Motherhood is a wonderful vocation, created by God when He made the woman from the man and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The very name Eve means “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
Motherhood is a necessary vocation, as children need a mother to feed, nurture, teach, encourage, love, forgive, and care for them. Saint Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for raising him in the one true faith (2 Timothy 1:5) and elsewhere compares the virtue of gentleness to “a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Sadly, motherhood is a despised vocation by many in our society. A recent example of this followed an article in Vogue featuring the singer Adele. Adele told the interviewer about how her life had been completely transformed by becoming a mom. Her son, she says, “makes me very proud of myself. When I became a parent, I felt like I was truly living. I had a purpose, where before I didn’t.” Later she adds: “My main thing is Mum, then it’s me, then it’s work.” Many feminists were outraged by this. How dare Adele place her son above herself and her career.
As Christians, we believe, teach, and confess that motherhood is a wonderful and necessary vocation that demands our honor, respect, and support. Such a confession does not suggest that every woman has to or will become a mother. It simply confesses what we know to be true from God’s Word, as well as human experience.
What’s more, motherhood involves long hours, sleepless nights, wiping away tears, bandaging boo-boos, and lots of time, attention, concern, and prayer. Mothers who invest their faith, love, and time into their children receive an immeasurable amount of love, joy, and contentment in return.
Concerning the noble vocation of motherhood, God commands us: “Honor … your mother” (Exodus 20:12). This honor takes on multiple facets, as the book of Proverbs makes clear. “Forsake not your mother’s teaching” (1:8; 6:20). “Let your … mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice” (23:25). In contrast, the child is foolish who “is a sorrow to his mother” (10:1), who “despises his mother” (15:20), who “chases away his mother” (19:26), who “curses … his mother” (20:20), who “robs … his mother” (28:24), who “do not bless” (30:11) or “scorns” (30:17) his mother. As Luther’s Small Catechism rightly explains, God’s commands us to “honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”
The final chapter of Proverbs contains the words of King Lemuel concerning, among other things, the vocations of wife and motherhood. Where did the king get this God-given wisdom? It was “an oracle that his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). The king’s mother taught him that an excellent wife is far more precious than jewels. She works with willing hands, is diligent and industrious. She provides for her household. She dresses herself with strength; strength and dignity are her clothing. She is generous to the poor and needy. She is wise and kind. She looks after the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. No wonder her children rise up and called her blessed and her husband praises her. She deserves nothing less than the fruit of her hands and praise for her works.
I pray that you had a mother who brought you to Jesus Christ, taught you His Word, brought you to God’s house regularly, spoke with you about the faith, prayed with you and for you, encouraged you to receive the Lord’s Supper often, and was an example to you of how the Christian faith is lived on a daily basis. If you are a mother, give this precious gift to your children (and your grandchildren). You will not do this perfectly. That’s fine. Your children need to see you live by the grace of God so that they too can learn to live by that same grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Not everyone conceived and born into this world gets a mother who loves them. That is a sad reality in this sinful and broken world. Whether you did or not, know this: You have a spiritual mother who loves you unconditionally in Jesus Christ. She is the Jerusalem above. The Church. The bride of Christ. “She is our mother” (Galatians 4:26), writes Saint Paul. Luther adds, “The Spirit has His own congregation in the world, which is the mother that conceives and bears every Christian through God’s Word” (Large Catechism II.42). As the bride of Christ and the mother of every Christian, the Church is here to feed, nurture, teach, encourage, love, forgive, and care for you.
As you have learned from Christ and His bride what it means to be loved, strive diligently to honor the mother God has given you. Serve and obey her. Love and cherish her. Pray for her. And, as she ages, care for her.
Thanks be to God for the wonderful, necessary, and noble vocation of motherhood. “A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
Blessed Father, be pleased to bless our mothers today and always. Help them recognize the holy office You have entrusted to them, and strengthen them to serve faithfully and well within it. Grant that their motherly service may not be burdensome, but rather joyful and glad. Bless all women who do not have children and those whose children are estranged from them, that their hope and confidence may ever remain in You in whom true joy is found. Give us loving hearts that freely give thanks for our mothers, that heartily forgive them where they have failed and fallen short, that willingly obey them, and that gladly honor them. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This article appears in Divine Shepherd’s May newsletter.