We’ve had some rich conversations on the IFWE blog recently on women and work—both on working women and the church and the value of homemaking in God’s economy. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Courtney Reissig, author of the newly released Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Crossway, April 30, 2017).
Kristin Brown (KB): You talk about the problem of “frequent disillusionment” about work done in the home. Who did you write this book for?
Courtney Reissig (CR): Anyone doing the work of the home. Research (and experience) shows that the bulk of at-home work is done by women, so my audience is primarily women. But I hope that even men who do the work of the home, even if they aren’t the primary parent at home, can find encouragement that the at-home work they do is just as significant to God as their work outside of the home. I wrote the book to encourage the one who struggles to see the work as valuable, and hopefully provide a theological and practical framework for seeing all work as important to God regardless of compensation.
KB: What are the lies that we believe about at-home work?
CR: That (1) work must be paid to be meaningful, and (2) work must accomplish something great in the world’s eyes to be meaningful. Both of these lies run contrary to scripture’s teaching that in the Lord our labor is never in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). These lies also devalue at-home work because it is not compensated work, nor is it work that looks like it’s accomplishing something great. But God’s standard is not the world’s standard, and we have to remember that.
KB: One of the themes throughout your book is being an “image-bearer” of God. Why is this theme so foundational?
CR: God created humanity in his image (Gen. 1:26–28)—there is something profound in how he created us, and it sets us apart from the rest of creation. As image-bearers, we have incredible worth and value and we tell a story to a watching world about what God is like. This matters in how we talk about our work because God is not only the author of work but is the ultimate worker. He brought forth creation (Gen. 1–2) and Jesus tells us his heavenly Father is always working (John 5:17). Work is part of what it means to image God. It is foundational to our understanding of the value of at-home work because it shatters the notion that work must be paid to be considered work.
KB: Why should our homes be used for the common good of society, and what does that look like?
CR: Since all work should serve the common good of society, the work of the home is no different. This can look like hosting friends for dinner, raising children, keeping your home organized and clean for the people who live in it, cooking a meal for hungry family members, or taking fresh-baked bread to a weary neighbor. If we see our work in the home as God’s means of loving the world, then we can use whatever gifts, opportunities, and discretionary time he has given us to love people. This includes the neighbors who actually live under our roof. So, depending on the season of life, using your home for the common good might mean caring for a sick relative who is living with you or raising small children.
KB: You quote quite a bit from Martin Luther. What two or three thinkers/writers have been most influential to you and why?
CR: I have long struggled to see how ordinary work matters to God, and really, any work that isn’t accomplishing something “big” in my own eyes. Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor was foundational for me in giving me a theology of work. Tom Nelson’s Work Matters was life changing for me as well. Both authors provided a theology of work I’ve been able to apply to at-home work on a practical level. Probably the most influential person has been Bethany Jenkins, director of The Gospel Coalition’s Every Square Inch. I don’t know if I would have had the words to put to paper without her help.
KB: What are some practical ways for women working in the home to follow the biblical mandate to rest?
CR: It can be hard to separate the need for rest from the work that never seems to be done. At-home work doesn’t follow time-clock rules. But we are still commanded to rest (Ex. 20:8–11), regardless of the laundry basket that is full or the dishes in the sink. Perhaps one of the most practical ways to find rest from at-home work is to recognize that we aren’t God. God rested because he completed the work (Gen. 2:2–3); we rest because we are dependent on God to do what we cannot. Another way we can follow the mandate is to let other people help. The work of the home is not a one-person job. It’s for everyone, including men and children. To let things go or pass things off to others is in no way a commentary on our faithfulness or identity. We honor the Lord when we recognize that we aren’t superwoman.
KB: At IFWE, we talk a lot about the biblical meaning of success and how it frees us from the “comparison trap” you talk about in Chapter 8. How would you define success in your work?
CR: Colossians 3:23–24 says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” The world defines success according to compensation, productivity, and glory for ourselves, but God defines success as faithfulness, knowing that we are working for him, not for men. Our only audience in our work is God and our only standard for success in his economy is faithfulness. We can all work “heartily as unto the Lord” trusting that he is the one who is establishing our work and making it successful (Ps. 90:17).
KB: How does our future hope as Christians impact our view of work in the home?
CR: Contrary to some notions of how the Fall impacted our work, work is not a result of sin. Work is not only part of God’s original creation, but his new creation as well. What we are doing here on earth matters in eternity. Our work here is propelling us toward the new heavens and new earth where we will work with unveiled eyes in our glorified bodies. So much of the language surrounding the new heavens and the new earth is home oriented. We are going to be a part of a feast at the marriage supper of the lamb (Rev. 19:6–9). We are going to a home that God is preparing for us (John 14:2–3). The at-home work we do now won’t be burned up; we will just have eyes to see the purpose in its perfected state.