This past weekend a conference was going on here in Dallas for men entitled Kingdom Man. For obvious reasons, I have no interest in learning about being a kingdom man and cannot speak fully to what was being taught. But what I fear is that the Kingdom Man agenda has been skewed towards the domination of men, that women get lost in the dust. I get the sense from some Facebook posts I saw streaming quotes that the concept of a kingdom promotes that only men are kingdom warriors. Now when I say kingdom warriors, I mean that whatever God is doing in line with “on earth as it is in heaven” is channeled through his people and in this case – men. So I use it as a metaphor. What this does is promote the idea that women are to support their warriors and do not play a proactive role in a kingdom agenda.
But this only highlights a broader observation that I’ve made with respect to how the woman’s role is generally defined as the man’s helper. This concept of the woman’s helper role is a product of a poorly translated identity as a helpless help-meet with nothing to offer but support for the man.. And I hate to say, but smacks of an over-zealous masculinity.
The term helper is translated from ezer in Genesis 2:20 – “no suitable helper was found”. When translated as a helper it gets a bad rap as the woman being dependent upon the man as the head. Now that does not presume upon male headship but speaks to the women’s value in relation to her companion. A closer look reveals that ezer has the connotation of being a rescuer. When God saw that it was not good for man to be alone and that he needed a suitable helper, he sent a rescuer. The NET Bible notes:
Traditionally “helper.” The English word “helper,” because it can connote so many different ideas, does not accurately convey the connotation of the Hebrew word עֵזֶר (’ezer). Usage of the Hebrew term does not suggest a subordinate role, a connotation which English “helper” can have. In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper,” the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not stated here.
I say rescuer intentionally because ironically elsewhere ezer is used in reference to God as rescuer. So when the Lord said “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), it meant that he could not accomplish what he needed to do without his rescuer. This is why suitable (kenegdo) refers to the companion as being uniquely complementary, without which the alone person – the man – cannot function as he should. This is the portrait of a complementary relationship. Unfortunately, under the rubric of Complementarianism, misapplied concepts and yes, even misogyny in some cases, has relegated the woman to an inferior worth as a kingdom assistant instead of a kindgom warrior. And I say that as a Complementarian! I affirm male headship but the idea that only men have a kingdom agenda takes headship where it has no business going.
In her book, Half the Church, Carolyn Custis James offers a helpful understanding of how men and women are to rule together. Here are some snippets from her chapter entitled The Ezer Unbound
Isn’t it obvious that the ezer is a warrior? And don’t we already know this in our bones? God created his daughters to be ezer-warriors with our brothers. He deploys the ezer to break the man’s aloneness by soldiering with him wholeheartedly and at full strength for God’s gracious kingdom. The man needs everything she brings to their global mission (p 113)
Complementarianism often gets a bad rap for what we’ve done with the woman. Her role as submitted to the head often translates into one who is weak and dependent upon the man, unable to make choices for the family and in need of spiritual leadership as if she has no spiritual juice to offer. But that is not what I see in Genesis 2 nor throughout scripture. Whatever her role in society, for her husband the ezer is smart, resourceful, contributing, influential and supportive.
Descriptions of a woman as dependent, needy, vulnerable, deferential, helpless, leaderless, or weak are – to put it simply – wrong. Such definitions betray cultural biases and I fear a deep-seated misogyny. The ezer is a warrior. Like the man, she is also God’s creative masterpiece – a work of genius and a marvel to behold – for she is fearfully and wonderful made. The ezer never sheds her image-bearing identity. Not here. Not ever. God defines who she is and how she is to live in his world. That never changes. The image bearer responsibilities to reflect God to the world and to rule and subdue on his behalf still rest on her shoulders, too. (pg 114)
If the woman brings nothing to the table but dependence so he can be the warrior, how does this aid the two that have joined together as one?
If Adam must think, decide, protect, and provide for the woman, she actually becomes a burden on him – not much help when you think about it. The kind of help the man needs demands full deployment of her strength, her gifts, and the best she has to offer. His life will change for the better because of what she contributes to his life. Together they will daily prove in countless and surprising ways that two are better than one. (pg 114-115).
If we are going to use the metaphor of warriors in reference to a kingdom agenda, women, like men, are called to be kingdom warriors, too. Neither submission nor male headship changes this and should definitely not squash it.
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