It's not uncommon today to see talk and debate about the conflict between male and female interests in the workplace, in education, and in the home. The so-called “battle of the sexes” rages, if you are to believe the popular media. Of course, there are differences between men and women, and there is no doubt that in various ways—and in all strata of society—there are inequities that result in conflict and ill feelings.
In some cultures, and in many religious persuasions, women are treated as inferior and are severely limited in opportunities for education and economic progress. Often we read of shocking and saddening abuses that are commonplace in those cultures while women's struggle for equity unfolds. Strong feelings regarding women’s role in society run deep, and effecting change is difficult—often accompanied by strife.
So, how should a person, male or female, who believes the Bible approach the subject? Everyone has an opinion, but whose opinion really counts? After all, is it not what the Creator God thinks about a subject that really matters? And the Bible is very clear on this important subject.
In the Book of Proverbs, we find the account of an amazing woman who set an example that is certainly worthy of emulation. We find the story in Proverbs 31, beginning in verse 10, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” Verses 11 through 25 describes that she works with her hands, being industrious in providing food and clothing for her family. It states that she buys property, profits from her business, and is helpful to the poor and needy. In doing these things she makes her husband proud of her. Verse 25 speaks of her strength and her honorable ways.
While all of these activities show her wonderful traits of character, verse 26 puts it all in perspective as follows, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Does this wonderful example indicate a position of subjugation or inferior status for a woman? Certainly not! It demonstrates the worthwhile accomplishments of a capable woman—honored by her husband and, I am sure, adored by her family.
Through it all, she speaks with wisdom and the “law of kindness.” Now, what might that law of kindness be? Jesus described it in a passage that is familiar to most people: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). We all want to be treated with kindness, so we should treat others with kindness. This is the essence of the Law and the Prophets, according to Jesus Christ.
This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. For example, “What is desired in a man is kindness” (Proverbs 19:22). However, we must admit, history shows that kindness is not a virtue that comes naturally to mankind. Man’s inhumanity to his fellow man (and woman) has been demonstrated throughout the ages. So, what is the source of true kindness where it is found? Galatians 5:22 states that kindness is a “fruit” of the Holy Spirit, which is a gift from God.
Here is how Paul described it to a group of first-century Christians: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12–13).
We can see how the friction between men and women, no matter what culture, can be eliminated by applying the law of kindness. It is important to understand that, while Scripture gives clear guidelines and sets certain limitations regarding the role of women serving in the New Testament Church, their service is not to be devalued. And while there are clear admonitions teaching wives how to be submissive to their husbands, there is absolutely no biblical basis for considering women in any way “inferior” to men.
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