“Women Who Are Working Hard in the Lord”
“Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who are working hard in the Lord.”—ROMANS 16:12.
1. In what way did Jesus’ earthly ministry prove to be a blessing for women?
JESUS’ earthly ministry was truly a blessing for Jewish women. The work he began was going to bring comfort, hope, and a new dignity to women of all races. He paid no heed to the traditions of Judaism that “made the word of God invalid.” (Matthew 15:6) Many of those traditions flouted the basic God-given rights of women.
Jesus’ Attitude Toward Women
2. Why can it be said that Jesus’ approach to women was revolutionary for the times?
2 What a marked contrast there was between Jesus’ attitude toward women and that of Jewish religious leaders! To quote the Encyclopaedia Judaica, the latter considered women to be “greedy, eavesdroppers, lazy, and jealous.” Conversation with a woman was frowned upon, and “it was disgraceful for a scholar to speak with a woman in the street.” (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, by Joachim Jeremias; compare John 4:27.) Much more could be said about the disdainful attitude of the leaders of Judaism toward women. But the above will suffice to show how Jesus’ approach to women was truly revolutionary for the times.
3. What incidents during Jesus’ ministry show that he was willing to teach women deep spiritual truths?
3 Jesus provides the perfect example of how men can have a warm yet chaste relationship with women. Not only did he converse with them but he also taught them deep spiritual truths. In fact, the very first person to whom he openly revealed his Messiahship was a woman, and a Samaritan woman at that. (John 4:7, 25, 26) Furthermore, the incident involving Martha and Mary clearly shows that unlike the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus did not feel that a woman had no right temporarily to leave her pots and pans in order to increase her spiritual knowledge. On that occasion, Mary “chose the good portion,” putting spiritual things first. (Luke 10:38-42) But a few months later, after their brother had died, it was Martha, not Mary, who showed the greater eagerness to meet the Master. How we thrill even today when reading that profoundly spiritual conversation between Jesus and Martha about the resurrection hope! (John 11:20-27) What a privilege that was for Martha!
Women Who Ministered to Jesus
4, 5. Besides the apostles, who followed Jesus during his Galilean ministry, and how did they minister to him?
4 Jesus also accepted the ministration of women as he traveled through the land. In his Gospel account, Mark mentions “women . . . who used to accompany him [Jesus] and minister to him when he was in Galilee.” (Mark 15:40, 41) Who were these women, and how did they serve Jesus? We do not know the names of all of them, but Luke identifies a few and explains in what way they ministered to Jesus.
5 Luke writes: “Shortly afterwards he went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and certain women that had been cured of wicked spirits and sicknesses, Mary the so-called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had come out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s man in charge, and Susanna and many other women, who were ministering to them from their belongings.” (Luke 8:1-3) Jesus was willing to have these women follow him and use their belongings to minister to his material needs and those of his apostles.
6. (a) Who accompanied Jesus during his last journey to Jerusalem? (b) Who stood by Jesus right up to his death, and how were some of them rewarded? (c) From the standpoint of Judaism’s traditions, what is remarkable about the account at John 20:11-18?
6 When Jesus was executed, “many women were there viewing from a distance, who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee to minister to him; among whom was Mary Magdalene, also Mary the mother of James and Joses.” (Matthew 27:55, 56) Thus, many faithful women stood by Jesus at the time of his death. It is also noteworthy that women were the first witnesses of his resurrection. (Matthew 28:1-10) This in itself was a blow to Jewish tradition, for within Judaism women were considered unworthy of being legal witnesses. With this in mind, read John 20:11-18, and try to imagine the intense emotion Mary Magdalene must have felt when the risen Master appeared to her, called her by her name, and used her as his witness to inform his disciples that he was truly alive!
Faithful Christian Women After Pentecost
7, 8. (a) How do we know that women were present when the spirit was poured out at Pentecost? (b) How did Christian women share in the early expansion of Christianity?
7 After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, godly women were present with the faithful apostles in the upper room at Jerusalem. (Acts 1:12-14) That there were women among those upon whom the holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost is evident. Why? Because when Peter explained what had occurred, he quoted Joel 2:28-30, which specifically mentions “daughters” and “maidservants,” or “women slaves.” (Acts 2:1, 4, 14-18) So spirit-begotten, anointed Christian women were a part of the Christian congregation right at its foundation.
8 Women played an important, though not dominant, role in the spread of Christianity. Mary, the mother of Mark and the aunt of Barnabas, put her apparently large house at the disposal of the Jerusalem congregation. (Acts 12:12) And she was willing to do this at a time when there was a fresh outbreak of persecution against the Christians. (Acts 12:1-5) The four daughters of the evangelizer Philip were privileged to be Christian prophetesses.—Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 12:4, 10.
Paul’s Attitude Toward Women
9. What counsel did Paul give concerning Christian women in his first letter to the Corinthians, and what divine principle was he encouraging women to respect?
9 Sometimes the apostle Paul is accused of misogyny, that is, a hatred and distrust of women. True, it was Paul who insisted that women keep their proper place within the Christian congregation. In the normal run of things, they were not to do the teaching at congregation meetings. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35) If, because no male Christian was present or because she prophesied under the impulse of the holy spirit, a Christian woman spoke at a meeting, she was required to wear a head covering. This covering was “a sign of authority,” visible proof that the woman recognized God’s arrangement of headship.—1 Corinthians 11:3-6, 10.
10. Of what have some accused the apostle Paul, but what proves that this accusation is false?
10 Paul apparently found it necessary to remind the early Christians of these theocratic principles in order that ‘all things might take place decently’ at the congregation meetings. (1 Corinthians 14:40) But does this mean that Paul was antiwoman, as some claim? No, it does not. Was it not Paul who in the closing chapter of his letter to the Romans sent warm greetings to nine Christian women? Did he not show deep appreciation for Phoebe, Prisca (Priscilla), Tryphaena, and Tryphosa, calling these last two “women who are working hard in the Lord”? (Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12, 13, 15) And it was Paul who under inspiration wrote: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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.” (Galatians 3:27, 28) Paul clearly loved and appreciated his Christian sisters, including Lydia, who showed exemplary hospitality during a time of trial.—Acts 16:12-15, 40; Philippians 4:2, 3.
Hardworking Women Today
11, 12. (a) How is Psalm 68:11 literally being fulfilled today? (b) In what situation do many of our sisters find themselves, and why do they need our affection and prayers?
11 Within the Christian congregation today, there are many Christian women who are “working hard in the Lord.” In fact, statistics show that “the women telling the good news are a large army,” making up the major part of the army of Witnesses that Jehovah is using in this time of the end. (Psalm 68:11) These hardworking Christian women have earned a fine name for themselves as they struggle to fulfill their role of wives, mothers, homemakers, breadwinners, as well as Christian ministers.
12 A number of these fine sisters have unbelieving husbands. They have to cope with this situation 24 hours a day. Some have been struggling for years to be good wives while meeting the requirements for loyal servants of Jehovah. It has not been easy, but they have endured, always hoping that their husbands “may be won without a word” through their fine Christian conduct. And what joy is shared in by the entire family when such a husband responds! (1 Peter 3:1, 2) Meantime, these faithful sisters certainly need the brotherly affection and the prayers of the other members of the congregation. Even as “the quiet and mild spirit” that they try to show is “of great value in the eyes of God,” so their steadfast integrity is precious in our eyes.—1 Peter 3:3-6.
13. Why can it be said of our pioneer sisters that they are “women who are working hard in the Lord,” and how should they be considered in their respective congregations?
13 The sisters who are serving as pioneers can most assuredly be said to be “working hard in the Lord.” Many of them have a home, a husband, and children to take care of, in addition to their preaching work. Some do part-time work to meet their material needs. All of this requires good organization, determination, perseverance, and much hard work. These Christian women should be able to feel the love and support of those whose situation does not allow them to devote pioneer hours to the witnessing work.
14. (a) What fine example of perseverance is mentioned? (b) What other Christian women deserve commendation, and why? Mention any local examples.
14 Some Christian women have shown extraordinary tenacity in the pioneer service. In Canada, Grace Lounsbury had her first taste of pioneering in 1914. She had to come off the pioneer list in 1918 because of illness, but by 1924 she was back in the full-time service. At the time of this writing, she is still on the pioneer list, although 104 years of age! Many missionary sisters who in the 1940’s were trained in the early classes of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead are still faithfully serving, either in the missionary field or as members of the Bethel family in Brooklyn or one of the Watch Tower Society’s branches. All these Christian women, and indeed all the sisters who apply themselves in Bethel service, show a self-sacrificing spirit and are fine examples. Do we ever let them know that they are appreciated?
Wives of Traveling Overseers
15, 16. What group of Christian women especially deserve our warm commendation, and why?
15 The wives of traveling overseers make up another group of Christian women that deserve warm commendation and encouragement. These dear sisters are prepared to follow their husbands as these go from congregation to congregation, or from circuit to circuit, in order to build up their brothers spiritually. The majority of them have forgone the comforts of a home; they sleep in a different bed every week, and not always a good bed. But they are happy to accept whatever the brothers can offer. They are a fine example for their spiritual sisters.
16 These Christian women also provide invaluable support for their husbands, much like the godly women who followed Jesus “to accompany him and minister to him.” (Mark 15:41) They are not able to spend much time alone with their husbands, who always ‘have plenty to do in the work of the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58) Some of them, like Rosa Szumiga in France, who entered the full-time service in 1948, have been packing suitcases for their husbands and traveling with them for 30 or 40 years. They are willing to make sacrifices for Jehovah and for their brothers and sisters. They deserve our appreciation, love, and prayers.
17, 18. (a) What qualities are required of the wives of brothers appointed to service positions? (b) What sacrifices do elders’ wives agree to make for Jehovah and their brothers, and how can other wives help their husbands?
17 While enumerating the qualifications for brothers who may be appointed as elders and ministerial servants, the apostle Paul also mentioned women, writing: “Women should likewise be serious, not slanderous, moderate in habits, faithful in all things.” (1 Timothy 3:11) True, this general counsel applies to all Christian women. But in view of the context, obviously it should be followed in an exemplary way by the wives of brothers appointed to service positions.
18 Happily, this is the case with many thousands of wives of Christian overseers. They are moderate in their habits and their dress, serious about Christian living, careful about what they say, and they sincerely endeavor to be faithful in all things. They also agree to make sacrifices, accepting that their husbands devote to congregation matters time that might otherwise be spent with them. These faithful Christian women deserve our warm love and encouragement. Perhaps more brothers could reach out for privileges within our many congregations if their wives would humbly consent to making such sacrifices for the well-being of all.
Faithful “Older Women”
19. Why are many faithful “older women” greatly appreciated in their congregations, and what should be our feelings toward them?
19 Our review of women mentioned in the Bible has enabled us to see that age does not prevent women of faith from serving Jehovah. This fact was illustrated in the cases of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Anna. Today, there are many Christian women advanced in years who are fine examples of faith and endurance. In addition, they can discreetly back up the elders by helping the younger sisters. Drawing on their long experience, they can give wise counsel to younger women, even as the Scriptures authorize them to do. (Titus 2:3-5) It may be that at times an elderly sister needs to be counseled herself. If so, the elder doing so should ‘entreat her as a mother.’ Elders should “honor widows” and, if need be, organize material help for them. (1 Timothy 5:1-3, 5, 9, 10) Our dear elderly sisters should most certainly feel wanted and appreciated.
Rulers With Christ
20. What supreme privilege has been offered to many Christian women, and why can the other sheep be happy about this?
20 It is patently clear from the Scriptures that “there is no partiality with God” with regard to race or sex. (Romans 2:10, 11; Galatians 3:28) And this holds true also in the way Jehovah selects those who are to be associated with his Son in the Kingdom government. (John 6:44) How thankful the great crowd of other sheep can be that faithful women, such as Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and a host of others in the early Christian congregation, now share in the Kingdom rule, enriching that government with their intimate understanding of the feelings and experiences of womenfolk! What loving foresight and wisdom on Jehovah’s part!—Romans 11:33-36.
21. What are our feelings today toward “women who are working hard in the Lord”?
21 We today can share the apostle Paul’s feelings when he spoke with love and appreciation of “these women who have striven side by side with me in the good news.” (Philippians 4:3) All of Jehovah’s Witnesses, men and women, count it a joy and a privilege to work side by side with the ‘large army of women telling the good news,’ yes, “women who are working hard in the Lord.”—Psalm 68:11; Romans 16:12.
□ How did Jesus show that he did not share the prejudices of the Jewish religious leaders against women?
□ How did God-fearing women minister to Jesus, and what great privilege did some of them receive?
□ What counsel did Paul give concerning women in the congregation meetings?
□ What categories of sisters deserve our special affection and support, and why?
□ How should we feel toward all those today who are “women who are working hard in the Lord”?
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Women ministered to Jesus and his apostles
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Self-sacrificing wives of traveling overseers and of other elders make a valuable contribution to God’s work