In this lesson, we will briefly survey five responsibilities of wives and mothers and the practical impact they can have on their families so that we might celebrate and honor them as precious gifts from God.
So we arrive this morning at, not the end of the work series. That ended last week, A Biblical Theology of Work. But we have one add-on, and it’s being done to try to address a question that was asked back much closer to the beginning of the series, with regard to stay-home moms and how to stay home.
How does vocation work out for stay-home moms? That’s a pretty big question that I want to address, but not directly in that way. Instead, what I want to do is speak to you, speak to the women and to the men, about the glory of motherhood and being a wife.
So, in a very general sense, lift up that wonderful picture that God has given us, and in the process, there is an answer to that specific question. And I’m sure that those who asked it or were thinking it, if they listen carefully, they will find it there.
But rather than just try to deal with something very specific in that way, I want to take a more general approach to this. So the title of this morning’s message is “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.”
The year was 1905 when a South African miner made the most amazing discovery. While working in the Premier mine, he happened upon the largest gem-quality diamond in the world. Originally weighing 3,106 carats, that is 1.3 pounds, and named the Cullinan Diamond, it was presented to King Edward VII on his sixty-sixth birthday. Edward had the stone cut into nine large pieces, the largest of which, known as the Star of Africa, was a pear-shaped diamond weighing 530 carats. There we go [shows slide]. The Star of Africa. You imagine that on your finger, ladies? You’d need to wear, like, a neck brace to carry that around. The Star of Africa. Probably the most beautiful diamond in the world. While impressive as that stone is, it pales in comparison to the value of a good wife and mother. Pales in comparison.
10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. . . .
28 Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:10–12, 28–30 NASB)
What a glorious picture that is! A glorious picture of a godly woman. The influence of a mother on the development and life direction of a child is huge. It’s huge. Mothers generally spend the most time with the children during their early and formative years and have an unprecedented opportunity to disciple the next generation to either good or evil. To good or evil.
Recognizing this truth, the nineteenth-century American poet William Ross Wallace wrote the following poem, the title of which is “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World.” You’ve probably heard that. The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
There are numerous biblical examples of mothers who have had a profound influence upon their sons. Open your Bible to 1 Samuel 1. First Samuel 1, where we are introduced to Hannah. Hannah, whose son Samuel turned out to be quite a powerful man of the Lord.
In 1 Samuel 1:11, we find Hannah’s vow: “She made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.’”
In verses 27 and 28, after the Lord answered her prayer and granted her a son, she says, “‘For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there.”
In 1 Samuel 2:1–11, we find Hannah’s prayer. Listen to this.
1 Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
2 There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.
3 Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength.
5 Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes.
6 The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He set the world on them.
9 He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed. (1 Sam. 2:1–10 NASB)
That is an amazing prayer. It is an amazing prayer for many, many reasons, but not the least of which is that it is absolutely steeped in biblical theology. Steeped in biblical theology.
Hang on to that thought and turn with me all the way over to the New Testament, to Luke 2, where we are introduced to another mother who had a profound influence on her son. Luke 2:46–47: “Then, after three days they found Him [that is, Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”
At twelve years old. At twelve years old. Now turn back with me to chapter one and verse forty-six. And I want you to pay attention to another prayer of a godly mother.
46 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord,
47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.
51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy,
55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46–55 NASB)
Again, another prayer steeped in the most amazing theology, the most amazing understanding of who God is and what He is doing.
Both of these mothers, young mothers, were steeped in the theology of the Old Testament. They knew their God. And I can’t help but think that their intimacy with God, their theological acumen, was passed on to that younger generation.
And one more along these lines to think about is to turn over to 2 Timothy 1. Second Timothy, chapter 1, where what I have supposed in my prior two examples is explicitly stated here. Second Timothy, chapter 1, verse 5. Paul says to Timothy, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that is in you as well.”
Chapter 3, verses 14 and 15, in contrast to the evil men and impostors, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
From your mother’s knee, Timothy, you have come to know the Scriptures. You have come to learn to love the Scriptures. At the knee of a biblical mother.
With that as our introduction, this is our plan for this morning together. This morning I want to briefly survey five responsibilities of wives and mothers and the practical impact they can have on their families, so that we might celebrate and honor them as precious gifts of God. Five responsibilities, so that we might honor them, celebrate them as precious gifts of God.
So her first responsibility is as a homemaker. I will turn you to Genesis, chapter 1 and verse 28. Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them; and God said to them [notice the them], ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
I want you to notice that God’s original creation mandate is given equally to both the man and the woman. The man and the woman. They together were to rule, subdue, and produce, each in their own spheres of responsibility. Each in their own spheres of responsibility.
For the wife, that sphere is primarily her home. Primarily her home. Paul makes that very clear for us in Titus, chapter 2. Titus, chapter 2, where he writes, beginning in verse 1,
1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
3 Older women likewise [likewise, in the same way] are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,
4 so that they may encourage [or, more literally, train] the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:1–5 NASB)
A wife’s primary sphere of responsibility is her home. It is her home. Now running a home is like running a small bu“`siness. Running a home is like running a small business. There are accounts to manage, assets to buy, expenses to be controlled, inventory, production, maintenance, vendors, customers, and even stockholders of a sort.
It’s uncommon now, but it was once, not that long ago, very common that a course of study in a Christian college was home economics. Home economics. It has passed out. It is passé in our more “enlightened” and “modern” culture. (That’s all in air quotes.) Home economics. Because running a home, and running a home well, requires a great degree of skill. A great degree of skill. Typically, Mom runs the household. Typically, Mom runs the household. And in order to do it well, she must be industrious and savvy. Industrious and savvy.
Again, Proverbs 31 is helpful to us, verses 14 to 15 and 25 and 27:
14 She is like merchant ships; she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens. . . .
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. . . .
27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Prov. 14–15, 25, 27 NASB)
That means that her vocation, she grasps it with both hands and applies herself to it with great vigor and accumulated skill.
The wife sets the tempo and aroma of the home. The wife sets the tempo and the aroma of the home. Is the home organized or chaotic? Organized or chaotic? That will largely depend upon her. That will largely depend upon her.
Is it hospitable or cold? Is the home hospitable or cold? Now, while the primary responsibility for hospitality lies with the husband, it is the wife who makes it happen in real time. It is the wife who makes it happen in real time.
Is the home peaceful or unsettling? Peaceful or unsettling? Again, the wife is the major player in that reality. Is the home a place you want to come to, or a place you’d just as soon stay away from? Just as soon stay away from? Moms set the tempo and the aroma of the home.
Second responsibility: teammate. Teammate. So first, homemaker. Second, teammate. For this, we go back to Genesis, to chapter 2 and beginning in verse 18. Genesis 2 and beginning in verse 18.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable [or corresponding] for him.
19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable [or corresponding] for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said, [“Wow!” That’s implied in the white space.] “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Gen. 2:18–25 NASB)
Made from man and for man, a woman’s role is to round out the team. To round out the team. Unless you think I am way out on the limb here, that is Paul’s exact words in 1 Corinthians 11, verses 8 and 9.
The woman is from man and for man. Her role is to support his ambitions, to be his most loyal confidante, cheerleader, and friend. Her strengths complement his, and together they present a very formidable team for life and ministry. The mechanics of how this partnership works itself out are unique within each individual family. There is not a single template.
Gentlemen, it is a rare man indeed who does not need and would not substantially be advantaged in life by a wife that corresponds to him. It would be a rare man indeed who would not benefit from a godly wife. From a godly wife. She is his teammate. Teammate. She’s a homemaker as a responsibility. She’s a teammate as a responsibility.
Third, she is a nurturer. She is a nurturer. Genesis chapter 3, verse 20: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” The word eve, by the way, means life. Life. He called her name life.
To be a mother is to be intimately and totally committed to children. Intimately and totally committed. It’s a life of sacrifice that begins with conception and birth and is occupied in the early years with constant care. Constant care. No matter how old the children get, a mother’s life is marked by prayer and concern for her children in a way the dads do not fully understand, nor will they.
A mother’s prayers for her children never cease. Never cease. The proper care of children was a mark, in the early church, of the piety and godliness of widows. It was a requirement for them to qualify for the financial support of the church. First Timothy five, nine and ten: “A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”
Every good work. And it was a mark of piety and godliness in the first century. A woman’s third responsibility is that of a nurturer. A nurturer.
Fourth, a counselor. A counselor. Homemaker, teammate, nurturer, counselor. This is quite a job description, by the way.
Counselor. Proverbs 31:26: “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Gentlemen, let me say this as clearly as I can. As clearly as I can. If you do not seek the advice of your wife with regard to the issues of family, business, and ministry, you are a fool. You are a fool. God has given her to you. God has given her to you. And no one knows you better, or is more committed to you and your success, than your wife. If you exclude her from the decisions of life, you are a fool. You’re a fool. She may not always be right. She may not always be right, but she is always worth listening to. She is always worth listening to.
In the context of children, Mom is typically the primary day-to-day spiritual counselor. Dad comes in for the big stuff. But it’s Mom who helps work out the details of the great and weighty principles that Dad has laid down.
It’s Mom who typically spends the bulk of those early formative years working with the children to develop character and manners—something our society could use some additional training in—skills and spiritual awareness.
Many times it’s also Mom who hears first about the rough day at school or at work or the neighborhood bully, and she brings her gentle wisdom to bear on the situation. She is a counselor. A counselor.
And fifth, she is a lover. She is a lover. Homemaker, teammate, nurturer, counselor, and lover. And lover. The sexual relationship was created by God and intended, among other things, for human pleasure. Human pleasure. We get a hint at it in 1 Corinthians 7, beginning in verse 1.
1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.
2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Cor. 7:1–5 NASB)
Because God created the idea of sex—that is His invention, His idea—He reserves the right to regulate it. He reserves the right to regulate it. And He has done so. And He has done so. He has placed it within the high walls of a marriage covenant. Within the high walls of a marriage covenant. In fact, in Song of Solomon, the bride is referred to as an enclosed garden. She’s called an enclosed garden. It’s a private place, open only to her husband and for his enjoyment.
The image is of a secret garden in which the husband is the tender gardener. The tender gardener. And the wife, the beautiful place of joy and delight. Song of Solomon 4 and verse 12: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a rock garden locked, a spring sealed up.”
Chapter 5 and verse 1: “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”
That is very poetic language. He who has ears to hear, let him hear them. How does this relate to motherhood? How does this relate to motherhood? Well, your children will learn a great deal about marriage and romance by observing your attitudes and behaviors toward your husband. Much more is caught than taught.
Ladies, I’ve been banging on the men. Okay, ladies, here we go. If your responsibilities as a mother are crowding out your greater responsibilities as a lover to your husband, then your life is out of balance. Your life is out of balance. Out of balance. Homemaker. Teammate. Nurturer. Counselor. Lover. Five responsibilities. OK.
In the time that remains—and that was admittedly very brief—in the time that remains, what I have for you are twenty ways mothers can positively influence their children. These are merely suggestions to sow some seed in your thinking. So, twenty ways mothers can positively influence their children. In the time that remains, we’ll just work our way through them. OK, so here they are. I don’t have them all on slides for you, and if at the end you want them, email me, like some of you did this prior week and got the ten statements that encapsulated the Biblical Theology of Work series. You can have these twenty, OK? If you email me. Here we go. Twenty ways.
First, pray for them early and often. Pray for them early and often. Augustine, the great theologian of the fifth century, credits the faithful prayers of his mother with rescuing him from a life of debauchery. From rescuing him from a life of debauchery. Monica prayed for him early and often.
Second, read to them. Read to your children, especially Bible stories, and make application at their level. Make application at their level.
Third, teach them the songs and hymns of the faith. Teach your children to sing the songs and hymns of the faith. There is something about the way God has created us that music and song stay with us when nothing else will. Even at the end of life, when dementia and things come into a person’s mind and brain and cloud their rational thinking, there’s an amazing ability still to recall and sing, particularly songs of the faith. Particularly songs of the faith.
So teach your children early the songs and hymns of the faith.
Number four, memorize the Scripture with them. Memorize the Scripture with them. Help them to learn to hide it in their heart.
Number five, review their Sunday school lessons with them. Review: “What did you learn in Sunday school?” They hand you a piece of paper with, like, blue scratches on it. “That’s not what you learned. That’s just the ability that you have at the moment to try to articulate it.” Sit down and review the lesson with them. Reinforce it. Reinforce it.
Six, share the gospel with them regularly. Share the gospel with your children regularly, not just when they’re young, but continue to preach the gospel to them. The gospel is not something that we need for salvation and then graduate to advanced theological study. The gospel is the very air in which we breathe. It is life itself. Share the gospel with them regularly. Regularly.
Seven, point your children to the Scriptures and make specific application of them to answer life’s problems. Now, that presupposes something, doesn’t it? What it presupposes is that you are able to make specific application to answer life’s problems. In other words, Mom, you have got to be a student of the Word. You have to spend time in the Scriptures so that you know the Word of God and you know where to go to address life’s problems, or in times of correction. Bring the Scripture to bear in the times of correction.
Eight, teach your children self-control. Teach your children self-control by having them wait for their meal. To wait for their meals, to wait for your attention, to wait for their toys. There are many places where you can apply this and begin to teach them self-control. Self-control. I know it’s easier to just put them in a high chair, give them the food right away, and they start cramming their face, and then they’re quiet. But that’s a mistake. That is a mistake. Teach them self-control. Food is to be eaten, not played with, not applied to the face and head like theatrical paint.
Nine, teach them respect by speaking lovingly and respectfully of others yourself, particularly their dad. Particularly their dad. Speak lovingly and respectfully of their father in their presence.
Ten, don’t make the children the center of your life. Do not make the children the center of your life. Listen, a husband and a wife are a family. They are a family. They are the first family. Children expand the family. They do not create the family. So do not make children the center of your life. They are welcome additions to the family, but your husband is your first priority. So have something left at the end of the day when he comes home. All right, here we go. Apply a little makeup before he gets there. It wouldn’t hurt. You know what I’m saying? It wouldn’t hurt.
Eleven, never undermine your husband’s authority by disagreeing with him in front of the children. Never undermine his authority by disagreeing with him in front of the children. Are you going to disagree with your husband? Of course you are. Of course. But not in front of the children. Keep your disagreements private. Keep your disagreements private.
Twelve, watch out for too many children’s commitments. Guard against too many children’s commitments. Sports, music lessons, dance, gymnastics, parties. I mean, it just goes on and on and on. You can be running constantly. These tax your energy, Mom, and diffuse your focus away from that which is truly important: teaching your children to love and value Christ and His church. You can get caught up in the pursuit of these things, and then you’re just constantly running.
Thirteen, make the atmosphere of your home a place where your children and their friends want to be. That they want to come to your house. To your house. Why? Why do I want to go to your house? Well, you want to go to my house because our house is peaceful. And besides, Mom makes the best brownies you have ever had. And they’re always available when you come.
Fourteen, prepare for and insist on the sacredness of the family dinner hour. Prepare for and insist on the sacredness of the family dinner hour. This is a time where the family connects together in a frenetic life in which we live. Make it a priority. Schedule it. Insist on it. And don’t just use it as an opportunity to fuel the body. Just food in the face. Make it a time to talk. Talk over the day. Bring the Scripture to bear on the events of the day. Talk about how we see the Lord at work in our lives, and in each other’s lives. Make it sacred.
Fifteen, Moms, don’t baby your sons. Do not baby your sons. Let them try and fail. Let them try and fail. This will encourage their protector-provider instincts. They need to become men, not just grown-up boys. They need to become men. They need to learn self-denial. Self-denial is a key to manhood. They need to learn self-denial. And you can help them learn it. Don’t baby your sons.
Sixteen, teach your daughters to guard their hearts and not give them away lightly. Teach your daughters to guard their hearts and not give them away lightly. Place wise limits on their early romantic fantasies. Place wise limits on their early romantic fantasies. Listen, girls love this stuff. They want to dress up like a princess, right? Just be wise in all of this. Even in the literature that they read, the movies that they partake of, the television, the children’s television shows, all of that is communicating a message. It can be way oversexualized. So be very careful. Very careful.
Seventeen, disciple your daughters regarding modesty and purity. Disciple your daughters regarding modesty and purity. Now that again presupposes that you understand modesty and purity, Mom. Take a look in the mirror before you walk out of the house. Teach your daughters to respect their brothers by how they dress.
Eighteen, teach them to love and respect their future husband by loving and respecting yours. Teach them to love and respect their future husband by loving and respecting your husband.
Nineteen, prepare them for marriage by giving them a realistic, non-storybook view of marriage. Give them a realistic, non-storybook view of marriage. Marriage is hard work. Hard work. Two sinners in close proximity is bound to create conflict. Marriage is the wonderful gift of God. But in this broken world in which we live, it requires hard work.
And twenty—finally twenty, for both moms and dads. Learn the secret of how to transition from lawgiver to guardian to coach to friend. Lawgiver to guardian to coach to friend. That is a transition that has to occur. Learn how to do it. Learn the secret of it.