Gender Roles in the Bible-How are Women and Men Called to Act?

In today’s society, gender roles have become askew. People strive for equality and try to blur the lines from “traditional” gender roles (i.e. women wearing ties, men wearing pink, etc.).

But what are gender roles?

What are society’s gender roles?

What are God’s gender roles for our life?

According to Princeton University, “A gender role is a theoretical construct in social sciences and humanities that refers to a set of social and behavioral norms that, within a specific culture, are widely considered to be socially acceptable for individuals of a specific sex.”

Every society has different gender roles. In America, none are set in stone, but we have many implied gender ideologies. Men will not be stoned for wearing a pink shirt and women can wear suits and ties without fear of persecution, but that’s not the case in other countries. Some nations take their gender roles very seriously and if someone of the opposite gender is seen trying to blur those lines, they can be imprisoned or even murdered.

Although as times progress, equality is growing and more and more women and men are able to cross over into some of the other gender roles, some of the more archaic stereotypes still exist. Some of the many gender roles in America are as follows:

           MEN                                                                    WOMEN

Leader of the Family                                                  Follower

Strong                                                                        Weak

Bread-Winner                                                            Homemaker

Do yard-work                                                             Cook and Clean

(Again, I know many of these are outdated, but bear with me. They are still “traditional” stereotypes).

In our society, women are taught to put a lot of weight into their appearance. To wear make-up. To wear the right clothes. To pluck/wax/tweeze everything they’ve got. We are also taught that in order to find a husband, we need to know how to cook and clean.

Men, on the other hand are taught to “be manly.” To not cry-even if something hurts. To go camping, fishing, hunting, etc. To watch football and drink beer.

What about the people who are outside of this box? What about men who enjoy cooking? What about women who drive pick-up trucks and enjoy fishing? Are they defying gender roles or are gender roles an invisible line that is meant to be crossed over?

Does the Bible give us any definite gender roles?

The answer is yes.

For women:
1 Timothy 2:12 says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Colossians 3:18 says “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

For Men:
“But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:3

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.” Colossians 3:19

In the eyes of our society, these rules would be as outdated as the stereotypical roles I wrote for America above. Does that mean we should not follow them?

I have heard so many people use the “excuse” that these were in these roles were made before Christ, therefore, they do not have to be honored any more. First of all, all of the charges listed above are from the New Testament-after Christ-every last one of them. So this argument does not apply to this text. Therefore, these rules are to be obeyed.

But as far as other issues raised in the old testament, I will tell you that many Old Testament laws are to be used as guidelines, but do not need to, necessarily, be followed by Christians today.

Read Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Read what is said in Galatians 3:23-25 “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith.” In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).

I guess we should not pick and choose what to obey from the Bible, but many of the Old Testament talks about loving God or loving your neighbor and there are several stories and parables that can be applied to your life today.

The Ten Commandments, for example, were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Does that mean we should no longer follow them? Well, obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior. Romans 7:7-9 says “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”

But I digress-back to the topic at hand:

According to the NEW TESTAMENT, men are to assume authority over women, women are not to speak in a church setting, men are to provide spiritually, physically, and financially for their families and men are to be the head of the woman and is to control her actions.

If you have seen the relatively popular film “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding,” you will remember the scene where the matriarch of the family says, “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.” This is the attitude we, as a society, have today.

When first researching this topic, I honestly thought that these guidelines would be written in the Old Testament and I could use the rule of Christ as the law (as listed above) as proof against it, but I cannot. Reading these verses, at first glance, literally made me have a physical response. I am a very opinionated woman and definitely have an issue with authority (especially when that authority figure is wrong-i.e. a lot of my college experience). I cannot begin to fathom having to submit to a man and follow blindly behind him. But then again, the Bible does not say to follow blindly. We should not contradict our husband, but talking it out and coming to a conclusion together where you can stick behind him wholeheartedly not only brings the two of you together, but it presents a united front. And what should a marriage be, if not a united front?

The not having authority over a man and the remaining silent in church is still a little baffling to me…am I allowed to say that? Am I allowed to question? I am not sure why this is what God wants us to do. I do not understand why as a professional, a woman cannot govern over a man. I know a lot of women who have CEO positions and lots of men who work under women and it is usually a struggle (more of a struggle than if a man had the same role for sure), but why does it have to be like that?

If anyone has a logical reason behind why they think this is a rule of God. Please comment! I would love to know your take on the matter.


3 thoughts on “Gender Roles in the Bible-How are Women and Men Called to Act?”

  1. God created man first for a reason because he wanted him to be in charge. That’s not to say women can’t lead or are incapable of leading. But God is about FAMILY.

    And like all strong families it needs a strong leader to act as guidance. That’s what God created man to do. God created men are women to be different yet fulfill specific roles in the family. God started off creating the angels to be his family. But they rebelled. So he created us.

    But like everybody else throughout history we’ve failed and sinned. Hence the reason for Christ (the word) to come to Earth and die for our sins. And of course we will all suffer the great tribulation because it’s the only way God can get us to obey him.

    When Christ returns and sets up God’s Kingdom on Earth those that have lived good lives will join his family and become spiritual beings just like God. That’s God’s plan for humanity. To join his spiritual family. In order for us to be prepared for that we must learn to keep our own families together. That’s why God created specific roles for Men and Women because it’s what works the best to build strong godly families.

    Hope that helps. You may find a good read. They have lots of FREE literature on stuff like this.


  2. God is the Head of Christ and Christ is the head of the church or his “bride”. It paints a perfect beautiful picture of a woman and her husband. We cannot rule over Christ, just as a wife is not to rule over her husband.

    I do think this is interesting, and wonder what was the primary Intention of Paul when he said this. How far off base are we today than where we should be… etc.


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