Creation, Marriage, and Women
The book of Proverbs shows us that God cares about the nitty-gritty details of our every day lives. The one, true, living God is not detached, aloof, and disinterested. He loves us and wants life for us, not death. He wants us to flourish – in this life and the next – not merely exist. Though nearly 3,000 years old, this ancient book remains incredibly relevant today – even to the modern debate on marriage, gender and roles. This week we look at creation, marriage and women.
The book of Proverbs shows us that God cares about the nitty-gritty details of our every day lives. The one, true, living God is not detached, aloof, and disinterested. He loves us and wants life for us, not death. He wants us to flourish – in this life and the next – not merely exist. Though nearly 3,000 years old, this ancient book remains incredibly relevant today. The primary theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom is the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. This wisdom does not find its source in having the right information, living morally or having a certain amount of life experience. Clearly, all of those are helpful, good and right. Godly wisdom is not less than those things, but it is much more.
Godly wisdom gives us needed aid in areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. This wisdom finds its source in the “fear of the Lord” (1:7, 9:10). To fear the Lord is not to be “scared” of him. Rather to “fear the Lord” is to let God be God to you, in all of his awesome glory, power, holiness, grace, mercy and beauty. As you do that, over time, you will become wise from the inside out. Letting God be God to you will impact every corner of your life – for good. That’s what Proverbs is about.
We’re at the half-way point of the series and find ourselves in a section that deals with relationships, particularly marriage. It’s important to highlight that Proverbs does not explicitly deal with marriage roles and gender. They are inferred. For us to understand what Proverbs does say about marriage, we must understand the full biblical teaching on that subject. For example, for us to rightly understand the wife portrayed in Proverbs 31 we have to have some sort of grasp on biblical gender and marriage. Therefore, we’re spending two weeks (last week and today) walking through important foundational elements of gender, roles and marriage. Next week we’ll get to what Proverbs actually says about marriage. Then we’ll take a week to examine the topic of singleness before moving onto the topic of children (raising, instructing, disciplining, etc).
Ladies, you’ve been lied to. You’ve been told that:
“Children are an inconvenience”
“Marriage is a 50/50 deal”
“Submission is for idiots”
“Being a homemaker is for airheads who can’t hack it in the business world”
“You’re contributing more to society if you work outside the home and put your kids in daycare.”
“Women are not unique from men and should be able to take a punch like a man.”
“To be a modern woman you should look capable, confident, young and sexy through your 80’s.”
Q: How has this worked out for us?
Today: Divorce rate 2x in 1960. Kids born = married couples down 30% (’70). 50% married (72% ’60) “Starter marriage”: 5 years or less w/out kids. “You know that you’ll outgrow it and need an upgrade.” Many think only 2 options: single and lonely or married and bored (w/ little statistical chance of making it)
Many, therefore, aim for middle: cohabitation w/ sexual partner. Few things more broken in our day than manhood and womanhood in relation to marriage. The price of this brokenness is enormous and touches nearly every corner of our life. It is incredibly relevant and important for every one of us. We need wisdom. Fortunatly, our God gives us just that.
“If Proverbs doesn’t explicitly teach about marriage roles and gender, then why are we ?” To understand what Proverbs does say about marriage, we must understand these things. They are inferred in Proverbs. For examle, the Prov 31 wife can’t adequately be understood without biblical understanding of gender and marriage.
Clearly, any talk about about marriage, gender, roles, headship, submission cause our filters to automatically go up and, inevitably, get in way of text. There is no denying these issues are contentious and, unfortunately, the Bible has been used as weapon by every party – particulary when it comes to the topic of “submission”. “Submission? Isn’t that an ancient, archaic practice of the vikings? History channel?” Anything that remotely sounds or acts like oppression is deeply resented and resisted. What do we as XNs say to that? We agree. Many women have been abused, exploited, oppressed and enslaved in the name of headship and submission and that is entirely wrong, sinful and wicked. But, we must recognize that thought those labels are placed on that behavior, that is not what headship and submission is.
We tend to have a distorted and skeptical view of headship/submission because: 1) haven’t seen it 2) not taught well 3) abused. But, just because headship/submission are abused or rarely seen does not mean they’re not true or don’t work. We shouldn’t throw baby out w/ the dirty bath water. Let’s get rid of the filth and keep the baby. I have personally witnessed and experienced tremendous healing and flourishing in marriage when headship and submission are rightly understood and lived out. So we must allow Bible to challenge our filters and consider what it actually says. These are God’s ideas, not mans.
You may say, “Well, I don’t think that men and women, or gender or family or marriage should be this way.” OK, but did you come to conclusion because you were wrestling w/ Bible or because that’s how you want it to be? If we are to let God be God to us, then we must let God’s word be God’s word to us. Don’t let your own filters or negative experiences get in the way of the text. God has a better way for us all.
Last week we saw that the covenant of marriage is a living drama of covenant keeping love between Jesus and the church. We can only understand covenant of marriage in light Jesus’ covenant w/ his people, the church. Original: Jesus’ relationship w/ his people. Copy: human marriage between husband and wife. In other words, marriage is nothing but gospel living, breathing and walking around. Husband: Christ-figure; Wife: Church-figure. This week we’re going to take a different, but related angle, of creation.
Q#1: HOW DID GOD CREATE US?
Let’s look at Genesis 1-3 and make three important observations:
#1 Our maleness/femaleness is not an accident, not arbitrary nor unimportant, but at the very essence of our humanity.
Genesis 1:26-27 26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
This is fascinating. The very first mention of gender in Bible occurs w/ very first mention of humanity itself. In fact, every mention of gender distinctions in Bible is tied to the creation story – not culture. What this means is that God did not make us into generic humanity, then later male/female. Rather, from the start we are male and female. This means that we don’t live in a unisex world. Therefore, it follows that, I cannot fully understand myself if I ignore way God has designed me. Post-modern view is that gender is a “social construct” – just the result of cultural forces over time. If taht were true, then we could do whatever we want. That’s exactly what we see taking place in Seattle/Washington in voting to redefine marriage – as though that’s something to be voted on. But, if gender is at the heart of our nature then we risk losing ourselves if we abandon our male/female distinctiveness
#2 Men/women are created in the image of God, equal in dignity, value, and worth.
Note plural “we” or “us” is a hint that the relationship between men and women is a reflection of the trinitarian relationships of our trinitarian God (F,S,HS) who are co-equal, co-divine, co-eternal. We see this equality of men and women in that they were both created in the image of God and both are told to carry out mandate to build civilization/culture. So, it needs to be empasized that men are not ranked higher, men are not superior, and women are not second class. There is absolute equality in dignity, value, worth and honor – built in from creation.
#3 Though equal, men/women are created distinct in form and function, or complementary, just like members of the trinitarian Godhead.
We’re going to spend some time here. I want you to see these distinctions are rooted in creation, NOT culture. Again, the trinitarian God, each person is equal in essence, but distinct in form/function. The members of the trinity are not copies, but complementary. There are not three Fathers, or three Sons or three Spirits. There is Father, Son and Spirit – each equal, yet distinct. In same way, men and women are create equal, but distinct in form/function – like God. Let’s define some important terms:
Complementarianism: Historic, biblical idea men/women equal, but different. They complement one another.
Egalitarianism (Rooted in modern day feminist movement): Men and women are interchangeable.
If that it was true that men and women are equal but different, then we’d expect to see God make that clear in creation. He does over and over again. Let’s look at some examples:
#1 – 1:27: “male and female he created them” God could have created just male or just female or a unisex individual, but he didn’t. He created one disctincly male and one distinctly female.
#2 – 1:28 “be fruitful”: To be fruitful (have kids) you can’t do alone or w/ two men or two women. You need a distinct, yet complementary union – that’s exactly what God created. We see this biologically in how men/women physically created – and even on the emotional, psychological level.
#3 – 2:18 “helper”: To us “to help” someone is to assist someone with something they could do on their own. That person is not needed, but is nice to have around. That’s not what’s in view here. One of God’s primary designations throughout the Bible is that of being our helper. In this sense, to help, means to make up for what is lacking. It’s much closer to friend than our modern day understanding of “helper”. Similarly, “fit” = “corresponding to” or “like opposite of”. So, what’s going on here is that we see God is creating two distinct individuals that are equal to fit together that are made to correspond to one another, like puzzle pieces. Together the create a complete whole.
#4 – 2:7,22 Additionally, we see that man and woman were originally created in different order and in a different way. Man first (dust). Woman second (man).
#5 – 3:14-19 Also, God curses man and woman in accordance with their primary responsibilities. He could have cursed them in the same way and spoke to them both at the same time. But, God curses Adam in his responsibilities to provide for family and Eve in her responsibilities to nurture the family.
#6: Lastly, again highlighting disctinctions, God placed man in position of primary leadership and responsibility. Adam was formed first. Eve was formed from Adam. God goes to Adam first following the deception of Eve. God names race “Man/Adam” (5:1-2). All of these highlight a distinction in creation between men and women.
Q: Where else do we see these distinctions articulated in the Bible?
1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Cor 11:3, 8 I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God…For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
In summary, men and women were created to reflect the trinitarian God. They are equal+distinct+complimentary+image bearing representatives. Yet, when sin entered world, ruined harmony of marriage, TWISTED man’s loving, humble leadership – and, therefore, men become either hostile domination/abuse or Lazy indifference/apathy. Similarly, sin TWISTED woman’s original intelligent, happy, creative, articulate submission – and, therefore, women tend to be compliant doormats or defiant of authority. Don’t miss this. Sin did not create headship and submission; it ruined + distorted them. Sin made these things ugly. But, Jesus came to fix that.
Q#2: WHAT IS THE WIFE’S ROLE WITHIN MARRIAGE?
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph 5:22-33)
6 Guiding Principles for Biblical Submission | What it is and what it is not.
#1 Submission is FIRST TO JESUS, NOT first to your husband. “as to the Lord” vs 22
#2 Submission is to YOUR HUSBAND NOT to all men. “to your own husbands” vs 22
#3 Submission is about the created ROLE OF THE WIFE NOT the value of the wife. Submission does not mean woman is unequal, inferior, incompetent, incapable, less intelligent than her husband. Marriage isn’t like the job market where the most qualified, most educated gets to be the “head” and the dum dum gets to “submit” No. There is dignity, honor and glory in both roles and both roles cemented in creation. Feminism places all the emphasis on roles b/c feminists equate roles w/ worth. Submission has nothing to do w/ capacity, but roles. Equality of worth, different functions. Husband: role of being the head, dying for bride // Wife: role of freely, gladly completing what is lacking.
#4 Submission is about the created ROLE OF THE HUSBAND NOT the merit of the husband. vs33
#5 Submission is about THOUGHTFUL HELP, NOT fearful cowering. False: “Submission means you bury your gifts, deny your personality, check your brain, tolerate abuse”
To submit does NOT mean that you leave your brain, skills, desires at your wedding day. To submit does NOT mean you agree w/ everything your husband says, thinks or decides.
Rather, it means that the wife is fully engaged, offering careful advice, seek to lovingly influence and help in every way.
A submissive wife is not a blind follower, but a faithful friend and wise sister in Christ. Anything else, and you’re not helping your husband! God created Eve was b/c Adam needed help.
#6 Submission is VOLUNTARY NOT enforced by the husband. Husbands don’t enforce submission. Wives submit b/c it’s an expression of worship to Jesus. Therefore, it is an act of love to Jesus not merely a duty to perform for the husband. Many sinful abuses occur when husbands demand it when it is not something to be coerced.
Q#3: PRACTICALLY, HOW DOES THE WIFE LIVE OUT HER ROLE?
What does this pracitcally look like? There are many, but let’s look at four gifts of submission.
First, give your husband the GIFT of submitting TO CHRIST before him. vs22 If your submission to him is an overflow of your submission to Jesus, there will be joy, peace and love.
If you’re just submitting b/c that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’ll be irritated and annoyed. It is crucial to see that your husband wasn’t meant to bear the weight of godhood. If you make him God and he sins; you’ll be rocked. If you make Jesus your God and your husband sins (and he will) you’ll have resources (i.e. grace) to deal with that.
Second, give him the GIFT of your respect. vs 33 A man feels most loved when he is respected, trusted and honored in private and in public. I have seen wives joke, gossip, boss, demean and correct husbands in public. That’s not respect.
Respect creates home-centered man, who wants to be home, can’t wait to get there. Wives. Ask your husband how they feel respected. Probably different than you think.
Third, give him the GIFT of responsibility. Let your husband have the weight of responsibility. We unpacked what this could look like last week. Whether he realizes or not, he is created by God to bear primary responsibility of the marriage. Let him.
Let him bear primary burden of (1) financial support (I know there will be seasons where that can’t be), (2) tie-breaking vote (3) protection of you/family (4) spiritually lead.
Fourth, give him the GIFT of your dependence. vs23 The covenant of marriage creates a vital union, an inseparable oneness. Ex. head and body. You honor the head when you depend on the head. Not permission, but dependence.
Many marriages are like independent kingdoms that go through various seasons of war and peace time.
Biblically, marriage is intended to be a beautiful union that reflects the triune God. Husbands initiate w/ sacrificial love, protection and provision for his wife/familiy, as Christ does Church. Wives respond w/ free, glad, helpful, respectful submission to her husband, as Church does Christ. When you have the tender and serving authority of headship coupled with strong and gracious submission you begin to get glimpses of what marriage was meant to be. When that happens, increasingly and over time, the home becomes a window into restored and redeemed humanity. Men and women are not interchangeable copies, but complementary as a loving, beautiful team.
Q: Does that sound like a bad marriage to you?
Women: Would it be hard to freely, gladly, respectfully submit to a husband like this?
Men: Would it be hard to lead, sacrificially love, protect and provide for a wife like this?
Married women: Ask your husband how he feels respected? Cultivate home-centered? Gift him w/ respect, responsibility, dependence and make your primary submission to Jesus Christ.
Married men: Don’t demand submission. Make it easy. Love her until she does. Show her Christ.
Single men/women: Cultivate a deep, vital relationship w/ Jesus that will carry you into your marriage.
If husbands are to sacrificially lead like Jesus and wives are to lovingly submit as to Jesus it is vital that you get to know Him and what He’s done for you. The more you see him, the more you’ll love him. More you love him, the more you’ll want to be like him. As you do that our marriages – even singleness – will commend Jesus to one another and the city.
If you’re not a Christian, you want a marriage like this. There is no higher love, no deeper commitment, no greater joy than Jesus’ relationship with the church. Jesus calls us to give our lives to him – NOT to enslave/oppress – but to free/liberate us by forgiving us. Jesus invites all of us to turn from our sin and receive him afresh as King today. Give your life, your marriage, your singleness to him this morning. You can trust Him.