Summary: Message 6 in our series on Judges. This is the first of two messages exploring the Bible's view of women.
Judges Series #6 Life Cycles
“How God Feels About Women”
In our study of the book of Judges we encountered a deviation from the norm in Judaism that warrants a closer look. We encountered a woman prophet who was also a judge. Deborah drew high respect from the people. God used Deborah to bring about deliverance and keep a godly focus among this renegade people for 40 years.
I will begin our journey today with a brief summary of attitudes toward women at points in history including the church. Next we will try to summarize God’s attitudes or thinking toward women by examining the Biblical record. We will try to wrestle with some specific New Testament passages that some have used to bar women from certain responsibilities and ministries in the church. Finally, I will try to draw some principles that may be applied to women’s ministries today.
HISTORICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN
Authors have expended a great deal of ink dedicated to the issue of the role of women throughout history. Debaters have argued both ends and the middle of the debate from no essential role to superiority over men. I think the Bible has done more for the liberation and appreciation of the role of women in society as well as ministry than people give credit.
Of course, those who marginalize women claim the Bible as their source book but their methods are highly suspect. Jesus massively raised the view of women above the views of His day. Generally, Judaism practiced an extremely low view of women. Lepers, Gentiles, and women were considered outcasts by many Jewish people, especially the Pharisees.
A daily morning prayer of the Pharisees lifted praise to God, “I give thanks that I am a man and not a woman, a Jew and not a Gentile, a free-man and not a slave.”
Although there was a minimal participation in public life, in the role of the family, women enjoyed a much more elevated consideration. In early Greek times, men granted women somewhat higher respect than women of other ancient pagan societies. Nevertheless, women remained under the authority and control of their husbands both by custom and by law and found themselves nearly on the same level with servants.
If I am to speak also of womanly virtues … I will sum up all in a brief admonition: Great is your glory if you fall not below the standard which nature has set for your sex, and great also is hers of whom there is least talk among men whether in praise or in blame. Pericles
(The Role of Women in the Church)
Society viewed women as a lowly but necessary to raise up warriors for the city-state. One may conclude that in the Greek world, the status of women was decidedly inferior to that of men; wives led lives of seclusion and practical slavery.
By Roman times, the attitude toward women hardly improved.
Under the Roman Empire women enjoyed a somewhat better standing than in Greece. Legally, however, the wife was still regarded merely as a piece of property completely under the control of the husband. Yet in practice the law was interpreted otherwise, and women enjoyed considerable freedom. Further, the wife was not kept in seclusion as in a Greek household; rather, "she shared her husband's life and set a standard of wifely and motherly virtues envied in a later age." The Role of Women in the Church (Ryrie).
Whatever freedom they enjoyed turned to license regarding degrading behaviors.
One finds a greatly diminished value set on marriage, a marked increase in divorces, a general casting off of moral restraint.
Although Jesus modeled respect for women, a continual lack of appreciation for the role and worth of women persisted right on through American early history. The church even used the Bible to bolster their cultural attitudes. Here are some true stories that indicate how much more progress is needed in the church.
A seminar student looks at a young woman seated in the desk next to his and asks, “Why are you here? Don’t you know most of us are already married?”
One writer decries the fact that women were given the vote in this country because that is a part of the humanist conspiracy to destroy the American family.
In the opening service of a missions conference each of the men missionaries is given five minutes to present opening remarks. A highly regarded veteran woman missionary is told that she may share some of her experiences at a ladies’ tea, but is only to say her own name and the name of her field when she stands at the pulpit.
Talk show caller: Why can’t women preach and teach?” Minister host: “That ministry is for men only and I can give you a good reason; God made roosters to crow and hens to lay eggs.”