One of the biggest theological/cultural disagreements in Christian circles is how God feels about the role of men and women in marriage. Our friend Sheila over at tolovehonorandvaccuum.com recently had a powerful post on this topic that we’re linking to in its entirety here. What’s vitally important about this post is how deeply our theology can negatively shape how we view our spouses (and ourselves) if we’re not careful. I hope you take the time to read this and discuss it with your spouse.
– Josh @ Thriving Marriages
Does God love men more than women?
Every now and then I receive an email that makes my heart hurt. Recently I got this one, from a woman who is looking at the Bible, and looking around at her church, and ending up wondering if God really loves women. She asks:
So, I have a question that’s going to sound horrible but it’s just honest. Does God care more about men than He does women? I mean it started out that He only made Adam and then He decided to make Eve as his helpmeet because it wasn’t good for man to be alone. So then he makes women, who are weaker than men so they cannot defend themselves. He makes them have all these feelings just so they will always care about men and children. He makes their (apparently) most important aspect to be beauty which fades with age and childbearing. The men however, he makes to be strong and have little to no feelings. He made them to (apparently) all want other women than who they have. The only time God got mad at David was when he took another man’s wife and compared it to stealing a lamb which was property. And then continued to say that if he wanted more, God would have given him another wife… yeah, why not throw him another woman? I mean the whole Bible seems to say this is true. And yet, women tend to be more religious than men. In a world where every religion thinks less of women. It’s not like I think He doesn’t care but maybe just less. I’m hoping to be proved wrong.
I’m glad she asked the question, because I think it’s one many of us struggle with. I know I did! When I was 16, I started to ask all of these same questions. And I wondered: If God honestly preferred boys to me simply because of their genitals, then can I love a God like that? The good part is asking questions may feel uncomfortable, but God is big enough to defend Himself. And in the asking I grew closer to God!
My youngest daughter had an experience recently where a Christian leader, whom she was close to, said to her, “Do you ever wish God had made you a boy, so that you could have had a bigger ministry?” In other words, God made a mistake by making her merely a girl.
We hear this all the time–“it’s too bad you’re only a girl.” And it makes us start to question God.
And so today I’d just like to take each of her points and tell you how I see it.
Actually, there’s great literature that says that gender didn’t come until after Eve was created. Adam was genderless, and THEN “male and female” He created them.
But even if that’s not so, it’s very clear that BOTH male and female are in the image of God.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
And God Himself uses feminine imagery to refer to Himself at times, as Jesus says here (and this is only one example):
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37).
“Eve was made as a “helpmeet””
Yes, she was, but helpmeet (despite what Debi Pearl may say) has no connotation of inferiority. The Hebrew word is “ezer”, and it is used 21 times in the Old Testament. 16 of them it refers directly to God as our Helper, and God is obviously not inferior to us! It also has a strong military connotation–“He is our help and shield.”
The other key is the very next word in the Hebrew–suitable. She is a suitable helper, meaning that she is created to help Adam from a position of strength in every way. Help, then, isn’t about a servant relationship, but instead someone that he actually needs in order to accomplish the tasks that God has given him.
Yes, we are physically weaker. But I wonder if it is also so that we are more cuddly as mothers? Women were also created to endure more pain than men and to live longer than men, so I’m not sure if physical strength means that we are lesser. I think there are gives and takes on both sides. The downside is that women are susceptible to attack far more than men are. And yet men were also created with one part of them which, if you kick it right, can bring them to their knees howling in pain.
“He makes them have all these feelings so that they will care about men and children.”
Okay, this one is actually quite insightful! Loving our husbands and our children is a blessing. But I think what she’s getting at here is that women too often are martyrs for their husbands and children, and care too much and thus are more susceptible to extreme emotional hurt.
That’s true. But it’s not the way we were created; it’s part of the curse, in the same way that Adam finding the ground hard to till is part of the curse.
Genesis 3:16 says: To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Now, some translations of the Bible actually mistranslate this verse and give it a really ugly slant. Some write that “women’s desire will be to control her husband.” That connotation is not in the Hebrew, and that interpretation was never made before 1974, when Susan Foh popularized it. (more on that incorrect interpretation here).
That interpretation makes no logical sense. In the context, God is giving a list of curses–you’ll have pain in childbirth; you’ll desire your husband to your own detriment; he will rule over you. If Susan Foh’s translation, which is now widely accepted, was correct, then it’s a sin rather than a curse and the list goes away. You’d have curse (pain in childbirth); sin (desire to control your husband); curse (he will rule over you). The Hebrew points to a straightforward, traditional interpretation–we have loved men and put up with men who weren’t worthy of us, and we have been subject to abuse in our quest for love and belonging.
“He makes their important aspect to be beauty which fades”
I do agree that women’s beauty is prized far too much in our society. Women are judged on our beauty. And we judge ourselves terribly on it, too!
Yet nowhere does it say that our most important characteristic is our beauty. In fact, the Bible clearly says otherwise:
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
Again, it is true that men seem to be more visually stimulated than women, and that has made men more susceptible to pornography addictions that have hurt their wives so much. There is so much pain here. But God never says that beauty is our main characteristic. Our culture does, and our culture is a part of the fall.
“God makes men emotionally strong with little to no feelings”
I’m not sure that this is a benefit! Yes, men do tend to be more compartmentalized, and not as multitasking as women, which means that men can separate work from relationship more. And men do seem to have a harder time, in general, getting in touch with their feelings.
This may appear to be a benefit, since the person who is more emotionally dependent seems at a disadvantage in a relationship, and it can seem as if we’re always the ones searching for connection.
Yet research shows that those who are able to express their feelings also live longer and more contented lives. And we tend to have closer relationships, especially with our children! I think I’d take the women’s lot in this one, honestly.
“God made men to want women other than the one they have”
It does certainly seem that way–men aren’t as monogamous as women. Yet research, again, does not necessarily bear this out. One recent large scale international study found that 63% of men and 45% of women reported cheating at least once (I doubt it’s truly that high). I’ve seen other studies that have women cheating more, especially among certain groups (university educated who work outside the home).
In the past men have tended to cheat more, but that may be because they had more opportunity, since they were away from home more and mingling with single women more. Women, who were largely at home, may not have had as much chance. When the chance is greater, it seems that women do cheat as well.
“The only time God got mad at David was when he stole another man’s wife–and he compared her to a stolen lamb, like she was property.”
God did get mad at David for infidelity with Bathsheba, and then arranging to have Uriah killed. But this wasn’t the only time God got angry. In fact, the time that God let his wrath really flow was actually when David was prideful and measured his armies rather than relying on God, and then God brought calamity to Israel because of it (2 Samuel 24).
The prophet Nathan did compare Bathsheba to a lamb, but not just property. A lamb that was loved (so much so that it even slept in bed with its master!). That’s not to say that I’d want to be compared to a well-loved lamb; it’s only to say that it’s not as straightforward as saying that God thought Bathsheba was Uriah’s property.
When I approach marriage in the Old Testament, I understand that God permitted things He didn’t agree with. The Israelites lived in a very patriarchal society where polygamy was practiced. The fact that the patriarchs had multiple wives does not mean that God approved of that or wanted that. In fact, God designed us to be one-man one-woman. In Genesis 2:24, God says:
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
In the New Testament we see monogamy being reclaimed. Leaders of the church must be monogamous. Marriage is set up as a beautiful institution only between two people. But that was not how it was seen in the Old Testament, and I doubt real love existed, as much as we may try to read it into some of the stories. It was a very different culture, and I feel for the women at the time who were disregarded, and for the men who never knew real intimacy (so much so that David felt more intimate with a best friend than with a wife; shows how badly they got it wrong). Let’s just remember that the Old Testament is a description of what happened, not a prescription that we are to follow.
“…and then the Bible continued to say that if David wanted more, God would have given him another wife… yeah, why not throw him another woman?”
Again, I don’t think this is God saying that women don’t matter or that marriage doesn’t matter. He’s just telling David, if you truly want something, there’s a way to do it the right way. And you chose the wrong way. But no, God didn’t want David to have a bunch more wives. He even warns against having multiple wives when He instructs the kings!
“And yet, women tend to be more religious than men.”
Yes, we do! I think it’s that “last shall be first, and first shall be last” thing. When you aren’t as strong, you recognize your need for God more. When you are more emotional and relational, you yearn for more intimacy. Again, I’m grateful God made me this way!
“It’s not like I think He doesn’t care but maybe just less.”
I don’t believe that all. I think the Bible tells us that God loves women! Let me end with this:
- Do you know to whom God first revealed that Jesus would be born? Mary, a woman.
- Do you know to whom Jesus first revealed that He was the Son of God? The Samaritan woman at the well.
- Do you know to whom Jesus first revealed Himself after He was raised? To the women at the tomb.
- Do you know whom Jesus appointed as the first missionary of the gospel? Mary Magdalene, a woman.
In a culture where women’s testimony was not worth as much as men’s, where women were discounted, and where women were scorned, Jesus went out of His way to honour women and give them key roles in spreading the gospel.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t love women as much as men.
It is a lie. And it is intended to drive a wedge between you and God and make you feel helpless and hopeless. I went through that at 16, and it’s not pretty. I never felt so alone. But when you know that Jesus loves you, as a woman, and that He delights in you, as a woman–well, that is beautiful indeed.
Still worried about it? Ask God. Pound on His door. He’s God. He can take it!