The Minister's Wife

Ten commandments for ministers' wives.

By R. "R. BIETZ, President of the Southern New England Conference

During a recent evangelistic institute for the work­ers of the Southern New England Conference special attention was given to the needs of ministers' wives by arranging for daily meetings under the able leadership of Mrs. R. R. Bietz, who was assisted by Mrs. T. G. Bunch. These women wisely steered the discussions into practical channels. Sensible and positive ap­proaches were sought in the solving of all the problems under discussion. An exchange of ideas stimulates re­freshed thinking, lifts the vision, and adds new zeal and fervor for the work. Let us continue to develop the usefulness of the ministers' wives while planning to help our ministers increase their efficiency.

L. C. K.

"Houses and riches a man inherits from his father, but a sensible wife comes from the Eternal." Prov. 10:14, Moffatt.

The wise man has told us that the sensible wife comes from the Lord. The wife of the minister must be a sensible woman, for she occupies a most important place in the cause of God. When conference committees call work­ers, they consider not only the husband, but the wife as well. Invariably she receives her share of discussion before a definite call is placed.

Because you are playing such an essential part in the life of the minister, I would like to place before you the burden on my heart in the form of ten commandments.

I. Thou shalt have no other interests more important to thee than thy husband's.

I realize you have your home duties, and this commandment does not mean that you should make your husband's work your own to the ex­tent that you neglect your home duties. You must always be a good homemaker. As the wife of a minister you cannot expect to have a career of your own and also to be a successful minister's wife. In other words you should not be a career woman. Your husband's career is your career, his profession is your profession, his success is your success, and his failure is your failure. Therefore, you should take a keen interest in his work. For instance when he preaches to a large congregation in an evange­listic program, it is not befitting that you should sit in the back row and do your knitting, sew­ing, and darning of socks.

You, as a minister's wife, can take a keen in­terest' in church work without being unethical. You do not have to hold a church office to be a leader and a morale builder. Your leadership is an indirect but effective leadership. The greatest contribution you can make is not by occupy­ing church offices but by giving strong moral support to everyone who holds these offices.

II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any church "clique," or anything resembling it.

The minister is considered the spiritual leader of the flock. As such, he will shepherd the entire flock. Every flock has a variety of sheep, some of them lame, others sick ; some old, others young ; some fat, others lean ; some diseased, and others healthy ; but all belong to the shepherd. He gives attention to each one. He shows no difference to any particular group. So it must be with the minister's wife. One of the quickest ways of ruining your husband's influence is to gather a few ladies whom you like about you to the exclusion of all others. Church "cliques" have an uncanny way of keeping a minister on the move if he or his wife in any way belongs to them.

III. Thou shalt not take the name of thy husband in vain.

Unconsciously, I suppose, many times our good wives want to build up our good reputa­tion by telling others what wonderful men we really are, but to do this is almost fatal. If your husband preaches a good sermon, don't tell the people about it. They are well aware of all the good and not-so-good sermons. In fact, they can judge better than the wives, for they are not prejudiced in favor of the minister. To tell others that your husband is intelligent and handsome is out of place; neither should you frequently mention the fact that your husband is a man of prayer and very godly.

People are well aware of all your husband's qualities. If they want to tell you about it, that is quite all right, but do not enlarge upon their statements. If you want to talk about your hus­band, go to him and tell him. He is always glad to hear sincere statements about his work. The greatest contribution you can make to his suc­cess is to go to him directly and tell him what you think.

IV. Remember thy family problems, to keep them holy.

I have been surprised of late to find that many family problems have been made the talk of the community. Ministers' wives have spread their family affairs around to the members of the church. To me it seems like taking the fur­niture out of the most holy place, the home, and throwing it out into the camp to become public property. A minister's influence may be ruined completely because there has been much non­sensical talk about family affairs which should be kept within the circle of the home. I read in Ministry of Healing: "Around every family there is a sacred circle that should be kept un­broken. Within this circle no other person has a right to come. Let not the husband or the wife permit another to share the confidences that belong solely to themselves."—Page 361.

V. Honor thy husband by keeping thy place, that his years of ministry in the cause may be long.

There is an old adage : "As unto the bow the cord is, so unto the man is woman. Though she bends him, she obeys him." To be sure, the wife should always be a strong influence in her husband's success. However, no wife should dominate her husband, either in private or in blic. I have seen ministers blush when wives unthinkingly corrected their speech or facts as they spoke in public.

There are some husbands whose wives dom­inate them so completely in private life that they are at a loss to make decisions away from home. It is quite a well-known fact that some workers can never give an answer, even in small matters, unless they first get counsel from "the power behind the throne." If you are a better executive or administrator than your husband, and that is possible, use your ability to train him, not to dominate him. Do all your tutoring at home behind closed doors. In this way you can make a real contribution not only to him but to the cause of God.

Someone has said:

"Men recognize few spectacles as more pathetic than that of a non-resisting husband who permits him­self to be tyrannized by a dynamic wife. The last ves­tige of all sound happiness must be sacrificed in those homes where shrewish women have not been tamed. The man who lives in perpetual apprehension of the disapproval which his wife may hurl upon an innocent pastime, the servile husband who answers the shrill and imperious summons of his wife with a docile 'Yes, my dear,' is an abject caricature of what all people by common consent expect to find in a virile husband, and offers the strongest extra-Scriptural argument for the husband's leadership in the family."—For Better Not for Worse, p. 404.

There is, of course, much to be said about the husband dominating the wife, but since I am talking to the ladies, I will not mention that part, only to say that the husband should be perpetually impelled to cherish his wife with an intense affection, to acknowledge her accom­plishments and virtues, to minimize her frail­ties and inconsistencies, and to perform the many services of love which are at his disposal by working for her, living for her, and, if nec­essary, dying for her, even as Christ gave Him­self for the church.

 VI. Thou shalt not gossip.

It is said that two people can keep a secret if one is dead. If members of the church come to you with secrets, and if you have to listen, I trust that you can do it in such a way that they will recognize that you do not enjoy it, and yet will feel that you are their friend. In other words be a good listener, but listen in such a way that the party with secrets will not come back the second time.

Do not stoop to the low level of carrying tales. Sooner or later gossip always must go to the judgment bar, and to call a minister's wife as a witness is an almost unforgivable sin in ethics. Conferences have had to spend hundreds of dollars to move ministers from one field to another because the wife was always busy about other people's business. The wise man says, speaking of the wife, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." Prov. 31 :26. The warp and woof of all our speech should be kindness and love. Gossip is never kind. Good questions to ask be­fore repeating anything are these : Is it true ? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

VII. Thou shalt not be a burden to others.

Almost all our people have plenty of burdens of their own, and they find no great satisfaction in having the minister or his wife come around making extra work or burdens for them. If you go along with your husband in visiting the homes of our people, be sure to make yourself useful in the home. Common sense will dictate when this is necessary. I have had some people tell me that they do not like to have the min­ister's wife come around, because she stays for days but never turns a finger to give any help. By and large, I believe our people like to get acquainted with the minister's wife if she is willing to fit into the whole situation, such as it is. Nine times out of ten, not only is she wel­come, but her presence is desired.

VIII. Thou shalt not cultivate tastes beyond thy husband's income.

A minister's wife must always remember that her husband's salary is not in the upper brack­ets. If you must have the best of everything, then you have missed your calling. Your hus­band will probably not be able to buy the best of furniture when he starts out in the ministry, and it will be necessary for you to be satisfied with the things he can buy and can afford. The old saying goes, "If you cannot have what you want, want what you have." In other words, if he cannot afford a vacuum sweeper, be happy that he does have money to buy a broom. We are told that a century ago the average family in America had seventy-two wants. Sixteen of these were classified as necessities. Today there are 484 wants, and ninety-four of these are classified as necessities. It shows that our standard of living has gone up the scale con­siderably. However, in spite of this, the min­ister's wife must still be careful not to cultivate tastes beyond her husband's income.

Some few years ago a study was made of one thousand families in the city of Boston. Those making the study wanted to know why friction developed within these one thousand homes. They found that it was the thoughtless attitude of the husband or the wife toward money which was the main cause of dissatisfaction and dis­contentment arising in the home. I believe that with cooperative planning the average minister can support his family and have a comfortable living.

IX.     Thou shalt not appear untidy. Some time ago I read the following in a fashion magazine entitled Good Dressing:

"What we must not forget is that there is a distinct point of morals in this question of how a woman dresses. A woman is never better than she dresses. In other words, a woman's dress reveals with unfail­ing accuracy exactly what she is. There is in fact no mirror that so clearly reveals the character as a woman's dress. It is unerring and absolutely self-re­vealing,"

I am not an authority on ;this topic, but I would like to emphasize the fact that a minister's influence can go down the scale rather quickly if his wife does not maintain denomi­national standards of dress. There are those who believe that much make-up will make them more charming. However, our people do not share that conviction. They rather think that those "who are all Vogue on the outside, are all vague on the inside." Someone has given the following definition of charm : "A sort of bloom on a woman, if you have it you don't need to have anything else, and if you don't have it, it doesn't matter much what else you have."—BLACKWOOD, Pastoral Work, p. 57. Our dress, our actions, our words, should al­ways be such as will demand respect and ap­preciation for our calling.

X. Thou shalt not covet thy lay sister's or fellow minister's wife's house, furniture, car, dress, or whatever thy sister may have.

A minister's wife must be on guard that she does not become envious of others who have more of this world's goods than she. I would like to caution the wives of the younger minis­ters especially. Quite often they see the better furniture the older ministers have, and the feel­ing is that theirs should be in the same class. However, you must always remember that those who have been in the ministry for a good many years did not start out with the best of everything in furniture and household equip­ment. It has taken years for many of our work­ers to gather up sufficient money to buy good furniture. I suppose most ministers started out buying second-hand furniture. They have used packing boxes for cupboards.

Neither should you compare yourself with a lay sister whose husband's financial income far exceeds that of your husband. My suggestion would be, if you are tempted to covet along these lines, that you visit in the homes of a good many of our people who are not so com­fortably situated as you are. This will help to dispel all further thought of envy.

In closing, let me read just one paragraph which I believe should be a source of encour­agement to you.

"The husband, in the open missionary field, may re­ceive the honor of men, while the home toiler may re­ceive no earthly credit for her labor ; but if she works for the best interests of her family, seeking to fashion their characters after the divine Model, the recording angel writes her name as one of the greatest mission­aries in the world."—Gospel Workers, p. 203.

The ideal wife will put forth a real effort to create an ideal home. She knows that if she ac­complishes this, her work is considered even more important than that of a king upon his throne.

"They talk about a woman's sphere,

As though it had a limit,

There's not a place in earth or heaven,

There's not a task to mankind given,

There's not a joy, there's not a woe.

There's not a whispered 'Yes' or 'No,'

There's not a death, there's not a birth,

There's not a featherweight of worth,

Without a woman in it."

 

Note:

An Hour for the Ministers' Wives

During the workers' institute of the Southern New England Conference, June 6-11, the ministers' wives had an hour each day for talks and discussions. This is the third time I have attended workers' meetings where this plan was followed, and each time it has proved successful. As far as the workers' wives of the Southern New England Conference are con­cerned, the plan is considered a definite success, and we have the assurance from the conference administration that it will be part of the work­ers' meetings hereafter.

Each evening at seven-fifteen we met for one hour. The first thirty minutes were used for the presentation of some topic and the remainder of the time in round-table discussion. Some of the topics discussed were: "The Relation of the Worker's Wife to the Church," "Dress Ethics," "Guarding the Minister's Study Hour," "Menus and Meals," "Home Responsibilities," "Church Responsibilities," "The Minister's Wife as a Leader," "The Minister's Wife in the Com­munity," and so forth.

To ask our leaders to give us an hour each day during workers' institute for a women's forum may be a "departure from the faith," but we believe it is time well spent. Even though we seldom appear on the platform we do have prob­lems which need careful study. To build Chris­tian homes is our task, and many and varied are the problems in accomplishing it. At the time of the workers' meeting we who have problems in common can get together and help each other.

MRS. R. R. BIETZ.

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By R. "R. BIETZ, President of the Southern New England Conference

January 1949

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