Monday, January 30, 2023

Anonymous Asks (234)

“If the Bible teaches the equality of the sexes, why has inequality always been the norm?”

This will probably come as a shock to some readers, but the Bible doesn’t teach equality, either of the sexes or of any other kind. If you doubt that, a concordance will sort you out in short order. There is a single verse in the New Testament where the word “equality” in the KJV may be construed to promote financial fairness, but the importance of strict equality of status, authority, privilege or even personhood is nowhere to be found in scripture.

Not Counted

In fact, the most important verse you will ever read about equality may be this one:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Here we learn is that equality for self is never a Christian goal. It is the opposite of Christ-likeness. The only person ever who really IS intrinsically equal to God showed himself spectacularly and uniquely unconcerned about demonstrating it. Instead, he served those who were not remotely his equals by any and all measures, and who never will be his equals no matter how many eternities pass. I’d suggest that if we are indeed imitators of Jesus Christ, we will be as unconcerned about our own status relative to others as he was.

Imported from the World

Now, the equality of the sexes is certainly taught by evangelical Christians, but it is a concept imported from the world rather than derived from scripture. The teaching that all men (and presumably all women) are “created equal” is Jeffersonian, not Pauline. The Declaration of Independence doesn’t even bother to offer us proof. Where scripture is concerned, it is true that both men and women were created in the image of God, but nowhere does scripture teach that the sexes mirror that image with rigid equality. It may be the case that both sexes reflect the image of God equally, or that men reflect it more precisely, or even that women do, but we are left to work that out for ourselves. God simply did not say it. And if God didn’t say it, chances are it’s nowhere near as important as we think it is.

The Upside-Down Kingdom

In the upside-down kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the first are last and the last first and the greatest is the servant of all. The object is not to be “equal”, but to “outdo one another in showing honor”. It’s a competition to win by giving the most away, by working the hardest and being content in the process.

Even the mantra “equal pay for equal work” has no scriptural basis. The purpose of our Lord’s parable about the laborers in the vineyard was not to promote equal pay, but rather to teach the evils of envy and the importance of contentment with whatever lot in life God has given us. Likewise, in the parable of the talents, the servants receive differing amounts “to each according to his ability” rather than according to some consistent standard, and the outcomes couldn’t be more divergent.

Different But Valued

So then, inequality has always been the norm because differences with regard to status, authority, skills or assets are nothing more than the God-given opportunity to serve others, which we can choose to use as God intended or else to lavish on ourselves, as we see fit. At times, both men and women have elected to choose the latter option, forfeiting their reward. But God has given authority for the purpose of building up, not for tearing down.

Where the sexes are concerned, I like my co-writer Immanuel Can’s formulation: “Different but valued.” That pretty much sums up the Bible’s teaching on the relative worth of the sexes.

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