Honor killings—domestic violence—prostitution—rape—slavery—degradation—verbal abuse…these are the sad realities in the lives of many women today.
“Women’s rights” has been a hot topic in the Western world for decades. The treatment of women around the world, whether good or bad, makes headlines regularly.
In countries such as Pakistan, South Africa, Peru, Russia and Uzbekistan, women are regularly beaten at home. Governments and authorities often turn a blind eye to domestic violence. For example, “in Pakistan, officials at all levels of the criminal justice system believe domestic violence is not a matter for criminal courts” (Human Rights Watch).
In Ukraine, Moldova, Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Burma, Thailand and other nations, women are bought and sold for prostitution—reduced to an object to fulfill the carnal appetites of human nature.
In many conflicts in the past few decades, rape has been used as a weapon of war and oppression. Even children are not excluded. In such cases, men simply overpower women and horribly abuse them—leaving scars, physical and emotional, that last a lifetime.
Partly fueled by rape, AIDS is devastating Africa, stealing lives and orphaning innocent children. The United Nations Children’s Fund found that in Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, “for every 15-19-year-old boy who is infected, there are five to six girls infected in the same age group.”
This is not just a snapshot of today’s world—this has been the history of mankind.
Having been designed by their Creator as the “weaker vessel” (I Peter 3:7), many women have been the recipients of abuse, wrong perceptions and much more.
But is this what God intended? What does His Word say about women—and how should they be viewed and treated?
There are various Christian views on this subject among many disagreeing and competing groups and denominations. Each faction of professing Christianity has its own doctrinal agenda and focus.
Some take the extreme, right-wing approach to women—thinking the Bible dictates that a woman should walk five paces behind her husband, should never speak unless spoken to and should be quiet, looking at the floor.
While not saying this outright, others reduce women to individuals who cannot think for themselves—who, like newborn chicks, need everything “chewed” for them by a husband or father before they can “digest” it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum—anything goes! Many think there are no differences between men and women. This school of thought says that distinctions of any sort in any arena of society should never be made. If distinctions are made, the assumption is that they result from inequality.
Like any other organizational structure that was ordained millennia ago—whether groups of nations, individual nations, cities or families—mankind has manipulated, confused, twisted, enlarged and diminished the role of women in civilization.
Again, what does the Bible say? If there are so many varying beliefs, even among professing Christians, is there any right view on this subject? And is Scripture so unclear that one conclusion simply cannot be reached? Like any subject in the Bible, there are many differing opinions, but human beings and human institutions, cut off from God, come to their own conclusions—not God’s.
This article will demystify how the Bible and its Author explain how women should be viewed and treated.
Human beings, since the beginning of time, have tried to place their own class, race, nation, culture, gender, etc., above others. Citizens feel their nation is better than other nations. Races feel their race is superior. Some pride themselves in their culture and look down on others who are not as refined or liberated.
In this same way, many feel that their gender is better than the other. Jokes of all kinds are told throughout the Western world in an attempt to diminish and make fun of the opposite sex. Pop culture, specifically television sitcoms and advertisements, attempt to “right the wrongs” of the past, putting women ahead of men. Men are often portrayed as imbeciles who must have everything spelled out to them by their (much smarter) wives. But are women better than men? Or are men better than women? Or are they perfectly equal?
The Bible is very clear. Notice: “For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).
In God’s eyes, when one is a Christian, there is no difference whether one is male or female! One is not better than the other—period. One does not have more rights than the other. In the truest sense, there is equality. Humans—every female, and every male—are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28)—and each human being on earth has the potential to become an “heir according to the promise” given to Abraham thousands of years ago.
Neither gender is superior to the other—but does that mean there are no distinctions?
Many who have experienced and seen the atrocities committed against women have jumped into the opposite ditch—throwing out any semblance of structure that the Creator ordained thousands of years ago. The Bible does give explicit instruction to males and females, husbands and wives. Many professing Christians are probably familiar with these passages.
Let’s read the detailed account I Peter 3: “Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
“Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
“Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (vs. 1-8).
One word probably stands out the most and is deemed unacceptable in contemporary society: “subjection.” It can also mean “to submit or be subordinate to.” Essentially—when one truly understands what this means (many do not, and simply recoil with emotion)—this is simply God structuring the family unit. One individual must be in charge. As with any successful business, someone must be at the top. For example, a vice-president in a company is subordinate to the president. Does that make the president more valuable or better? No! But he is given more responsibility and therefore held more accountable. The same is true with any father or husband.
There are several other passages that explain the various duties within a family, but what we have read is enough to understand that the God who created the entire universe, with its ten billion trillion stars, also established a certain family structure. This was not implemented at random, but rather to create an atmosphere of success, peace and happiness, if applied correctly and with God’s Holy Spirit, for both the wife and husband, as well as the children who follow.
Again, some recoil at the thought that a wife is to submit to her husband or that women are “the weaker vessel.” But these are the plain statements of mankind’s Creator. Be careful not to find yourself fulfilling Isaiah 45:9: “Woe to the man who quarrels with his Maker…Does the clay ask the potter what he is doing?” (Moffatt).
(Due to length, this article cannot begin to cover all the duties of a husband and wife. To learn more, read our booklet You Can Build a Happy Marriage.)
For those willing to study Jesus Christ’s life, it is clear that He had a balanced and correct view of men and women.
Consider the account of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Take a moment to read John 8 verses 1 through 11. The Pharisees wanted to stone the woman (not very different from the “honor killings” found in some countries in the Mid-East today). But Jesus pointed out, possibly by writing the Pharisees’ sins in the sand, that all people sin. He did not see her identity (and the fact that she was female) as a reason to respond differently to her than to any other individual’s sin. In the end, while many conclude this is a story of “you should not point out any one else’s sins,” it is instead a story of “go, and sin no more” (vs. 11)—of repentance and change.
It also shows that Christ did not take a different view because the sinner was a woman—He treated her the same as He would treat anyone else. People would do well to copy His example.
In another instance, in John 4:27, some were surprised that Jesus was talking to a woman in public—again, something still prohibited in many societies today. In fact, throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus Christ interacting with women, and never is there a sense that He viewed them as better or worse than men or as some sort of second-class citizens.
Some may conclude that although Jesus did not stereotype or look down on women, other sections of the Bible do. A proper study of this Book reveals this is not the case. In some instances, women led (as a judge) the nation of Israel or served as prophetesses. In the case of Esther, she courageously saved her people from destruction. In the New Testament, some of the most oft-referenced servants and helpers are women.
Then there is the “Proverbs 31” woman. The passage begins, “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” The following scriptures describe a virtuous woman as one who…
works hard and willingly (vs. 13)
is productive and makes use of all the time she is given (vs. 15)
is clothed with beautiful attire (vs. 21-22)
takes care of her family (vs. 27)
is beloved by her husband and children (vs. 28)
is praised as a pillar in her community (vs. 31)
Does this sound like a quiet, foot-shuffling, always-looking-down, five-paces-behind-her-husband woman? Of course not! This is a person who understands who she is—a woman who strives and achieves real success! Those who scoff at the Bible say that it degrades and looks down upon women. In God’s true Church, this is simply NOT the case! And true ministers maintain a very strict policy against the abuse of women.
The reason humanity will never take a balanced approach to this subject, or any other related topic, is that there is an unknown dimension absent in the vast knowledge of mankind. In rejecting divine revelation, still available today, people have rejected the spiritual understanding that is connected to the roles of male and female.
The Bible provides the foundational knowledge man cannot discover by his own investigation or experimentation. When man rejects this knowledge, he inevitably lands in error. Just as all equipment comes with an instruction manual, so has God provided such a Manual for mankind. Heeding the instructions of this Manual of spiritual information leads to happiness and fulfillment. Abiding by it assures blessings in every endeavor. Disregarding it guarantees curses and eventual breakdown of all progress in every endeavor.
In the end, men and women are equal in God’s eyes, but are simply assigned different roles—neither one better or worse, more or less intelligent, of more or less worth, etc.
This should be our view as well. All human beings should be treated with respect, love and honor. Each individual has the potential to be part of God’s Family, and all should be treated as such. While there are different roles, and oftentimes different strengths and weakness, we are all human, created to fulfill our incredible human potential!