Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What Does God Have To Say About Biblical Womanhood?

I thought it would be interesting to do a character sketch of the virtuous woman. It's sort of a self-assigned essay for me. Through writing this, I hope to get a fuller understanding of what it means to be a virtuous woman. Now, writing all of this is one thing; applying it is quite another! It will certainly be something to pray about!

There are so many wonderful passages that describe the virtuous woman. I'd like to look at a few of the main Scripture passages that talk about the role of women and how women should conduct themselves. The first one is Genesis 2:18. The next, obviously, is Proverbs 31:10-31. The third, Titus 2:3-5.

What is the role of a woman? Why was she even created? Couldn't God have stopped after creating the man? Genesis 2:28 says,

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

God, in His divine providence, determined that it would not be good for man to be alone. So he created a "helpmeet" for him. That helpmeet, as we all know, was the woman. Helpmeet. Now that's not a word you run across everyday! Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary defines it this way:

Help-meet (Heb. 'ezer ke-negdo; i.e., "a help as his counterpart" = a help suitable to him), a wife (Gen. 2:18-20)

So our role, as women, is to be a helper to our husbands. For an unmarried woman, her primary job is to be a helper to her father and an assistant to her mother. What better way to prepare yourself for being a helpmeet to your husband than by treating your father with the same respect and honor that you will one day owe to your husband? And by assisting your mother with homemaking duties, you are learning how to handle your own home one day!

The Bible gives more detailed instructions on exactly how a woman is to behave in Proverbs 31:10-31. It outlines ways that she can be an effective helpmeet to her husband, and summarizes her duties to her household, her family, and her Lord. This passage begins by marveling at the rarity of a truly virtuous woman.

Proverbs 31:10

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

I remember once hearing a story about a missionary who was preaching to a group of natives who had a practice of buying and selling young women as wives. I believe the average "price" for a young woman was normally a few cows or pigs. The natives were amazed at how this missionary esteemed and loved his wife. When asked how much his wife was worth to him, the man replied that her price was far above rubies, diamonds, and gems. The natives marveled at this, and through this missionary's testimony, the practice of buying and selling young women as wives was eventually abandoned.

Proverbs 31:11

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

A virtuous woman is trustworthy. Her husband can trust her entirely, and with her help he will be successful.

Proverbs 31:12-25

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

The virtuous woman is not lazy in any sense of the word. She is industrious, self-disciplined, energetic, and diligent. She is a businesswoman of sorts, supplementing her husband's income, and in this particular instance, involved in real estate and the sale of her own handiwork. Verse 17 says that she is strong, or physically fit. It is important that we take good care of ourselves physically - not only because our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, but also because we need to be prepared for anything the Lord assigns us to do. The virtuous woman is also charitable and hospitable. She helps the poor and reaches out to those who are in need. She takes good care of her household, making sure that everyone in it is clothed properly and well taken care of. She also looks to her own appearance. "Her clothing is silk and purple." Not only is she concerned about her character ("strength and honor are her clothing") - what is on the inside; but she also is not careless about how she looks on the outside. Verse 23 says that her husband is known in the gates, and sits among the elders of the land. This is clearly an influential man, and from the context we can draw that his success is due in a large part to his wife. She compliments and completes him. She makes his business hers and encourages and assists him in his endeavors and passions.

Proverbs 31:26

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

The wisdom that comes from her mouth is obtained from the Lord. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." The virtuous woman is a student of the Bible and, as a result, is wise. She shares her wisdom with her family, and doesn't allow herself idle chatter. This next part is what I often have a difficult time with. "In her tongue is the law of kindness." The Bible talks about the fact that the tongue is impossible to tame. James 3:8 says "But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." Isn't that the truth?! But "in her tongue is the law of kindness." It is so difficult to guard the tongue! The virtuous woman, with the Lord's help, has learned to guard her tongue and speaks with kindness.

Proverbs 31:27

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Again, the virtuous woman is industrious. She is not one to sit around on the couch all day watching soap operas and eating strawberries and cream! She is a diligent, attentive homemaker.

Proverbs 31:28-29

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

"Her children arise up, and call her blessed." Isn't that wonderful? She has raised up children who respect a virtuous woman and honor their parents. I would imagine that she has invested countless hours in their upbringing and has helped her husband raise up a godly generation. Who says that being a homemaker is not a fulfilling vocation? What better job could there be than that of raising up a generation of God-fearing children to bring praise to the Lord and honor to their parents? This verse also says that her husband praises her. He recognizes that he has found a woman whose price is far above rubies, and loves and respects her.

Proverbs 31:30-31

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

The most important characteristic of a virtuous woman is that she fears the Lord. That is the most praiseworthy attribute that anyone could possess! Outward looks can be deceiving, but it is a woman's genuine fear of the Lord that will set her apart from other women and will earn her fulfillment in her own life and recognition by the Lord and others. A woman can perform all of the actions described in Proverbs 31 and still not be a virtuous woman! It is the correct motivation behind all of these "achievements" that makes her virtuous: her fear of the Lord.

Another passage which deals directly with the role of women is Titus 2:3-5. Paul has just finished outlining the characteristics required in elders of the church in chapter 1. He then goes on to discuss the responsibilities of older women in the church, the body of Christ.

Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

The older women are not to be gossipers or drunkards; they are to be holy. They are to disciple the younger women in the church. An older woman possesses much more wisdom than a younger one; she has the advantage of years, experience, and hindsight. A smart young woman will glean what she can from the example, teaching, and advice of older women who have already experienced her stage of life. What are the older women supposed to teach the younger women? Through their example and witness, they are to teach the younger women to be sober, even-keeled, and temperate - not giddy, frivolous, and extravagant. The younger women should learn from the older women what it means to love their husbands and to be a true, God-honoring helpmeet. The older women must show a genuine love toward their children, that the younger women can learn by their example. The last verse in this passages mentions several character traits that the young women should be taught.
"Discreet" means to be "judicious in one's conduct or speech; prudent; cautious." [Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.] This does not imply a loud, gaudy woman, but one who is quiet and temperate.
"Chaste" means "refraining from unsanctioned sexual behavior; decent and modest; simple; unadorned." Women are to be faithful to their own husbands; they are not to be flirtatious. Simplicity and modesty are important characteristics too.
"Keepers at home" ... need the Bible be any more clear? The woman's place is in the home, where her responsibility is to lovingly care for her family. A woman's place is not out in the workforce, where there is a multitude of temptations and appealing things which pull her further and further away from her family and her God-assigned responsibilities. God assigned to the woman the responsibility of being a homemaker in her own home. If we believe that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, how can we overlook this direct assignment? Notice that this passage makes no mention of the older women teaching the younger women to have their own careers. Every verse that we have looked at points to the fact that the woman's place is in the home, helping her husband and raising her children.
"Good." This definition fills up an entire page in Webster's 1828 dictionary. I believe the definition that applies best to this context is, "Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God's law requires; virtuous; pious."
"Obedient to their own husbands." In this world of "equality" and "feminism" (as opposed to "femininity") this may seem a little strange. You mean that I have to be obedient to my husband? Yes; that's what God says, very clearly. Susan Zakula, in her book The Joy of Womanhood, explains this concept thus:
"God gives men grace and wisdom to lead their wives because He has asked the wives to trust the leadership of their husbands. God does not command women to be free thinkers or teachers of their husbands. God's Word teaches that women are to learn from their fathers and husbands. The principle here is obedience to God's Word and following God's plan and God's way. Girls, develop the habit of asking your father's opinion about everything you do and read, and then listen and obey. You will be developing a pattern of trust and obedience that you will carry into your marriage relationship."
A girl who goes off to college, out from under the leadership of her father, cannot help but acquire an independent, self-sufficient spirit. When it comes time for her to be married, to return under the authority of a man, it can be a very difficult transition. After being "independent" for four or more years, imagine having to suddenly adjust to a life of obedience and surrender!
The end of this verse says, "...that the word of God be not blasphemed." Blasphemed? "To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence; to revile or speak reproachfully of God, or the Holy Spirit." Blasphemy is defined as "An indignity offered to God by words or writing; reproachful, contemptuous words uttered impiously against Jehovah." [Webster's 1828 Dictionary] Blasphemy is a serious offense against God! In the Old Testament, it was punishable by stoning! By not fulfilling our God-given roles, we are actually blaspheming the name of the Lord by our lifestyle! Susan Zakula writes,
"Choosing our lifestyle and how we live out our lives is pretty serious business. It is not our choice to make. God has chosen the path for us, and either we love the Lord and are following His path and glorifying Him with our lives, or we love ourselves, and we are following our own paths and blaspheming Him. Truly, this is the opposite of what the world is teaching girls and women, but this world's wisdom is foolishness unto God! Please don't be foolish. Our heavenly Father loves and cares for us, and blesses a life of obedience with joy, peace, and happiness - things the world cannot give."

One thing that God has really stressed to me over the past year or so is that the only way we will find fulfillment is through following God's plan for our lives. A lifestyle which is in direct opposition to what God has designed cannot be expected to bring contentment and fulfillment. The Bible says that in God's presence is fulness of joy. Outside of His presence and His will, it is impossible to experience true joy. If we believe this, and take God's Word just as He says it, we will be encouraged to pursue God's plan for our lives, and heartened to work towards the goal of being a truly virtuous woman.

2 comments:

The Zimmerman's said...

Hello!

Great post! I also left a long comment on the one below...both were very good; keep posting!

Have a wonderful day! :D

God Bless!
-AshleyL

Lauren said...

Right now, I'm short on time so I'm having a hard time finding time to post. I have about four posts that I've started but haven't had time to finish. Every once in awhile, I get an idea about something I'd like to write about, and just type in a few reminders and thoughts ... hoping I'll be able to finish it sometime.
Great to "see" you here!
Lauren