There was a time, not that long ago, when every worker “worked from home.” Men and women labored to survive on the farm. Sowing, harvesting, preserving, spinning, weaving, and animal husbandry kept the family fed and clothed. Children were foremost valued not as “special snowflakes” but as helping hands. Life was very hard, but it was also seamless.

This side of the Industrial Revolution, many of us live lives full of seams. We are pulled in all directions—from office to church to grocery store to mall to house to disembodied Internet. During the Christmas season especially (see the editorial), work and home compete for our time and energy, like forces ever pitted against each other.

But if the people featured in this month’s cover story are any indication, some of us are healing the work–home divide.

Multilevel marketing (MLM)—wherein individuals sell products to friends and family, who are then invited to sell said products—has been around at least since 1959. That year, two Christian businessmen founded Amway, which has grown to a $10.8-billion-a-year business. My first brush with Amway came when a janitor at my parents’ church came over to tell us about some remarkable cleaning products. My parents politely explained that their Spic ’n Span would do just fine.

Today, we are more likely to encounter MLM through cheery and frequent Facebook posts—or in a local church. I just bought my first MLM product from a friend from small group. We pray together! We do life together! Why wouldn’t I support her in her good desire to generate some income?

The force of MLM raises many questions for church leaders. It can be a thorny discipleship issue; as ministry leader Amanda Edmondson told CT, “Because of the lack of compartmentalization of work and home life, [critique] becomes personal. If you approach a woman about her involvement with MLM, you’re cutting to her core.”

“MLMs seem to tap into the identity crisis for women caught between home and marketplace,” says Hannah Anderson, author of the book Made for More, a key source for the cover story. (Anderson wrote about MLM for Her.meneutics this winter.) “This goes beyond finding . . . work–life balance. Women speak about how these opportunities gave them purpose.”

Whatever churches discern about the MLM trend, one thing is clear: We are all made to work “with eager hands” (Prov. 31:13), as did the . Industry and thrift are long-praised virtues. Anyone who has run their own store, finished a home project, or published a print magazine (hypothetically!) knows the pleasure of a job well done. And, as for our forebears, for us, work is crucial to living. Whatever we conclude about MLM, we honor the impulse to work—even when it centers on a magenta-colored product catalog.

Follow Katelyn Beaty on Twitter @KatelynBeaty

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