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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 13, 2007
The Incredible Worth of a Woman
Many years ago the Miss Manners column in L. A. Herald Examiner newspaper made some interesting statements concerning Mother’s Day in our modern society. It bears repeating because the situation has not improved, it has only become worse.
“It’s all very well to talk about honoring Mother today. But, as Miss Manners well knows, there are many people nowadays who can’t figure out who Mother is.
“Is she Father’s new wife who is younger than the children? What about a cherished former mother-in-law? Or the family friend who soothed the children while their parents were preoccupied with their divorce?
“Even if you can identify Mother, who is supposed to honor her? Just her children, or also the father of those children? Suppose he is no longer married to her? Or suppose he only acquired the already-fathered children through marriage to her?
“What about the paternal grandmother of those children – does she honor the mother, or does the mother honor her? Should the biological mother be honoring her children’s adoptive mother, or vice versa?” (Miss Manners, LA Herald Examiner, 5/13/90)
Of course the observance of a “Mother’s Day” did not start with the intention of creating the kind of confusion mentioned in the Miss Manners column or the kind of commercialism that has become part of the what is done today. The origins or “Mother’s Day” goes back just shy of a century ago (1908) to a lady named Anna M. Jarvis of West Virginia. Though she herself was childless, she persuaded local churches to honor mothers, and with that success she worked to promote the idea to others. However, she actually became embittered as commercialism began to encroach on this special day to recognize and celebrate motherhood. What began as an encouragement to churches to express sincere thanks and proper honor to our too often “taken-for-granted” mothers in their vital role in raising godly offspring has turned into an obligation for everyone to purchase something for whoever is somehow related to that position be it biological, adoptive, substitute, and generationally up, down or horizontal.
This morning we certainly do agree with the original intent of Mother’s Day in honoring our moms and saying thank you for your too often upraised work in rearing godly offspring. That is why we took the time this morning to give you special recognition. Your labor with your children is often unnoticed and taken for granted. We live in a society that minimizes your work at home while hyping and glamorizing employment outside the home. Lets face it, no one pays you to change your baby’s diapers. No one gives you bonuses or overtime for watching sick children through the night. No one gives you certificates of appreciation for instilling moral values into your home, and there are no award banquets to recognize a job well done in the daily grind of household chores.
In years past I have given special messages on Mother’s Day that have centered around some aspect of motherhood. This morning I want to address something a little more basic – the incredible worth of a woman in general. It is something that is often misunderstood and/or distorted in our society.
In times past it seems that woman’s value was directly related to the number of children she bore and in particular the number of sons. Even as recently as the early 1900’s it was common for women to have 4-8 or more children. My dad was one of ten children. That was a large family, but it was nothing unusual for that time. Such large families are still common in some subcultures in this nation and it is very common in other nations of the world. However, in the present time, if you have even just three children, as my wife and I do, people look at you like must be crazy. If you have more than that, some people think you are menace to society causing over population, and in these times of political correctness, your families carbon footprint is too large. We need to pray for you moms because it is not easy to rear children and society does not give you the support that was once available.
Our society as a whole no longer values a woman based on her having children. In fact, children diminish her value in some segments of our society. Children tie her down and limit her ability to pursue other interests. Businesses have coined the term “mommy track” for those women who place their career in a secondary position to their children. They are then passed over for promotions. Understandably, a business wants its employees who have their minds on their career, not on their homes. They value women based on their ability to earn money for the business.
The rise of feminist thought is at the root of this mindset. Career is more important than family. Self interest is more important than self sacrifice. Self fulfillment is more important than serving others. Feminism has nothing to do with femininity. Feminism actually values masculine traits and scorns feminine traits. Feminist thought has placed women in a horrible position of fighting against God’s very design of her, both physically and emotionally. A lot of you ladies are in the middle of this tension between what you feel like you are designed for and the pressure society is placing upon you.
Let me make a few comments about God’s design. God’s physical design of a woman is so that she can bear and nurture a baby. I read sometime ago a sports article that addressed the differences in the skeletal and corresponding muscle structure of the pelvis of a woman and a man. The man’s leg bones are attached more central to the pelvis while the female’s is more to the sides. This difference allows the male to have a physically stronger placement of the leg muscles increasing his ability to run. The female’s structure diminishes her ability to run, but it greatly increases the inlet area of the pelvis so that she can bear children. If you think childbirth is bad now, you would not even want to think of what it would be like if a woman’s skeletal structure was like a man’s. Gray’s anatomy points out that this difference in bone structure is present before you are even born. It’s God’s design.
God has also placed a basic emotional design within the woman to increase her capacity for nurture and support of other people. Men and women are very different emotionally by the design of God. This truth has been common knowledge throughout the ages as every generation has watched its young boys and girls at play. Anyone that has ever bothered to observe has seen that boys and girls have different ways of playing. Even if you try to minimize those difference they will still show up. For example, if you restrict a boy from having any kind of fighting toys such as toy soldiers, guns, swords, etc., and instead give him dolls, you find he will not be playing house with them as would his sister. Junior will create a battle scene with them. Commando Ken will be protecting Barbie from the invading Cabbage Patch kids. If you give girls toy soldiers she will set them up care for each other like a large family. She would play house with them. Our generation does not want to believe it until some scientist reports it in Time or Newsweek. By the way, that did happen about 20 years ago, but some people still do not believe it. The truth is that boys and girls are different from each other by God’s design.
Feminism fights against all that by trying to promote in women what are more typically male characteristics and roles. It defines the value of a woman based on her ability to succeed at what men typically do. Understand then that feminism is in reality anti-woman because its basic premise is that who you are and what you do as a woman is not as important as what men do. Feminism does not promote femininity but what is male. One man quipped about this, “Here is to women, once our superiors, now our equals.” Will Rogers stated it this way, “I’ll bet the time ain’t far off when a woman don’t know anymore than a man.” That is where feminism has taken us.
No wonder then that so many women are now collapsing under the pressure of trying to be super women. They do all the things men do and what they want to do as women as well. They reap the rewards of ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attacks and nervous breakdowns. These things were not normally found in the female population, but by historical comparison their rates have skyrocketed. God did not design women – or anyone – for that kind of pressure.
The most horrible consequence of feminist thought is abortion. Abortion is not about family planning or birth control or a “woman’s right to chose.” It is about power. The power to control one’s future. The power to destroy anything that would interfere with one’s desires or what is thought to bring happiness. This mindset was apparent in the way Norma McCorvey (the “Roe” in Roe vs Wade) was manipulated by the feminists in 1973 and has been treated by them since she became a Christian in 1995. When she began to hold pro-life views she has been treated with disgust by feminists. The woman is not important, but rather the power to control.
This is also seen in the reaction of feminists to the Supreme Court ruling in April that upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. It is finally illegal for this gruesome procedure in which a third trimester baby is partially delivered, the head is then crushed and extraction is then completed, to be performed in the U.S. Yet, Justice Ginsburg argued for the procedure, though it is never medically necessary, because it would diminish “a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” She found the decision “alarming” and objects that “this way of thinking reflects the ancient notions of the woman’s place in the family.” I guess it does do that for it respects the ancient idea that women’ have the privilege of bearing life and therefore also the responsibility to protect and nurture that life instead of killing it for whatever reason and by any means according to her whim.
That feminism is about power and not women is also seen in their fight against things like informed consent laws and waiting periods for abortions. They would rather keep women ignorant than have her given the knowledge about what she is about to do and possible consequences for her. Then, despite the feminist claim to want “safe” abortions, their fighting against medical regulation of abortion clinics results in your vet’s office being cleaner than most abortion clinics. So much for feminists actually being concerned about women.
The indifference of feminism to women is also apparent in the way abortion clinics entice a woman to consider abortion as the solution to her “problem.” What is growing in her womb is an “it,” “the product of conception,” a “fetus,” a “thing,” and never called a child or a baby, for if the woman believes she has a baby in her womb, then she will view herself as a mother and will naturally seek to protect that life. Yet there are even some that do understand that it is a child, yet they have no qualms about killing what stands in the way of what they think will bring them happiness.
Abortion is a deadly strike against one of the unique aspects of a woman. An aspect men will never understand. Men cannot comprehend all that you ladies go through in carrying that child. From the negative side, we do not know the pain, (for which men are grateful), but from the positive side, we do not have the sense you have as the child is growing within you, or the relationship you have with the child long before birth. Abortion strikes against this unique aspect of a woman that sets her apart in value from a man.
The Bible is clear that children are a blessing. Psalm 127:3 states, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 128:3 describes one of Lord’s blessing as “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine, Within your house, Your children like olive plants around your table.” Bearing children fulfills one of the basic commands given to mankind in Genesis 1 to “be fruitful and fill the earth.”
Children are a blessing, a gift from God. So despite the views now common in our society, we must recognize what the Scriptures say and conclude that a woman has a very unique value in bearing and raising children.
The Scriptures make many statements about the blessings of being a mother. For example, Genesis 24:60 records the blessing given by Rebekah’s family. Remember Abraham had sent his servant Eleazer to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. Things worked out for he found Rebekah and she was going to go back with him to marry Isaac. This is their blessing as she is leaving, “May you, our sister become thousands of ten thousands, And may your descendants possess The gate of those who hate them.” In a similar way the people of Bethlehem blessed Ruth saying, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the LORD shall give you by this young woman” (4:11,12). The scriptures present children as being a blessing.
But a caution. Just because they are to be a blessing is not to say that raising children is easy. It is not easy. There are a lot of responsibilities to being a mom and consequences to how she fulfills them. 1st & 2nd Kings brings out something very interesting in that regard. The name of the mother of each king is mentioned. Why? Because it reflected her influence upon her son whether good or bad. How she raised that child was reflected in what kind of King he became.
No wonder Proverbs states that a son could be either a blessing or a source of shame to a mother. Proverbs 23:24 – “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. 25 Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you.” In contrast Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother,” and 29:15 says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”
One of the main reasons that Diane and I have taught parenting classes many times over the years is that we desire to see your kids be a blessing to you and other people. We will probably be doing that again this Fall. We recognize that our society will not help you any longer. If you are not diligent to make sure you know the Scriptures and know how to apply them in raising your children I can guarantee you that this society will chew your children up and spit them out. There will not be much left of what you thought you were raising. Because of the negative influence of our society you will have to work more diligently at raising your kids than your parents did and much more than your grandparents. Your children are a blessing, a gift from God, and if you raise them correctly they will continue to be that. If you do not, they will be a curse to you and to society.
The woman has an incredible worth in bearing and nurturing her children. She carries with her either the building up or the destruction of her family in what she does. Her influence in her family determines the course of civilization. That is an incredibly important position to have. The future of her family and society is in her hands.
And yet in saying all this, it does not mean that a woman’s worth is contingent on her having children. Why? Because Scripture also says many other things about a woman’s value apart from her children. Certainly children bring a unique value upon her, but if she never has children, that does not in any way reflect that she is not valuable.
God made it clear back in Genesis 1 & 2 that women are valuable. As God was creating everything He was pronouncing different aspects of it as “good.” The light was good (1:4); the dry land and the seas were good (1:10); the plants were good (1:12); the Sun, moon and stars were good (1:18); the various kinds of sea creatures and birds were good (1:21); the various beasts that lived on dry land were good (1:25). The first “not good” occurred on the sixth day after God had created Adam and then said it was “not good for the man to be alone” (2:18). God’s solution to this “not good” was to make him a helper suitable for him.” It is hard to translate the Hebrew here, but it means “someone who corresponds to him.” The rest of the chapter describes how God created Eve and brought her to him. God’s conclusion to the sixth day after creating Eve is that all that He had made was now “very good.” The woman is a special creation.
We men do not like to admit it because of our pride, but we need you women. A husband needs his wife. That shows up even statistically for married men live longer and have less stress induced illnesses than single men. God’s design is that the man and woman complement each other so that in a synergistic relationship the sum of the two is greater than the sum of each individual apart. This is God’s design and the woman is part of it being uniquely crafted by God.
It is no wonder then that Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 19:14 adds, “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Proverbs 31:10 adds, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” She is more valuable than any precious material thing. There is a lot of truth to the statement that behind every good man there is a good woman. While those who are in the forefront of battle usually get the glory, they can do nothing without the support troops behind them. Or as one female writer described it, “it is true that most of the roles that a woman has are support roles, but if it were not for the columns holding up the roof where would the house be? A good woman makes all the difference in whether a man makes an impact on the world or not. The man at the end of Proverbs 31 could “sit at the gate” and have role in the leadership of his community only because of all his wife did in the home.
Remember that it is God’s design that a man and a woman are a team. They work together. Their roles are not superior and inferior, better or worse. They are simply different and both are vitally needed.
Is the woman’s value only related to her children or her husband? Not according to Scripture. Again we find example after example of women making an impact apart from her children or her husband. Let mention a few examples.
Miriam led all the women in worship and praise of the Lord after crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 15. Deborah was a prophetess and a judge of Israel. She, along with Barak, led Israel in a military victory over Jabin, king of Canaan. In that same campaign it was Jael, a woman, who ended up with the victory over the general of Canaanite army, Sisera. Huldah (a name I am sure you are all familiar with) was the leading prophetess at the time of Josiah and gave him counsel (2 Kings 22). Anna, who was then 84, had live most of her life as a widow and yet she served the Lord in the temple. She saw Jesus as a baby as was the first to start proclaiming Christ to those in the temple who were looking for the redemption of Israel.
Paul counted several women as his co-laborers. He specifically mentions Phoebe, Prisca (or Priscilla), Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Julia in Romans 16. In Philippians 4:3 Paul mentions some other women saying they had “shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel.” He counted them as co-laborers.
Was it not a woman that first learned of Jesus’ coming? And was it not women that first praised the Lord because of it? Mary & Elizabeth. At Jesus’ crucifixion, who was it that stayed there the whole time? Women. Who was there when He was first buried? Women along with Joseph of Arimetha and Nicodemus. They were there to prepare His body. Who was the first at the grave? Women. Who was the first to know that they Lord was resurrected? Women. Who were the first to proclaim it? Women. Who was the first convert to Christ in Europe, Lydia, a woman (Acts 16). The Lord has placed a unique value upon women.
The Bible also affirms women in many positions including business. Lydia was a seller of purple. The Proverbs 31 woman was a business woman on top of everything else she was doing. She is a tough example to follow. She not only had her priorities straight and took care of her family first, but she was also involved in real estate, manufacturing, and selling her wares. She was a busy woman. Deborah co-led the army of Israel in battle. Women were involved in all sorts of positions.
God is not anti-woman and neither is Biblical Christianity. However, the Bible does affirm the differing roles for men and women and some women who are affected by feminist thought do not like that. The Bible warns that there are consequences when those differing roles are not followed.
Barak told Deobrah that he would not go fight Jabin, king of Canaan, without her. She then told Him that she would go, but warned him that the honor would not be his, but instead the honor would go to a woman. And that is exactly what happened. She did what was right, but Barak bore the shame of his own decision. When men fail to take their proper roles and responsibilities in leading, and a woman then rises up to fulfill the gap, it is to the shame of the man. I often think of this when I get support requests from single women who want to go out as missionaries. I do not fault her and I do not believe she is wrong in desiring to serve Christ in such a manner. There will be additional hardships she will face, but the Lord can certainly enable her to face them and overcome them. Instead I find it a shame to my gender that there are not more men that will say, like Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.” It is to the shame of men that they are not leading and single women are going out to do their job.
I do not even disparage women who fill in the gaps and take leadership positions in churches, which has become very common, but the fact is that many do so because the men have failed, and it is to their shame. When men refuse their responsibilities to such an extent that a woman rises up to fill in the gap to do something that is not her role to do, that is to the man’s shame. However, the woman is also at risk of becoming proud usurping the man’s role to her own sin.
Now all these things I have mentioned – business, leadership, children, marriage – could define things that a woman finds important and by which a woman might even use to define herself. These things can be valuable within themselves, but she must be careful in how she allows these things to define her worth. She can find some temporal value in any of these, but if she is not careful she can find that any or all of them will prove to be worthless in the final analysis.
The Proverbs 31 woman was successful in business, but that is not what gave her value. Deborah was successful in a military campaign, but that is not what gave her value. Hannah had children, one of whom was Samuel the prophet, but that is not what gave her value. Elizabeth had a great husband, Zecharaiah the priest, and bore John, the forerunner of Jesus, but that is not what gave her value. Mary bore Jesus, but that is not what gave her value.
The true worth of a woman is related in her fulfilling God’s design for her both as a woman in general and as a unique individual. That same truth also applies to you men, so listen up. The primary design is that she bring glory to God’s name. She was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26,27). Her life should be about seeking to reflect Christ’s image and do God’s good pleasure and not her own (Isa. 46:10). If she fails in this primary purpose then everything she does will ultimately be worthless. A successful business that does not glorify God is ultimately vain, futile and pointless. To gain a position of leadership and then not lead in godliness to godly goals is ultimately useless, senseless and foolish. Having a husband that does not share your love for Christ is frustrating enough in itself, but if that is compounded by not living to be a godly influence upon him, then you will find your life is a waste. Having children and then not training them to be godly individuals not only brings shame to you, as we have pointed out earlier, but will also bring a curse upon society.
The true worth of a woman centers on her faithfulness in knowing and following the will of God. This begins with knowing Him and believing in Jesus Christ. It then continues with developing that personal relationship with the Creator of the universe and daily becoming more and more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). It encompasses setting your priorities according to God’s will and not your own selfish desires. It is to be God first, then your family, then other people and then yourself. Life is fulfilled in serving God and that also becomes the source of your greatest joy.
Let me quickly add that every spiritual gift is important in the body of Christ. Do not compare yourself to others as to the specific gift, particular ministry or public attention received. We are to simply serve the Lord doing whatever, where ever, whenever, God wants you to do it. In God’s economy, changing a baby’s diaper downstairs in the nursery is just as important as leading in worship up here if both are truly done for the purpose of glorifying Him. God looks at the heart. Whatever the Lord calls you to do is vital and that is what gives you worth. It is not the worth society places on you, for at best what society values is temporal. It is simply being the Lord’s faithful servant. Set yourself to please the Lord and then you will realize your value comes from the infinite God.
What is the worth of a woman? Most of our society tries to find it in all the wrong places. A woman’s true worth comes from the infinite God who created her and arises from how well she is fulfilling God’s design for her as described in the Scriptures and so is related to her personal godliness, service to God and fulfilling her various roles. So much of this is related to her relationships with other people that her true worth would then be impossible to calculate in this life and will not be known until we are heaven. Her worth then is inestimable.
Ladies, don’t let this society and the feminist philosophy that has become dominate in much of it take away from your value as a woman. Find your worth in God and His plan for your life. Rejoice in the fact that God in His infinite wisdom and grace has given you the wonderful privilege of being a woman.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “woman” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents what you believe the Bible says about a woman’s role in the family & society.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the purpose of Mother’s Day? Did you thank the various “moms” in your life? What changed in our society so that mothers are not valued as they once were? Describe feminism in your own words? What do feminists value? What pressure does this put on women in our society? What is God’s physical design of a woman? What is God’s emotional design of a woman? What basic differences do you find between men and women? Has feminism helped women be better women? Why do feminists promote and protect abortion? What does God say about children? What influence does a woman have on her children? What happens if the woman fails in her role? How does a woman influence her community? Does a woman have to have children to be valuable? Why did God create Eve (Gen. 2)? What is the effect of a wife on a husband? How important is a “support” role? Husband – Do you honor your wife for her support of you? Wife – Do you fulfill your role willingly or do you fight against it and usurp your husband’s responsibilities? Does a woman have to have a husband to be valuable? What are some of the examples of the accomplishments of single women in the Bible? Men – are you fulfilling your responsibilities or do women have to fill in the gap to your shame? Where does the true value of a woman come from? Men – how are you helping your wife/daughters find their true value? How much are you negatively affected by society?
Sermon Notes – 5/13/2007
The Incredible Worth of A Woman – Selected Scriptures
Worth in Being a Mother
A Changing Society
Feminism & Its Consequences
The Work: 1 & 2 Kings; Prov. 23:24,25; 10:1; 29:15
Worth as a Wife
Prov. 18:22; 19:14; 31:10,23
Worth as an Individual
Worth in Fulfilling God’s Design
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