Female Success, Getting Married, and The Purposes of God

I really don’t know if Albert Mohler intended or could have foreseen the wave of female selfishness and arrogance that he unleashed when he first presented his notion of delay of marriage being a sin at the 2004 New Attitude Conference. It unleashed Debbie Maken’s book, and numerous women who have simply become arrogant, conceited, and ungodly in their behavior and demeanor toward men. Why is this? I think that Mohler made two mistakes. First, he assumed that, just because women were *saying* they wanted to be married, that, therefore, they were *ready* to be married. Second, he assumed that the the female’s desire for marriage should be fulfilled. Both of these things are problematic, because they place the woman and her desire at the center of reality. It creates a very female-centered way of looking at marriage, and at reality in general. These two mistakes are what, I believe, makes so many of these women so arrogant, conceited, and ungodly in their behavior, and thus led to Debbie Maken’s book, Candice Watters’ book [in a much more mild form], and all of the nastiness we see from women on the internet.

However, it goes much deeper than that. If women and their desire for marriage the center of all that happens in this world, then they get to demand that men be exactly as they want them to be. You might say, “But doesn’t scripture control this?” The answer is very clearly “no,” since one can read the scriptures in the light of one’s cultural traditions or in the light of one’s desires. What the woman wants a man to be now must be the lens through which the scriptures are understood. Of course, as someone who loves hermeneutics and exegesis, this is utterly repulsive.

A case in point that both illustrates and corrects this notion is this recent post by Boundless author Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. There are a lot of issues to untangle here, but the first is a quote from Candice Watters:

God made us male and female, with distinct roles and responsibilities. We are equally made in God’s image and thereby, equally human. We are also equally in need of God’s forgiveness and saving grace. Before the cross, there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. But in marriage, there is distinction. Man is charged with providing for and protecting his wife and family, all the while leading them in love. Woman is equipped to bear and nurse infants, to keep the home, and to help her husband. Again, I realize this is offensive to many and nearly obsolete in our culture, but it’s still what the Bible says. And God’s Word is unbroken, true and our only hope for freedom (John 10:35, John 8:31-32).

Notice how truth is mixed here with error. Yes, it is true that men and women have distinct roles. Yes, it is true that the passage in Galatians 3:28 is talking about the gospel, and not about gender roles. Still, where is the proof for the notion that the Bible says that “Man is charged with providing for and protecting his wife and family, all the while leading them in love. Woman is equipped to bear and nurse infants, to keep the home, and to help her husband.”? She gives no Biblical proof for this. This is something that I have seen from Candice before. I have responded to this argument before, and pointed out that it is exegetically tenuous, and, in fact, involves the anachronistic reading of categories such as “providing and protecting” back into the ancient near eastern family, when the ancient near eastern family was usually *all* at home working. The family was the center of economic input and output in the ancient near east. *Everyone* helped out in the fields, not just the men. The society was differently constructed back then to the point where it is impossible to apply these modern categories to this time period. I have also pointed out that 1 Timothy 5:14 probably refers to the leadership within the home [not a woman’s carrier], since the noun form is used of men as well as women, and that the passage about “anyone who does not provide for their own” [1 Timothy 5:8] is in the context of widows and the widow list, and is therefore either talking about the caring of widows, or widows taking care of the family who remains. Yet, when you point this out to Candice, she simply does not respond. These folks simply do not want to be exegetically challenged on this point. You must accept a priori that the Bible teaches that, and not challenge it at all. Hence, it has nothing to do with the notion being “offensive” and “obsolete;” it has to do with the fact that the Bible simply doesn’t teach it, and that is the reason why people are rejecting it.

However, one can readily see why it is that someone would try to argue this. Candice, herself, is a wife and mother, and these women who hold this position would like to be wives and mothers. While there is nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, do you not think that it is possible that these desires could be read into the text to force men to do all of the other work in the marriage so you can serve God in this way? Of course it is possible, especially if, as we have already seen, those who hold to this position tend to make marriage an idol.

It is this background that we must look at to understand the post I linked to above. A questioner writes in asking why it is that so many men are put off by the fact that she is successful in her carrier. Notice how Suzanne sets up the quotation, and the woman’s quotation itself:

She describes how the Christian men she knows seem to be put off by her career status and success. She writes:

Both men have degrees but no jobs at this time. Both are still great friends, but no relationship seems to be in the future. They all but said to me, “I can’t provide for you; you don’t need me…” The notion that I don’t need a husband couldn’t be further from the truth.

How can I continue to enjoy my hard-earned income and well-kept home and not scare men away? Can’t my income and assets be seen as a modern day dowry?

Notice how this is introduced by “put off by her career and success.” I would argue that this is the heart of the problem. How do we define success. For the Christian, success is defined by whether or not one serves God and accomplishes things for his will and his purposes. A very poor woman can still be successful, even if she never is the CEO of a major corporation, a doctor, or has any other high paying job. A housewife, for example, is successful, because she is serving and ministering to those who are in her family. She is every bit as successful as the CEO of a corporation.

However, it is at this point where the danger of idolatry can come in. The question is the purposes of God in what you are doing. Many women will say that they went out and got these jobs and degrees because they wanted security. I have to wonder how these women would deal with the passages that talk about God’s provision for those who serve him. If you are going out to get a Phd simply for security, then would it not be the case that you are spending sometimes ten or twelve years of your life getting this degree only for the purposes of security, when God says that, if you serve him, he will protect and take care of you? I can understand having a bachelors degree, but why spend that much time [and money!] on mere security? Does that not sound like a lack of faith and trust in God? The issue here is not the morality of women getting degrees, the issue is wanting to serve God as a housewife, and getting this high degrees as a means of security. Whatever the reason, one can see that it raises crucial issues as to what your ultimate trust is in. Is it in God, or is it in your own abilities?

It really bothers me when I see this attitude amongst women. Yes, God can cause a woman to serve him in any number of high educational positions, and I have met many intelligent women in my lifetime. God can even call someone to be both a Biologist and a wife and mother, or he can call you to focus your attention on one of those areas. However, whatever he is calling you to do, your focus should be on *his* calling, and not on what *you* want, and then hide it under the guise of “security.”

This comes out plainly in the following statement by Suzanne:

The woman who submitted the question mentions that the guys who seem put off by her career don’t have jobs. That sounds like more of a readiness issue on their part than anything she’s doing wrong. Along the way, I encountered guys like this, and today, many of them are still in similar circumstances (and still unmarried). Clearly they weren’t in the position to take on a wife and family, which means we were not compatible.

Now, I don’t know the circumstances surrounding these men’s unemployment, and that is what is so hard. Unemployment can be caused by lots of things, including a bad economy. The job I had now doesn’t pay near as well as the kind of job I have an education for, but that is because those jobs haven’t been available because of the bad economy. You can keep trying to apply, hoping that you get accepted, but that doesn’t mean that you will. I can only imagine how bad it would be for someone who has only a High School diploma or only a two year degree. Notice how Suzanne speaks of them “taking on” a wife and family. What exactly is meant by that? The way that discourse is used, it almost makes it sound like you are putting the weight of the family [at least financially] upon his shoulders. What a gross mistake! Can anyone who is a Christian say that they are putting the weight of the family upon the shoulders of a husband!!!!! I thought that we were to trust in Christ that he would bring us through, even in terms of our financial difficulties.

More than that, such an attitude completely contradicts the fact that woman is to be a “helper” to the man [Genesis 2:18]. Is this really helping these men when they are struggling, and you abandon them for someone else who is not? In fact, I have found that the men who tend to be “successful” in this way tend to be the biggest jerks, because struggling to get through school, or struggling to find a job is one of the ways God builds character in a man. And yet, a good, Godly man who may be pursuing a doctorate, who would greatly benefit from the help and support of a wife, is rejected in favor of a man who has the big “successful” carrier. Again, one has to notice what is most important here. It is *not* serving God; it is serving their own desires. God, and his purposes have been completely thrown off the radar, and replaced by what would give you the most personal peace, namely, to have a husband who is a bread winner, so you can serve God in the way *you* want to.

BTW, I am saying this to men as much as women. Sometimes men can be very humiliated because a woman makes more then you do. You shouldn’t be. Let me say that many of these women I have talked to who have Phd’s in this or that field are not more intelligent than me at all! You start talking to them, and they come across as very human, very female, and very normal. How much a person makes has to do as much with God’s providence as it does one’s behavior. Yes, a lazy person who will not fill out an application will tend to reap what he sows. Nevertheless, even great men such as Job were poor, not as a result of their laziness, but as a result of God’s divine providence. God doesn’t really care about how much we make; he wants us to be holy, and that may mean that the circumstances of the economy as it is right now or even some catastrophe like what happened to Job could end up causing us to not be able to make what we know we are capable of. There is no shame in that; it is God molding us to be what he wants us to be.

It is into this process that women need to be understood as “helpers.” A woman in such a situation can really help a man, and press him on towards Godliness in such a situation. Not only that, if she has a degree that can help get him through, what a better way to be a helper! Women who turn down such men for the men who are “better off” many times do so at the risk of abandoning their role as helper, and instead looking to have their desires fulfilled [to have another person give them their desire to serve God as a housewife]. Sometimes, God might have other plans, and that means that you do both either temporarily or permanently. Still, if you keep in mind that your ultimate goal and purpose in all you do is to serve God, then that move will not be hard.

The point is that we need a reworking of these alleged gender roles from “man is the breadwinner” and “woman is the one who takes care of children and runs the house” to “man and woman both use their gifts and talents in the relationship to work together for the glory of God.” That takes care of men being lazy, and relying on their wife to do everything, because now, they are going to be doing things for God and his glory. That also takes care of a woman only thinking about herself and her own desires. Once her desires are focused on Christ, things change. It isn’t perfect, but it will guard against both of these errors.

It also avoids the extremely sexist attitude I have seen from women in the comments section of the above blog post about being put off by “intelligent” women. As I said earlier, I have not seen anything out of the ordinary in terms of intelligence from these women, to be honest. They seem to be of a normal, average, intelligence. Again, not that I have not met some extremely intelligent women [I ran into them all the time at Trinity], but the vast majority of women who have these successful jobs and businesses simply aren’t any more intelligent than the average Joe. You see, success in school and business is not simply about intelligence. There are some people who are successful because they are hard workers. There are some people who are successful because they know how to market themselves. There are some people who are successful because they know the right people. There are some people who are successful because they have good interpersonal skills. Success in terms of school, business, and money can depend upon all kinds of different factors, not just intelligence. That is why many of these women are embarrassed when they run into a guy of extremely high intelligence, and extremely good work ethic, but but who has not gotten ahead because of problems in interpersonal and social skills, and try to shove their success at them. When they are either unable to keep up with them intellectually, or get dominated by them intellectually, they end up looking like fools. If you look down on men like this, be careful it doesn’t end up coming back to bite you!

Worse than that, if your focus is on Christ and serving him where you are at, then why in the world would you ever have this arrogant attitude? It is only when our focus is upon serving ourselves that we will *ever* look down on others like this. And exactly how is this arrogant, sinful attitude being a “helper?” And don’t give me the excuse “I am trying to shame him into being better.” The kind of attitude expressed in the statement “You’re getting beaten by a girl” is not going to make men get better. It is going to foster resentment and least, and, more probably, anger, malice, and hate. It is selfish, arrogant, and purely meant to set yourself up above another person who is created in the image of God. Remember Job. All of your success and wealth could easily go down the drain due to one move of divine providence. When you use it to beat someone else over the head, don’t be surprised if God takes it away from you, so that *he* becomes your focus again.

So, yes, it is sad to see the way in which the Christian church continues to be very feminine centered in its view of dating and marriage. Women, because they are sinful, fallen creatures, can never be the center of why we do what we do in getting married. If they do become the center, everything will collapse. I really, again, plead with my sisters in Christ to exercise some humility, and take on your role as “helper,” rather than trying to tear people down. It is not honoring to God, and worse, it is the sin of idolatry, because it puts yourself and your purposes in the place of the purposes of God. Better than that, if you do humble yourself before God, and seek to do *his* will, then you will never be disappointed.

In the end I am glad to see this comment from Suzanne and Candice:

Candice’s advice on this point is especially helpful. She suggests that women think biblically, seek to be helpers to the men in their lives and check their motives when it comes to their gifts and successes. I believe it comes down to attitude. Single women, as well as all believers, are responsible to use the gifts God has given them to build up the Body. And sometimes this will bring success. But marriage is about mutual submission and being willing to lay down one’s own agenda for the good of the other person. If that is the attitude that shines through, your accomplishments shouldn’t prevent you from getting married.

I just wish they would apply that to their view of men as breadwinners and women as homemakers.

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