The Help Mate: A Biblical Look at Gender Roles in Marriage

By Jenny Duffy Sometimes when we wives hear that we are our husband's helpmate, we tend to feel slighted. We feel like we've been given an inferior role, but this isn't so. Man and women have both been created in God's image and thus they are equal. And while men and women are equal, I do believe that they serve different roles. This implies no inferiority to either gender, but rather the best use of what God has given to each one. The Creation of Woman God thought of the creation of woman and said, " It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him (Genesis 1:18)." We don't know that Adam ever complained about being alone and it's hard to imagine that one who walked so closely with God ever would. Yet, there was no creature that existed who was on the same level as Adam, for God was higher and other life forms were lower since Adam had dominion over them. God desired for man to have someone who he could relate and commune with, and love and receive love from who was of his own kind. When we read Genesis, we find out that God put Adam into a sleep and pulled a rib from Adam's side and used this to create woman, who was his last work of creation. I do agree with there being significance that woman was created from a bone out of Adam's side, and that this shows the position of women: not in front of man leading him and not behind man in an inferior position, but living along side of him. I also think of the ribs which are close to a man's heart, and I think this too shows the position of a wife; one who is the closest to her husband's heart. When we look at the original text we find that the words used in verse 18 are actually 'help meet'. 'Help' describes a helper while 'meet' means 'suitable.' It was God's pleasure to design women as a gender totally suitable to give counsel, companionship, love, and intimacy, and all of this in intelligence and equal rank with man. I do believe that man does have authority over the woman. I agree with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church when he says how God gave Adam authority over all the animals, and when Adam named the animals this was a job of one in authority. In the same way, we must look at how Adam was created before Eve and how in a position of authority, he named her. The Curse In Genesis 3:16, we read that after Adam and Eve sinned, part of the curse which God sent forth was that woman would suffer pain in child bearing and that her desire would be for her husband and that he would rule over her. Although man was already in a place of authority over the woman, it was now to be a duty and feeling of injustice and punishment for the woman to be subject to her husband. In turn, women would strive to be the rulers of the relationship. God also said that he would put enmity between man and woman meaning that there would be hostility between the two genders and a regard for each other as enemies. Jesus has redeemed us from this curse (Galatians 3:13-14) and so spiritually we are not under this curse anymore, but we can choose to live as if we are. For example, men and women today could still feel hostility toward each other and choose to live that way, if they reject the freedom that Jesus has provided in regards to this. Today, men are no longer to rule over their wives as a master rules over a slave. Men and women are partners who are to cherish, love and respect each other. With this being said, submission is still key and it is still biblical for a woman to submit to her husband. Husbands and wives are to serve each other but there is a special emphasis on men being the head of the relationship, and women submitting to that headship. New Testament Submission We don't like to think of man having authority because we tend to think of instances where authority is abused, and just plainly, we don't want to feel as if anyone needs to be in authority over us. But the Bible speaks of Godly authority, and the authoritative role of the husband is to be a Godly one.

In Ephesians 5, Paul speaks about the roles of husband and wife. In Ephesians 5:22, Paul says that wives ought to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, as the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also head of the church. Paul then instructs men to love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for the church. He describes how Jesus sanctifies His church, presenting to Himself a bride that is pure, holy and blameless. We can look to Jesus as our example as one who lived a life of submission. Jesus and God were one. They were equal yet they had different roles, and Jesus submitted to the headship of the father. Jesus submitted to God knowing that God's will is for holiness and love. Submission to authority is the pattern of Christianity. Jesus submitted to God's authority, and the church submits to Christ. We submit ourselves to spiritual authority such as pastors and elders, as well as earthly government. Every organization works best when there is a leader who makes the final decisions in accordance to what is right for the organization. Husbands are the leader of the family and are to lead by love. They are to be a Godly authority who their wives can submit to with ease, because her heart rests in the fact that He is being led by God, and that he loves her. Wives subject to your own husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22) As wives, we are to submit to our husbands as to the Lord. Submission includes honoring and obeying. We are to allow our husbands to lead and care for us in the same way that we give God place in our lives to give us direction and love us. While submission can be challenging because of conflicting ideas and the woman’s urge to feel in control, this is all meant to be a delight for the woman. We can trust God to lead us and we feel relief and joy over His tending to us. These are to be our feelings toward our husband as our headship. Like I said earlier, we tend to pull away fast from the idea of submission because right away we think of situations where authority is abused. We think of husbands controlling their wives and even wanting their wives to sin. The authority of the husband is a position that is to be carried out with the motive of love, not power and control. Wives are not to submit to a husband who wants them to sin. We can relate this to how we submit to government. We submit to our earthly government until to do so would be sin. An example would be in Acts 5:28-30 when the disciples continued to carry out their mandate from God although authority forbade it. In situations of abuse, women are not to submit under the impression that they are being obedient. When a husband abuses his wife he is sinning and misusing his authority. He is violating his role in the marriage which is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. In this unfortunate situation, a woman should seek help from her pastor or another spiritual authority in her church, where she could receive godly counsel. The goal of this counsel is for the woman to no longer be abused and could involve the wife removing herself from the situation and looking into the legal procedures needed. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25) The role of husband and wife isn't one of master and slave but of Christ and His church. Jesus leads His church, protecting her from evil and promoting holiness and purity. In this way, husbands should care for their wives, ready to protect them in every way and encourage them toward spiritual maturity. A husband is to recognize his wife’s gifts, and encourage her to thrive in them, utilizing herself for the glory of God. To love someone as you would love the church is no light matter. This involves giving yourself up in the service of others, and tending to their needs, all the while, maintaining a vision of a bride who is spotless and blameless. This is to be the kind of faithfulness and dedication that a husband has for his wife. Although, his wife has short comings and makes mistakes, the husband sees her as his pure bride, washed in the blood of Christ. He continually leads her and doesn’t abandon her in times of hardship. As a Godly leader, the husband submits to God and guides the wife and his children in the way that he feels God to be leading them. Decisions should be made by the husband and wife together. The goal is that the husband and wife may come to the same conclusion but this doesn’t always happen. In the situation that the husband and wife cannot agree, the husband is to have the final say because his role has put him in a place of submission and accountability toward God for the decisions of the family. The wife is look at him, as being led by God and wanting what is best for the family.

The Helper We can see Biblically that it is the role for the husband to be the leader. So what is the role of the wife? God created woman for the purpose that she could be a helper to the man. When we look deeper at what it means to be a helper, we can be delighted that God has given this role to women. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our helper (John 14:16). Also, David praises God for being his helper (Psalm 54:4), and this is the same word which God uses to describe the woman as a helper. God is no less wonderful for being man's helper and He has no problem when we call Him our helper. God is humble and happy to be our helper, and even gives this name to His Spirit. This realization does not cause us look down at God or regard him as merely our assistant. On the contrary this only makes Him even more wonderful and personal to us. We are strengthened and delivered from trouble. We receive counsel, affection and intimacy. Our heart can confidently rest in God who is our helper. It is an honor and grace that God gives this role to women. The right place for a wife to be is beside her husband helping him and experiencing with him, the joys of God and all the pursuits of their life together. The Goal The goal of the Christian life is to become like God. To serve one another is to be like Jesus who did not come to this earth to be served, but rather came to serve. To submit is to be like Jesus who being one with God, did not fail to submit to God as his authority, all the while recognizing as a loving, holy and just father. Men and women are equal but God has assigned them different roles. Both roles are important and require humility in servant hood, and humility in submission. It is only by God’s grace that we can carry out these roles. The roles of the husband and wife are not to be of bondage, in the same way that our relationship with God isn’t supposed to be one of just duty and obligation. Rather these roles are to liberate us to freely love one another, receive love and selflessly serve, being motivated by the love of God. These roles allow the husband and wife to experience each other in the vocation that they were designed for. When husbands and wives walk in the role that God has designed them for, they avoid the pain that comes when they try to take on a job that wasn’t created for them. Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:16 says “let all that you do be done in love.” No matter what role we are in, God has entrusted us to be a witness of Himself to other believers and to the unbelieving world. Our marriage is to be an example of how the church is cared for and led by Christ. Our motive and strength comes continually from the love of God, so that we may bring glory to Him.

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