We are in a series called Different By Design. In our first study we considered the confusion that our culture has right now regarding what it means to be a man and a woman. People are looking for an identity that cannot be found until they look to the Creator who made them. Our identity is not in our desires or sexuality. You will not find your identity by undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Our identity is declared in Genesis 1:26-27. You are made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God means that you are to show God to world and reflect his glory. With this knowledge we are given meaning, purpose, and identity in our lives.
What God Gave Men To Do
Genesis 2 is the further explanation of the creation of man and woman. In Genesis 2:7 we are told that the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, breathed into him the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. But notice what God does next with the man. In verse 15 God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden “to work it and keep it.” God designed men for work. Sometimes we think of work as the curse of Adam’s sin. But the curse was that the labor would be painful (Genesis 3:17). But work was always the design for the man. We can see this by looking at the male body. It is a utilitarian body built for strength to do work. Men were not meant to stay at home playing video games all day. Men were built by God to go to work. The apostle Paul gave the command for work to the Thessalonians.
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12 ESV)
What God Gave Women To Do
The Lord God makes a declaration that it is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So God declares that he will make the man “a helper fit for him.” Adam is shown all the animals and names them. But in the process of doing so, the conclusion is reached that in none of the animals was there “a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:20). Now we need to talk about what this means.
Woman as a compliment
The idea is that she is made to be a complement to him. She is not the same as him in every way, though she is a human being and she is made in the image of God. He was made to work and she was made to compliment him. Some of the translations try to help communicate this concept.
I will make a helper as his complement. (Genesis 2:18 HCSB)
I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him. (Genesis 2:18 NET)
The point is that what the man lacks, the woman accomplishes. She is critically important. Being a compliment to him is not demeaning or derogatory in any way. Do you remember complimentary angles in geometry? Remember that the complimentary angle is the angle needed to complete the other angle so it is at 90 degrees (a right angle). The complimentary angle completes the angle. We get this if we think about it. We even have movies that say this. The man says to the woman, “You complete me.” Yes! This is the point. There is nothing demeaning or derogatory in that. It is beautiful. If there is anything that is derogatory, it is to the man because he is described as being incomplete without her. God’s point is not to be derogatory but to teach us that we need each other. One is not better than another. Men are not better or higher than women. Women are not better or higher than men. They are meant to work together. Thus, as the ESV reads, the woman was made to fit him. She is the puzzle piece that matches him.
Woman as a helper
Now many read that she was made to be a helper for him and think that this is a derogatory term. I will agree that historically some have misused this teaching to suggest that women are to serve men. That is not the idea of her being his helper. She is not to help a man by getting him a glass of iced tea while he sits on the couch watching football. In fact, being a helper does not even suggest a lesser role or lesser value. The reason why is because God repeatedly called himself a helper, the same Hebrew word.
The God of my father was my helper and delivered me from Pharaoh’s sword (Exodus 18:4 HCSB)
And this he said of Judah: “Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah, and bring him in to his people. With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries.” (Deuteronomy 33:7 ESV)
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV)
In each of the above instances, God is called the helper (same Hebrew word). So we know that being a helper is not derogatory. Being a helper does not mean the person is lesser, for God is not lesser. Being a helper does not mean the person is less valuable. In fact, the Lord is glorified in each of these instances because he is the helper to people. God being the helper means that he has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is the point of Genesis when God said that woman was made to be the man’s helper. She is not lesser. She is not less valuable. She is not inferior. She has a different role. She is doing for the man what he cannot do for himself. This is why she is the answer to the problem that God declares in verse 18: It is not good for the man to be alone. Another man cannot solve this (again showing that homosexuality is against God’s design for humans). The animals cannot solve this. The animals cannot be the complement to him and another man cannot be the complement to him. An animal cannot be his partner. Another man cannot be his partner. The animals are not suitable for him. Another man is not suitable for him. But the woman is. She solves what the man could not solve.
The Beauty of Difference
I hope we will see that God has made it beautiful that we are different. Men and women were made with different purposes. Men and women were made for different roles. We will get into more details about the scriptures mean about the different roles in the next lesson. But before we can, we need to deal with some issues that come up when talking about the differences between men and women.
First, let us begin with a false thought. Why does our culture tell us that a woman must be able to do what a man can do, and a man must be able to do what a woman can do?
All kinds of scientific studies have been done which have revealed again and again that we are born different, exactly as God said in Genesis! It is not our environment or our nurturing that makes us a man or a woman. Men and women are born different. We should know this just by looking at each other. We should know this just by talking with each other. We understand very quickly that are different, far beyond reproductive organs. We are different in how we use our brains (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-mens-brains-are-wired-differently-than-women/). We are different in hormonal and chemical make up. We are different in how we handle relationships. We are different in emotional reactions. We are different in our behaviors. We know this from marriage. There is a reason why there are thousands and thousands of self-help books on marriage. If we were the same, it would be so much easier to figure each other out. Men understand men and women understand women, but men and women struggle with understanding each other. We also know this from all of the scientific and psychological studies that has been done for the last few decades. Most importantly, we know this because the scriptures say so. God did not create two males. He created them male and female. The two are different.
Culture says that women can do anything men can do and men can do anything that women can do. Let us end this nonsensical thinking right now. Men cannot breastfeed. Men cannot give birth. Does this mean that men are lesser human beings or are inferior to women because men cannot give birth and cannot breastfeed? Of course not! The whole point is to glory in our differences. Men and women I think can quickly agree that women were made physically, mentally, and emotionally for bearing, nurturing, and raising children. Somehow, after all the pain the woman goes through in childbirth, a woman wants another child. A man has one sleepless night from the newborn and he is ready to never have any more children. We are wired differently! My wife’s definition of the children being ready is that they are dressed, look nice, hair is brushed, teeth are brushed, and so on. My definition of the children being ready is that they are still breathing. “They are alive, what else do you want!” God made her different so that she could do things that men could not do and vice-versa. We are biologically different and there are things that women cannot do that men can do and there are things women can do that men cannot do. This is not a slight against either gender.
God made us specifically to do things that the other cannot do. We are supposed to be able to recognize this. God made us different. The goal is not being able to do what the other person can do. I think that this has been a tremendous failure in our culture’s thinking for the past few decades. Not only can we not do what each other can do, we should not want to do what each other can do.
The problem of ignoring our different roles
But here is what happens when we do not appreciate these differences. I read this article this last week about the problem of the lack of girl action heroes. “Our girls deserve action heroes with flowing hair and combat boots. Our girls deserve to see themselves onscreen as well calling the shots behind the scenes.” Here’s the issue that the woman who wrote this article is missing and our culture is missing: Men are wired to protect women and children. When a gunman went into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado a few years ago, two young men protected their girlfriends (who were not even their wives) with their bodies and took the bullets and died. Our society praised those young men and rightfully so. This is not chauvinism. If there is a strange sound in my house in the middle of the night, I do not roll over and tell my wife to go check it out. The man checks it out. The man protects. I hope women are not saying that they want their men to tell women to put on the combat boots and be the hero when danger comes. The point has nothing to do with the fact that a woman could do this. Of course she can do it. That is not the point. The point is that the woman is to expect the man to care, protect, and provide for her. But we are trying in our culture to erase this and then we wonder why men no longer accept the cultural proverb, “Women and children first.”
This was seen in 2012 when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and sank. There were several accounts of men pushing past women and children to get to the lifeboats, completely opposite of what happened when the Titanic sank over 100 years ago. People were rightly angry at this display. But listen to what Slate magazine and Jezebel magazine declared:
“And there’s no real reason why ladies should get first crack at fleeing a sinking ship — although grownups probably should help children, who are smaller and less able to evacuate on their own. True, the Costa Concordia evacuation process sounds like it could have been a lot more orderly. And all things being equal, there’s nothing wrong with opening a door for somebody if you feel like it, or pulling out a chair. But when we’re talking about a crash that killed at least 11 people, chivalry shouldn’t be at the top of our list of concerns.” (http://jezebel.com/5877296/cruise-ship-disaster-is-apparently-proof-that-chivalry-is-dead)
Appreciating Our Differences
Sexism cannot be that we have different roles or recognizing that men and women have differences. Sexism is saying that the worth of men and women are different because of those differences. The goal is not for men and women to compete with each other. They were made to work together. They fit together and each are to use their strengths to complete the relationship. Do not erase the differences but glorify the differences. We sin when we suggest that men going to work and providing for the family is lesser or greater than women caring for and nurturing the children. Neither are lesser or greater. Men and women and their corresponding differences are made in the image of God. They were made to do different tasks. Society’s goal must not be for men to be women or women to be men. We need men to be men and women to be women as God defined those roles in the scriptures. We cannot reject the purposes and roles God has given man and woman. Being a man is good. Being a woman is good. Neither are to desire being the other for neither is superior.
Turn back to Genesis 1:27. Think about what God said: “Male and female he created them.” Why did God say that? Why should Genesis state the obvious? Further, consider that the animals are not described as being male and female, though clearly they were so they would reproduce. Why is Genesis emphasizing this distinction that God made them male and female? Gender is part of who you are. You were wired and made a particular way if you are a man or a woman, and that cannot be changed. Gender distinction is something God wants us to celebrate, not regret or deny. God made men to be men and women to be women.