I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (1 Timothy 5:14)
We seem to live in the times of general confusion nowadays so that even simple truths are often twisted beyond recognition and common sense has gone out of the window. One example of this will be the incessant discussions of the topic of submission on the net. Now most people who call themselves conservative/traditional Christians will (hopefully) agree that a married woman should submit to/obey her husband, so that's not what is driving the arguments.
The problem appears to be that modern people can't figure out for themselves what submission actually means and need detailed instructions on how to live their daily lives while practising it. For instance, what if your husband tells you to rob the bank? Do you have to submit, yes or no? As much of a strawman as the example above is, there are actually some people who want us to believe, that yes, the wife should obey (cheerfully!).
Others will draw the line by criminal acts, but then the line gets somewhat blurred. How about watching p0rn together? Taking naughty pictures? Wearing a mini skirt when it's against your convictions? And the most contentious of all, what if the husband orders his wife to work (this last command seems to be the only one a lot of wives will obey cheerfully).
I've written on this topic several times before. For instance, check this post which quotes from the wedding liturgy still used in our church. It basically says that the husband is required to support his wife and family with God and honour, and the wife has to be a good housekeeper and obey her husband in all things right and honest. The wife doesn't lose her cognitive abilities when she marries and she isn't required to follow her husband into sin, thus the question of robbing banks is settled, hopefully once and for all.
Of course, in life things are seldom so black-and-white, and it includes a lot of grey areas. That's why it's nearly impossible to write a comprehensive guide to marital obedience on the internet and that's why it's so dangerous to give marital advice to strangers you know nothing about except what they chose to share with you, and this very well may be a lie.
It is perfectly possible to create some general guidelines, though. Take the mini-skirt or naughty movies, for instance. The law doesn't forbid it (unless you live in Iran), and your husband may insist, but you aren't comfortable with it, so what are you going to do? Personally I believe, that in such a situation you should follow your own personal code of honourable behaviour, and your husband will in the end respect you more for this. You also should seek for compromise, in order to preserve marital peace, e.g.if you like floor length skirts and your husband likes mini, wear skirts below the knee but not all the way to the ground.
Here is what Helen Andelin wrote on the topic in Fascinating Womanhood:
"A man wants a woman of fine character, one he can place on a pedestal and hold in high regard...
At times a man will shake a woman's pedestal by suggesting she do something wrong. He may do this deliberately to see if she is as worthy as she appears to be. In other words, he tests her. What a disappointment if she lowers her standards and falls to his level..."(F.W., p. 204, Bantam Books 1992; emphasis mine).
Here is one thing to remember, however. You are not your husband's judge. You have no authority to force him to live according to your standards, however, it doesn't mean that you can't have yours.
Now you will ask me what all this has to do with the title of the post. Simply this, contrary to some new teachings, woman is given a certain authority in the home, otherwise she won't be able to guide it, you know. That's what John Gill, a famous 18th century Reformed Baptist who wrote Bible commentary had to say on the topic: "guide the house; manage domestic affairs, direct, order, or do what is proper to be done for the good of the family" (Read the rest over here).
Some time ago Lady Lydia had the post on the same topic where she stated:
There are a number of religious books and some teachings circulating that claim a woman has no authority at all in her Titus 2 role, but I cannot see that at all. Titus 2
and various other New Testament scriptures teach that the Christian
woman must guide and guard the home. These scriptures give the woman the
authority they need to make rules and establish policies regarding how
that home should be run. If she wants people to remove their shoes at
the door or not engage in loud conversation, or if she wants them to
pick up after themselves, wash before they come to the table, or help
with the housework, she has the authority to enforce that. She does not
have to appeal to anyone to give her permission to be a keeper of the
home, a guide of the home and a guard of the home. She already got
permission from God's Word.
I believe that Lydia's understanding of the role of women is a traditional one. While the Western law was once very unambiguous about the husband being the head of the family, it didn't mean that he had to micromanage his wife. Jesse Powell explains it in his article on coverture:
" The husband was considered to own and control all financial assets and property in the marital unit...
The other side of coverture beyond the husband controlling and owning
all the property was the “law of agency” or the “law of necessaries”
where the wife was presumed to be acting on the husband’s behalf
whenever she bought “necessaries;” clothing, food, lodging, and medicine
for domestic use. The law of agency defined “necessaries” according to
the husband’s status, occupation, and wealth. As the great English
jurist William Blackstone (1723 to 1780) said
“The husband is bound to provide his wife with the necessaries by law,
as much as himself; and, if she contracts debts for them, he is obliged
to pay them.”
In other words, though the husband had the last word on the finances, the wife was given freedom to buy things necessary for the proper functioning of the household, and that according to her husband's social status, so that if he was a wealthy man, he couldn't refuse her certain luxuries.
The traditional view on men and women was that they had separate spheres of action, and to a certain point, authority. That's what Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about American women in his book Democracy in America:
Book Three, Chapter XI
In America, more than anywhere else in the world, care has been
taken constantly to trace clearly distinct spheres of action for the two
sexes, and both are required to keep in step, but along paths that are
never the same.
Book Three, Chapter XII
I have no hesitation in saying that although the American woman
never leaves her domestic sphere and is in some respects very dependent
within it, nowhere does she enjoy a higher station. And if anyone asks
me what I think the chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and
growing power of this nation, I should answer that it is due to the
superiority of their women.
(Quoted from here)
However, it's obvious that the wife can't fulfill the command of guiding the house if she is obliged to go out and earn a living. The same chapter of the Bible which tells women to guide the house, also commands men to provide:
Verse 8: And if any man provide not for his own...he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.
Now I've read some "gender" - neutral intrepretations of the verse, which state that the masculine pronoun and the word "man" refer to both men and women. Again, this in NOT a traditional interpretation of this verse. John Gill again:
"But if any provide not for his own,.... Not only for his wife and children, but for his parents, when grown old, and cannot help themselves...
he hath denied the faith; the
doctrine of faith, though not in words, yet in works; and is to be
considered in the same light, and to be dealt with as an apostate from
the Christian religion."
It's obvious that the Scriptures teach men to provide for their families so that the wives can fulfill the commands of being keepers at home and guiding the house. Since nowadays it's far from given that the man you chose to marry agrees with it, it's wise to discuss this issue beforehand. Marriage is not only a sacrament (my religion actually doesn't teach it), but it's a covenant or contract, in modern words.
If the husband and wife made an explicit agreement before they are married that the wife will stay home and the husband will provide, he has to uphold his part of the bargain and if he then insists that his wife works when there is no dire financial necessity, then I believe she is within her rights to refuse. Now throw stones at me:)