Modern Women: Submitting and Serving?

Nobody wants to be a slave. Nobody grows up aspiring to be a servant. In independent, me-centered America, all the coveted positions are on top.

Words like “slave” and “servant” have negative connotations that make us think “low-class,” “subjugation,” and, in many cases, injustice or infringement of rights. Not surprising, then, is the fact that many women look distastefully on the idea of giving their time and energy to “serving” a husband. The very phrase is no doubt turning off many of you even as you read this.

Just mention the idea that a woman should be at the door to greet her husband, with children in tow and dinner on the table, and you’ll instantly have women up in arms saying you’re stuck in the 1950s or have a primitive mind capable of no real critical thought (or as one woman attacking my blog on a message board said, “When I get home, I tell my husband to go to the fridge and get ME what I want”).

Now, I’m not saying that women have to do those specific things–I’m just saying that the response to such a suggestion reveals that the modern woman’s heart is nowhere near to that of a servant’s.
For those who are not a part of the Christian faith, having this reaction is not only understandable, but also a fitting conclusion, considering your worldview. This post makes no attempt to argue the case for servanthood with those of you outside the Christian faith. However, for modern women who consider themselves a part of the Christian faith, this all too common reaction should be alarming. Are we really so prideful that the very suggestion that we take a humble and serving attitude towards our husbands instantly unbridles our tongues and sets our anger blazing?

Do we not realize that Sarah called Abraham “master?”  That Eve was created specifically as Adam’s “helper?” That man was not made for woman, but that woman was made for man? That the Bible specifically calls us the “weaker partner?”

If we don’t, then we are either not reading our Bibles, or we have let culture influence us to the point where we would rather explain away these “pesky woman passages” by casting aside Biblical inerrancy so we can maintain our pride and sense of entitlement. But the fact of the matter is that verses like these are part of the Biblical portrait of what a woman is, and if we challenge them on the basis of cultural relativity or “Paul’s personal prejudice against women” then we can challenge any other statement in the Bible, and our faith becomes a personal–and, dare I say it– ridiculous fabrication of pick-and-choose “religion,”  founded on the whims of human opinion rather than on every Word that proceeds from the Father’s mouth.

1 Peter 3:1-6 says: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives… For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to imagine a modern woman calling her husband “master,” let alone “letting” him lead their household and have the final word. But here we see the Bible saying that this is how holy women conducted themselves, and that we will be Sarah’s daughters if we submit as she did–not giving way to the fear that can accompany submission (“Will he lead our family properly?” “What if he messes up our finances?” “But I could do it better!”).

Genesis 2:18 says: “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him .”

1 Corinthians 11:7-10 expands on this and says:  “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Notice the specific differentiation made here?  He is the glory of God, but she is the glory of man. He was created first, and she was created to be his helper.

1 Peter 3:7 says:  “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

1 Timothy 2:14 goes on to say:  “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

It can be easy to miss out on what the Bible really says about women when reading just one of these verses at a time. You may have simply brushed it off or pushed it out of your mind. However, by reading these verses together, it becomes clear that the Biblical portrayal of women isn’t much like our culture’s portrayal of the strong woman who’s just as good as a man on any given day. But before you react in repulsion to the Bible’s portrayal of women as the weaker sex, take a moment to consider what that reaction would be indicating.

To reject such verses because they paint a picture of women as being given a humble and submissive role is to reject the very picture of Christ that is given to us in Scripture. It is to reject His teachings, His life, and His example.

Take a look at Isaiah 53 and see just what manner of man Christ was:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflictedHe was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Though He was God, the majestic Creator of Universe–with more power or majesty than our limited human minds can imagine–He did not come claiming a right to all that was duly His, but suffered through the scoffing and mockery heaped on him by honored men, the abandonment and rejection of the multitude, and a brutally painful death with criminals.

He taught us that “The last shall be first” (Mt. 20:16) and that “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Mt. 23:11). He told us that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt. 23:12).

We are commanded that our  “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Ph. 2:5-8)

So where did we leave off thinking that servanthood was something to be rejected as not “good enough for us”? Are we really so prideful to think that our sinful and puny human selves ought to clamor for rights that even Christ Himself did not demand? Christ submitted to the Father unto the point of death. He didn’t just give part of Himself. He gave everything.

If God in His indescribable power was able to submit Himself and make Himself lowly, how can we in our weakness claim we deserve more rights, more power, more honor? If we actually believed the words and example of Christ, would we not clamor for the lower positions? For the less honorable tasks at church? For the work that will never receive recognition?

If we actually loved the example of Christ, who “made himself nothing,” wouldn’t we as women not murmur, complain, or fight against being the weaker vessel, commanded to submit? Would we not willingly, like Christ, make ourselves “nothing,” by putting aside pride and letting our husband lead, to the praise and glory of our Father in Heaven? Would we not love what we have been given to do!? God did not give women the “short end of the stick.” God does not hate women. Rather, He saw fit to give women a role that He Himself embraced and advocated, and one that we should eagerly affirm and adopt as well.

This article originially appeared on Tiffany’s blog, True Femininity

4 thoughts on “Modern Women: Submitting and Serving?

  1. Dear Tiffany,
    I haven’t even had my coffee yet!
    That was a fantastic, well though-out piece, and it gave me a few key points to carry with me when my peers raise their eyebrows at me when I refuse to complain about my husband 🙂 It also reminded me that I am nowhere near where I should be with regard to submissiveness. I think it will be a life-long challenge, but I won’t give up.
    Thanks for a great post.


  2. Men are not babies, they don’t need any ”help”. To say anything else is to discriminate men, and mostly women too.


  3. Tom has fallen prey to male self effacement as virtue. Tom, that is not chivalry my friend. Its pandering.

    Those Christian marriages that have found their own functional equilibrium without overtly debating Ephesians and submission are the strongest. Its not a power struggle, its just a settled order that we dont even know exists, because its God ordained.

    Tom , you have begun operating in fear, fear of an angry woman’s reprisal, and a desire to have women think you are “not like other guys”.
    The truth is, you cannot please anyone that way.


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