Summary: A Mother’s Day message that looks for and identifies a Christian model for those moms who work outside the home, "working moms."
Lydia, A Model for the Working Woman
Sunday, May 12, 2002
TEXT: Acts 16: 11-15, 40
For me as a teenager, Mother’s day was a wonderful experience at church. I looked forward to it because it was a lot of fun. There were always little prizes and awards and everyone was happy for the mothers in the congregation. Over time, I think this has changed, for good or for bad, and perhaps it’s for good. Perhaps the pastors in my church weren’t as sensitive as they should have been because Mother’s day is not necessarily a good experience for some. When we think of Mother’s day, we think of mothers, but of course not all women are mothers. There are a lot of women who cannot have children, and my sister-in-law is one of those. That’s very painful for her. Mother’s day can also remind people of the loss of a child or the loss of their own mother, and that can be a very painful reminder. Still, others did not have a good relationship with their mothers, and some mothers were bad mothers. So, there are some people who do not celebrate Mother’s day for that reason. In fact, if you are struggling with this today, Pastor Patti is going to remain up front for a time of prayer with those who would like to come forward and pray with her.
The social context has also changed from when I was a kid. Just about everyone was an at-home mom. That was really the context of the New Testament. Women didn’t have the freedom economically to work outside the home, and so they worked in the home. Today women do work outside the home. In fact, there is a vast diversity among us in this congregation today. I read an article in Focus on the Family that took all four perspectives: the mom who stayed at home, the mom who had a business in the home, the mom who worked outside the home, and the single mom who was forced to work outside the home.
The surprising part of the article was that two of the four women interviewed felt shunned by the church or felt as though the church treated them as outsiders. Of those two, who do you think they were? The single mom, and the working mom.
I am careful about using the term “working mom” because that rips at-home moms. In our idioms and our culture, the term “working mom” means mothers who work outside the home. But at-home moms say, “Where does that leave us? Don’t we work?” You can see how hard it is to speak on Mother’s day. It is not an easy thing to do anymore because the audiences are very diverse, and you can’t possibly address all the different issues and all the audiences at the same time.
Today I would like to address the working mom in particular simply because so many times they feel as though the church favors the at-home mom. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and we ask the question whether the Biblical model for motherhood is the at-home mom. If not, is there a Biblical model for the working mom, the mom who chooses to work outside the home. I think there is, and we find that in Acts 16: 11-15, 40.
What guidelines are there in scripture for the working mom? What you will discover in the process of dealing with this passage are insights for all women and for men as well. The principles applied to Lydia’s life apply to all of us.
Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth. She came from Thyatira which was the center of fabrics and dyes, particularly purple dyes and purple cloth. She is a woman who works outside the home. She is perhaps the owner of her business, she is a mother, and she is a Christian. We note from Proverbs 31 that the virtuous woman is an entrepreneur. She makes money outside the home. She helps pay the bills.
What guidance do we have? Let’s look at this passage together:
What do we see in this working mom’s life? First of all, Lydia is very industrious. She is a very hard-working woman. Notice that she is from Thyatira but she is living in Philippi. She works with purple fabric, it is a royal cloth, and it is very costly. Lydia has a home in Philippi but she also has a home in Thyatira. The two cities are about 250 miles apart. So, what you have is a picture of a woman who is running a purple fabric business who has a headquarters in Thyatira. She has gone to Philippi to restock the outlets, to open a retail business, or to supply a retail company, and it is likely that she has other retail stores throughout the vicinity as she travels up the coast and around from Thyatria to Philippi. Her second home in Philippi is quite large. It is large enough for herself, for her whole household which would include servants, children and grandparents, and the ability to house at least six more missionaries. This tells us that she is very wealthy. To own a large house one had to be very wealthy, but she owns two houses which means she has worked extremely hard. There is no other way in that day and culture to own two homes. She is a very successful businesswoman.