Worldviews in Womanhood
The Bible has much to say about women’s roles in the Church and home, yet it seems that even among conservative Christians, cultural views often take precedence over revealed truths. Interestingly, Scripture issues dire warnings of what will happen if we discount or ignore these teachings yet we still do not see the connection between our disobedience and the cursing we experience.
The Church is failing to give daughters a vision for life purpose as outlined in Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 5:3–16. That these passages apply to all women. A literal application of these verses will transform our view of the role of women in the Church including how we encourage our unmarried adult daughters.
Young unmarried women should be trained by older godly women to be family-centered, to be home-focused, to have a clear understanding of authority and to be zealous for good works. This stirs up a host of questions: Should our daughters go to college? Can a young woman work outside the home? What about particular gifting and talents—aren’t we in danger of wasting them if we encourage our daughters to be only wives and mothers? What about the women who are not good at or strongly dislike homemaking or childrearing? Isn’t this view of women narrow and stifling? Will it limit our daughters’ potential or drive our daughters away through its narrowness? Isn’t this just the 1950s housewife revisited? Do you believe women should pursue caring professions such as nursing and midwifery? These are good questions. All are focused on the outworking of particular worldviews.
I am a member of a church in which every family homeschools. A large proportion of the families have more than six children. Most of the mothers are full-time stay-at-home mothers. There are over 200 members under the age of twenty. Ten years ago few families joined the church with adult daughters and sons and the overwhelming majority of joiners were in the same age/stage as Steve and I were with children under twelve. At the time of this writing, this “first generation” of children is coming into adulthood. The mass of children who used to wear prairie dresses and swing wooden swords are transitioning from childhood into adult responsibilities. As this occurs, the changes in what Steve and I believed were firmly held core beliefs about the roles and responsibilities of young women and men are astonishing. We are scratching our heads and wondering: Who are these people? What do they really believe? What happened to all those beliefs and standards we used to talk about? How did they change their views? Did their views actually change?
Although less than twenty years old, already we see the church losing children to worldly pursuits and philosophies. Sons are leaving to build lives outside the covenant community. Many are selfish and immature, and show little serious-mindedness about pursuing a vocation or becoming a husband and father. Young women seem more intent on getting their Omnibus done than in learning homemaking skills or helping families in need. Daughters take jobs and college classes, pursuing careers with a goal of supplementing their future husband’s income or providing for themselves in case they do not marry. Rare is the young woman who will work without pay to serve others. The majority of young women dress in a way that is distracting and detracting from the gospel message. These outward manifestations reveal inward realities that the clear teaching of Scripture is not really believed. Because the truth does not impact our children’s hearts, we are also losing our grandchildren even before they are born. We are double-minded, taking our cues for how we live from the culture and then adding Scripture rather than beginning with the Bible and seeing how its instructions work out in our cultural context.
Accurate Biblical Categories
Our modern propensity is to create categories in the Church beyond the scripturally described designations. Perhaps as a result of our target-market American culture, not only do we age segregate church programs but we also create little boxes in which to place people. What the Bible calls “children” we label preschoolers, primaries, ‘tweens, preteens, junior higher, young teens, and so on. In the same way we sort women into non-biblical categories: high schoolers, college age, unmarried career women, and so on. When we do this, we create demographics of women to whom the clear teaching of Scripture doesn’t apply.
As an example, in 1 Timothy 5 Paul gives clear instructions on how the Church should view and care for unprotected women in the Church. Verses three to ten give explicit instructions on how to identify a “true” widow. Verse eleven gives instructions on what not to do with younger widows and the reasoning behind it. Verse fourteen explains, “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (emphasis added). I am not a Greek scholar, but from my study of the passage, the use of the word widow is implied. The words used literally mean younger women. Based on the reasons Paul gives, why would the direction to marry, bear children, and manage households apply only to women aged twenty to fifty-nine years old whose husbands have died? In the same manner, Titus 2 is often applied only to married women with children despite the biblical dividing of females into only three categories: children, younger women, and older women.
This tendency to dismiss key passages leaves modern Christians rudderless, assuming that the Bible is silent on what goals and activities our adult daughters should engage in. This is the heart of the conversation. Did God really leave our unmarried women, those with the greatest potential for service to others, with so little specific instruction? The broad evangelical Church affirms this view along with the views that the Bible is silent in the areas of education, birth control, Sunday schools, and dress. Most of our readers disagree with the broader Church in these areas and willingly changed their lives in radical ways to live lives that conform to the clear teaching of Scripture. That is one reason I am puzzled by the lack of clear, scriptural directions our adult ladies receive. Either we have not looked at the Scripture’s teaching or we have, like Israel before us, forgotten those instructions.
The two specific passages I look at here are Titus 2:3–5; 11–14 and 1 Timothy 5:3–16. I make a few assumptions. First that when Paul speaks of younger women, he has in mind ladies who are no longer children and who are under the age of sixty. Up for debate is when that transition from childhood to adulthood occurs, but it is certainly by the age of twenty since we see God holding the desert-wandering Israelite generation accountable by that age. The second assumption is that a woman who is over the age of sixty is an “older woman” and that women move from one category to the next with their accompanying roles and responsibilities. Another assumption is that when Scripture describes a worthy older woman, the characteristics are those that all women should strive for so that if they become widows they will be known by the same deeds as the widow “in deed” described in the text.
The progression of a woman’s life makes practical sense. During the most productive and active years from about age twenty to age sixty, a woman is to be busy doing good works. She becomes known for her good deeds. Then she reaches the stage in life where the fruit of her life’s work is evident. Most women are not only mothers, but also grandmothers and often to adult grandchildren by the age of sixty. When the older woman begins to slow down, she devotes her life to training younger women to do the things she did. It is a beautiful cycle that allows younger women to take advantage of the proven wisdom of older women.
Given the desperate lack of older women, we have become accustomed to replace the encouragement and exhortation of peers or slightly older peers for true older woman/younger women discipleship relationships. Although there is much we can learn from those who are ahead of us in stages of life or spiritual maturity, this “one anothering” is no substitute for the strength of learning from older women who are settled in their beliefs and conviction and can see the fruit of those beliefs in the lives of their children and grandchildren.
What are a Young Woman’s Priorities?
I took the liberty of collating and grouping the characteristics and assignments found in our two passages. I believe this list provides both very specific instructions for what a young woman should diligently pursue and the way in which it should be pursued.
This article continues tomorrow with: What are a Young Woman’s Priorities?