevin Swanson before?
His name looks familiar.
This is a link to a web page on the News Week site:
_“Kill the Gays” pastor warns that God will “cut down” Taylor Swift_
A Colorado pastor is warning Taylor Swift that “God will cut her down” for embracing the LGBTQ community.
Swift’s new video, “You Need to Calm Down,” includes a shout-out to inclusion and encourages viewers to a sign a Change.org petition supporting the Equality Act. And while some queer fans are complaining pop princess is just giving lip service to the gays, right-wing radio host Kevin Swanson is angry she’s giving them any kind of service.
On his Generations” radio show yesterday, Swanson called Swift a “fool.”
“Taylor Swift, most popular female singer in America today, released a song promoting the Leviticus 16 list of abominations, pretty much,” he said, citing a Bible passage about animal sacrifices. “‘You Need to Calm Down’ is the name of the song, and she’s apparently telling God to calm down about all of his ethical concerns. I don’t think it’s going to be effective, but that’s what she’s doing.”
BTW, regarding this:
““‘You Need to Calm Down’ is the name of the song, and she’s apparently telling God to calm down about all of his ethical concerns. I don’t think it’s going to be effective, but that’s what she’s doing.””
— end Swanson quote —
I’ve actually seen the Taylor Swift video a few times and have listened to the song.
The song is NOT directed to “God.”
The song is directed at people on social media who snipe at each other.
In the song, Swfit is asking people online to stop trolling each other and sending each other hateful messages.
In the midst of that, she does feature drag queens in her video (the visual one), and she uses the word “GLAAD” in big letters in her official lyric video (GLAAD is a pro homosexuality organization), but she at no time mentions God in her video (not that I recall), and the song is not directed to God. The song is for and about people who send insults to each other online.
And, kicker here, I saw I don’t know how many liberals and gay guys on entertainment news sites express disappointment over Taylor’s new video/song, because they did not feel it was explicitly pro-homosexual enough.
Swanson should probably do a bit more research before he opines on pop culture issues he obviously knows nothing about.
Daisy – We’ve covered Kevin Swanson here in the past. Four years ago he stated that if his son ever married another man he would sit in front of the building in sackcloth covered in manure wailing lamentations.
I love that none of her motivations had anything to do with personal fulfillment or growth, or the fact that sitting at home all day cleaning sounds boring as all get out.
Kathi, she should be about a hop skip and a jump away from realizing maybe being submissive to a lazy sinful husband might not be gods good design, but none of these types seem to make those linkages.
We have some funds available to help people in a bad spot, but it would be really really expensive to support every single or widowed woman in the congregation forever.
This is gibberish.
Ha! To quote Taylor: You need to calm down. You’re bein’ too loud.
Lea – I think it’s great that your church has funds to help widows and people with illnesses. Peace isn’t the first to argue that the church should financially help widows. I’m going to guess that your church wouldn’t be able to financially support widows long term. It’s not sustainable unless you have an extremely generous giving base. And, giving ebbs and flows depending on the giver’s life situations.
Right. I’m pretty familiar with the budgets for these things, and what we have is discretionary funding for pastors use. (Because of privacy, they don’t give out the information about who is receiving money – I know a couple years ago they had a situation that was requiring more than they usually needed) It’s not equivalent to a full time salary in any way, especially not for multiple people. I find that a very unreasonable suggestion and silly, as I would personally rather get a job in such a situation than be dependent on someone else. Temporary situations are different.
“Is she to be submissive? Yes, unless the wife can show him that she would be sinning by working.”
Isn’t this circular? I think she is already saying that the wife is sinning by working outside of the home. But in dealing with this new situation of the husband telling her to work outside the home, she says to submit.
Now, I think this is enough to prove the point made over and over that complementarian theology is about making the husband a deity. In this case, it’s sinful for the wife to work outside the house unless the husband declares it not to be so and I doubt that even “It would be sinful for her to financially support her husband so that he could be irresponsible or lazy.” would be enough in her mind for a wife to confront her husband.
So, here’s her argument:
1) The husband is always right
2) If the husband isn’t right (and he’s not telling you to do something that is obviously sinful), refer to #1.
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“Right. I’m pretty familiar with the budgets for these things, and what we have is discretionary funding for pastors use”
A former church that was pretty typical had a “need fund” that was about $4000 of a total budget of around $200k. There were about 100 members, which is average for the US. And even in that abusive authoritarian church, there was a couple where the wife was the breadwinner whenever the husband was laid off, and no one batted an eye. That only worked because she chose an occupation where her hours were flexible. I can’t imagine that working for many occupations.
Is the author of this book married? If so, wasn’t she sinning by writing the book according to her own standards? Seriously, all the time she spent writing could have been used to clean the house, plump the pillows, etc.
Great point, BJ! Was the author being “domestic?” Or, in fact, was she sinning by “working” at a skill that is “undomestic?”
Hence, what in the world does “domestic” actually mean? Different definitions for different folks, as are the man inflicted terms of “feminisim” and “christo-feminism.”
I often wonder when women decided they had minds and skills to contribute greatly to the voting process here in the U.S., if the contingency of male counterparts, called those women “feminists” and other insulting names to “put them in their place,” pushing them away from the dinner table of the voting polls. Were those women “feminists” and pushing the “domestic rule of gender laws?” Or were they amazing, courageous, determined, good and godly women who believed they were equal in the sight of our LORD?
I believe the latter.
Katy, found this at an site about the ‘anti-suffrage movement’
So, yes. I mean, this is commentary and I don’t have to time to dig out all the original sourcing, but the suffragette movement is actually fascinating, and if you’re interested in seeing what men 100 years ago thought when women tried to defend themselves with hat pins, look up the ‘hat pin terror’ because it’s hilarious. In fact, here is an article. Proving to people lamenting about the metoo movement that there is nothing new under the sun…
Thank-you for the info Lea! Appreciate that, as history is always a fascinating study to learn from.
“Proving to people lamenting about the metoo movement that there is nothing new under the sun….” Amen to that articulate statement, Lea. I have this feeling that you are wiser beyond your years…….. you always bring staple foods to the dinner table of conversation here and I value your comment threads.