Ruth, Mary, Sarah and Proverbs 31: Examples of Complementarian Women
This series is a review of God’s Design, a children’s book which teaches children about complementarity. For an introduction of the book, click here. All of the underlined subtitles below are chapters from the book.
Today, young girls have the chance to learn what makes a godly woman. I know you all were thinking hard about who the examples might possibly be. Now’s the time to find out!
Ruth, an Example of Womanhood
I do love the story of Ruth and I can understand why she was chosen as an example. However, there’s a part of Ruth’s story that I appreciate that is never spoken of in this chapter.
Ruth is described as a companion, a hard worker and a provider. I would agree with this assessment. (Pssst….Kind of sounds like a complementarian man, doesn’t it?) Boaz notices how hard Ruth works and has heard of her loyalty to Naomi, so he decides to help her out. Boaz sees Ruth as a “worthy woman – a godly woman who loves God and would be a helper and companion.”
And here’s where the authors veer off course to talk about Boaz. Boaz is an example of biblical manhood because he was a “leader who took responsibility for Ruth” and he wanted to solve her problems. I think Boaz is a stand-up guy, but come on! The boys already have Paul and Jesus as their example, let’s keep focusing on the women for once! Oh, and women are absolutely capable of solving their own problems, thank you very much!
The point that I think the authors miss is that Ruth and Naomi knew what they were doing. It was hard being a widow in ancient times, needless to say a foreign widow in a country that typically would despise her type. Ruth needed to marry someone who could take care of both of them, so with Naomi’s guidance a plan was set into action. Naomi goes so far as to suggest that Ruth pretty herself up, go to the threshing floor after harvest, wait until Boaz is passed out from eating and drinking, and offer herself to him. Ruth goes, but slightly changes the plan.
Naomi tells Ruth that when Boaz notices her to do what he tells her. However, when Boaz notices her, she tells him, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” (Ruth 3:9, NIV) Ruth broke protocol by entering the threshing floor and she dictating to Boaz what he should do. She most likely put her life at risk by calling the shots, but Boaz, being the upstanding man that he was, went along with her plan.
This brilliant plan led Ruth the Moabite to become the grandmother of King David and in the genealogy of Jesus. She is one of five women mentioned in Matthew’s account, and for a very good reason.
Mary and Sarah, Examples of Womanhood
Mary, the mother of Jesus shares a chapter with Sarah. I’m a little disappointed because I really thought she would get an entire chapter dedicated to herself.
Which leads to Mary’s disappointment — “a very big disappointment.” Yes, I’m assuming that the authors mean that Mary was disappointed to be illegitimately pregnant. And, yes, they confirm that by saying, “Mary knew God’s Word says only married people should have babies.” And here’s where I work very hard at holding my tongue because I want to yell, “@#%*!”
First of all, the authors do not provide any verses in reference to Mary knew that “only married people should have babies.” Yes, there is a law against premarital sex (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), however this verse refers to rape. And, there is a law that a “bastard” may not enter the house of God (Deuteronomy 23:2). However, the original Hebrew of this word is mamzer which means “a child of incest.” This adds a whole new point of view to this word.
Did the authors even stop to consider the meaning behind what they were saying that Mary was “disappointed” about being pregnant and not married? And, believe me, I totally understand the inference. Yes, unmarried pregnant women were looked upon with shame. There were laws that if a young unmarried woman was pregnant she could be stoned outside her father’s house. I would venture to guess that Mary was scared for her life, not disappointed.
Perhaps the authors have forgotten Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55 where she says,
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me Blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. (NIV)
Does this sound like a disappointed person? Please, authors, stop projecting yourselves on to ancient people. For goodness sake little girls, if you become pregnant and are not married, don’t think of yourself or your child as a great disappointment. You are both created and loved by God!
Then we move on to Sarah. Sarah is described as a woman who trusted God. She also had a “gentle and quiet spirit” (based upon 1 Peter 3:4-6) and we are told that a woman like this “does not insist on her own way and is not pushy and demanding.” She called her husband “lord” which meant that she respected and honored Abraham’s decisions. While women don’t call their husbands “lord” today, we are told that “they can speak with respect, honor his decisions, want to please their husbands, and teach their children to respect their father.”
Do you think Sarah had a choice when Abraham, because he was afraid, decided to deceive Pharoah and say that Sarah was his sister? Is this how you want little girls to respect their husbands? By following along with their deceptive plans? Was Sarah pushy and demanding when she gave Hagar to Abraham to sleep with to get a child? She didn’t even trust God when she was told that she would have a child in her old age; she laughed! I’m left to wonder how a woman who lived thousands of years ago can be the example of a complementarian woman for today.
Wrong Thinking About Womanhood
This is one godly woman that I’m sure you didn’t even consider when we were trying to guess who would be our examples….the Proverbs 31 woman! Yes, of course!
The chapter breaks apart different verses in Proverbs and offers different aspects of “God’s idea of womanhood.”
Verses 10-12: A godly wife is more precious than diamonds. He trusts her and knows that she has abilities and appreciates her. He may trust her, but does she need to defer to him in every decision or is she free to make her own decisions?
Verses 13, 16, 24 and 27: A godly woman is a cheerful and hard worker. She isn’t lazy. She makes good decisions and acts upon her ideas. This reminds me of Lori Alexander.
Verses 17, 21 and 25: A godly woman has a “different kind of strength.” She does what is right, trusts God and does not fear. Does this go against acting upon her good ideas?
Verses 20 and 26: A godly woman takes care of her family and is kind and compassionate to others. “She has money and things to share.” What if her husband is not on board with sharing their things?
Verses 28 and 29: A godly woman is “better than the rest.” In fact, a “true” woman is “worth more than the Hope Diamond!” A “true woman” — I really dislike that statement.
I get the feeling that Christian women take Proverbs 31 way more seriously than Jewish women. Proverbs 31 seems to be read more like a “to do” list. Sites such as A Virtuous Woman and Proverbs 31 Ministries offer resources for living a virtuous godly life. Christian women speak and blog about how to live like a Proverbs 31 woman. However, in Jewish culture Eishet Chayill (woman of valor), is a poem that is sung at the Shabbat table to praise all Jewish women.
For without woman – no matter her ability or talent – where would we be today?
If you would like to read prior reviews on God’s Design, here are links in the order of the book chapters: