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June 2000 | by Andrew Swanson

Sacrifice in the family

Nothing tests a man’s religious sincerity more perfectly than the call to the entire renunciation of self and the world for the truth’s sake’.

These words were written about the Scottish Covenanters, who joyfully accepted hardships, confiscation of property, insults, imprisonment, and even death, for the sake of Christ.

Many of these people spent their lives as fugitives, hiding in mountains, caves and holes in the ground to escape their persecutors. Many a man spent long periods away from home comforts, wife, family and friends. You do not need much imagination to think out the varied forms of sacrifice these people made to please and honour their beloved Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Sobering questions

All down the ages there have been believers like that. The apostle Paul paints a humbling and moving picture of the Macedonian believers of his day. ‘In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality’ (2 Corinthians 8:2). They sacrificed ‘beyond their ability’ because they were followers of the One who, ‘though he was rich yet for [their] sakes became poor’ (2 Corinthians 8:2-4, 9).

At this point we all face some sobering questions. To what extent are our lives a reflection of Christ’s sacrificial life? To what extent is there any similarity between my Christianity and that of the Macedonian believers and the Scottish Covenanters?

Is there really any sacrifice involved in my Christianity? Few of us have to face the kind of sacrificial living that the Covenanters joyfully chose to endure for Christ. Nevertheless, there are areas where costly and painful sacrifice is called for in our own day. Let us focus attention on one of these.

One income or two?

Christian families would do well to consider the sacrifice of depending on only one wage earner. Forty to fifty years ago, few thought of this in terms of sacrifice. Rather, it was the norm for the husband to be the ‘bread winner’ and the wife to spend most of her time in the home, looking after the family.

For better or worse, a revolution has taken place, and families where the wife does not go out to work are now in a minority. To align oneself with this minority is certain to involve sacrifice in more ways than one.

There is financial sacrifice. There are many who maintain they need two incomes to ‘make ends meet’. Others will admit they could live on one income but prefer to enjoy the extras that two incomes can afford.

There is also the particular sacrifice that many women feel of losing independence and personal fulfilment by not following their careers. Lastly, there is the sacrifice of bearing the stigma of public opinion, which looks askance on those women who see their role as home-makers. Sad to say, a Christian woman who makes this sacrifice is often made to feel inadequate because she is, ‘only a housewife’.

Biblical norm

Few who consider what is involved when a wife gives up a job to devote her time to home and children will doubt that we are talking about a real sacrifice. So what reasons do I have for asking you to contemplate such a course of action?

There are many, but a few will have to suffice. Firstly, a good case can be made that this is simply a return to family life as envisaged in the New Testament. Man is intended to be ‘the breadwinner’ (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 5:8) and woman is intended to be a ‘homemaker’ (1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:5).

If this is the case, it follows that such a return is pleasing to God and worthy of the sacrifices involved. I realise that there are circumstances where this choice is not possible, and do not judge in such cases. I am merely stating the biblical norm.

Secondly, a mother at home who gives time to her children is a blessing that cannot be overestimated. Children do not really need all the extras that a second income provides. But they do need the love of a mother who is always available to help, comfort, instruct and give correction as needed.

The blessings thus provided are greater than any sacrifice involved. The great task God has entrusted to parents of bringing up children in his ways should not have to be fitted around the prior claims of an outside job.

Personal fulfilment

Thirdly, Christians who make this sacrifice are making a statement that few can ignore. They are saying to the world (and proving by their example) that there are more important things to life than money and the things that money can buy. If we tell our children that eternal issues are more important than temporal ones, are we prepared to back this up by doing without some of these material extras?

Finally, such a sacrifice does not stop a wife finding personal fulfilment as satisfying as any she could find in outside employment. Nor does it prevent her contributing to the family income, as did the ‘virtuous woman’ in Proverbs 31. Many Christian woman have found wonderful opportunities for service in the church and community, things they could never have entertained if they had to hold down a full-time job outside the home.

Think about these things. Think deeply. Ask yourselves: ‘Can we afford not to live on one income?’ God may be calling you to a sacrifice that will bring repercussions and spiritual blessings you never dreamt of.

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