The Privileges of the Christian Woman
1. What kind of a wife will the married Christian woman want to be?
THE classical description of the ideal wife is to be found in the Bible at Proverbs chapter 31. But in this world of imperfect men and women such a wife is hard to find. So the writer of this part of the inspired Scriptures was moved to remark: “A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals. In her the heart of her owner has put trust, and there is no gain lacking. She has rewarded him with good, and not bad, all the days of her life.” (Pr 31 Vss. 10-12) This is the kind of wife the married Christian woman will want to be, a wife in whom her husband has complete trust and confidence, a wife who will be a blessing to him as long as they both live.
2. How may a home testify to the capability of the wife?
2 There are many practical ways in which a woman can be such a blessing to her husband and children, and in accomplishing these ways she has much joy and satisfaction. A home that is kept clean, neat and orderly is usually a testimony to the fact that here lives a capable wife. It is a witness to the fact that “she is watching over the goings on of her household, and the bread of laziness she does not eat.” For the faithful woman minister it is part of the witness she gives in her community of her being a dedicated servant of Jehovah.—Prov. 31:27.
3. What opportunities are there for the wife to show her capabilities where her husband is also a dedicated minister of Jehovah?
3 Where her husband is also a dedicated witness of Jehovah, the Christian woman has indeed many opportunities to show her capabilities as a wife. She is able to give him loyal support in his ministerial activity, sharing with him in house-to-house preaching, making return visits on interested persons and conducting home Bible studies. Maybe, in addition to being out at work all day and sharing in the public preaching activity at other times, the husband is also an overseer or ministerial assistant in the congregation, and this makes additional demands on his time. While it is true that his first obligation is to his family, and he could not, in fact, properly serve if he did not take care of this obligation, yet the faithful and loving support of his wife does much to help him successfully to care for his responsibilities. She can make it as convenient as possible for him to prepare his various assignments, and help to save precious time for him and for herself by having a good schedule in the home, having meals on time, being ready to leave for congregation meetings promptly. She will want to cooperate with him in an upbuilding program of family study. Sometimes even a dedicated husband needs encouragement along these lines, and a wise and tactful wife can provide this kindly and theocratically, just as Deborah the wife of Lappidoth encouraged Judge Barak in the work he was assigned by Jehovah to do.—Judg. 4:8, 9.
4. How, under her husband’s direction, can the Christian wife help her children to go in the way pleasing to Jehovah?
4 Under the direction of her husband, the Christian wife can do much to train up the children in the way they should go to please Jehovah. She should help them to cultivate a healthy respect for their father, never doing anything to undermine his position as head of the family. Not only by words, but also by example, she should set the children in the ways of right conduct. No doubt she will have more time with the children than her husband, and she can make good use of this time to build up the children’s appreciation for the truth, for Jehovah’s organization, for the meetings, for the preaching of the good news, and to help them to share in the meetings and in the ministry to the extent they are able.—1 Tim. 5:10.
5. (a) What environment in the home does the Christian wife work for, and why? (b) How does she reap a rich reward in connection with her children? her husband?
5 The Christian wife can do much to create a happy and peaceful environment in the home. She appreciates that this is the best climate for the growth of her children toward mental and spiritual maturity. While always upholding the headship of her husband, she contributes much in the way of gentleness and understanding for the well-being of the family circle. She is wise and tactful in her speech, and “the law of loving-kindness is upon her tongue.” For this she reaps a rich reward as she sees her children come to the age of individual responsibility and make their own personal dedication to do Jehovah’s will. Her sons, appreciating the part she has played in this, will proceed to “pronounce her happy,” and her husbandly owner will also praise her. Truly a good wife brings honor to her husband in the community, both as a Christian minister and as head of his family. “Her owner is someone known in the gates, when he sits down with the older men of the land.”—Prov. 31:26, 28, 23.
PRIVILEGES IN THE CONGREGATION
6. How are faithful women ministers a blessing to others in the congregation, and in what ways can such women advance in the contribution they can make to advancing the Kingdom work?
6 The very presence of faithful Christian women in the congregation, their working along with the congregation as ministers of the good news, has a wholesome effect on all those associated with it. Their regularity at the meetings and their support of field service arrangements are often enough in themselves to stir others to like activity, even though we may not be aware of it. But as a dedicated woman improves in the effectiveness of her ministry, she can take on added privileges. For example, she may qualify for an assignment to train other women in the congregation in how to preach the good news. She can also work to improve her participation in the meetings and so share in the privilege of inciting others to love and right works. (Heb. 10:23-25) And if she can enlarge her privileges to take in pioneer service, then even greater joys and blessings await her.
7. (a) In her association with the congregation, what will the Christian woman want to keep in mind? (b) Why does Jehovah take into account the sex distinction as to congregation arrangements?
7 But at all times the Christian woman will want to keep within the setting of theocratic order in which Jehovah has placed her. She will not want to be like Miriam and speak against the brothers or compete with them. But in conduct and conversation she will always want to give wholesome support to the organization, including the local servants. Jehovah is the greatest Organizer. He knows how to have individuals work together in unity for the joy and upbuilding of all. He knows women much better than any man does, for he created the first woman and he knows the circumstances that will be most conducive to a woman’s happiness. He knows how she can best serve him to his praise. It is for these reasons that he takes into account the sex distinction as to service arrangements in his organization.
8. What limitations were there on women in the congregation of fleshly Israel, yet what does Paul comment about those who are in union with Christ Jesus?
8 In the days of the nation of Israel the privileges of women in connection with worship at Jehovah’s temple were very limited. For example, no woman could serve as a Levite priest or take up duties in connection with temple service. No woman was to sit on the throne as ruler in Israel, the only woman to do so being the usurper Athaliah who died because of her presumptuousness. (Num. 3:1-10; 2 Ki. 11:1-20) But, in connection with spiritual Israel, the apostle Paul wrote, addressing his remarks equally to the dedicated women as well as to the dedicated men: “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”—Gal. 3:26, 28, 29.
9. (a) What privileges as to the Kingdom and priesthood are open to Christian women? (b) As a result of the operation of the holy spirit, in what activity do dedicated women now share?
9 This meant that women could now share with men the wonderful hope of becoming joint heirs with Christ Jesus in the heavenly kingdom. Some women were now in line to become kings and priests and reign with Christ Jesus along with the rest of the 144,000 Kingdom associates. This, however, would not be as women, but as glorious spirit creatures in the heavens. (Rom. 8:16, 17; Rev. 20:6; 14:1) Down to this day, among the remnant of the 144,000, there are faithful women in the New World society who have this grand hope. They have been anointed with the holy spirit as members of the body of Christ, and, as such, have become “sons of God” along with anointed male members of the remnant. Just as there were women present when the holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost, so that they along with the men received of its miraculous gifts, so today women as well as men share in the impartation of the holy spirit to guide and energize them in Jehovah’s service, that they too may declare “the magnificent things of God.”—Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 1:14; 2:1-11.
WOMAN’S CONDUCT IN THE CONGREGATION
10 Even though in the days of the early Christian congregation the women who made a dedication and were baptized were also begotten by holy spirit as were the men, yet they were still in the flesh, and so Jehovah took account of this and had instructions given through the apostles for the proper theocratic conduct of things. Thus, at 1 Timothy 2:11-13 we read: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Also, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 34 reads: “For God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace. As in all the congregations of the holy ones, let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak, but let them be in subjection.”
11. (a) Why could these instructions not mean that women were never to speak at congregation meetings? (b) So what does it mean for them to “keep silent in the congregation”?
11 Does this mean that a woman can never speak in a meeting of the congregation? No, it cannot mean that. Back there the women as well as the men received the gifts of the spirit, including those of speaking in tongues and prophesying, and these would require them to speak in the congregation. So in what sense were they to “keep silent in the congregations”? Evidently in those cases where to speak would be to show a lack of subjection. So a sister would not be found debating with brothers or publicly criticizing them, either at a meeting or to other members of the congregation at other times, nor would she exercise authority over the brothers as a teacher or instructor. If a woman did have a question about what a male member said in the congregation, then she could take this up with her husband at home.—1 Cor. 14:35.
12. How, for example, may women share in study sessions yet still hold their theocratic place?
12 But this does not mean she needs to stay altogether silent. For example, at congregation meetings dedicated women may give comments on questions propounded during study sessions and reviews, and, in doing so, do much to make the meetings lively and upbuilding for all in attendance. Where a wrong comment is offered by a male person in the audience, during the Watchtower study for example, this does not require the sister if called on to follow along and make her comment agree with the incorrect thought given. But neither by her comment nor by her tone of voice would she be critical of the brother’s answer. Tactfully she can quote from what The Watchtower itself has to say on the point, perhaps prefacing her remarks with an expression like this: “It is interesting to note how the paragraph in our study comments on this . . .” Of course, if there are other mature brothers present, it would be better for the conductor, on noting an incorrect answer by a brother, to call on these ones for further clarification of the point for the benefit of all, and thus avoid any possible embarrassment.
13. What is the desire of all faithful women ministers and yet what questions arise?
13 It is the desire of all faithful women ministers in the New World society to conduct themselves in harmony with Jehovah’s principle of theocratic headship. Indeed, their loyal support in this matter, so opposite to the way of many women in the world, is a blessing to the New World society and contributes greatly to the wonderful unity and harmony within it. But, from time to time, questions arise on this matter of headship, such as: Just when is a head covering required by a sister? When may a woman offer prayer when others are present, and, if she does, would she always require a head covering?
BIBLE PRINCIPLES ON HEAD COVERING
14. In connection with what principle does Paul consider the question of woman’s head covering, and what does he say on this at 1 Corinthians 11:4-7?
14 That a head covering as a sign of subjection is required for a woman on certain occasions is clearly shown in the Scriptures. After stating the principle of headship at 1 Corinthians 11:3, the apostle goes on to apply the principle to the conduct of matters in the congregation. Bear in mind that at the time this counsel was given the regulating of the miraculous gifts of the spirit was also under consideration. However, basically what is said about head covering continues to apply to the congregation today. Note, then, what follows at 1 Corinthians 11:4-7: “Every man that prays or prophesies having something on his head shames the one who is his head; but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames the one who is her head, for it is one and the same as if she were a woman with a shaved head. For if a woman does not cover herself, let her also be shorn; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man ought not to have his head covered, as he is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory.”
15. (a) Why would it not be proper for the man to wear a head covering while praying or presiding in the congregation? (b) Why, in the same circumstances, should the woman wear a head covering? (c) Why did Paul liken a woman praying without a head covering in the congregation to a woman with a shorn head?
15 As God’s image and glory, man was created to act as God’s representative toward his wife and family and he was to accept the responsibility of headship that this arrangement brought to him. Moreover, in the congregation he also acted as a representative of Christ, the head of the congregation. Thus, when he prayed or presided at a meeting of the congregation, it would not be proper for him to wear a sign of subjection on his head as though out of respect for others visibly present. To do so would, as it were, be covering over his headship, and acting as though this was not the normal assignment for him. In this he would fail to act as a proper representative of Christ to the congregation, and so would dishonor his head, Christ. The woman, on the other hand, was to have her head covered when praying or prophesying in the congregation out of respect for the theocratic principle that this was normally the function of the man, so as not to appear as though she were trying to act the man, to usurp the man’s position. This would be dishonoring, not only to the male members of the congregation, but also to her head, her husband, as though she felt no need to be in subjection to him either. So, Paul argues, if a woman were to act that way she might as well go the whole way and have her hair cut short just like a man’s or like a slave girl’s. But this would be disgraceful, would it not? It certainly was in Paul’s day, for the shaving of a woman’s head, or cutting the hair short, was customarily a sign of her being a slave, or worse, of being a woman caught in immorality or adultery and shorn as a sign of public reproach.
16. What principle is at issue in the matter of head covering, and in this connection what indication does nature itself give?
16 It was a custom for women in the days of the early Christians to wear a head covering whenever going out in public; for a woman without a head covering in public was looked on as a woman of free and easy morals, as a woman recognizing no headship of either father or husband. However, this was not the basic point at issue. It was a matter of recognizing the divine principle of headship, and Paul argues in 1Co 11 verses 13 to 15 how nature itself indicates this: “Judge for your own selves: Is it fitting for a woman to pray uncovered to God? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him; but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? Because her hair is given her instead of a headdress.” Not that her long hair was a sufficient head covering when she prayed or prophesied in the congregation; otherwise, verse six would not make good sense. Rather, her long hair would be a reminder to her on such occasions of the need for a head covering as a sign of subjection.
17. What assignment does the humble woman recognize she has?
17 Certainly a woman with a shaved head would not be very attractive, would she? Likewise, if a woman showed no respect for theocratic order, such as prophesying without a head covering in the early congregation, she would be most unattractive to Jehovah and to the other members of the congregation, because of her lack of humility. A faithful woman recognizes her assignment in Jehovah’s arrangement. As Paul writes in 1Co 11 verses 8 to 10: “For man is not out of woman, but woman out of man; and, what is more, man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels.”
18. What did Paul evidently have in mind in saying that the woman “ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels”?
18 Why “because of the angels”? This could not be in order to show subjection to them. At 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul makes no mention of the angels as having headship over women on earth. Angels have not been assigned to take the leadership in the Christian congregation or to preach the good news of the Kingdom. So there is no question of the woman’s having to wear a head covering out of respect for some angel for whom she might be substituting. But both dedicated men and women are “a theatrical spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9) For example, a faithful woman can set an excellent example for the angels. In her loyally conforming to Jehovah’s theocratic pattern of subjection to her husbandly head and also in her showing respect for the male members of the congregation, she sets a right example for the angels in heaven in their continued faithful subjection to Jehovah and his reigning King, Jesus Christ.
19. What appreciation of man and woman’s relationship does Paul illustrate in 1 Corinthians 11:11, 12, and what will keep both the man and the woman humble in Jehovah’s arrangement?
19 However, lest man get the wrong impression from what he wrote, as though the man was the all-important creature and the woman of no account, Paul goes on to say in 1Co 11 verses 11 and 12 of 1 Corinthians chapter 11: “Besides, in connection with the Lord neither is woman without man nor man without woman. For just as the woman is out of the man, so also the man is through the woman; but all things are out of God.” Yes, this is the thing to keep in mind—that the arrangement of things as to headship, as to the relationship of man and woman, as to conduct and order in the congregation, is from God and not from man. Having this point of view keeps us balanced, humble and appreciative of Jehovah’s blessings, whether we be man or woman.
20. For what purpose is the question of head covering discussed at this time?
20 Apparently there was some dispute on this question of the woman’s place in the congregation at Corinth, and so the apostle Paul took the time to set forth the principles for all to understand, and then concluded: “However, if any man seems to dispute for some other custom, we have no other, neither do the congregations of God.” (1 Cor. 11:16) While this may not be a matter for dispute among Jehovah’s witnesses in these days, yet it seems good at this time to consider the subject in some detail as to its practical application for the Christian congregation today. So, in the following issue of The Watchtower, we will consider some of the circumstances where the question of head covering might arise, so that faithful women ministers in the New World society will know how to act appropriately in harmony with the Scriptures and with a good Christian conscience.