The woman who becomes a minister's wife today carries a great responsibility. Important as all other professions may be, the ministry is still the highest calling of the Christian church. The minister is not a draftee or selectee. He is a man called of God. That makes him God's choice, and if he has responded wholeheartedly to this call, he is God's leader for the church. And it stands to reason that the woman closest to him, the one who must share his joys and sorrows, should also share his consecration and dedication.
An unsanctified wife is the greatest curse that a minister can have. Satan is ever at work to dishearten and lead astray ministers whom God has chosen to preach the truth. The most effectual way in which he can work is through home influences, through unconsecrated companions. . . . Satan has had much to do with controlling the labors of the ministers through the influence of selfish, ease-loving companions.—The Adventist Home, pp. 355, 356.
Love must remain the actuating motive of service, so that no task will be too difficult and no self-denial too great. Each day's work should be joyfully accepted as an opportunity to do for God what many others have not been called to do.
Together in Influence
In the early years of the Advent Movement our ministers were drawn from various backgrounds of education and preparation. With their consecrated wives at their side these men sensed God's call to herald the message. Those days were difficult because they called for more self-denial than our times demand. Today, with newer methods, world progress, and greater prominence of the cause, the ministry enjoys more wonderful privileges and advantages. But the spirit of simplicity and self-denial should remain the same. However, the world—I say it gently—is dangerously close to some of our ministers' wives, and at times the confidence that has been placed in them by members of the church may be denied in their lives.
As wives of ministers we should help our husbands in their labors and be careful of the influence we exert, for we are observed. So much more seems to be expected of us than of other women.
We should remember that we are living in a dangerous period of the church's history. The fathers and founders of our church are nearly all gone and we could be in danger of forgetting the holy principles on which our church was established. Ministers and their wives should work together to keep the standards of the church high. There must be no compromise, as our influence tells decidedly, unmistakably, in favor of the principles of truth or against them. We draw others to Jesus or we send them away.
The wife of a clergyman was once asked, "What do you consider to be the first essential for a minister's wife?" She thoughtfully replied, "It is her own daily meditation and prayer time. This is a must, and the time will lengthen as she grows in her own Christian experience." We cannot of ourselves live the life of a consecrated helper without that daily meditation and prayer time. It will help and strengthen us to do the Lord's work and to keep out of the gossiper's group.
Let there be a dignity about you that gossipers will not understand but that they will respect. Someone has said, "An empty brain and a tattling tongue are apt to go together." Be a safe keeper of confidences, for you will constantly be seeing, hearing, and sensing things that it is your sacred duty to keep to yourself.
The minister's wife must have common sense, and one who does will know by instinct certain things that her incompetent sister cannot be told. With meekness and humility, yet with noble self-reliance, she should have a leading influence upon those around her and should act her part in directing conversations heavenward. The people expect this and have a right to do so. If these expectations are not realized, the husband's influence is more than half destroyed!
To be cheerful when it is difficult to be cheerful; patient when it is difficult to be patient; to push on when we want to stand still; and to keep silent when we want to talk, are some of the qualities the minister's wife has to develop or possess in order to reach the standard that is expected of her.
Together in Finances
Nothing is sadder or less charming in real life than financial incompetence. The man who lives beyond his income isn't funny—he is a bad business risk. Nor is the extravagant wife cute and fetching—she is a millstone around her husband's neck. Food, warmth, attention, love, and sleep—these are basic needs, not luxuries. The only two of those that money can buy are food and warmth, and they can be acquired, and often have been acquired, without money. Each family has just so much money to spend any one month and it is largely the wife who decides how this money is to be spent. So if the salary is used in ways that constantly put new burdens on the husband, it is largely the wife's fault.
I know several ministerial families who are always remarkably relaxed about money. They are always ready to invite friends in, they give generously to every call for money that comes along, dress nicely, and in general seem quite secure. The wives do not work and they have the same income as fellow ministerial families who are constantly complaining about their inadequate salary. Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself in the complaining category. First, and most important—God blesses an honest tithe and the generous giving to all other offerings. Second, comfortable families always budget their fixed expenses away below their income. For example, they could buy a more expensive rug, but being economy-minded they settle for a less expensive one. True, it may not be as beautiful, but it is adequate. Also, if their income would normally allow $75 suits and $39 dresses, they buy $50 suits and £18 dresses, and, of course, pay cash.
We all have "the temptation to gratify selfish, extravagant desires, but let us remember that the Lord of life . . . came to this world to teach humanity the lesson of self-denial."—The Adventist Home, p. 382. If we will remember this, we will not use up every dollar meeting supposed wants and conveniences. "The reason so many men become bankrupt and dishonestly appropriate means is because they seek to gratify the extravagant tastes of their wives. . . . I wish I could impress on every mind the grievous sinfulness of wasting the Lord's money on fancied wants."—Ibid., p. 383. Let us remember, too, that we are paid with tithe money and should exercise extreme care in spending it.
A good definition of budget is, "Telling your money where _ to go instead of wondering where it went." If you are not already budget wise, I would strongly suggest you begin to learn how to handle family finances. One of the best ways you can help your husband to success and be a good minister's wife is by knowing how to make his income go as far as possible. Your knowing how to handle family finances will contribute much to your peace of mind, your happiness, and the welfare of your husband and family. Should you ever have that martyred, resentful feeling, remember that "in order to become acquainted with the disappointments and trials and griefs that come to human beings, Christ reached to the lowest depths of woe and humiliation."—Ibid., p. 381.
Prepare Together for Bigger Responsibilities
No one ever knows what the future holds. But it is wise to be prepared for any opportunities of greater service that may come along. Talents used are talents multiplied. Success is not the result of chance or destiny. God requires the training of the mental faculties. Be ambitious for the Master's glory and cultivate every grace of character.
Encouragement is as important to a man as fuel to an engine. It keeps him going. It recharges his mental and spiritual batteries. It can help change defeat into triumph. Most of us have hard experiences from time to time, and it helps a great deal to have someone we love say, "Never mind, it will take a lot more than this to stop you. I know you can win through."
Help your husband to be enthusiastic! A man cannot make a success of anything unless he has enthusiasm for it. The word "enthusiasm" stems from the Greek and literally means "God-inspired." The man who puts ardor into his work becomes irresistible. The important thing for a wife to realize is the necessity of an educational self-improvement program to the man who wants to rise and be of greater service in the cause of God. Therefore, encourage your husband to keep learning, and utilize every spare moment.
Train the Children Together
What about the children who are the minister's sons and daughters? They are not angels; they take their place with all other husky children. You, of course, have trained them not to expect special favors at home, school, or church. Adventist minister's children are usually well trained in obedience and courtesy. But when they are careless in church decorum far more grave than among a less-privileged group. It is wise for the parents to give constant thought to the price they must pay for their leadership. Remember that good public relations cannot be fostered by inconsiderate conduct.
Ellen G. White says:
Until you can be united in the work of properly disciplining your child, let the wife remain with her child away from the scene of her husband's labors; for no example of lax, loose discipline should be given to the church of God.—The Adventist Home, p. 356.
As the minister and his wife faithfully do their duty in the home, restraining, correcting, advising, counseling, guiding, they are becoming better fitted to labor in the church and are multiplying agencies for the accomplishment of God's work outside the home. The members of the family become members of the family above and are a power for good, exerting a far-reaching influence.—Ibid., p. 359.
Would that every mother could realize how great are her duties and her responsibilities and how great will be the reward of faithfulness.—Ibid., p. 233.
As we meditate upon the wonderful things God has prepared for us we will feel that no sacrifice has been too great, no suffering too severe. Our entrance into the home that Jesus has prepared for us will be worth every effort. That hour of triumph is near; therefore, may we, with our loved ones, continue to march loyally under the flag of our mighty Conqueror and together we will triumph!