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Women and the Bible are two topics that tend to incite controversy when combined. If you were to search for “woman,” “she,” or “her” in the Bible, you might find some passages that sound pretty disheartening. We need to remember that the Bible is not a dictionary or manual where we can look something up and get a concise description of its meaning. God’s message is much deeper than that. There are stories in the Bible that show mistreatment toward women, but like many things in history, those actions resulted from humans using their free will to choose evil. We can also find many beautiful and inspiring passages about women in the Bible.
Whatever our gender or race, God tells us that we are equal in His eyes. We have differences for a reason that serves a purpose for His glory. The Bible makes it clear that men and women are meant to complement each other, and people have varying interpretations of what that should look like in modern life. The one thing that we should all be able to agree on is that God loves women, and He wants every one of His children to respect each other. There will always be someone who can pull up a verse out of context to defend treating women as “less than,” but if we really want to know how to treat anyone, we should look at how Jesus treated people.
When we look at the interactions Jesus had with women, we can see that He valued their presence. We can start with His mother, Mary, who faced a remarkable series of events when she became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. We usually think of Mary as the virgin mother of baby Jesus, but her journey didn’t stop there. Mary had the unique task of raising a child who was the Son of God, which certainly came with unusual experiences. She was close to Jesus into adulthood and was there to witness His death on the cross. In the examples we can see, Jesus was helpful and honoring toward His mother and all the women that followed Him.
In Luke 10, Jesus visits the home of Martha, where she shows her hospitality by serving Him and His disciples. Her sister, Mary, simply sits at Jesus’ feet and listens. As most of us would be, Martha is frustrated by the lack of help and asks Jesus to instruct her sister to lend a hand. Jesus responds with, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about too many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
What strikes me about this interaction is that Martha feels comfortable complaining to Jesus. If He had given any indication that He saw women as sub-human, then surely Martha would have kept her head down and continued her work while sending covert glares at Mary. Instead, she expressed her frustration, and Jesus’ response validated that attention to Him matters more than any roles that we fulfill. This doesn’t mean that hospitality isn’t a way to honor God, but ultimately, Martha had anxiety because her priorities weren’t straight. Jesus testified to Mary’s humanity by saying that her devotion to His words meant more to Him than any meal she could be preparing.
In John 4, Jesus comes across a Samaritan woman at a well and initiates a conversation with her. This was outside of social norms because she was a woman and because it was not customary for Jews to fraternize with Samaritans. However, Jesus had a mission that was far outside the box. Jesus knew this woman was living in sin, having had several husbands and a lover who was not her husband, yet He gave her His full attention. Her testimony brought others to faith because Jesus knew she mattered. This example doesn’t just show us that Jesus cares about women; it shows the worth of every sinner.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains his mission for the Church and makes a point to acknowledge women involved in his ministry. Although Jesus may not have met these women on Earth, their roles were a part of the divine message given to Paul. Phoebe is only mentioned briefly, but those few sentences indicate that she was meant to leave a legacy.
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” - Romans 16:1-2
All of these women, and many others, were instrumental in spreading the news of God’s love. If you’re a woman who’s had doubts about God’s design, you can trust that your Creator treasures you. You have a calling that glorifies God and leads to freedom. To learn more about the impact of women in the Bible, I recommend the book “The Women of the Bible Speak” by Shannon Bream!
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.