The Christian Woman’s Need for a Head Covering—When?
“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.”—1 Cor. 11:7.
1. (a) How can man be a glory to God, and in being so, how does this help his wife? (b) How can a woman be a glory to the man?
WHEN man and woman serve God in harmony with His principles of theocratic order they bring honor and praise to Him as their Creator. When a man faithfully fulfills his role as head of his family, not only in discharging his obligations as breadwinner and provider of material needs, but also in caring for the spiritual needs of his family with loving and patient concern, he truly is a glory to God, the One in whose image and likeness he was created. (Gen. 1:26) He is also a blessing to his family, and certainly makes it a delight for the woman to fulfill her role as his helpmate and wife. In turn, by the wife’s recognizing her relationship to her husband, that he is her head, and by her honoring her head by faithful and loyal support of him, she becomes a glory to him.—1 Cor. 11:7.
2. (a) Out of regard for what principle does the need for a head covering arise? (b) What is the important thing in connection with a woman wearing a head covering?
2 The woman can only be “man’s glory” as she holds her God-arranged relationship to the man, never by usurping the man’s headship. It is for this reason that circumstances may at times require the woman to wear a head covering. As we have seen in the previous issue of The Watchtower, Paul’s argument at First Corinthians chapter 11 on the need for a head covering is based on the principle of theocratic headship, which he stated at 1Co 11 verse three: “The head of every man is the Christ [Jesus, not the congregation]; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” So the head covering becomes necessary for a woman when she is performing some function or duty that normally should be performed by her husband or by a dedicated Christian man, and that she is performing in a temporary way or due to special circumstances. The important thing is not the head covering in itself, but the heart attitude and proper theocratic conscience of the woman wearing it. She appreciates that this is God’s arrangement, and wears the head covering primarily out of respect for Him and His theocratic arrangement of things as far as the sexes are concerned. A woman can have a good conscience in this matter only if, besides wearing the head covering at the appropriate time, she has a wholesome respect for the one whose headship is being honored thereby.
3. What three basic situations arise that require the wearing of a head covering by a dedicated woman?
3 Up until 1926 all the women in the congregation wore head coverings when attending meetings. (See The Golden Age as of September 8, 1926, pages 780-791; The New Creation (1904), pages 271, 272; Zion’s Watch Tower as of December 1, 1907, pages 360, 361.) It appears that there are basically three situations that would require a dedicated woman to wear a head covering. These may be stated as (1) where she has to pray or teach in the presence of her husband, (2) if she teaches a group including a dedicated brother, and (3) when, because of the absence of a qualified male, she has to pray or preside at a congregation meeting. In this and the succeeding article we will consider each of these situations in turn.
HEAD COVERING AND WIFELY SUBJECTION
4. In connection with what particular relationship of man and woman do the questions of headship and subjection arise?
4 The basic relationship of a woman to a man is in marriage, as a wife to a husband. The apostle Paul in his discussions on womanly subjection in the Christian congregation at 1 Timothy 2:11-13 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 refers to the creation of the first human pair to show their relationship to each other, the man being created first and being given the responsibility of headship. So certainly in the marriage relationship the Christian wife will want to show proper subjection, whether her husband is a fellow minister of the good news or not.
5. (a) Who should normally be expected to lead the family in Bible study and in prayer? (b) So when in connection with these matters may a woman have to wear a head covering?
5 When, then, in the marriage relationship might it become necessary for the woman to wear a head covering as a sign of subjection to her husbandly head? Perhaps asking another question will quickly help us to get the answer. If the whole family is together, the husband, the wife, and the children, and a family study is to be conducted, or prayer is to be offered, who would be the natural one to handle these matters? The husband, of course! As the head of the family, the father is the one who would normally be expected to lead in teaching his family and in bringing up the children in the “authoritative advice of Jehovah,” and in representing them in prayer to God. (Eph. 6:4) But if the husband is not a dedicated Christian, and yet he is agreeable to sit in on the study conducted by his dedicated wife and at which she offers prayer, then while performing these functions she would wear a head covering. She is performing duties that would normally be performed by her husband when present. Of course, if he is not present, then the wife need not wear a head covering, since teaching her children is also her privilege and responsibility and she is not thereby usurping the position of her head. But when the husband is present, then, if she conducts the study and offers prayer, she would do so with her head covered, since she is serving temporarily until such time as her husband accepts the truth and is able to care for these duties himself.
6. What would be the situation where an undedicated husband accompanied his wife on a Bible study with another family?
6 Even outside the home the principle would apply. If the husband, because of being favorably inclined, accompanies his wife to another home where she holds a Bible study, she would wear a head covering while praying and while conducting the study. Though there may be another man present, such as the head of the house where the study is being held and who is also an undedicated person showing interest, her wearing a head covering would not be in connection with him, since he is not her head nor a member of the congregation. The head covering in such a case would serve as a sign of subjection only to her husbandly head.
7. What about at mealtimes?
7 Likewise when at the meal table. If the undedicated husband requests his wife to pray, she may do so, but with her head covered. But, in his absence, where she is having a meal just with her minor undedicated children, she would not require a head covering when praying.
IN CONNECTION WITH DEDICATED MALE CHILDREN
8. What situation as to prayer arises where there is a dedicated son in the family, and when would the mother wear a head covering in this case?
8 But if, though the husband were absent, there were a dedicated son of the family present, what then? Of course, if this son is an adult there would be no question of the procedure to follow, since he would naturally do the praying. But it may be that the son is still fairly young in years, perhaps in his early teens. In that case the mother would have to use her own discretion whether to call on him to pray or not. He is still under her care as a mother, and for that reason he is subject to her, and, indeed, must give her “honor” from that standpoint. (Eph. 6:2) So it would be up to her as to whether she called on this dedicated young son to pray or, because of feeling that he was not yet sufficiently capable or because of particular circumstances at the time, chose to offer prayer herself. But if she did the praying, it would be proper for her to wear a head covering, and such would apply also while conducting a study with such dedicated son. Why so?
9. What factors are involved in the mother’s wearing a head covering in connection with the minor dedicated son, and how does this strengthen her position?
9 The dedicated son is now a member of the congregation, and, as such, teaching him or praying in his presence should properly be by a mature dedicated male. In his home this would normally be by his father. So the mother, by wearing a head covering under such circumstances, is acting in more than the capacity of mother, for the head covering serves as a sign or indication that she acts also for her husband, the boy’s father. So we might say that this strengthens her position, enabling her to act theocratically toward the dedicated son in connection with spiritual things, yet without any violation of the theocratic order. At other times, when family worship is not involved, she can properly exercise her position as mother toward her son without any requirement of a head covering, giving necessary discipline and counsel as required.
10. What example is thus set for the dedicated son by the mother, and what heavy responsibility rests with the dedicated father?
10 Such a mother will be an excellent example to her dedicated son of how a theocratic woman should act, and this will be of great value to him when he later has a wife and home of his own. Also, he will have no room for complaint that his mother is acting out of place toward him as a dedicated male. At the same time the dedicated mother will be interested in helping her son advance to maturity so that he can adequately represent the family, when necessary, in prayer to Jehovah. Of course, if the husband is also a dedicated witness of Jehovah, he will have all the more reason to fulfill personally, as far as possible, his obligations as head of the house, now that he has a dedicated son as a member of it. He is the one who can and should provide the more advanced training the boy now needs.—Prov. 23:19, 24.
PRAYER BY UNDEDICATED ONES
11. How may the dedicated woman conduct herself toward prayers by her undedicated mate (a) if he is rightly disposed and expresses an appropriate prayer? (b) where his prayers are not in harmony with God’s Word?
11 The situation may arise where the wife accepts the truth and becomes one of Jehovah’s witnesses but her husband does not, yet he continues to lead the family in prayer at mealtimes. If he is a person rightly disposed and is himself making progress toward dedication he might in sincerity express an appropriate prayer in harmony with the truth of God’s Word to which the dedicated woman can give a conscientious “Amen.” The man is still the head of the house and properly should be expected to lead his family in worship. However, if he manifests no interest in God’s Word or if he holds religious beliefs that are not in harmony with the Bible and that are reflected in his prayers, the enlightened wife could not say “Amen” to these. While he prays she could offer a silent prayer on behalf of herself and the children, with the assurance that Jehovah will hear her petition.
12. (a) Under what circumstances would holding hands around the table during prayer not be proper for Christians? (b) Why is this not an extreme view of things?
12 Joining hands while praying is a regular practice with some families, but since this denotes unitedness in the prayer it would not be suitable for a Christian to share in this when the prayer is given by an undedicated person whose thoughts were not toward the true worship of Jehovah God. So this is something to watch when invited out for a meal by persons not in the truth where you know this is the custom of the family. For one thing, you do not know what may be said in the prayer and just as you could not give an “Amen” to it, so you would not want to show acquiescence in the prayer by holding hands around the table. But, some may ask, is this not taking matters to an extreme? No, not at all. Prayer is a matter of worship, something not to be treated lightly, but something that must be holy and in harmony with Jehovah’s will. To maintain a good conscience the dedicated Christian will not want to give even an appearance of sharing in any worship other than the true worship of Jehovah.—1 Cor. 10:20, 21; 2 Cor. 6:14-18.
13. (a) What should be done where a disfellowshiped husband offers prayer at the meal table? (b) If he requests his dedicated wife to pray for the family? (c) How does this affect the question of head covering?
13 A difficult situation arises where the husband has been disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation and is still in a disfellowshiped state. While the wife is still subject to him as her husband, yet, in harmony with the Scriptures, she can have no spiritual fellowship with him. (Rom. 16:17) How might this affect the matter of prayer at mealtimes? If he insisted on praying at the meal table, the wife could not in any way acknowledge his prayer, either by a silent or an audible “Amen.” She can offer her own prayer silently to Jehovah while he is praying or afterward as she feels is suitable. If the disfellowshiped husband asked his wife to pray for the family in his presence, she would have to refuse. However, she could pray silently for herself and for the children even though he were present, but not at his direction. From this it can be seen that the question of the need for a head covering would never occur in this case, since there would be no occasion where the wife would perform any function of teaching or praying audibly in the presence of her disfellowshiped mate.
CONDUCT TOWARD UNBELIEVING HUSBAND
14. (a) While having to wear a head covering at times, what particularly will the Christian wife have in mind so as to maintain her attractiveness in Jehovah’s eyes? (b) What about where the husband’s conduct is not in harmony with good principles?
14 The faithful woman minister who is the wife of a man not in the truth, that is, an undedicated man, which circumstance may necessitate her wearing a head covering at times in his presence, will be concerned that her conduct is in keeping with this outward sign of subjection. Her attractiveness in Jehovah’s eyes does not depend on just a formal show of subjection by means of a head covering, but it is in her modestly keeping her position as a wife, always having “deep respect for her husband.” (Eph. 5:24, 33) But, you may ask, how can a woman have deep respect for a husband who takes a hateful course toward the truth and toward his wife’s worship of Jehovah? Certainly you cannot respect a man’s views when they are anti-God, or his words when they are blasphemous and perhaps even filthy. Yet even under such circumstances, by respecting the office of headship that a husband should be filling, it is possible to conduct oneself in a way so as to avoid any rebelliousness against Jehovah’s arrangement. For one thing, a woman would avoid speaking disparagingly of her husband, however bad, when she is with others.
15. What example as to suffering under evil do dedicated women have?
15 For a woman who finds herself in the situation of being married to a man who is difficult to get along with and who may even be harsh in his conduct, there is comfort in the example of Jesus. Note the opening words of First Peter chapter 3: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.” In what manner? For one thing, Peter has just been discussing the case of Christian house servants who suffered unrighteously for copying Jesus, who left us a model of how to conduct ourselves under undeserved suffering. Of him Peter writes: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” So wives who have to endure unjust treatment can do so as those Christian house servants were told to do and as Jesus did, committing themselves to Jehovah, who in due time will reward their faithful conduct.—1 Pet. 2:18-23.
16. (a) What kind of subjection by Christians does Peter discuss, and with what helpful counsel? (b) While being subject in a relative sense to her husband, what two things does the Christian wife have to take into account, with what determination?
16 But the subjection of house servants to owners may include at times “those hard to please.” Then he says: “For if someone, because of conscience toward God, bears up under grievous things and suffers unjustly, this is an agreeable thing. For what merit is there in it if, when you are sinning and being slapped, you endure it? But if, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.” (1 Pet. 2:18-20) Just as in the case of house servants so in the case of wives, their subjection is a relative one, since God’s will and conscience have to be taken into account. So if her husband should prove to be hard to please, even to the point of outright opposition to her stand as a dedicated Christian, yet the faithful woman minister will always hold fast to her dedication to do Jehovah’s will. At the same time she will faithfully seek to hold to her relationship to her husband as Jehovah has arranged it, even though this proves to be very difficult at times.
17. By what conduct may an unbelieving husband be won over to the truth?
17 Fortunately, not all husbands are as bad as that. But quite often it happens that the husband just appears to have no interest in the truth and shows no desire to make any move to associate with the New World society. What then? Recall what we read earlier from 1 Peter 3:1, 2? “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.” Yes, the one thing that might win such husbands to the truth is the conduct of their wives, faithful wifely subjection along with deep respect.—1 Cor. 7:16.
18. What does the Christian wife maintain by her faithfulness in wifely subjection, and to whom is this a special blessing?
18 Because of such faithfulness the Christian wife at all times maintains her spiritual attractiveness before Jehovah and the Christian congregation. The dedicated man married to such a wife should be most appreciative of such a blessing, for she is indeed a glory to him. If her husband has not yet accepted the truth the Christian wife will maintain her chaste conduct with deep respect, for this may open his eyes to see what a fine wife he has and be led to accept the truth. What a wonderful blessing that will prove to be for him and for her!