The disparagement of the noble profession of motherhood is virtually epidemic in our culture.

Sometimes it is assaulted outright by radical feminists who see a woman in the home, managing a household and rearing a family as (at best) somehow not fulfilling her potential or (at worst) a prime example of an oppressed second-class citizen of a male-dominated, patriarchal world.

Other times we discount motherhood subtly by the innocent things we say: “Is she a ‘working’ mother?” (Have you ever met a mother who didn’t work?!) Or “Does she have a job or does she just stay at home with the children?” (The person who asks this question obviously doesn’t spend much time with children!).

In mentioning this, we do not intend any disrespect to the many fine Christian women who represent their Lord with competence and integrity in the marketplace. On the contrary, we honor them. But we recognize that many today find it difficult to believe that familial duties in themselves are capable of providing women with a sense of fulfillment or significance.

Unless this disparagement is addressed, we stand the chance of further compromising the one institution on which the foundation for the whole of our society rests: the family. That having been said, I wish to remind those who are mothers of the supreme importance of motherhood in the plan of God and to encourage mothers in their great task.

For whatever else you are and do, nothing will be more important, more crucial, or more significant than your being a faithful Christian mother. I do not wish anyone to rob you of your sense of the value of what you do as a mother, or of your sense of the critical position of influence which the Lord has given you.

May I remind you how history has hung in the balance because of the influence of mothers? A casual glance at the record of Israel’s kings will remind you of the power which a mother can wield, for good or evil (2 Kings 8:25-27; 11:1-2). Furthermore, mothers are crucial in the formation of the spiritual character of their children. Think of Timothy, Paul's “son” in the Lord. Yet his commitment to Christ was not due to Paul’s influence.

Under God, his mother (and grandmother!) had shown him the way of the Lord (2 Timothy 1:5). And remember Augustine — that great theologian of the early Church? It was his mother Monica who prayed him into faith in Christ, and trained him in word and deed about the life which Christ intends for his people. When he wrote his great devotional book — “Confessions” — after her death, he said: “I will not omit a work that I can bring to mind about my mother!” Praise be to God for good Christian mothers! May your husbands and children rise up and call you blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

Finally, we remember that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for many of our friends in Christ: those who have longed for the call to motherhood, but who have not received it; those who have suffered the loss of children; those who once had the help of a spouse, but who now face the challenge of parenting alone; and those who have painful memories of relations with their own mothers. Let us remember them in prayer, that they too may know God’s blessing, approval, and comfort.  

This commentary was written on the occasion of Mother’s Day May 11, 1997, by the Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, the then-senior minister of The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, where the article appeared in the church newsletter, The First Epistle.