Will the Real Biblical Woman Please Stand Up?
by Gabrielle Pickle
I slowly perused the bookshelves in the women’s section of the local Christian bookstore, looking for a specific book on biblical womanhood. After almost an hour of fruitless searching, I discovered that the topic of biblical womanhood is smack dab in between the section on marriage and the section on parenting. While over in the singles section – where I rightly belong – are books on dating, singleness, and the fight for purity. No biblical womanhood there! (Believe me, I checked twice!)
I get that it’s just the bookstore’s organization system, but I can’t help but feel that it reflects a significant part of the Christian culture mindset: biblical womanhood is for wives and mothers, while single women should just focus on staying pure and getting married.
Ah! It makes me want to stomp my foot and scream in defiance, “single women can be biblical too!” Except I’m pretty sure such behavior is not very biblical and would get me kicked out of the bookstore.
When I stopped huffing and puffing and thought it through, I get it. I don’t think it is an accurate interpretation of Scripture, but I can understand the confusion. The description of a “biblical woman” does sound so very…. married.
In the home… raising godly children… honoring your husband… keeping house…
Urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her…She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. [Paraphrase] She: works with wool, provides food for her family, buys fields, wakes up before it is light, sews things, makes things, speaks with wisdom, helps the poor, cares for her servants, raises her children. (Prov. 31:10-31)
But I’m not married. So, where does that leave me?
These descriptions from Scripture, so exalted by the church, are not the only examples of God-honoring womanhood in the Bible. What about Anna? The devout widow, who spent her time praying at the temple and recognized baby Jesus as their prophesied Messiah (Luke 2). Or Dorcas? Who devoted her talent of sewing to help the poor (Acts 9). Or Mary and Martha? The sisters who were Christ’s good friends. It seems that one or possibly even both of them were single (John 11). Or Lydia? The wealthy woman who opened her home for the Apostles to hold church (Acts 16). Or Priscilla? A woman without children in her home who helped her husband disciple new believers and opened their home to Paul (Acts 18).
Marriage is good. Motherhood is good. They are God-honoring, and definitely two of the primary roles in which women are called to be biblical. God created marriage for a great purpose. But He also created singleness for a great purpose. And single women are called to be “biblical” women just as much as married ones are. Biblical womanhood is our standard for any situation in life: single, married, divorced, or widowed. Whatever your marital status, biblical womanhood applies!
So here are a couple thoughts I have about my “search-for-a-biblical-womanhood-book-in-the-singles’-section” experience:
1. Remember that biblical womanhood is taught throughout Scripture, and not just in passages that speak about marriage.
Paul’s admonition about singleness applies directly to biblical womanhood. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 he is advocating singleness because it allows that woman the freedom to be wholly, completely focused on the things of the Lord. She is free to make her relationship with God her only concern – and that is biblical womanhood! However, the married woman has her family’s needs to occupy the majority of her time.. While the Lord is her first focus, her family is a close second – and that is Biblical womanhood! A true, accurate, definition of biblical womanhood must encompass the whole of Scripture, not just Proverbs 31 and Titus 2.
2. Remember that biblical womanhood passages are for ALL women–married or single.
Yes, most Old Testament and New Testament passages that speak directly to biblical womanhood do so with the married woman in mind. But it’s important to recognize that the truth found in them also applies to single women! Proverbs 31 is a description for King Lemuel from his mother on the characteristics to look for in a wife. The girls he was considering obviously weren’t yet married. They were single. Therefore, King Lemuel’s mom was advising him to spot and identify qualities that would be evident in a single woman’s life–qualities that demonstrated she was a “biblical” woman–the type of woman who would also be a good wife and mother.
A husband and children are not requirements for biblical womanhood. Yes, they are good things – things God uses to glorify himself, further his kingdom and sanctify us. But God also uses singleness to advance his kingdom, glorify himself and sanctify us. God uses different circumstances, situations, and means to bring about this same over-arching goal. Marriage is not a prerequisite for being a biblical woman nor for is it a prerequisite for having a life that pleases God.
It isn’t about marriage or singleness, it’s about Jesus.
It’s about Exalting Jesus
Biblical womanhood is about a woman seeking to honor Jesus by consistently applying Scripture to her daily life, whatever that life looks like. It is as simple as that. It applies across categories. Therefore, it could be interspersed in every bookstore section relating to women: young, old, single, married, divorced, widowed, whatever.
In whatever state or stage of life you find yourself, Biblical womanhood is your calling. It’s not something that’s confined to women who look for books between the marriage and parenting sections. Let me say it again, as loudly as I can in a quiet bookstore: “Biblical womanhood is about exalting Jesus.”