I am not a Biblical scholar, but I am a Christian woman with a husband and children, who leads a Bible study for women just like The Transformed Wife, so I felt compelled to respond to her post, Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins without Tattoos which has been shared over 150,000 times since it was posted three days ago [note: a new blog was posted on the site today clarifying that she meant Godly men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos].
Here’s where the author behind The Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, and I part ways: she believes that women should “be keepers at home” and that college only instructs young women “in the ways of the world” whereas I work full-time at a university (founded by Christians) and hold not one, but two degrees.
If you have not yet seen the post, I encourage you to read it; the two main points are 1) that the Bible claims that women should submit to their husbands (or fathers if not yet married), run the home and not have careers; and 2) women should not attend college because it is counter to all of these things.
Here are a couple of Mrs. Alexander’s claims:
- “Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways”
- Young women learn to “be independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits”
- It “isn’t right to bring [debt from college] into a marriage”
- “If they go to college, they are unlikely to stay home raising their children. Is college worth having less children? I will never understand how women prefer careers over having precious babies.”
- Women learn nothing about “what it takes to run a home when they go to college. They don’t learn to serve others either.”
As someone who has spent (gulp) half of my life on a college campus, most of these claims fall very far short of my experience. Most secular higher education institutions have strong and vibrant faith communities within them that are nurtured and financed at least in part by the institution itself. Likewise, higher education institutions (inside and outside of on campus faith communities) foster community service, philanthropy and caring for others. I have had the opportunity over the years to work with hundreds and hundreds of incoming students, enrolled students and alumni. Some of the incoming students arrive independent and loud, some do not. Some of the women choose to have a career and some choose to stop working and stay at home when they have children. I will absolutely concede that students are currently graduating with an unprecedented amount of debt, which studies have linked to buying homes and having families later in life, but that is true for both women and men.
What concerns me more about the blog post from The Transformed Wife is that it is selective in its Biblical references and very narrow in its interpretation of the Word. The blog post only references three verses of scripture: Ephesians 6:4 (which instructs fathers to teach their children about God), 1 Corinthians 14:35 (which refers to the ancient law requiring women remaining silent in the Jewish Temples, not the churches of Paul’s time) and 1 Peter 3:4 (which reminds us that it is the beauty of our spirit, not our appearance that pleases God).
It was important to me, as a Christian, to go back to the Bible and to consult the writings of Biblical historians and scholars to answer the following three questions for myself.
What does the Bible say about wives submitting to their husbands?
There are three references to wives submitting to their husbands in the Bible, all in the New Testament, and all start off nearly the same way, “Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands as you to to the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 (see also Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1). The first time I sat through a teaching on this Bible verse, I cringed (so did my husband!), but I’ve learned significantly more about the meaning of “submission” (“hupotasso” in the original Greek) in Paul’s letters to the churches in Colossae and Ephesus since then [note: there is some debate as to whether or not Paul is the actual author of these letters or one of his disciples, for the sake of simplicity I will refer to Paul as the author].
This concept was never intended to mean what individuals in Western cultures think of as “submission” today. It means to put your husband’s needs ahead of your own, to help him reach his full potential, in much the same way that we do for our children, our extended family and our friends. In just the same way that Jesus washed the disciples feet and called on us to do the same for one another (John 13:5-14). Submission in this sense does not mean that a wife is inferior to her husband, that she should be blindly obedient to him, remain passive or silent, depend on him directly for everything or ever endure abuse of any kind. Sam Storms, Lead Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City does an incredible job of providing all of the Biblical verses that support these conclusions in his article, Wives who Submit to Their Husbands (3:18).
Colossians 3:19 provides reciprocal instructions for husbands, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” The word “love” here (“agapaô” in the original Greek) means a sacrificial love. This is echoed in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” as in died for. Scott L. Harris, Pastor at Grace Bible Church in Wappingers Falls, NY puts it this way, “Until you have died in the place of your wife, you have not loved her to this extent. That means that every husband here today still has room to grow in his love for his wife.”
In both cases, Paul was encouraging spouses to love one another sacrificially as Jesus had done. Any indication of dominance or passivity of one marital role over the other comes from our modern interpretation of these words.
Does the Bible say that wives and mothers should not work outside the home?
There are several Biblical examples of wives who work outside the home and no examples that I can find prohibiting it.
Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a wife of noble character, listing the following qualities (emphasis is mine):
- Her husband has full confidence in her (31:11)
- She provides food for her family (31:15)
- She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard (31:16)
- She sets about her work vigorously (31:17)
- She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes (31:24)
- She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue (31:26)
- She watches over the affairs of her household (31:27)
According to this list, she provides food for her family, watches over the affairs of her household, but also sells garments and has her own earnings. Because of her labor inside and outside the home, the Bible says that, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (31:28).
In the book of Judges, two whole chapters are devoted to Deborah who was a prophet, the leader of Israel and the wife of Lappidoth (Judges 4:4). She was so respected for her leadership that when she commanded Barak, son of Abinoam, to take 10,000 men into battle, he responded, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” (Judges 4:8). She and Barak led the battle and were victorious in securing peace for Israel for the next 40 years (Judges 5:31).
What does the Bible say about women receiving a higher education?
There were no colleges or universities in Biblical times, so there are no verses explicitly outlining Jesus’s views on women receiving a post-secondary education. The equivalent to a higher education during Jesus’s life was rabbinical teaching, which was strictly reserved for men. But Jesus changed all of that; there are many examples of Jesus teaching women in Bible.
One of the most well known is that of Mary and Martha where Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” while Martha made preparations (Luke 10:38). In Jesus’ Extraordinary Treatment of Women, posted by St. Anthony’s Messenger, America’s best-selling Catholic magazine, it is explained that sitting at the feet of Jesus was the typical position of a male disciple at that time; to sit at the feet of a rabbi meant that you were in fact that person’s disciple.
Other verses that indicate that Jesus taught women in addition to men include:
- Luke 8:1-3 (women travel with Jesus and The Twelve, supporting them out of their own means)
- Matthew 12:46-50 (Jesus points to his disciples and refers to them as his brothers, sisters and mother)
- Mark 15:40-41 (indicates the women present at the crucifixion had traveled with Jesus in Galilee and Jerusalem)
I believe that Mrs. Alexander is a Godly woman, and perhaps she has been called to stay at home, keep her house and raise her children. But I don’t believe that is God’s calling for all women. My prayer for her and for you is that you read and you pray to discern where God is calling you to play a part in His plan.