Monday, March 4, 2013

A Biblical Role For Women Seldom Recognized

It has occurred to me there are at least three ways in which women may fulfill biblical leadership positions. No, I’m not talking about being a pastor or t.v. evangelist, but about roles which our Creator intended for us.

Biblically speaking, the two roles which first come to mind are those of teaching women and/or children and, of course, being a mother.[1] 

However, a third role came to mind as I thought about Nancy Campbell of who has young ladies come to her home to work with her a few months at a time. I also thought of my friend, Jan Haglund, who has had our daughter work in her ladies’ clothing shop on occasion. These are not mothering or teaching situations, but they do involve maidens being given a portion much like the Proverbs 31 woman gave to hers.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. (Proverbs 31:15)
I always thought this meant she served them breakfast! However, when I considered Nancy and Jan, I got a new perspective. Then, upon further investigation, I found there is another meaning.

...(Our) imaginations can easily picture the Jewish matron as surrounded by her family at early day, and apportioning to each of her household, not only daily food, but also daily work....Her daughters and her maidens will ply the distaff, or with the needle weave delicate embroideries; and the materials for the work of each must be selected, and, by a judicious division of labor, all be made easy. And in this diligent and well-ordered family, ...the young infant must be tended and the older child taught to walk in wisdom’s ways and to know the law of the God of Israel.[2]

The Targum renders the word for "portion” [as] “service": understanding not a portion of food, but of work, a task set them, and so the word is used in Exodus 5:14. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "works", ...[3]

We see here the portion which the lady of the house or business gave to those under her authority was their work to be accomplished for that day. In this sense, the third godly woman’s role is that of a housekeeper or business owner who guides the women and children under her employ or influence. This godly leadership is just as important as the others which we usually take for granted. In this way, even if you are unmarried, this is another way in which you may be used of the Lord in leadership positions without taking those intended for men.

Here are some other examples:

  1. There are at least three instances (Sara, Rachel, and Leah) in the Old Testament where women had control over their own maidens, even to the point of having the authority to give them to their husbands in marriage in order to bear children in their stead (Gen 16:1-6; 30:4, 9). 
  2. In I Samuel 25:18-19, Abigail seemingly stepped out of her sphere in giving provisions to the army of David after her husband had refused. However, since she was never rebuked for doing so, but was lauded as a virtuous woman, it stands to reason she did not act outside her sphere of responsibility in distributing food and commanding her household servants.
  3. Lydia, the seller of purple, was a business woman who influenced her employees in spiritual matters. It says in Acts 16, verses 14 and 15, that those of her household were baptized at the same time she was. Apparently, they were with her in prayer by the river side when Paul came to preach the Gospel to them.
While these are all literal, biblical examples, there are other ways in which this principle may be applied. For example, a mother of many small children may take in a young woman within their circle of influence who might assist her periodically with housework or keep an eye on the children while mother gets things done. Our own daughter was greatly blessed by doing just this type of service and was ministered to by the women she assisted in ways which will impact her for life.

So, we see in these examples how women may have biblical leadership over their servants/emplyees. Evidently by them we see how this is indeed another way in which a godly woman may be both a guide and influence in this sphere of biblical authority.

Did you think of any other biblical examples or modern-day ways in which women can fulfill this god-given role? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear your take on this subject.

[1] Titus 2:3-5; 1 Timothy 2:12-15

[2]Sprague, William Buell. The Excellent Woman as Described in the Book of Proverbs. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1864,  pp. 76, 77 .
[3]Gill, Dr. John. Dr. Gill’s Commentary. Old Testament: Psalms-Isaiah, Vol. 3. Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Turner Lassetter, 1954, p. 602. Rpt. of Ireland: Originally printed at the Bonmahon Industrial Printing School, Est. Oct. 1851 by David A. Doudney, Curate of the Parish of Monksland, County of Waterford.