Woman’s Regard for Headship—How Demonstrated?
MAN was created in the “image” of God. (Gen. 1:26) Since God is a “Spirit,” obviously no physical likeness between God and man is involved. (John 4:24) Rather, man was created with moral qualities like those of God—love and justice, power and wisdom—that put him far above the animals. Therefore man can appreciate the things that God appreciates and enjoys. These include beauty, the arts, speaking, reasoning and similar processes that involve the mind and heart.
Woman, too, was created with these qualities. However, her position is different from that of the man. The Bible tells us: “[Man] is God’s image and glory; but the woman is man’s glory.” (1 Cor. 11:7) But why does not this text say that the woman also is God’s “image”?
It should be remembered that man was created first and for some time was alone, being in God’s image by himself. The woman was made from the man and was to be subject to the man. The woman’s position thus is one that cannot reflect God’s position of headship toward his creatures, and it is this matter of headship that is discussed in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. Jehovah God is not subject to anyone. Unlike the woman, the man does not have an earthly head over him when it comes to matters relating to his wife and children. Hence in this respect he alone is “God’s image.” In other respects, of course, the woman shares with the man in reflecting the admirable and lovable qualities of God.
The fact that the woman is subject to the man does not degrade her. This is seen from the fact that she is said to be “man’s glory.” Someone who is degraded and low, whether man or woman, cannot serve as a real glory to anyone. But one having a dignified standing, one noted for fine conduct and admirable qualities, definitely is a credit or glory to one’s associates.
As “man’s glory” the woman can and should elevate and enhance the more responsible position of the man as “God’s image and glory.” Her husband should be able to praise her like the capable wife mentioned in the Bible book of Proverbs: “There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.”—Prov. 31:29.
SUBMISSION TO THE HUSBAND
For a woman to be a “glory” to her husband requires her to show proper regard for his headship. Even when her husband is not a faithful worshiper of Jehovah, she should remain submissive and support his decisions as the head of the house. She ought to maintain praiseworthy conduct and prove herself to be a real credit to her husband. This is in harmony with the counsel given by the apostle Peter: “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. . . . [Let your adornment] 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.
In her submission, the Christian woman should display a “quiet and mild spirit.” This means that, regardless of the circumstances, her dominant feeling should be one of calmness and an even temper, not aggressive. Her heart should move her to manifest proper subjection to her husbandly head. This was the case with Abraham’s wife Sarah. As Peter noted: “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.”’ (1 Pet. 3:5, 6) Sarah referred to her husband as “lord” not merely audibly for others to hear, but even “inside herself.”—Gen. 18:12.
For a Christian woman to be like Sarah would, of course, mean never doing anything contrary to God’s will. This is because she is bound by the superior law of God and of Christ. Hence when her husband’s “law” interferes with true worship, she, like the apostles in the first century C.E., would ‘obey God as ruler rather than a man.’ (Acts 5:29) In all other areas, however, her submission to her husband should be exemplary.
WEARING A HEAD COVERING
There are times when the Christian woman displays an outward sign of her recognition of man’s headship. This is when she must care for matters pertaining to worship that would ordinarily be handled by her husband or another man. The basis for this is outlined at 1 Corinthians 11:4-6: “Every man that prays or prophesies having something on his head shames his head; but every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames 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.”
Now, in the family the husband and father is God’s representative toward his wife and children. As such he is the one to take the lead in matters of worship. Yet, if the husband is an unbeliever, this responsibility may fall on the mother. Hence, if a Christian woman prays aloud on behalf of herself and others or conducts a Bible study with the children or others in the presence of her husband, she rightly wears a head covering. Thereby she demonstrates her recognition of the fact that she is serving in her husband’s place.
Being divinely authorized to teach the children (Prov. 1:8; 6:20; compare 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15), she would not ordinarily wear a head covering when her husband is not present. However, it may be that a son in the family is a dedicated, baptized servant of Jehovah God. In that case the mother would wear a head covering if she were to pray aloud on behalf of a group in his presence or conduct a Bible study with him and the other children. The reason for this is that the son is a member of the Christian congregation and, as such, should receive instruction from the male members of the congregation. (1 Tim. 2:12) If his father were a believer, the son would receive such teaching from his father. So the mother’s head covering would signify that in this matter she is acting for her husband and/or male members of the congregation. When other family matters are involved, however, the mother can exercise her authority toward the son without wearing a head covering.
In the congregations of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses circumstances arise that call for women to wear a head covering. At times no baptized male Witnesses may be present at a congregational meeting (usually in small congregations or groups). This would make it necessary for a baptized female Witness to pray or preside at the meeting. Recognizing that she is doing something that would usually be handled by a man, she would wear a head covering.
There are occasions when Christian women have to give oral translation of Bible discourses or publicly read the paragraphs from a Bible study aid that is being used at a congregation meeting. Women handling these duties are not presiding or teaching. Hence, it is not required that they wear a head covering. Some Christian women, however, may wish to do so for the sake of their conscience. Certainly there is nothing wrong with this.
The teaching of male believers is to be done by the men in the congregation. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Tim. 2:12) Nevertheless, both men and women could share in teaching outsiders. In fact, Jesus Christ commissioned his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Such prospective disciples would, of course, include both men and women. Since such preaching and teaching is the responsibility of both men and women, when speaking to others about God’s Word in the presence of a male witness of Jehovah, a woman would not need to wear a head covering. But if she preferred to do so for the sake of her conscience, this would be all right.
The situation is somewhat different when a regular, scheduled Bible study is being conducted in a home and there is a dedicated, baptized male present. This is a prearranged session of instruction, teaching, with the one conducting the study actually presiding. With a baptized male Witness present, it becomes an extension of the congregation. If, for some reason, a baptized female Witness conducts such a study, she would rightly wear a head covering, acknowledging thereby that the man would ordinarily give Bible instruction under such circumstances.
There is good reason for Christian women to give due consideration to wearing a head covering when the occasion calls for it. As the apostle Paul pointed out, this is to be done “because of the angels.” (1 Cor. 11:10) Yes, it is the privilege of Christian women to be a good example to the angels in their own loyal subjection to Jehovah God and his reigning King, Jesus Christ. This does not mean that the angels learn from the good example of Christian women. Millions of angels loyally subjected themselves to God long before man was created and they continue to do so. However, just as we draw encouragement from the good example of fellow believers, so the angels delight in seeing women that rightly view headship.
What fine incentive this should give Christian women to continue demonstrating proper regard for headship in Jehovah’s arrangement!