Until recently, I was convinced of my complete awareness about every concept surrounding biblical womanhood. In a desire to continue my studies and further prepare for my exciting role as a new mommy, I ordered the book “Joyfully At Home” by Jasmine Baucham. Familiar with Pastor Voddie Baucham, I assumed the book to be his wife’s. Having benefitted from his teaching, I expected to benefit from hers also. Turns out, it’s his 20 year-old daughter’s book on stay-at-home daughterhood. I discovered this a few pages in and was too curious and committed (especially after paying the shipping cost) to stop reading.
Stay-at-home daughterhood is a new idea for most. It rejects the expectation of girls leaving for college after high school. It embraces staying at home until marriage for a season of parental training and discipleship in preparation for future roles plus full-time contribution to the needs of the immediate family. College isn’t completely ruled out; Jasmine encourages earning an online degree, but more important is avoiding secular academia and staying home to learn and contribute.
There is much about this work I commend. The reevaluation of cultural norms and life pursuits is a wise step, especially for young women. The much needed focus on fashioning the home according to God’s word is boldly presented in a genuine tone. I believe the author is a good example for her peers.
My goal here is not to review and critique the book itself, but to engage with the premise on which it is based: the immediate family is superior to all other efforts and callings. In this book, it is given an attention and emphasis not found in Scripture. Stay-at-home daughterhood flows from this viewpoint: “Young men and women seeking advice on how they can serve the Lord often pepper me with questions…they never expect the answer that I inevitably give…’If you are serious about serving the Lord, get married, pray that he gives you a house full of children and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (pg. 115).’”
Jesus did not agree. While the texts on familial roles and the importance of marriage and raising children are just as inerrant and inspired as any, they do not exclude nor eclipse the rest of the Bible. Jesus was very clear throughout the Gospels about the connection of family relationships to His mission:
- “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
- “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37
- “But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!” Matthew 12:47-49
- “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Mark 10:28-30
- “To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:59-62
Obviously these texts have a context, but Jesus meant what He said. He was frequently confronted with familial idolatry as He recruited disciples and taught on hillsides. Never once did He encourage someone to devote the best and most of their time and attentions to the family unit. He explained to the Sadducees that the family unit is not eternal (Matthew 22:29-31). Yet, His teaching is not incongruent with texts emphasizing the spiritual importance of and roles within the family. Teaching about family is part of Scripture, not its grand subject. Jasmine reminds readers that “the Great Commission isn’t the only passage in the Bible (pg. 186).” However, Matthew 28:18-20 contains Jesus’ final words to those disciples who would carry out His kingdom work. If her view of family was shared by Jesus, as He ascended to heaven and charged the faithful one last time, He would have said, “Go ye therefore and get married, having lots of children and focusing primarily on your own household,” but He didn’t.
Jasmine appeals to Paul’s Epistles in building her theology for stay-at-home daughterhood (with other texts such as Exodus 22, Numbers 30, Deuteronomy 6 & 22 and Proverbs 31). She states: “…I understand that the college campus is neither the only nor the best place for ministry to take place. If it were, the Apostle Paul would have spent less time encouraging Christians to devote themselves to building solid family units…and more time encouraging them to go out and be educated among the Romans.” First, teaching how to correctly do something is not encouraging devotion. I can teach someone to ride a bicycle even if I don’t like doing it. Paul was giving instruction about families, not actively campaigning for them. In fact, Paul himself never married. Arguably the greatest missionary and servant of Christ we know of did not see procuring a family unit as the best way to serve His Savior. Another problem is that Paul didn’t really spend that much time writing about families. He spent more time engaging skeptics and intellectuals with the gospel message (Acts 17 &18). On one such occasion, however, he wrote this:
- “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:32-34
The author makes it clear she is not mandating this practice for every young woman: “…living at home after graduation should be a decision that we can trace back to guiding principles in God’s Word (pg. 140).” I found myself having to perform some pretty clever Scriptural gymnastics to link her cited texts to her reasons for staying home. She confidently rests all her book’s content on this assertion: “I can see no pattern in Scripture for a young woman to pack up and head cross-country to be discipled outside of the framework of the church and home (pg. 142).” This statement accomplishes nothing for her case. Because of travel constraints, underdeveloped nations, lack of education and widespread illiteracy in first century Palestine, we would no more expect a pattern for a girl going off to college in Scripture anymore than we would a pattern of space exploration. Aside from this claim, her case is founded on experience and opinion, cushioned by some cherry-picked Bible verses. By applying her hermeneutic, one could easily argue that all Christians are called to overseas missions. I do not think a biblical case is made for or against either stay-at-home daughterhood or girls going off to college.
I do admire her convictions. To see such a young girl making a culturally radical choice for God’s glory is refreshing. I am not necessarily disagreeing with stay-at-home daughterhood; I’m disagreeing with the elevation of family above all else. This serves as an example of what happens when we “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), extrapolating from the Scriptures, filling in the gaps with personal experience and elevating our conclusion as biblical.
A family can pursue a Christ-centered home with a vision of “multi-generational faithfulness” and not flirt with family idolatry. I agree with her: the neglect of the family unit in and outside the Christian world is shameful, but to lift it above all other biblical teaching is irresponsible. A young woman leaving home for anything other than a husband is not antagonistic to the Bible. There’s no reason the kind of preparation Jasmine speaks of cannot take place prior to college. I am a very blessed stay-at-home wife with a baby on the way. No other task has given me greater joy. However, a day is coming when my wife and mommy duties will cease and I will function as part of a larger, heavenly family. That is the family I must ultimately work in view of.