The constitution of a biblical home consists of faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. Love is not to be understood as mere sentiment, but rather self-sacrificing obedience to the Word of God—with a whole heart. This can be quite an elevating concept until there are dishes to be done.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love . . . For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Gal. 5: 6,13).
A kitchen is a place of preparation. It is not a room that exists for itself. In just the same way that clothes were not created for the washing machine, so the food was not destined to end in the kitchen. What is the kitchen? If you look at it one way, it is a place of endless preparations, punctuated with periods of dealing with the aftermath—by which I mean the cleaning up. But we have to keep in mind, constantly, that the Christian faith sees such service as a form of exaltation. Faith that works in love, as our text says, is not faith that works in the limelight. When we serve one another in love, we come to learn that God has designed the world to work in such a way that the majority of the time, we don’t get the credit we think we deserve. Self can work hard, but it chafes under this system. Love gives it away. And when all in the family love, the effect is glorious.
We are familiar with the story of Martha and Mary, and how Martha lost her sense of priority because she was “cumbered about much serving.”
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).
There are two applications here, one of them very familiar. Unbroken fellowship with Christ is more important than having the meal turn out “just so.” We will have frequent call to remember what Proverbs teaches us. “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Prov. 17:1).
But the other application is perhaps less familar, and so it should perhaps receive more of our attention. Mary was listening to Jesus teach; she was not off in the family room watching television. She obviously knew that some things were more important than serving in the kitchen. She also knew what Martha knew—that other things are far less important than serving in the kitchen. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jas. 2:26)
BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW
One of central duties that husbands have is to make sure they do not exasperate their wives in this realm. Just as a woman is to work hard in preparing meals, so a man is to work hard in providing her with the substance to work with. The Old Testament contains a law concerning this which we will look at again in this series. For now, it should simply be noted that provision of food was one of a man’s central obligations. “If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish” (Ex. 21:10).
This is not a commandment that says it is a sin to be poor. Rather, it addresses the husband’s priorities. In other words, he cannot diminish his wife’s allotment in these areas for the sake of a second wife. It also helps us to define what a man’s responsibilities to his wife actually are. One is to make sure that she has enough food to work with, and it is particularly important that there be no disconnect in his mind between his failure to provide and his discontent with the culinary results.
As we work on conforming what we do more and more to Scripture, we will find that we have to make choices about what we should do first.
A clean kitchen—we are going to look at the scriptural basis for saying this when we come to other parts of the house, but I need to simply assert something in advance. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and this has important ramifications for the kitchen. A kitchen should be clean and functional first, and decorated (like in the magazines) second. This is not bare utilitarianism—the second aspect should be there.
Art food—presentation is important, and is part of what every accomplished cook should be concerned with. The ceremonial is more than ceremonial. But at the same time, the ceremonial should not take over—beware of those who have the form of religion but not the substance.
Boys and men—any masculinity that washes off in dishwater is superficial to begin with. It is important for us to have and maintain our roles in the keeping of the house. We should reject the modern egalitarian nonsense that obliterates the different roles of men and women. But once this is said, we need to remember that part of the reason for the distinction is that it makes gift-giving possible. In other words, different roles should never obscure the fact that both sides are living sacrificially. And sometimes that means cross-over help.
All this said, we return to the centrality of charity. We return to the importance of serving one another in love. We return to the glory of service in obscurity.