I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
Read Romans 16:1-2
Titus 2:4-5 makes it clear that a woman’s primary ministry is to care for her family and home. However, the Bible gives us several examples of women who served the church beyond the walls of their home or even worked outside the home. Tabitha, Lydia, Phoebe, and Priscilla are all examples of women commended for their ministries beyond their families.
In Acts 9:36-41, we read about a woman named Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek) who had died. The disciples were distraught so they sent for Peter to come quickly. When he arrived, the widows showed him the tunics and clothing that she had made. That is why she was described as “ full of good works and charity.” Peter sent everyone out of the room and said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she rose from the dead!
Scripture makes it clear that caring for the poor is one of the church’s responsibilities. Tabitha was answering that call before she died. She had been a blessing to those around her by using her skills to make clothing for the needy. Her resurrection had a great impact on people in that area and many believed in the Lord because of that miracle. But Tabitha’s life of service also had a profound impact on many. Her service to the Lord clearly was appreciated and valued.
In Acts 16:13-15, Luke tells the story of Lydia who was a “worshiper of God” and a “seller of purple goods.” Purple dye was made from mollusks and it took many mollusks to make just a small amount of dye. Because it was such an involved process to make, purple goods were very expensive. Therefore, only the rich and the royal could afford to buy it. Lydia’s business of purple luxury goods was likely doing well for her.
As the disciples were talking to the women who had gathered to worship and pray, Luke says that God opened her heart to accept their teaching about Jesus. She responded in faith and was baptized. Out of gratefulness and generosity, she encouraged the disciples to stay at her home. Lydia was a woman who worked outside of the home and ran a successful business. But she also used what God had blessed her with to bless others. She opened her home and practiced hospitality to those who were preaching the Good News of Jesus.
In Romans 16:1-2, Paul mentions a woman named Phoebe who is called a “servant [ deaconess] of the church.” In the early church, many women ministered to the poor, the sick, or the imprisoned. They also taught women and children. Paul commended her for her faithful service and said she was a great help to him and many others in the church. Paul also entrusted the letter of Romans to her and gave her the great responsibility of delivering his words to his church in Rome.
Finally, in Acts 18, we met Priscilla. But she isn’t mentioned alone. Every time she is mentioned, her husband is listed right alongside her. It appears that they were a dynamic duo who shared the same profession as well as ministry. They are said to have been tentmakers, but they showed great hospitality and opened their home to missionaries like Paul. They explained the Gospel to a Jew named Apollos and trained him for Christian service. In Romans 16:3-4 Paul wrote, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.” From Priscilla we learn that as wives, we can partner with our husbands to form an effective ministry team.
The WORD about Women is that women are valued members of the body of Christ and they can serve in a variety of roles within the church. Tomorrow, we’ll look more closely at how women can serve the Lord inside their own homes by loving and leading their children well. Sister, no matter where God has you in this season of your life, serve where you are. The church needs all of us.
What gifts and skills can you use to serve the church beyond the walls of your home?
PrayFather, I want to be used by You for kingdom work. Help me to see my job as a mission field. Prepare me to minister to those I come across in my daily life and put the gifts you have given me to Your use. Amen.