Vol. 3, No. 3
Over the past several years, there have been many articles written and there have been many discussions about the subject of "The Role of Women." Undoubtedly this is the result of confusion by both men and women as to the God-ordained role for women in the home and in the church. Some men and women wish to expand this role beyond what God has commanded and others wish to restrict that role beyond what God requires.
The purpose for this article is not to outline the God-given role for women. That has been adequately dealt with many times (see the list below for other articles discussing the role of women). I would like to make a few suggestions as to why many are confused about the role of women and caution women to examine their thoughts and actions to ensure that they are pleasing to God in the realm of Christian living.
Today's women, living in the United States, experience many rights and freedoms that were not always afforded to us. There was a time when it was inappropriate for women to travel alone. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed granting women the right to vote on a national level. It took 75 years prior to the enactment of the 19th Amendment for this right to become a reality. Many of the women who openly fought for this right died before seeing the successful results of their efforts. Some states did allow women to vote previous to that date.
In the mid 1850's, a petition was brought before the New York congress requesting legal equality of women with men. This petition "AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE RIGHTS OF MARRIED WOMEN: -- The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly,…" [http://www.furman.edu/~benson/docs/w-rights2.htm] and additional laws passed in other communities gave a married woman the right to own property, divorce her husband, earn wages that did not belong to her husband and have some control as to the welfare of her children. There was a distinction between single women and married women. A married woman became one with her husband, he being the head of the household and making all decisions pertaining to the welfare of his wife and children. While this petition was being discussed, please note the following concerns regarding the distinct role of the husband and wife relationship as expressed before the committee.
…A higher power than that from which emanates legislative enactments has given forth the mandate that man and woman shall not be equal; that there shall be inequalities by which each in their own appropriate sphere shall have precedence to the other; and each alike shall be superior or inferior as they well or ill act the part assigned them. Both alike are the subjects of Government, equally entitled to its protection; and civil power must, in its enactments, recognize this inequality…. Every well-regulated home and household in the land affords an example illustrative of what is woman's proper sphere, as also that of man. …in the family an influence more potent than that of contracts and conventionalities, and which everywhere underlies humanity, has indicated that the husband shall fill the necessity which exists for a head. Dissension and distraction quickly arise when this necessity is not answered. The harmony of life, the real interest of both husband and wife, and of all dependent upon them, require it. In obedience to that requirement and necessity, the husband is the head -- the representative of the family. [http://www.furman.edu/~benson/docs/w-rights2.htm]
The New York congress certainly had a grasp of the God given relationship of husbands and wives. Using this knowledge, they took steps to improve the plight of women whose husbands failed to fulfill their responsibilities while leaving intact the proper relationship between husbands and wives. Many other laws have been enacted to further enhance the safety and welfare of women since that time.
The common practice of more women working outside the home in recent years contributes to the confusion of the "role of women." In the 19th century women began working in large numbers in the textile mills and garment industry. The main thrust of their employment was their willingness to work long hours for less pay than the average man. With the push for equality in the manual work force between men and women and the push for a higher education for women, increased job opportunities and subsequent equal pay began to emerge. In 1870, an estimated one fifth of college and university students were women; by 1900 the proportion had increased to more than one third; by the beginning of the 20th century, 19% of the undergraduate degrees went to women and in 1984 the percentage had increased to 40%. The acceptance of women in colleges and universities encouraged them to further their education to include master and doctorate degrees. In 1984, 49% of master degrees were awarded to women. [http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm] Once women began to earn the degrees to hold professional jobs, the next step was to prove that women can hold professional jobs and do those jobs as well as men with the same degrees.
In order to prove to men that women could and do some of the same jobs equally well, clothing styles began to change. Women wanted to look more masculine to show less of a distinction between the male and the female. Many women began wearing pant suits, masculine styled jackets and neckties; unisex shoes also became popular. Try shopping in the average department store. Most women's clothes are dress pant suits, evening dresses or jumpers. There are some dresses on the market, but not nearly the choices of a decade or two ago.
The more time women spent in the work place earning their own incomes equal to or more than their husbands, the more many women enjoyed being away from home and families, creating the latch-key children problem. Having decision making jobs in the workplace, women began to believe they could make decisions at home and have the final say as well. Earning an income that was solely theirs made it easier to get a divorce than to work out the problems when the God given role of the head of the house began to crumble. Unfortunately, the children are the ones to suffer and as time continues the children repeat the failures of their parents. A cycle starts that is hard to break.
I am not suggesting that we return to the timeframe of the 17th and 18th centuries. I am glad to have the opportunity to vote and I exercise that right. I have in the past chosen to work outside my home, however at this time I am not presently working outside the home. Some of the clothing styles of today seem more appealing to me than the styles of former years. Jeans or pants seem more appropriate than dresses to work in the yard or to play ball with my children. I am glad that my daughter had the opportunity to receive a college degree and is able to find a job with that degree in hand. I am suggesting that because we have these rights and freedoms it has become easy to allow ourselves to fall into the trap "it's my right" to do this or that without regard to God's plan for us. God has a submissive role for us. (Just as he has a submissive role for men, Ephesians 5:21-33.) We must maintain that role in all we do. What once may have been a submissive role because circumstances demanded it now must be a submissive role because we desire to be pleasing in God's eyes. God told the Israelite nation their feasts and holy days were displeasing to him (Amos 5:21). They were keeping the holy days and feast as he commanded, however, their heart was not in the right place. Possibly they were keeping these feasts out of duty or possibly it was for show; whatever the reason, God told them that they were unacceptable to him because these feasts were being kept for the wrong reasons. The principle is true today! I would encourage all women to examine their hearts (1 Corinthians 13:5) to verify whether they are in submission to their respective husbands, the elders at church and ultimately to God. If you are in submission as God describes, is it because you want to be pleasing to God or is it because "God says I have to, so I will, but I don't want to"? Just as God expected Israel to have its heart right we must have our hearts right to be pleasing to God.
I would also suggest that because we have these rights and freedoms, it has become easier to notice the failure of some men to assume their God-given roles for the church and the home. When we notice the need for something to be done, we do not consider the overall picture. Then, we step in and do what needs to be done without realizing that we may be overstepping God's place for us in the home and the church. I believe that if men realized God has a plan and role for them and if they would readily accept and act upon that role, women would not think that they needed to step in and help the men in their roles. This is true in both the home and the church. When men fail to accept and practice their responsibilities as fathers and husbands, many women feel "that if it is going to be done, I will have to do it." If you are one of these women I encourage you to step back, rather than assume the responsibilities of your husband; gently teach and encourage him to accept the responsibilities God has given him. When women have responsibilities outside the home or when men fail to fulfill their responsibilities within the home and women assume that role, it becomes easy for women to begin to desire places of authority within the church. This too is contrary to God's plan for us. If you feel that the men of your congregation are not fulfilling their God-given responsibilities, do not take it upon yourself to do it. Rather, encourage the men to do the work God has given them.
Yes, the times have changed over the past 150 years. Some changes are for the best. We need to make sure that these changes have not changed our attitude toward God and his Word. God's Word does not and has not changed since the beginning of time. God has always had a role for men and women. It is mankind who has become confused as to that role. When men and women fail to treat each other as God planned, mistakes are made. When husbands and wives love each other as God commanded, the submissive role within the home will not be a problem. When mankind applies the "golden rule" in all relationships, the submissive role will not be a problem. Please, do not let the changing times of today affect your relationship with your husband, family, the church or God.
There will be no grandchildren in heaven. At first glance, this statement seems ridiculous and contrary to the Bible. In a way it is. As we are all born of parents who had parents of their own, each of us is a grandchild to someone. Physically speaking, if we live faithfully so that we are allowed to enter heaven, we may be there as someone's grandchild. However, the same cannot be said in the spiritual sense.
Romans 8:16 and Galatians 3:26 tell us Christians are "children of God." Galatians 3:27 goes on to say, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." We become God's children when we are baptized and live faithfully for him. As each individual becomes a Christian, he becomes a spiritual child of God. In the eyes of God, the individual is no longer someone's grandchild; he is God's child. This leaves no room for grandchildren in heaven. In fact, the Bible does not anywhere refer to Christians as God's grandchildren, only as his children.
The Romans passage continues and says, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;" (8:17). As God's children, we will inherit heaven when the time comes. Our inheritance is based on the fact that we are adopted children (Galatians 4:5-7). To receive our inheritance, we must be God's children. It won't matter if our parents are God's children. That is not what our inheritance is based on. God will judge each individual's life to see if he meets the qualifications of an adopted son or daughter (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 3:10). To receive our inheritance, we must be adopted children, not grandchildren.
Our faith in God must be our own. We cannot depend on the faith of our parents to get us to heaven. There are many examples in the Bible of men and women who turned from the faith of their parents to follow the true God. Consider Caleb and Rahab. When Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan to bring back a report, only two returned ready to go in and conquer the land. One of these men was Caleb (Numbers 13). A closer reading of the references to Caleb reveals that he was not a descendent of Jacob. His ancestry traced back to Esau. (John Bright, A History of Israel, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press) 1981) He apparently left the religion of his parents and became associated with the Israelites. This faithful man represented the tribe of Judah among the spies. His great faith was rewarded by God; he was one of two in his generation allowed to enter the Promised Land (Joshua 14).
In Joshua Chapter Two, we read of a courageous woman named Rahab. She hid Israelite spies in her home and was rewarded. When Israel marched on Jericho, Rahab and her household were spared. This courageous woman acknowledged the greatness of God and left her parents' faith behind to live with the children of Israel (Joshua 6:25). The Hebrew writer commended her for her faith in Chapter Eleven, Verse Thirty-One.
Ruth, Paul and the Christians of the first century also forsook the religion of their fathers to follow the will of God. Ruth left her home in Moab to live with her mother-in-law in Israel. The line of King David and Christ can be traced back to this woman. The apostle Paul gave up all he had been taught in the Jewish religion to become a great missionary for Christ. Paul had achieved the highest place possible for him in Judaism; he gave it all up for Christ (Philippians 3:4-8). In Acts Two, we read of the first converts to the church. All of them were Jews observing the Passover. They gave up a lifetime of religious teachings to follow the new law of Christ. They left the faith of their parents and became God's adopted children so they could one day inherit heaven. [Paul and other first century Jews surrendered the humanly devised amendments to Judaism and otherwise realized that Christianity was the fulfillment of Judaism, which was replaced with the Gospel. ~ Editor]
Many today must do the same thing. Each individual should carefully compare the religious beliefs of his parents to the New Testament. When the beliefs of a parent do not match the Bible, it is imperative that the individual leave behind his parents' religion and follow Christ. Only as an adopted child of God can one enter heaven.
Some children have the privilege of growing up in a home where their parents' faith is based on God's Word. This does not mean they do not have any work to do to make their inheritance sure. Children of Christian parents must still examine their faith and make it their own. It is not enough for anyone to accept something just because a parent does. Christian parents also have a responsibility to help their children make their own choices about God. There are a number of ways parents can do this.
One important way parents must help involves teaching God's Word. It is not enough for the children to know Mom and Dad believe in God. Parents need to teach their children about the Bible and God's Word. Teaching must be done in the home and by taking the children to Bible class and worship. A child who does not see a faithful parent will most likely not be faithful himself. Just teaching the facts is not enough. Parents must not only teach Christian living, they must practice it as well. You cannot teach and live what you do not know. Parents need to show their children that their faith and obedience makes them happy and that it is important.
Only God's adopted children will receive the promised inheritance. With this in mind, we all need to strive to teach others about God's family plan. Our friends and co-workers need to know that just because it was good enough for Mom and Dad, that doesn't mean it was right. Christians must take responsibility to show others that Christianity is more than just a set of facts. It is a way of life that will determine our inheritance. There will be no grandchildren in heaven.