Faithful Women Ministers—A Blessing to the New World Society
“The woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.”—Prov. 31:30.
1. What qualities mark the woman who “procures praise for herself,” and what are some ways in which her presence in the Christian congregation is beneficial?
WHAT a blessing a God-fearing woman is! Whether she is young or old, single or married, whether she is strong and in good health or failing in physical strength, if she is a woman that fears Jehovah, one who is loyally and faithfully serving Him, then she “procures praise for herself.” (Prov. 31:30) If married, what a blessing the God-fearing woman is to her husband and children! And, whether married or single, what a blessing such a woman is to the Christian congregation! Jehovah’s witnesses are indeed most thankful that they have in their midst faithful women ministers. Their zeal and steadfast integrity are a source of encouragement, and the congregations are enriched by their feminine qualities of sympathetic interest and understanding, as all work together in unity in finding and caring for the “sheep.”
2. Why are charm and prettiness not the determining factors as to a woman’s being truly attractive?
2 Such women are truly beautiful in the eyes of Jehovah and of God-fearing men. Beauty is attractive, and attractiveness is certainly a desirable quality. Indeed, it would be unnatural for a woman not to want to be attractive to others. The proverb says: “A woman of charm is the one that takes hold of glory.” (Prov. 11:16) But at the same time Proverbs 31:30 states: “Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself.” Prettiness and superficial charm without the fear of Jehovah would indeed be vain and false. So these are not the determining factors as to a woman’s being truly attractive. In fact, a woman may be very pretty in a physical way and yet, to a man of mature discernment, be most unattractive. Because of her disposition, perhaps by being contentious, an otherwise attractive wife can drive her husband away as surely as he is driven away by dripping water from a leaky roof in a time of rain.—Prov. 27:15.
WOMAN’S THEOCRATIC SETTING
3. In what theocratic setting of things has Jehovah placed woman?
3 Anything takes on added beauty when seen in its proper setting, because it fits. Outside that setting it loses much of its beauty and may indeed become just plain or even ugly. Likewise Jehovah has prepared the proper setting for woman in his theocratic arrangement of things. Under inspiration the apostle wrote at 1 Corinthians 11:3: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.”
4. Why has Jehovah arranged for headship in his organization, and is the assigning of man as the head of the woman to disparage her?
4 This statement of principle from God’s Word governing the relationship of man and woman may be difficult to accept on the part of some. Those who advocate the “emancipation of women” may take exception to it, and may feel that to accept it would be a retrograde step. But what the apostle writes is not for the purpose of being disparaging to the woman, no more than having Christ as head is disparaging to the man. And surely Christ himself feels no dissatisfaction in having Jehovah as his Head. Of course, man is not Christ, nor for that matter is Christ God. At the same time, “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace,” and order requires headship, someone to take the responsibility of directing in the various spheres of activity where more than one are involved.—1 Cor. 14:33.
5. (a) So, with respect to Jehovah’s arrangement of things, how can the woman be contented and happy? (b) What results to a woman who tries to compete with man for headship?
5 In the relationship of man and woman, God, having created man first, assigned to him, along with the responsibilities that went with it, the position of head of the family, head of his wife. This was meant to work out for the blessing of the family, for the peace and happiness of all its members. The married woman who recognizes this fact, and who has for a husband a man who fulfills his role as a Christian head, is indeed most blessed. She is in the setting God arranged for her, and she has every reason to be contented and happy. The sensible woman appreciates this and is thankful. A woman who rejects the setting Jehovah has designed for her and who seeks to compete with man as head loses her beauty as a woman. She is no longer “the feminine one.” (1 Pet. 3:7) Though bluntly stating it, the wise man was nonetheless speaking truthfully when he said: “As a gold nose ring in the snout of a pig, so is a woman that is pretty but that is turning away from sensibleness.”—Prov. 11:22.
6. How does Peter describe the theocratic attractiveness of the married woman?
6 The woman’s recognition of Jehovah’s arrangement and her happily conforming to it are essential to her own joy and contentment and make her a most valuable asset to the New World society. The apostle Peter describes the value and attractiveness of married women in this theocratic setting in these words: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect. And do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
SUITABLE APPAREL FOR THE WOMAN MINISTER
7. Is it wrong for a woman to give attention to her physical appearance, and yet to what adornment should she give the greatest attention?
7 Are we to understand from these words of Peter that it is wrong for a woman to give attention to her physical appearance? No, not at all. Peter is not saying that the braiding of the hair and the putting on of gold ornaments are wrong in themselves, no more than wearing an outer garment is. It was the common practice in Peter’s day and in earlier times for the women to wear their hair very long, and braiding it not only was for the purpose of beauty but was of practical value also. However, as in our day, so back there some women would spend much time fixing their hair, often decorating their hair with gold ornaments, to the point that it became an obsession, and they were more concerned with their outward appearance than with what they really were inside. So Peter shows where to put the emphasis, with what to be chiefly concerned, namely, “the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit.”
8. Why should the woman minister use good sense in the way she dresses?
8 As she goes from house to house talking to people about the good news of God’s kingdom, the woman minister represents Christ, just as a man does. So the woman minister will want to use good sense in the way she dresses, having in mind the dignity of her assignment, and never dressing in a way that would cause any to stumble at the message she bears. Because of the public way in which she carries on her ministry, she is very much in the public eye. Observers are inclined to judge her message according to her outward appearance.
9. What world trend will the woman minister avoid, and why?
9 While being tastefully feminine in dress, the woman minister will avoid the trend of the world to overly accentuate sex by means of the overuse of makeup and styles of dress that are sensuous and provocative. Not only would this prevent people from taking her seriously as a Christian minister, but she is more likely to convey an altogether opposite impression. (Isa. 3:16-23) So she avoids the tendency of the world to put the highest premium on sexual allure as though that were the sole object in life, and thus does not fall into the trap of becoming overanxious in such matters, or of going to such extremes that her physical appearance is distracting rather than becomingly attractive.
10. What other extreme should be avoided, and what does Paul counsel as to dress at 1 Timothy 2:9, 10?
10 At the same time we would not want persons to be distracted from our message because of an obvious lack of interest in our personal appearance. The Bible does not condemn the use of jewelry and ornaments, or other things that may be considered aids to beauty, that is, when these are used in a modest way and with good judgment. (Gen. 24:22; Ex. 35:22) The right attitude of concern is expressed by the Christian overseer Paul, who wrote: “Likewise I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) In whatever land and whatever the local customs of dress may be, modesty and her reverence for God will help the woman minister to decide how to dress suitably for each occasion and circumstance.
11. (a) What really identifies a woman as being a servant of God and being truly attractive? (b) What does it mean to have a “quiet and mild spirit”?
11 But what really identifies a woman as a servant of God are her good works in the ministry. Having the “incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit” marks her as a woman of true beauty and attractiveness. It is this apparel that distinguishes the Christian woman from other women. To have a “quiet and mild spirit” means to have a calm and even temper, maintaining it even in times of trouble. It means being contented in mind, with a heart free from envy, pride or malice. It means having a disposition that readily conforms to Jehovah’s will and cooperates willingly and happily with fellow servants in the New World society. A woman with a good heart and a mild spirit remains always a blessing to those with whom she associates. And, more importantly, she has the favor of Jehovah, which leads to endless life in his new order of righteousness.
FAITHFUL WOMEN OF FORMER TIMES
12. Of what is Sarah an outstanding example, and how was she blessed?
12 Looking back through time, the apostle Peter continues: “For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him ‘lord.’ And you have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror.” (1 Pet. 3:5, 6) Consider what a blessing faithful Sarah received from Jehovah. As the wife of the faithful patriarch Abraham she became the mother of Isaac, a son “born in the manner of spirit,” and so became an ancestress of Jesus Christ. (Gal. 4:29) Christian women today who manifest the same qualities as Sarah, especially in the quality under discussion by Peter, that of wifely subjection in faithfulness and loyally, are spoken of as Sarah’s “children,” just as those who adhere to the faith of Abraham are called his “sons.”—Gal. 3:7.
13. What qualities identified Rebekah as a suitable bride for Isaac?
13 And what about that other ancestress of Jesus, Rebekah, who is described, at the time Abraham’s servant met her, as a young woman who “was very attractive in appearance”? But it was not just her outward appearance that was attractive, nor was her physical charm the essential quality that got Rebekah a blessing. It was because she proved to be hardworking and modest that the servant of Abraham was able to identify her as the prospective bride for Isaac.
14. What test did Rebekah meet, calling for her to demonstrate these qualities?
14 The simple test he decided on had nothing to do with physical beauty. “What must occur is that the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Let your water jar down, please, that I may take a drink,’ and who will indeed say, ‘Take a drink, and I shall also water your camels,’ this is the one you must assign to your servant, to Isaac.” And that is just how it worked out. When the servant asked Rebekah for a drink she immediately complied with a respectful, “Drink, my lord,” and offered to water the camels “until they are done drinking.” This was no small task, for there were ten camels to water. Then, later, when Abraham’s servant made known his mission, Rebekah willingly accepted the privilege of becoming Isaac’s wife. No wonder that, when Isaac finally got to meet Rebekah, “he fell in love with her.”—Gen. 24:14-21, 58, 67.
15. How does the account of Isaac and Rebekah contain timely advice for a young man considering marriage?
15 This Bible account is also timely in its implied advice to Christian men who may be considering marriage, as to what they should look for in a mate. Rebekah was a beautiful girl, but Abraham’s servant knew that was not enough. He made sure she had the right qualities of heart to qualify as wife for his master’s son. A young man is wise if he makes sure the girl he is going to marry has similar qualities, and he needs to be mature enough himself to be able to make such a decision, if his parents do not decide for him. While in many lands a young man is free to make his own choice of a mate, a freedom that Isaac did not exercise in the case of Rebekah, still it would show maturity on his part to be prepared to listen to advice from older persons, especially that of his parents, if they are mature Christians themselves, though the final decision may be his own.
16. (a) What privilege did Deborah enjoy? (b) What privileges came to Miriam, but how does her record sound a note of caution?
16 Other faithful women of old enjoyed special privileges of service from Jehovah. Deborah, for example, came to be a prophetess and had the thrilling opportunity of working with Judge Barak, the commander of the forces of Israel, who destroyed the armies of King Jabin of Canaan with Jehovah’s help, and delivered the nation from twenty years of oppression. (Judg. 4:1—5:31) Miriam certainly enjoyed many blessed privileges of service in association with her brother Moses, as he led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. Among other things, she also served as a prophetess and as a leader of the women singers. (Ex. 15:20) But her example sounds a note of caution. When she stepped out of her theocratic assignment and spoke against God’s servant Moses, she was struck with leprosy. The loathsomeness of this disease truly reflected the unattractiveness of her course of conduct in the eyes of Jehovah and Moses. As a consequence she found herself excluded from the camp of Israel for a time.—Num. 12:1-16.
17. What good qualities were manifested by Dorcas? by Lydia? What blessings did they receive?
17 Then think of some of the faithful women who were blessed in the time of Jesus and the early Christian congregation. Think of what happened to generous Tabitha, or Dorcas. This disciple of the city of Joppa was a hardworking seamstress who “abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy.” One day she fell sick and died. And what an unexpected blessing she received—being raised out of death by the apostle Peter! (Acts 9:36-42) Then there was Lydia of Thyatira, also a hardworking woman, “a seller of purple.” Her heart was most receptive to the preaching of the good news by Paul, and she showed commendable hospitality in offering lodgings at her home for the apostle and his fellow missionaries. Indeed, Luke was moved to write that “she just made us come.” Her home was apparently used later as a meeting place for the believers, and her name lives on in the Bible record as a testimony of her good works.—Acts 16:14, 15, 40.
18. Of what was Priscilla a fine example and how did she show this, resulting in what privileges of service?
18 Priscilla is another woman who is mentioned on a number of occasions in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Interestingly, in the six places in the record where her name appears she is always mentioned in association with her husband. With him she shared in extending hospitality to Paul during his visit to Corinth and no doubt did much in building up the new congregation there. On at least one occasion this faithful couple “risked their own necks” to save Paul and thus merited the thanks of all the congregations. With her husband, Priscilla traveled with Paul to Ephesus and there had the privilege of assisting the influential Apollos to an accurate knowledge of the truth, and her home became the local meeting place for the congregation. Thus she is a fine example for women today who have the privilege of being married to dedicated men who may be congregation overseers, traveling ministers or missionaries in a foreign land. Their loyal support brings with it joyful privileges of service.—Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Rom. 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19.
19. On what two occasions in Jesus’ ministry did Mary the sister of Martha act in a way that resulted in blessing for her?
19 When we think of faithful women in the time of Jesus, no name comes more readily to mind than that of Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Who has not heard of the occasion when Jesus visited Martha’s home, and Mary, rather than being overly concerned with material things, “sat down at the feet of the Lord and kept listening to his word”? For this, Jesus commended her. On a later occasion Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfumed oil at the home of Simon the leper. When others, including Judas Iscariot, criticized her action, Jesus said: “She did a fine deed toward me. . . . She did what she could . . . Truly I say to you, Wherever the good news is preached in all the world, what this woman did shall also be told as a remembrance of her.”—Luke 10:38-42; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8.
20. (a) Do we find like women in the New World society today? (b) What are some of the privileges of service open to them?
20 And what of today? Do we find women like this serving with the modern Christian congregation? Women like Sarah, who gave such a fine example of wifely subjection; women like attractive and hardworking Rebekah, like hospitable Lydia and generous Dorcas, like loyal and faithful Priscilla and like Mary, who “did what she could” in the interests of true worship? Thanks be to Jehovah, we do! And what thrilling privileges are open to such faithful women in this day! Along with believing men they share the same privileges of making a dedication to do Jehovah’s will, of being baptized, of becoming ministers of the good news. They can conduct home Bible studies with interested persons and share in training their own children to become dedicated ministers also. They can take up the full-time ministry as pioneers, as special pioneers or even as missionaries in a foreign land, or perhaps enter Bethel service.
21. So how may dedicated women view their opportunities of service to Jehovah?
21 In view of all this, no dedicated woman need feel in any way cramped for lack of opportunities to serve Jehovah. Rather, there is every opportunity for women ministers to enlarge their privileges of service, and every dedicated woman will want to ‘do what she can’ to advance to maturity, to fulfill her role among God’s people faithfully, and thus be of great value in the eyes of God and win the honorable praise of her fellow Christians.
[Picture on page 175]
“Drink, my lord.”