Women leaders in business?

Question:

“Hey a follow-up to the Woman leaders question: I agree with the Bible’s stance on headship; Does this also apply to management positions in companies, even though it’s not their practice to enforce any moral or spiritual authority?”

Answer:

This is a much harder question to answer than women leadership in the church and in the home. The latter two are very clearly defined by scripture in order to display Gods plan and purpose in creating genders.  We can read Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and Titus 2 speaking of femininity and masculinity in the home. 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 outline the gender roles in the church. However, outside those two contexts the bible does not specifically address and define women leadership in the world.  When we come to a topic like this that is not explicitly mentioned, the best rule is to seek out “big” biblical principles that would also apply here. So you can employ the principles of biblical gender roles in your life as you run into different scenarios.

Differing roles: Husband to provide, Wife to nurture

Pastor/teacher John Piper writes, “God intends for all the ‘weaknesses’ that are characteristically masculine to call forth and highlight woman’s strengths. And God intends for all the ‘weaknesses’ that are characteristically feminine to call forth and highlight man’s strengths.”

Ultimately, it is the husbands role, function, and responsibility to provide for his family, both financially and spiritually.  1 Timothy 5:8 states “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” He, meaning the husband, is accountable for making sure the wife and children have finances for shelter, food, clothing, and etc. This does not mean the wife cannot help in bringing in or saving money, but that the buck stops with the husband. At the end of the day the safety and well being of the family is placed on him not his wife. There are some rare cases where the husband suffers injury, sickness, or unemployment where the wife can become the primary provider for some time, it is only then that a man can find an excuse for not providing for his family financially.

The husbands role also includes providing guidance for his wife and family as a spiritual leader. Ephesians 5:25 teaches: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Jesus loves, cares, guides, teaches, instructs, leads, saves, redeems, and protects his church. He cared enough about her to come die on a cross, becoming the perfect example of a husbands love for his wife. Just as Jesus has tasked himself to provide spiritually for his church so is a husband for his wife. Ephesians 6:4 expounds the role of men in raising children “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Again we see the husband as the provider of spiritual edification, encouragement, and leadership to the children. While he is to do everything out of love, the way husbands focus their love is by leading.

Wives on the other hand have been given role of nurturing their children, loving their husbands and caring for their family. Paul teaches in Titus 2:3-5 that “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,  that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.” From this passage we can gather the position of the woman is more aimed at loving people as contrasted with men’s position of leading people. Although older women are to lead and teach younger women; the thing they are to teach younger women is how to be loving and nurturing, in other words fulfill their prescribed role of femininity. Another character traits that women are given in the above passage are obedience to their husbands, kindness, sensibility, and loving children. All of these things culminate in most women being somewhat better at relationships and dealing with others in a sensitive way. While men have strengths to lead by providing teaching, vision, discipline, and direction, the Scripture tends to portray women as having strengths in communication, kindness, sweetness and gentleness. Men love by leading, and women focus their love by nurturing and caring. To summarize it, when I was a kid and I would get sick I would see gender differences very easily: my dad would joke and tell me I’d be ok by my wedding date, my mom would put me in bed and hover about me nurturing for me.

Women at work?

Women are shown in the Bible as being hard workers, nowhere do we see a wife lying in bed for the duration of the day while the husband toils and sweats, unless she is pregnant. In fact the Titus 2:5 passage we quoted above shows women as being workers in setting up the home. Also Proverbs 31:10-31 gives us an image of the virtuous woman. Some of the tasks she does include shopping, (Pro 31:13-14), cooking and distributing food to her house and friends (Pro 31:15), buying property and planting fields (Pro. 31:16), charity/non-profit work (Pro. 31:20), and even opening a small business (Pro 31:24). The woman is definitely not called to be idle. The bible gives us portraits of women that work hard and accomplish much, all within the bounds of their femininity. Throughout most of history each household would grow much of its own food, make its own clothing, tools and more. It is only with recent leaps in technology that a vast majority of the things that would be done in the home have been outsourced, first to local factories, then to places like china. While women in the past were expected to churn their own butter and milk a cow, today most of these types of labors have been abandoned in favor of a 30 minute trip to the grocery store. Therefore it may be said that women who would labor all day in the home are not forbidden to work for an employer, bringing in some added finances to help pay for household needs. However, we must not lay aside the principle of the husband as the primary provider. Furthermore, caring for children is one of the primary duties of the wife and mother and so work should not interfere with this God given obligation. The amount of money a mother spends on daycare and income taxes will dramatically decrease the money she earns  by going to work so it’s not always the best economical decision (see news article).  At the same time giving away children to be raised by foreign hands is not a smart choice by any means.  So as long as those guiding principles are not broken the bible doesn’t forbid women from working at some periods of their lives, preferably when there are no children or when they are older.

Women Bosses at work?

Now that we have laid down a little bit of groundwork we can begin to answer the real question, can women be in leadership at their place of employment? First off we can definitely say that one woman being the boss of others is clearly within scriptural lines (Titus 2:3-4). This leaves the door open to many for management and leadership positions as some businesses, careers, and vocations are usually dominated by women. The only issue that seems vague is when women managers who are responsible for leading both sexes. In this we can do our best and try to refer to the principles above, namely keeping a difference between femininity and masculinity. Since the bible does not forbid it, I don’t think it’s wise for us to add to the scriptures more rules. But even wiser is for women and men to find fulfillment in gender roles that are in line with who they are created to be. I believe it is quite possible in many circumstances that a woman can function as a leader over a group consisting of both genders. The main thing in this situation would be that the woman maintain her stance and attitude to things in a feminine motherly way. Judges 5:7 speaks of one of the bibles women leaders (in government, not in home or religion) and says her posture in leadership was that of a mother (not a male role like a father.) This means that Deborah espoused and held to feminine attributes, even in her authoritative role she did not try and become like a man. The advice to young women who are thinking about working in management is to investigate why you want to work in such a position; whether part of the desire is to taking on masculinity. In the end if a woman’s husband is for it and the management position allows her to maintain femininity there is no biblical discouragement.

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