I grew up in a Church where women were not allowed to even read the Bible on pulpit unless her husband read first. I was taught that Bathsheba slept around and Hagar was an evil woman. I was taught that the extent of Jesus’ interactions with women remained with healing and His mother. No one taught me that Bathsheeba was a victim, who was powerless to say no to the all powerful king. I was never taught that she is the inspiration behind the Proverbs 31 women, the passage that defines a God honoring women. It wasn’t taught in Sunday School that Hagar had to do as she was told as a servant to Abraham, and paid the consequences of his disobedience by being forced into banishment from her people. It’s not common knowledge that Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus, and due to women determining the household finances, Jesus’ ministry was funded by women. God’s heart and design is for women.
If you’re like me, and unfortunately it isn’t rare, you might’ve grown up in a church with an outlook of “the division of men and women are separate and not equal.” Then when you press and ask questions about this, you are immediately shut-down with responses such as verses taken out of context, or a “it’s not in the circle of importance.”
Roles within the Circle
The roles and importance of women in the Bible may fall on the second or third most outermost circle in each individual’s lives, depending on where they are at, and who they are. For me, in order to find joy and assurance in who God has created me to be as a woman, to serve Him how I was created to, and love others fully and completely, I seek understanding on what it means to be a woman. Whereas to others they may be seeking understanding on other matters. That is why the second and third circle fluctuate depending on which believer is in their own personal relationship with the Lord and depending on the convictions placed on their hearts by the Lord.
Truth in the Bible
Specifically as it pertains to women’s roles according to the Bible, it’s important to have a humbled heart posture because we as humans can often fall to trends of culture. Remember the Bible is countercultural, it should expose hard places in our hearts, it should be convicting. This is what must be in the front of our mind as we discuss women’s roles, and I am guilty of this more than anyone else. We need to seek truth. Truth does not always align with our hearts; it aligns with the Lord’s heart.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The first time women are mentioned in the Bible is in the account of creation in Genesis 2. For some clarification, many theologians argue that Genesis 2 is recounting Genesis 1, and the 7-day creation. “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him,” (Gen. 2:20b). The word used here helper, does not mean what is often thought is used. Helper in this context does not mean “assistant” or “attendant”. The Hebrew word used is; עֵזֶר – ezer; which is also used throughout The Bible such as Exodus 18:4, “and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”)”. And in Psalms 33:20, “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Therefore, we can conclude that women were created to come alongside men and compliment the roles of men. Just as God breathed life into men, women were created in God’s image.
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my life; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. – Genesis 2:23
Another common question or argument presented is when The Bible describes the roles of pastor and elder. First, let’s acknowledge that pastor and leader is not a synonym used for leadership. Pastor and elder are specific roles and examples of Church leadership.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. – 1 Timothy 3:1-2
Now in all humility and honesty I struggle to understand and accept the description of men in these verses, in my pride. The reason it is not uncommon for women to struggle with the aforementioned ideas, is because this is a direct result of the curse after the original sin in the Bible. As it says in Genesis 3:16b, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” It’s really easy to fall into the way of thinking of the world we live in. Equality sounds good, and it’s actually a Biblical idea. That men and women are equal, I mean Eve was made out of Adam’s rib, taken from his side, as we are to walk alongside one another. Yet, the meaning of equality gets deluded in the language of the world. Equal does not mean exact replicas, equal means to hold the same value, to not be greater or less. Yet, we see equality as merely being the exact same, but when confronted with Biblical truth, equality means the same in value. Distinct and unique, but made with the same purpose; to enter into a relationship with God, and reflect His heart onto the world. Just as with money, there may be someone with four quarters, and another with a single dollar bill. Would anyone argue that one of those people holds more money than another? No. Though the physical appearance looks different, each holds the same value.
Called According to One’s Gifts
However, in this it’s important to recognize and understand that the roles of elder and pastor are not the only roles within the Church that are synonymous with leadership. Yes, these roles are leadership within the Church, but this does not mean in any sense that women cannot be in any leadership role. There are amazing women God has gifted who speak, write curriculum, lead worship, head ministries and non-profits, and lead those around them in a God honoring and monumentally impactful ways. Women can and should lead whenever God presents an opportunity to love Him and love His people.
This leads to another common topic surrounding women and Christianity is the question, are men and women gifted differently by God? Although this question is often not addressed or directly answered, it’s important to realize that the actions or people in the Church answer this question unintentionally. When women are not given the opportunity to lead in any capacity, the message being given is that women should not/cannot lead, which is dangerous because it takes out half of God’s beloved creation made in His image. But, when we empower women to walk in the way “worthy of the calling they’ve received,” we make room for the Holy Spirit to move through His vessels.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:6-8
Each gift was given not based on gender, but rather as a unifying factor of the people of God. Those with the gift of teaching should teach. Those with the gift of giving, should give. Regardless of gender, each person is called to serve the Lord.
This conversation derives from a serious misunderstanding. Church, please hear this: Your women are seeking clarity, and out of these mixed messages come hurt and hard hearts. Women, hear this: You are beyond loved and treasured. You have infinite worth and value and God is ready to use you and work through you. Teach those around you what the Lord is teaching you regardless of platform. Talk to the audience, the social media following, the people at the coffee shop, whoever God lays before you. We are the body, we are the bride. Who are we to limit the worth of others? Both men and women are gifted and guided. Women hold distinct and unique value as given by God.