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Know Your Role: God's Good Design for Women

A Strange New World

We live in a very strange moment in history where women have a voice like they have never had before. Where the vast majority of women are basking in the glory of this pendulum swing, Christian women ought to be very cautious and discerning, looking to God’s Word for guidance. God did not create women for the primary role of leadership, yet that is the role many women are seizing while the opportunity is for the taking.

Women are in this epic moment in history where they can have it all, but statistics show that women are not happy. The culture will repudiate this by claiming that women are still too oppressed, but the Christian looking through a biblical lens can only see it one way. Women are unhappy because they are walking outside the boundaries God has set for them. They have sowed selfishness and rebelliousness so they are reaping emptiness, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and the list goes on.

A Lack of Discipleship for Women

The Proverbs 31 woman is the most classic depiction of what a godly woman is according to the Bible. We also are given glimpses into the character of notable biblical women that teach us lessons of how a godly woman should or should not behave. Deborah’s courage, Ruth’s loyalty, Hannah’s perseverance, Abigail’s integrity, Mary’s faithfulness are just a few positive examples that come to mind. There is a lack of balance in the church when it comes to discipling women on what it means to be a godly woman. We are used to hearing preaching and devotions dedicated to the encouraging messages these positive examples in Scripture can teach us, but how often have you heard a sermon preached on the besetting sins of women highlighted in the Bible specifically focused on the women in the congregation?

We have been discussing on the last couple of podcast episodes focused on biblical manhood how the church has become feminized. There are many factors fueling this, but one factor is  the primary demographic to whom the modern evangelical church is catering is women. Why would the pastor want to alienate the vast majority of his audience when a funny jab at the men would make everyone happy? We all know the girls can’t take a joke, much less a call to repentance for their rebellion against their husband, anxiety over the future, or bitterness toward their mother-in-law. Churches have capitulated to our culture’s feminist agenda, allowed women in leadership, and not trained fathers and husbands properly to disciple the women in their lives away from embracing feminism’s allure.

Diagnosing the Problem

Biblical Womanhood is a strange topic in the church. Women are the most over-praised, under-fed, yet most interactive of any church-goer in the average church. I saw a recent post on Twitter asking how many women were actually taught deep theology in the church. The responses were dismal. In my own experience, I know that I had to seek that level of teaching out proactively. As a teenager, I felt the youth group studies were too weak, so I sought out the older women. The only meat offered in the women’s devotionals were the likes of Beth Moore and more Beth Moore.

Once upon a time, the father took responsibility for catechizing his daughters, and then passed that mantle over to his daughter’s husband. Her husband was then expected to teach his wife and children the Word of God. Regrettably, this is no longer the norm. Women are often the primary teacher of Christianity in the home and the instigator of regular church attendance. We see this shift occurring in church leadership as well. There are not enough elders to fill the pulpits and disciple the congregation, so women step up to fill the void. This is not biblical, but it is what happens when men abandon their post. Women often do this with good intentions, but whether it is the rebellious usurpation by the woman or due to the willful apathy of men, women in leadership will lead to at a minimum a breaking of God’s ideal for gender roles and heartache for the woman, and at a maximum the door is wide open for bad theology, pragmatic practice, and outright corruption to grow in the church due to the lack of covering for the woman in that leadership position. This is how we got a feminized church after all.

The Biblical Role of Women

Women were never designed to lead, but were created to help. Biblical examples of women leading men like Deborah are not normative, and in fact meant to shame the men for abandoning their post in such a way, that God chose to place a woman at the helm to accomplish his work. God has given women boundaries and provided them with a covering of protection in their fathers and husbands. Women will only find fulfillment when working within the bounds of the role he has designed for them.

We find in the Creation account, that God created women to be man’s helper (Genesis 2:18). This is also reiterated in 1 Corinthians 11:8, “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” This biblical truth makes our society recoil and many a modern Christian try to jump through hoola hoops to interpret it in such a way to make it more palatable. We feel as though we should have evolved from old Puritanical notions of hierarchical structures in gender roles. Our evolution-saturated worldview seeks to abandon orthodox teaching on this matter for what we consider greener pastures in the modern era.

Observing that something is different is not the same as insinuating something is better than the other. We function in hierarchical roles in every other area of society but somehow find it problematic in the household. This is not an indication of a problem with Scripture, but a view into our own sin nature. Our inclination is always to rebel against and pervert God’s good design. This rebellion must be crucified, and not entertained. We always find a way to take something beautiful and muddy it.

G.K. Chesterton penned,

If I set the sun beside the moon,
And if I set the land beside the sea,
And if I set the flower beside the fruit
And if I set the town beside the country
And if I set the man beside the woman
I suppose some fool would talk
About one being better.

Escaping Ditches

Some women believe that gender roles were only perfected in the past, so we must simulate a bygone era to achieve the biblical model. This is folly. God is sovereign. He created you for such a time as this. We ought to seek to glorify Him in the time and space He has placed us.

The role of women has drastically changed since the Industrial Revolution. Once upon a time, we had a family economy where the whole family worked together to make a household succeed. Women were kept busy with gardening, farming, cooking, laundry, etc. without all the modern conveniences we have today that make these tasks go quickly. There is more efficient technology for these chores in our modern era that don't require us to sit for hours with a washboard by the river. Technology is wonderful and we praise God for it, but it can be a challenge to understand how we ought to fill our time now so that we are still productive helpers to our husband and household managers using our brains and our skills to the glory of God. The way women practically apply God’s Word concerning their mission will look different in some ways today than it did in the seventeenth century.

In the evangelical church we see two ditches. On one side, we have the egalitarian ditch where women’s roles are seen as being co-equal with men. This looks like women having careers, purposely delaying children, taking roles in leadership, etc. We would consider the other side of the ditch being abusive toward women, holding that women are created inferior to men and are treated as such. This looks like women being oppressed and treated as if their thoughts, desires, and well-being do not matter. Both of these are a perversion of God’s good design for gender roles.

The Truth About Gender Roles

The truth about gender roles is found succinctly in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Christ is most definitely not inferior to God the Father, so this cannot mean that hierarchy inherently means superiority. It does, however, indicate submission. God the Son submitted to God the Father. In John 6:38, Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” In the same way that Christ submitted to the Father, man must submit to Christ, and woman must submit to man. This hierarchical model is a beautiful picture of the Gospel, not oppression.

A Woman's Role as Helper

How does a woman act out her role biblically on a daily basis? In the Genesis account we see both men and women are made in the image of God, and told to obey him. Both men and women are called to take dominion of the earth, and both men and women are called to fill the earth with more humans. A woman’s role as God allows, should be to fulfill this mission of marriage, child-bearing, and taking dominion as her husband’s helper.

Everything a woman does should be pointed toward her home, her husband, and her family. Her endeavors should not remove her in such a way that cause her to neglect her duties at home, but serve her people. We see in the Proverbs 31 woman a household manager that brought honor to her husband and blessed her children. She is not self-serving, but serves others intentionally. Even if her work at times takes her away from the home (Proverbs 31:13014, 24) she is still contributing to the well-being of the home, managing the home, keeping the home, and training her children well.   

Counter-Cultural and Kingdom-Centered

This idea of a woman being created for the purpose of Kingdom building, to marry, raise children, and serve others to the glory of God is counter-cultural. Until Christian women realize that their greatest source of fulfillment is found in God’s design for them, they will not know true joy.

True joy comes in recognizing God has actually designed us for more, but what is more often looks mundane. We need to be comfortable in the mundane, because fruitful households serving God diligently may not be our idea of victory, but it is exactly how the culture is won. Intentional obedience to God’s Word in the lives of everyday Christians is how God expands His Kingdom one family at a time.

Lies Women Believe

Listen to  Biblical Womanhood Parts 1 & 2 on The Reformed Faith and Family Podcast:

We live in a culture wrecked by feminism. How do Christian women fight against the lies the culture is telling them and raise the next generation of women to understand what true biblical womanhood looks like in today's landscape? Listen in as Caleb and Lindsey discuss these matters during this second part of a two-part series on biblical womanhood.

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