Why have thousands of comfortable matrons recently turned into rabid "women's libbers"? What makes wives who seemingly have everything go on the warpath against male chauvinism? Should you take sides in the battle of the sexes — and if you're a wife, just how liberated should you be?
WHY are many wives suddenly becoming uppity? What turned them against diapers and dishpans? Do they really have any valid gripes, or are they just rebelling because it's the thing to do these days? Maybe you already have some pretty strong ideas on this subject. You might even be a "libber" yourself. You approve of equal pay for equal work; you think every person has a right to develop to his or her full potential; you're tired of phony chivalry arid subtle sexist putdowns; maybe you even threw away your girdle and your makeup. Or maybe you're not a libber at all. You don't really see why women can't be, happy doing what they've alwaysA.cme. Why upset the status quo? Doesn't the Bible say women were put on earth to serve men, anyhow? Didn't the apostle Paul put women in their place? After all, he said: "I suffer not a women to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be silence" (I Tim. 2:12). And, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak..." (Cor. 14:34). He hammered his point home in Ephesians 5:22: "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." That seems to be coming on pretty strong in favor of male chauvinism, right? But did God create women to be meek, humble, mousey little things who say "yes, sir" whenever someone pulls their strings? Did He give man an insipid pot-scrubbing automaton who stays pregnant nine months of the year? Or did He have something better in mind? What is a wife's true role in God's scheme of things? If her husband has "authority" over her, is there anything she can do on her own? How much initiative should she have? Can she ever make her own decisions, or is this strictly a male prerogative? Just how does a wife fit into the family unit?
God Is a Family
God is a family — and there is a parallel between God's family relationship and ours. God the Father and Christ are both gods — both exist on the same plane. But God the Father is "first among equals." He is "in authority" over Christ. But Genesis 1:26 shows that they both work as a team — and God the Father has delegated much authority to Christ. In fact, He had Christ do the actual creating of the universe (see Hebrews 1:2"and John 1:1-3), and is going to have Him rule it forever (Heb. 1:2, 8). God made man in His image (Gen. 1:26). Our family life is intended to be a type of the God-plane family relationship. A man and his wife are equals, just as God and Christ are equal. Both husband and wife are "heirs together of the grace of life" (I Peter 3:7). But someone has to be in charge. God has ordained that the husband be in authority. Following the example of the God family, they should work together as a coequal team. Marriage isn't a master-slave arrangement with the man giving all the orders and the woman meekly kowtowing. In fact, if a man wants to do what God does, he'll treat his wife like an intelligent partner. He'll ask for her advice — and take it if it's good. And he'll want to share as much authority with his partner as their situation allows.
Delegation Prevents Frustration
It's important for a husband to learn to delegate authority to his wife. If his "heart doth safely trust" in her (Prov. 31:11), he'll be able to leave all the household decisions for her to decide — and keep his mind free to do his own job. If he dictates every minor decision to her, not only is he burdening himself with extra work, he's probably stifling her growth as a person and a Christian. Women have to learn to make decisions, too. It's part of building good character. They need the opportunity to develop the initiative necessary to "work out [their] own salvation" themselves (Phil. 2:12). A wife shouldn't need to pester her husband about what kind of socks to buy for the kids, or what brand of soapsuds to use, or whether to wash her hair on Monday or Friday. She is her husband's vice-president in charge of household affairs, and should be given all the authority she needs to do her job effectively. That's how a husband-wife team should operate, and how a wife needs to carry out her role. But just what does her role encompass? How far does her household authority extend? Just how much can she do? We know women shouldn't preach (I Tim. 2:12; I Cor. 14:34). But how come? First of all, God wants women (as a general rule) to take their place as "keepers at home" (Titus 2:5). So at marriage a woman is ordained to a "ministry" of caring for her family. Secondly, God wants to teach both men and women His pattern of government (see I Cor. 14:35; Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22-33).
Women Can Teach
All right, we've determined that women shouldn't get up and pound the pulpit. They aren't to be preachers. But God does command them to be teachers (Titus 2:3-4). Younger women are committed to teach and train their children — especially during their preschool years. But what happens when the last baby leaves the nest? At this point a woman might still have half of her life ahead of her — is she supposed to sit home and crochet doilies during her declining years? Titus 2:3-4 shows that older women should be "teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women" how to be good wives and mothers. Who could be better qualified to pass on that sort of information than an experienced expert in the field? But how does all this translate into a practical application today? People's talents differ. One woman might be an excellent teacher in a formal classroom situation, while another is good at passing on helpful advice — and someone else might do her best by just setting a good example, doing some kind of volunteer work or running her own business. Only you can determine where your own interests and talents lie. And once you do, it's up to you to develop them. There are examples in the Bible of righteous women who used their talents to the full. Deborah had a humble attitude and thought of herself as a "mother in Israel" (Judges 5:7). Yet she ruled the country and led an army to battle; In the New Testament, Lydia (a "seller of purple" — Acts 16:14) ran her own textile business. Phebe (Rom. 16:1-2) was serving the church full time as a deaconess. She was probably the one who delivered Paul's letter from Corinth to Rome. Some women don't realize how wide their role really can be. They've heard that a woman "shouldn't preach," is "under authority," is a "weaker vessel" so many times they think they can't do anything really worthwhile except scrub floors, wash dishes and change diapers — and even if they could, they probably really shouldn't.
Fake Femininity Found Wanting
Their negative self-concept has been perpetuated by well-meaning, scripture-quoting ladies like Helen Andelin, author of Fascinating Womanhood (Pacific Press, 1963). Although this book contains some helpful "husband-psychology" hints, it advocates the traditional dichotomy between what's considered man's and woman's work. Mrs. Andelin tells her fellow females, "Don't try to excel him in anything which requires masculine ability" (p.2l8). That logical, if "masculine ability" means more muscle. A woman can't excel most men in that category unless she's pretty unusual. Even Billie Jean King picked an old man to clobber. But Mrs. Andelin says: "We see women building fences, hauling sand, repairing automobiles, painting, mowing the lawn, repairing heavy equipment, fixing the roof, doing carpentry, and many other masculine tasks" (p. 107). "You must become the fragile dependent creature that nature intended you to be" (p. 109). This concept of woman as a sheltered hothouse plant doesn't stack up with what's said in Proverbs 31: "She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms" (verse 17). Our great grandmothers used to do "heavy" work that some might consider unladylike today. A farm
Marriage isn't a master-slave arrangement with the man giving all the orders and the woman meekly kowtowing. In fact, if a man wants to do what God does, he'll treat his wife like an intelligent partner. He'll ask for her advice and take it if it's good.
woman lifted loads and worked hours that would exhaust a modern sedentary man. The millennium hasn't arrived yet, and many women today find themselves outside an ideal family situation. They are forced to earn their own living. There's nothing wrong with that — Ruth and Lydia both did it. And they were righteous women. Of course, not every woman needs or would enjoy a full-time job. But what if she wants to repair her car? It wouldn't hurt to know what goes on under the hood if she's interested. And what's the matter with mowing the lawn or gardening? Or even light carpentry? These household jobs can be included in a woman's realm. She probably needs the exercise. In fact, the whole family can benefit by participating in these activities together.
A Liberated Woman
The Proverbs 31 woman had children and a husband, but she didn't use them as an excuse to vegetate. She knew the ins and outs of real estate well enough to invest in a piece of land — and she used her own earnings, not her husband's money. Apparently she was producing goods on consignment for a local store. She planted a vineyard, or else supervised the work. (Was this a "masculine" job?) She made clothes for her family. She found time to do volunteer work helping the needy. And she took time to keep up her own appearance — her clothing was "silk and purple." She didn't stagnate inside the house all day. She went out to buy quality food from different sources. (If she were a modern woman, she'd be able to drive a car so her husband wouldn't have to chauffeur her "afar" to pick up her household needs.) She got up early and put in long hours, but at the end of a busy day she found time to study God's Word. This is how she could "open her mouth with wisdom" and kindness. Although she kept busy, this extraordinary person put her husband first. He didn't have to waste his energy worrying about the situation at home. He knew his wife was a steady, capable, dedicated, happy person who supported him in whatever he did. With her backing him and believing in him, he reached his full potential for leadership and service. He was a pillar of the community, a well-known civic leader. Can a woman like this be considered liberated today? Will she receive the respect and recognition due her? Just listen: "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.... Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Eternal, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates" (verses 28-31).