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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