Can Christian Women Work Outside the Home?

When considering what the Bible says explicitly, as well as examples in both the Old and New Testaments, we can see that God did not expect women to only remain in the home. In fact, we see many examples of godly and righteous women industriously employed in the marketplace.

Updated Apr 23, 2024
Can Christian Women Work Outside the Home?

One of the wonderful mysteries of this world is why God created man and woman - two beings that are fundamentally the same, but also unique and distinct. He gave them similar but different roles and purposes. Navigating what it means to be a godly man and a godly woman, and how best to live out that part of one’s calling, has been something people have wrestled with for generations.

How does one best honor God in one’s sex? Women have had particular struggles in this realm, as many cultures have tried to limit what it means to live appropriately in a female body, including whether or not it is appropriate for a woman to have a job and work outside of the home.

When considering what the Bible says explicitly, as well as examples in both the Old and New Testaments, we can see that God did not expect women to only remain in the home. Nowhere does God forbid women to work outside the home, and in fact we see many examples of godly and righteous women industriously employed in the marketplace.

Does the Bible Say Whether or Not Women Can Work Outside the Home?

When God made man and woman, He gave them distinct roles in certain arenas. Women carry children through pregnancy, and are often more inclined by nature to nurture them. They are often gifted differently, and men and women certainly have different ways of experiencing the world. In marriage, God does instruct women to submit to their husbands, and to respect them. What the Bible does not address – either directly or indirectly – is whether or not women can find employment outside the home.

Often where the Bible is silent in direct commands or instruction, it is important to look at biblical examples. While there are many women who are mothers in the Word of God, there are also examples of working women, such as Moses’ wife who was a shepherdess of Midian before they got married. Whether they go out to work to survive, because their husbands are negligent, or for some unstated reason, they do have employment outside the home. The Bible is generally silent on the subject of commerce and income beyond making it clear that Christians should behave in a Christ-like manner in all things, including in business, and that believers should not be focused too much on the things of this world, like money.

Modern Examples of Godly Working Women

If women are not supposed to work outside the home, it would also become necessary to condemn women like Amy Carmichael, Lottie and Edmonia Moon, Elizabeth Elliot, and Gladys Aylward. These women all went to work outside the home in the mission field in order to serve God. The Lord has a purpose and a call for each person, and it is not for people to dictate what someone else’s calling should look like; they are also supposed to submit their will to God for their own calling, and be open to however He calls them.

Because the Bible does not say that God forbids women from entering the economy and working outside the domestic sphere, it is fully conceivable and probable that He will call some women to the workforce for His glory, and to call others to stay at home for His glory.

Perhaps the strongest case that women can work outside the home in a manner that is God-honoring is the fact that a handful of women often provided for Jesus and His ministry.

“And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:1b-3).

Some of these women had means through their husbands’ income, but others may not have. They had their own ways of supporting themselves and gave to the ministry of their Lord.

Examples of Working Women in the Bible


God used both men and women to communicate His will, calling them in a unique way into His service. Deborah is introduced in the Bible with the following description,

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:4-5).

She was a wife, but God called her to have a job in ministry where she had to leave the home and render judgments in various matters. She was consulted by men, including Barak, a commander of Israel. In fact, when he went to battle, she went with him! It does not mention whether or not her husband went with her; the Bible is silent on that matter.

Deborah was a unique figure as a female prophet of the Lord, but her example shows that God can call a woman to step into male-dominated spaces to serve in special ways.

Read Deobrah’s full story in Judges 4.


When the Israelite Naomi lost her husband and both her sons while living in the land of Moab, she thought God had abandoned her. One daughter-in-law, Ruth, was willing to return to Bethlehem with her. Upon arrival, both women were in a precarious situation, as widows had very little economic mobility and power in that time.

The industrious Ruth went out to collect grain for both women to eat, and distinguished herself for her hard work. Boaz, the owner of the fields in which she gleaned, had workers who said of her, “She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter” (Ruth 2:7b).

In order to survive, God led Ruth to do physical labor in the fields alongside men and women. God’s will was for her to marry Boaz and have a family that would become a part of the line of the Messiah, but He called her to work outside of the home as a pathway to meet her future husband.

Read about Ruth’s labor in the fields in Ruth 2.

The Widow Who Helped Elisha

God’s prophets suffered tremendously in the records of the Old Testament, and there are brief glimpses into the struggles their families endured. When Elisha was serving as a prophet in Israel, the daughter-in-law of a fellow prophet was left widowed. She approached him, asking for help for the sake of herself and her two children. She was left with heavy debts, and the children would have become slaves.

To help, Elisha encouraged her to collect jars from all her neighbors, and to pour the little bit of oil she owned into those jars. By a miracle, God allowed all the jars to be filled. When they were full, Elisha said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest” (2 Kings 4:7b). As a practical matter, once her husband was deceased, the widow needed some way to make money. While the oil was provided miraculously, she still had to go out and do the labor of selling the oil as a part of the local economy.

Read the full account of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7.


When a woman is named in the New Testament, she is often a noteworthy individual. When Luke recorded the acts of the early church, he made sure to mention one Greek convert in particular. He described Lydia as, “a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14b).

She was a business owner, and a successful one at that if she was selling expensive materials made with purple dye. Purple was a color for the wealthy and powerful. She came to faith, and then hosted Luke and Paul in her home, something she could only do because of the success of her business.

Her whole household came to faith. God used her success to take care of Paul and Luke, and to bring the many people who worked for her and her family to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Read about Lydia in Acts 16:11-15.

The Industrious Woman of Proverbs 31

Solomon wrote a poetic ideal of a virtuous woman who embodied wisdom. She is an excellent template of industry and grace for both men and women to study.

Notably, the Proverbs 31 woman is a hard worker, not just in her home, but outside of it. She tends to fields, but she also purchases them. She has profitable merchandise, and ensures that her whole household is fed. She works both inside and outside the house.

“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night” (Proverbs 31:13-18).

Some of her responsibilities are domestic, while others are economic and mercantile. In verse 23, it says, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” Sitting at the gate and being an elder was a position of honor and responsibility. The implication here is that she is not working because of failures on the part of her spouse. It also says “Her children rise up and call her blessed” (verse 28a), so it can be reasonably deduced she is paying enough attention to her children, and mothering them well.

If the Holy Spirit directed Solomon to personify a virtuous woman in this way, it is important for believers to embrace all of her characteristics, not just the ones that are about keeping house and being a wife and mother.

Just as each man has his own relationship with the Lord, so too should each woman. As she develops her relationship with the Lord, He will direct her steps. That may be toward singleness, toward ministry, toward marriage but without children, toward marriage with children, or anything that God chooses. It is between a woman and the Lord – and if she is married, her husband – to determine what is best for her situation. But nowhere in the Bible does it condemn a woman who seeks employment or labor outside the domestic sphere.


Lockyer, Herbert. All of the Women of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967. 

Sharp, Aaron & Elaine. The Most Important Women of the Bible. Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Old Testament and New Testament. United States of America: Victor Books, 1987.

Wilmington, H.L. Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1981.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on


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