Do Not Bury Your Talents Due To “Gender Roles”

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My husband, Luke, and I grew up in the conservative evangelical church, in which traditional “gender roles” are often praised as biblical and godly.

The message is sometimes subtle, but is loud and clear: a man is to be the leader, protector, and provider. The woman is to be the helper to man and a nurturer to their children. Men are to submit to God and women are to submit to men. These are their “God-designed” roles.

Some men and women easily buy into “gender role” doctrines because their personalities, preferences, and gifts happen to align with traditional gender roles. Others claim traditional gender roles, but practice an egalitarian type of marriage. Then, there are those of us who have decided to live and tell the truth of who we are, no matter who likes it or not.

Luke and I are in the last category.

Luke has the spiritual gift of “helps.” In fact, I always say that people favor me, until they really get to know Luke. He loves to help people and people love to be helped. Helping others comes naturally to Luke, and he thrives when people want and need his help.

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, HELPS, administrations, various kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Sadly, much of the Church has subliminally and directly told men that the “gift of helps” is womanly and beneath “real men.” After all, didn’t God create woman FOR man, as his “helper?”

In the English language, we think of a “helper” as a subordinate assistant, but this is an inaccurate understanding.

In Hebrew (the language the OT is written in), the word “helper” is “ezer.” This word is used 21 times throughout the Old Testament: twice in the context of Eve (the first woman), three times to describe people, and 16 times “ezer” is used to describe “God as our helper.”

To be a “helper” does not mean one is a subordinate of the person they are helping.

Rather, “helping” someone is the best way to build an alliance between people. My husband’s “gift of helps” has allowed him to build meaningful relationships and has advanced him in his career. This gift is not womanly or manly; it is godly, and I have deep respect for my husband who helps me on a daily basis.

Likewise, my gift to lead has not been respected among much of the evangelical church, because I am a woman. I remember when I became a Christian leader at 13 years old. I didn’t try to be a leader; I just was. A leader is defined as a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.

A woman who is a natural-born leader should not take off her “leader hat” in the Church or in the home. If she does, she is denying or minimizing her gift to lead. This is direct disobedience to God and the Bible. Scripture says,

“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (1 Corinthians 12:28).”

This command is not directed to men only. Many women who were born to lead have allowed bad theology to silence their voice and minimize their gift. When I was a teenager, I remember thinking, “How will I ever find a man to lead me spiritually, when my very gift is to be a spiritual leader?”

I now understand that the only spiritual leader I need is Jesus, and I don’t expect my husband to lead me. I do expect him to love me, respect me as his equal, and partner with me as his peer. He has done this; he has truly loved me as Christ loves the Church, which is the command the Apostle Paul gives husbands in Ephesians five.

Not once has my husband been threatened by my leadership gift. In fact, he has used his “gift of helps” to make me more successful in life. As our first date, Luke helped me with the youth group I was pastoring at the time. When I was a children’s pastor, Luke helped me behind the scenes. He also has the gift of administration, which has been a tremendous blessing to every ministry we have ever been involved with.

There is much pressure in the entire Christian Church (and, really, in most religions) to abandon the gifts that God has given due to fear of human disapproval, but we do not answer to humans; we answer to God.

If God gives us a gift, God expects us to use it to further the Kingdom. Scripture does not say that some gifts are for men and some gifts are for women. Rather, it says that the Spirit gives gifts as the Spirit chooses.

“It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. The Spirit alone decides which gift each person should have (1 Corinthians 12:11).”

Jesus Himself harshly condemns one who wastes what God has given him or her (Matthew 25:14-30). If God gives us two talents (a form of money), and we use them wisely, God will give us more. But, if we bury our talents, out of some sort of fear, God will give our talents to someone else who will respect God more than people.

And so, whatever your gifts are, use them. Don’t let the Church or society stop you. People may belittle and persecute you if your gifts do not fit into their manmade gender-role boxes, but God will honor you with more and more, if you are faithful to do what God has gifted you to do.

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11 Comments

  • Indeed helps is not just for women, I trust I am gifted in that area myself. However I also think it is good to quote what Paul said to Timothy including the verses that follow it. often people only quote only one verse so that the qualifying statement is absent. It was a command not a suggestion.

    1 Timothy 2:12-15New International Version (NIV)

    12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[b] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

    • @George Falconer, it is also good to quote what Paul said to Timothy in the verses that precede, as well as to consider the larger Biblical context.

      Earlier in the paragraph, he wrote, “I also want the women to dress modestly….” Most interpreters agree that Paul is putting forth a universal principle, here. However, when he gets to v. 12, he does not write, “I do not permit the women to teach or to assume authority over the men.” Instead, he shifts the grammar from the plural to the singular: “I do not permit A woman to teach or to assume authority over A man…” (emphasis mine). Paul was a very precise writer, and the shift in grammar is significant. This seems to suggest the possibility that Paul’s intention in v. 12 was not to lay down a universal principle, as it was in v. 9. While I agree with you that Paul’s statement was a command, not a suggestion, it seems to be a command that was given specifically to Timothy regarding a specific situation at the Ephesian church.

      Interestingly, Jesus himself said something similar to his disciples when he told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Christian leadership is about serving others, not exercising authority over others. The latter was the way of the Gentiles, and Jesus warned them not to follow that path. Read in the context of Jesus’ teachings, Paul is not prohibiting women from exercising leadership in the church as a universal principle. Rather, he is reminding a specific group of women in a specific situation at a specific church not to exercise that leadership in the manner of the Gentiles.

    • @George Falconer

      Eve was deceived (1 Tim 2:14). There’s no disputing that. However, what does that tell us about Adam? The Bible states that Adam was not deceived. Therefore, Adam knew what was right, yet he knowingly and willingly failed to do what he knew was right. Adam knowingly and willfully sinned against God. Knowingly and willingly sinning are not characteristics for Godly leadership.

      Comps, authoritarians and supporters of patriarchy like to emphasis “women are more easily deceived than men” as a way of supporting the idea that men are BETTER (at ruling, leading and decision making) than women. However, they fail to acknowledge and emphasis how Adam (and countless men) have knowingly and willfully sinned against God and led those under their charge (wives, kids and others) away from God and into incredible folly. There are plenty of examples of that in the Bible: the men who accused Daniel, Nabal, Achan, Haman, Ananias and about 17 kings of Israel.
      There are also plenty of modern examples of men knowingly and willingly sinning against God and exercising poor judgement and leadership in and out of the church. All one has to do is read a newspaper, and they can find countless modern examples. So yes, some women have been deceived and so have countless men.

      Currently, most of the world’s major false religions (cults) have been founded by men: islam (Muhammad), buddhism (Sanskrit), atheistic communism, sun myung moon’s unification, mormons (Joseph Smith), modern witchcraft (Gerald Gardner), new age movement, scientology (L. Ron Hubbard), bahai, sikhism (Guru Nanak), David Karesh, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Yaweh Ben Yaweh. Plus, there’s a laundry list of Biblical kings who sinned against God and led those under their charge astray and into national idolatry.

      That’s not to say that women cannot be deceived. However, historically, men have produced most of the world’s cults, false religions, and occult movements. Yet the church especially fails to acknowledge all the false religions (cults) that men have founded and continues to primarily and unfairly stereotype women as being generally more easily deceived than men.

  • Being careful to note that every church we know doesn’t follow 1 Timothy 2:12-15 literally–but they do use it as a handy limiter for women. Wherever a given church is uncomfortable with female leadership, they can draw the line at their own discomfort level and use this passage as the excuse.

  • I find the word leadership has become somewhat vague. I therefore try to avoid using it in writing. lots of people named in the bible get called leaders, but I presume the apostle Paul was consistent in what he said, so ladies who were commended for their work were not in authority over men or teach in the church. Yet the apostle commended them for their work.

    • @George Falconer, exercising authority over others was something that Jesus prohibited to all believers, both men and women, when he told his disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.” True Christian leadership is about serving others, not about being in authority over others.

      As for teaching in the church, you are right. Paul WAS consistent. And this same Paul instructed the Colossian Christians to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” Nowhere in the entire book does Paul suggest that this instruction did not apply to women, too.

  • I really don’t wish to be disrespectful and I hope any slips or judgements I make here will be forgiven.

    I started going to church around 3 years ago and I go to a Progressive Christian Church in Canada. I would not consider going to a Church that was not progressive both socially and spiritually.

    While I have heard that people hold the belief that women must submit to men and cannot teach or hold authority over men, to hear through your writings that people actually hold to this shocks me beyond belief. I have always assumed that this belief was held primarily by extremists and people who are on the fringe of Christianity. How anyone in this day and age can suppress the intellect, creativity and spiritual awareness of half of the population simply appalls me. I don’t even have words to express how horrified I am by this and to actually see people responding to this post supporting such a belief is shocking.

    My current Minister is a man, but the one before him was a woman…there was never any concern that she could not provide the same degree of spiritual direction as a man. How much richer am I from her teachings. How much richer the whole congregation was from her teachings.

    Jory, I can’t imagine the courage it has taken to step beyond the repressive system that you came from, especially when God is used to justify that repression. To me, that is abusive and any God that could support such abuse is not the God I follow. I would not be going to Church if that was the ‘god’ that was presented to me. While I can’t speak to your experiences and completely understand what it must feel like to be considered a second class citizen in your own Church, know that there are women everywhere who support what you are doing and that what you are doing makes a significant difference. In truth, those who think only half the population has something worthwhile to say are indeed poorer for that belief. Cheers!

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