The feminist movement has been a powerful force in the United States and worldwide. What does God’s word say about femininity? Note that I said femininity and not feminism! These are two very different things! Several months ago I preached a lesson about godly masculinity and this is intended to be the complement to that lesson. Let’s go to the source of all truth to see what God’s word has to say.
God created man and woman.
Genesis 2:15–25 (NASB95)
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Why was woman created? Because God saw that man needed a helper. None of the animals were fit to be Adam’s helper. Adam needed a helper. God created woman to fill that need.
Man and woman were created to complement each other. They are similar, but not the same. Man was created in God’s image and woman was created from man, thus woman was created in God’s image also.
Who is superior?
Modern feminism likes to pit man and woman against each other, claiming that historically women had been subservient to men in some way and tries to right that perceived wrong.
What does the Bible say about this relationship? Should woman serve man or vice versa?
Genesis 3:11–19 (NASB95)
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
Results of the fall of man
Notice here that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, both were cursed by God because of it. Adam was cursed to have difficulty in working the ground. Eve was cursed with pain in childbirth, but God said she would have desire for her husband who would rule over her. So, we see that this pattern of man being the leader was setup by God all the way back in Genesis 3.
Does this mean that man is superior to woman? Not in the least! Both are made in the image of God and both complement each other. God gave each gender specific roles to fulfill. God’s design is good and perfect!
It is important to realize that in life, all of us, both men and women, must submit to someone’s leadership. Maybe it’s your husband or your boss at work. It’s a bit ironic that modern feminists will refuse to submit to a man’s leadership at home (a man who loves her) and instead go submit to a boss’s leadership at work. Ultimately all of us must submit to God’s leadership.
Jesus and the church
Now that we understand man and woman’s relation to each other as God has arranged it, let’s look at some examples from the Bible to see how this works. We have many great examples of godly women in the Bible, but today I’d like to look at a somewhat different example – Jesus and the church.
We see that the church is described as the “bride of Christ”.
Ephesians 5:22–33 (NASB95)
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
We see here that the marriage relationship is compared to the relationship Christ has with the church. This gives us the most perfect example we could ask for in terms of how women should behave, especially in the marriage relationship.
What should we as members of the church do in this relationship?
So, from this passage, we see that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. What was the church (us) to do in response? We can add some other scriptures to this and sum this up as follows:
Be subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:23). Christ is the head of the church, so the church is subject to Christ. What does subjection mean? To respect one’s authority.
Worship God. Praise Jesus for His great love and sacrifice.
Hebrews 13:15 (NASB95)
15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
Pray. God wants to hear our prayers. He wants us to share our thoughts and feelings with Him.
Matthew 7:7–8 (NASB95)
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.**
Ephesians 6:18 (NASB95)
18** With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
What is the application?
If you remember back to my previous lesson on godly masculinity, I discussed the three primary needs women have in marriage and where we see these exemplified in Jesus:
- To feel safe.
- To feel known.
- To be wholeheartedly cherished.
Now let’s look at this from the other direction. Men, you can correct me on this afterwards, but research has shown these are the three primary needs men have in marriage:
- To be respected.
- To be admired.
- To receive wholehearted intimacy.
Notice how well this lines up with what we have seen from God’s instructions for wives!
We saw this in God’s instructions for the church:
- The church should be subject to Christ as the head of the church. Jesus should be respected in His role as head of the church.
- God should be praised by all for His glory and power and for providing a means of salvation to us.
- All are to pray to God and bring their thoughts and troubles to Him. We are to be spiritually intimate with God.
Applications for women
Certainly, women are not the same as the church and do not have all the roles and responsibilities of the church. Similarly, men are not to be revered at the level of God. But the comparisons between the marriage relationship and Jesus’ relationship with the church give us considerable insight into how marriage should work and how men and women should behave in general.
(For the men, think about how you can make these things easy for your wife or future wife. If you are unmarried and hope to be some day, look for a woman who will do these things!)
Respect your husband
This is probably the application that people of the world have the most issue with because it is misunderstood. How should this play out in a marriage?
- Listen to and respect his decisions.
- Don’t constantly second guess and question everything he does. If you feel like it is genuinely a bad decision, bring it up gently, preferably not in front of others. A good man appreciates the wise counsel of his wife, but he also appreciates it if she doesn’t constantly correct him in front of others.
- Allow him room to lead.
- For decisions that affect the family, bring them to the husband and let him decide. Don’t decide first, then ask him if he agrees later once things are already in motion. At that point, he has little room to operate if he disagrees with the initial decision and will feel trampled upon.
- Your husband will likely not compete with you for leadership. If you take on leadership roles for certain things, your husband will probably just walk away from that thing and let you run it. God calls women to submit to their husbands. He does not call men to force them to submit and most men fundamentally understand this even if they don’t consciously think about it. Ladies, this means it is on you to make sure you are leaving room for his leadership in the relationship.
- When men walk away from leadership over a certain thing in the home, it can eat at them over time because they know they are not fulfilling their role, yet they cannot see how to do it. If this happens repeatedly, it can cause growing discontent in the relationship. The husband will gradually grow more aggravated with the wife, even if he can’t fully articulate why. Ladies, if you think this may have happened in some area, bring it up and give him the opportunity to take leadership. Men, take the opportunity!
- Keep him informed of what is going on in the house.
- It’s so common that it’s almost a running joke now about how husbands have no idea what is happening with the kids or where people are at any particular time.
- A husband cannot lead if he doesn’t know what’s going on in the first place.
- Men, make it your business to know what is going on.
- Women, keep your husband up to date! Men, listen when she tells you!
- It can be deeply embarrassing for a man to be asked about something going on in his house and for him to have to admit ignorance or go ask his wife. Certainly, there are certain details that only the wife would generally know, but the husband should be informed on the big things.
Admire your husband
Of all the applications in this lesson, this is probably the one that slides under women’s radar the most. For many men, it’s probably something they wouldn’t know to ask for, but it is terribly missed when it is gone. So, what does this look like in practice?
- Praise him for his work.
- If men are doing their job well, they are working hard to provide for their families. A little bit of praise from a man’s wife goes a long, long way to shoring up his determination and encouraging him to succeed and prosper in his work.
- Bonus: Praise him in front of your friends! Ladies, you can imagine how great it would feel for your husband to bring you flowers in front of your girlfriends. The same goes in the opposite direction for him!
- Praise him for his leadership
- Is he leading the family wisely? Let him know!
- Praise him for being a good father
- Is he doing a good job handling the kids? Let him know!
- Praise him for his faith
- Is he showing faithfulness? Let him know you appreciate it and that you are growing spiritually thanks to his example!
- Praise him regularly.
- Don’t just do it one time after you hear this lesson.
- Just like compliments about your beauty have an expiration date, these sorts of compliments do too.
- Ladies, you do have an advantage in this regard, though. You can confirm this with a guy later, but if you give a man a sincere, honest complement about something he did well, men will often tuck that away and think about it repeatedly, even years later. This sort of thing is a much bigger deal to men than they will readily admit.
Provide wholehearted intimacy
I want to be careful with my language here as we have a mixed audience, but understand that when I say intimacy, I’m referring to the physical relationship between husband and wife.
This is something we don’t really talk about a lot, but it is very important in a marriage. We have passages like I Corinthians 7:3 where Paul reminds us that we have duties to our mates, not to mention the entire book of Song of Solomon. Notice that this is not one way!
1 Corinthians 7:3–5 (NASB95)
3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Secular research agrees with God here. Researchers have shown that problems in this area can be a strong indicator of the likelihood of divorce.
First of all, why is this important to men? When polled, many women will say that this is a physical thing with their husband and they must help him handle his biological urges.
While there is some truth to that, if you poll men, you get a much different story. To men, there is a certainly a biological component involved, but they see physical intimacy much more as an emotional and spiritual bond with their wife. This is especially true as the relationship matures.
This makes sense when you see what great importance is placed on it in the New Testament. I have read many cases of wives who have been married for many years suddenly discovering this fact and it completely changes how they look at the physical relationship with their husband.
Biology backs this up as well. Scientific research has shown that when women have a great, in-depth conversation with their husband, they have a flood of hormones that makes them feel bound to their husband (oxytocin and other things). This does not, however, happen for their husband. He may enjoy the conversation, but he does not have the same response of hormones and neurotransmitters.
What does cause this to happen for men is physical intimacy. This causes the man to feel the same rush of bonding hormones and neurotransmitters, which helps him feel a tight bond with his wife. Once again, we see God’s design working to perfection. Men and women complementing each other perfectly in how their needs in the marriage are met. The deep conversations and the physical intimacy both need to happen for a marriage to function correctly, so God designed men and women to have complementary needs in this regard.
So, what should this look like for a wife?
- Show him love and affection.
- Tell him you love him. Men need to hear this, too!
- Give him more than just an occasional peck on the cheek as he’s going out the door. One marriage counselor I heard recommends ten good kisses a day, every day!
- Something as simple as an occasional text to let him know you are thinking about him goes a long way.
- Respond with delight.
- When he tries to be romantic with you, as feeble an attempt as it may be, respond in such a way that he knows you desire him as well. Remember this is a blessing you get to enjoy together – not just another item on your to do list.
- Remember what he is really asking for here. It is easy to develop a bad attitude if you think this is purely physical for your husband. There is an element of the physical here, but what he is really asking for is to be closer to you. He feels distance in the relationship and is trying to close the gap. I am convinced that God gave men this biological drive in part to cause them to be more closely bound to their wives. God’s design is good!
- Notice that the need is for wholehearted intimacy. Just as women want to feel wholeheartedly cherished, men want the same in intimacy. Just as you would want your husband to be wholeheartedly involved in a deep conversation with you, he wants the same in physical intimacy.
- Make an effort.
- The man should of course have leadership in this role, but if you never make an effort and are always leaving everything to him, he will eventually begin to wonder if you really want to be with him in the first place.
- Initiate romance occasionally.
- This includes fixing yourself up. It’s too easy for both men and women to expect better of each other without putting in the effort themselves. How did you present yourself when you were dating?
- Get off the phone
- Smartphones are amazing devices, but they sap a tremendous amount of time from our lives. They act as a virtual do-not-disturb sign for others, whether you realize it or not.
- My challenge to you is to stay off your phone if you are together with other people. It is so tragic to see people finish a meal and immediately descend into their phones. It’s especially tragic to see two people on a date do this.
- Take it upon yourself to build desire for your husband.
God said this would be the state of things in Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:16 (NASB95)
16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
Ladies may sometimes have the idea that it is their husband’s job to take them on dates, buy flowers, and woo them so that they’ll be “in the mood” for intimacy.
I’m sorry to bear bad news, ladies, but while those are things your husband should be doing, research has shown that’s not how it works. Your husband doing those things might help, but even if he does them, it’s you that are putting yourself “in the mood.” He’s simply giving you a good opportunity to do so.
Ladies, I know you are probably yelling at me in your head right now, but think about it this way: If your husband took you on an amazing, romantic date to an expensive restaurant, but you were grumpy and distracted by your phone the whole time, would you feel romanced? Of course not! On the other hand, if you had spent all day looking forward to time with your amazing husband and he took you to Taco Bell, you might wish he had better taste in restaurants, but you’d still feel romanced because you had your head in the right place to begin with.
If you are already doing the other things we mentioned of respecting and admiring your husband, those alone help you build desire.
This idea of building desire is incredibly powerful – much more powerful than any hormones! (This according to the marriage experts: young women in flawless health can have no desire for their husbands and older women with tons of health problems can have tremendous desire. The state of your body matters, but much less so than the state of your mind.)
Ladies, I want to challenge you to dwell more in your femininity. We have a society that is so terribly confused about sex and gender and gender roles. Men are shouted down for exhibiting “toxic masculinity” somehow and at the same time women complain that they cannot find masculine men. Meanwhile, men in the United States are giving up on finding women who want to take on the traditional roles of wife and mother and are going abroad just to find women with these attitudes. Women are told in our society that they can be anything they want to be, with the silent implication that it is somehow wrong to be a wife and mother. In response, many women feel forced to take on a more masculine role to be successful in the workforce. There is a great need in our society for this to be sorted out. But more than that, God wants it sorted out!
God has given us all roles to fulfill in this life. We may feel that this is not the set of roles we want to fulfill, but we know that God’s design is perfect. Could it be that God gave you the role that would help you grow towards Him the most?
Let me leave you with an example I heard. A man was being interviewed and he had a wife in a very high demand, lofty position in her company. To get to that position, she had become very tough and demanding in order to compete with the men who were also tough and demanding. She was very successful at work, but their marriage was in terrible shape and neither husband nor wife was happy. After some changes were made in their relationship, the husband took on a more masculine role at home and the wife relaxed back into her feminine role. When she went back to work, she was on a call with a man she had argued with mightily before, but this time she treated him with respect and stayed in her feminine role. Instead of arguing with her, they quickly agreed on a solution. It was such a big change that her co-workers that overheard her on the phone were amazed at how the call went. This change continued with the interactions she had with other men at the office. She realized she was actually much more effective (and happier, with a better marriage) when she operated in the feminine role God had given her.
I hope this lesson spurs some good discussions and positive change for all of us. May we all do our best to fulfill the roles God has assigned us!