You might have heard the saying “Everyone wants a revolution. Nobody wants to do the dishes.” I don’t know about you, but I can relate to that. I’m all about revolutions, greatness, and saving people in Jesus’s name, but dishes? Laundry? Cleaning the bathrooms? Those chores hardly feel like the mountaintop experiences I have longed for since I started dreaming big things.
And yet, those very tasks are what make up my day—along with picking up trucks and trains, cooking meals, grocery shopping, and sweeping and mopping the floor (among other things). The general work of homemaking is what I spend the bulk of my time doing in my season of life. But even when my work wasn’t primarily in the home, the dishes still needed to be done, the bed needed to be made, and we needed to eat—every day.
In our current culture, we have shifted the focus of the home to that of the children, rather than the actual tasks of the home (the chores). The stay-at-home moms of today are the housewives of fifty years ago. We wouldn’t dream of leaving our kids alone to play, but we are content to let the laundry pile up (and often boast about our messy lives on social media).
The physical work of cleaning a home is not what we think about when we think of the home as being valuable. The kids are. Of course, human beings have more value than a clean kitchen. I think that’s what the culture of the housewife got wrong. It does us no good if our house is in perfect condition and our children are ignored or people aren’t welcomed and cherished when they come into our home.
And there are seasons of life that warrant putting these things aside. I know this first-hand. I have three children under four (and am due with my fourth in a few months). Life in a post-Genesis 3 world means I can’t get all of the work done.
But we need to see that the chores and the people the chores serve are not in competition. They go together. And through our work in ordinary chores, we are imaging the God who created us to work (Genesis 1:27-28) and who is himself always working (John 5:17).
So how do we as image bearers image Him in such ordinary tasks as housework? How does working out the grass stain in your son’s baseball pants or shampooing the carpet image God?
The work of the home is nothing to be ashamed of. It is valuable, important work. It is necessary work. It is work that God sees as integral to His work in this world. In fact, because you bear His image, you are imaging Him with every task you accomplish in your home on any given day. A task that does this clearly is when you bring order out of chaos.
Let’s think for a moment about how you, as a created being, bring order out of chaos in your work.
You take a room that is cluttered and in disarray and organize it and declutter. Order out of chaos. You clean and disinfect a refrigerator that is growing things that are hardly edible. Order out of chaos. You sort, pretreat, wash, fold, and put away piles of laundry. Order out of chaos.
With every ordinary task you do, you are bringing order into this chaotic world that we live in. While it might feel hardly God-like, I assure you that it is.
God, staring at the vastness of time and space, spoke creation into existence out of nothing (Genesis 1:1–3). God quiets storms to a whisper (Psalm 107:29). And most of all, God in the flesh brings order to our chaotic souls by dying on the cross and giving us His righteousness.
You also image him when you care for the details of your home. As God cares for the seemingly mundane details of creation, so you care for the seemingly mundane details of a home that needs to be kept in order. How does God care for creation? By watering the plants with rain, by providing gardeners and farmers to work the land, by bringing forth fruit in season (Psalm 1), by caring for animals (Matthew 6:26), and by giving us our daily bread (Psalm 78:23–25; Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3).
As His image bearers, we are part of this creation care. While God at times cares for His creation in spectacular ways, like causing a drought to cease through unexpected rain, more often He cares for creation through you and me. Even more specifically for our purposes, it’s typically through the work of the home.
So while the dishes might feel like useless work in God’s grand purposes for His world, faithful work in the ordinary chores is revolutionary. It is directing the people in your home to the God who created them and cares for them through your faithful labors. The people are loved by the ordinary chores in your home.
Adapted from Chapter 3: What About the Chores?, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Crossway, 2017) (Pages: 45, 48, 51-52)
Courtney Reissig is a wife, mom, and writer living in Little Rock, AR. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring our Delight in God’s Good Design (2015) and Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (2017). Her writing has been featured at Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and other Christian publications. You can read more of her writing on her website or follow her on Twitter.