Monday, 26 November 2012

Women as God Intended, part 1

Having said recently that it is not God’s plan for women to be in positions of leadership and authority in the church, it seems a good idea to see what God has planned for women. At the outset, let me say that God has never denigrated women, or made out that they are second class, or inferior to men. Neither did Jesus and neither did the New Testament writers. I am aware that some will disagree with that statement, but I hope to show during this article that it is not in fact the case. In fact, Christianity did much to raise the status of women throughout history.

Nowhere in God's word is a woman degraded, seen as a second class citizen or a lesser person than a man. She has a specific and vital role in God structure for the family. That role is that she is to be the man's helper and supporter stand alongside him in helping them both in their union to accomplish God's will for their lives.” [The Biblical Order of Men and Women in theFamily and the Church, Cooper B Abrams III]

From the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, women have wanted more. Eve desired the forbidden fruit. Today, women want to exercise ministry in areas that God in His wisdom has determined they should not have. There are many areas of service in the church, family and society at large that are open to women, so why do they continue to fight for those things that are beyond their grasp? Is it because some have interpreted the Bible to imply that women are somehow inferior? Or is it because women think they know better than God? Just why are women dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their God-given roles? Is the role meant to be drudgery? Can there be something positive and meaningful in a woman’s role?

When God created Adam, he gave him the task of tending the garden He had planted: ‘Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it,’ (Genesis 2v15). The word ‘tend’ means ‘cultivate’; in other words, Adam was the gardener. But then God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him,’ (Genesis 1v18). The KJV says ‘an help meet for him’, i.e. a suitable helper and from where we derive the word ‘helpmeet’. Woman was created as complementary to man, neither inferior nor superior, but compatible with him. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the Bible commentator, said, “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved by him.” Woman was created with dignity and honour; she was never intended as a second class citizen. However, even in these brief verses from Genesis, we see that the roles of the man and the woman were different. The man was given the task of tending the garden; the woman was given as a suitable helper.
Before too long, however, the world was spoilt by sin. Falling for the serpent’s lies, Adam and Eve lost their state of sinless perfection and with it, they lost the harmony they had hitherto enjoyed. God was likely aware that women would try to dominate men and so, in meting out the punishment to Eve for her part in the original sin, He said, ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you,’ (Genesis 3v16). In short, God said that rather than the way things had been up to this point, He was placing man in authority over women. And women have been rebelling ever since. Not only that, men have been treating women as lesser beings ever since, too. Instead of following man’s lead, today’s woman tries to be in competition with him. Germaine Greer has said that ‘women are the new men’ and we can manage perfectly well without them. Women have striven for equality, but they have gone beyond equality; they want it all and they want it now! And in doing so, they are resisting God and His order for society. Refusal to accept man’s authority is refusal to accept God’s right to make the ‘rules’. Being submissive is not a popular concept in our culture today, yet there is peace to be had in submitting to God’s order.
The Ideal Wife

One of the main Biblical passages that people turn to for a positive view of women is in Proverbs 31v10-31:
10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honour are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
While this passage addresses wives primarily, much of what it says can also be directed towards any woman; being married is not a prerequisite for being an ‘ideal woman’.
When we examine this ancient biblical ideal of womanhood, we do not find the stereotyped housewife occupied with dirty dishes and laundry, her daily life dictated by the demands of her husband and her children. Nor do we find a hardened, overly ambitious career woman who leaves her family to fend for itself.
What we find is a strong, dignified, multi-talented, caring woman who is an individual in her own right. This woman has money to invest, servants to look after and real estate to manage. She is her husband’s partner, and she is completely trusted with the responsibility for their lands, property and goods.
She has the business skills to buy and sell in the market, along with the heartfelt sensitivity and compassion to care for and fulfill the needs of people who are less fortunate. Cheerfully and energetically she tackles the challenges each day brings. Her husband and children love and respect her for her kind, generous and caring nature.
But with all her responsibilities, first and foremost, she looks to God. Her primary concern is God’s will in her life. She is a woman after God’s own heart. Let’s examine the characteristics of this remarkable woman — a role model for Christian women today...” [From Portrait of a Godly Woman]

For a further discussion on the woman of Proverbs 31, please see:
As you will see from these references (I do hope you will read the links), a Godly woman is someone to be sought after and valued (her price is far above rubies); she has a position of responsibility and is well respected. She is no second class citizen and has a wide sphere of influence, including influencing her husband’s position in society. Her home is harmonious, her children are well looked after, her husband holds a good position in the town council (he sits ‘in the gate’), she has money of her own, runs her own business, works hard – and it is thanks to her diligence that all these things are so. How can anyone say that women are not as good as men after reading that?

To be continued...

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