Introducing "Genesis 3: The Origin of Gender Roles"
Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: "To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 8:1-11).
Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge in such a way that we obtain the intended consequence of our actions—a well-lived life. Knowledge itself is not wisdom; knowledge is information that can be used in many ways, wherefore we need wisdom to guide us. But because we live in a world of good and evil, wisdom doesn’t always lead to the desired outcome; evil hides often behind eloquent words. Hence the foundation of a wisdom is proven by what it produces; that which is evil cannot produce good, nor can that which is good produce evil, like the tree Jesus spoke about that could only produce fruit according to its own kind.[i]
Because we are born tabula rasa, an empty slate, knowledge is something we must gain. Yet, because we are able to know both good and evil, the source of our knowledge determines what we learn; it isn’t possible to learn truth from someone who lies, nor is it possible to be led astray by someone who tells the truth. Because God is the source of all truth, the knowledge that comes from God leads to true wisdom, and therefore a well-lived life.[ii] Accordingly, we find Paul writing about a message of wisdom, God’s wisdom, that he spoke among the spiritually mature in his first letter to the Corinthians. None of the rulers of this world could comprehend it, but neither could the spiritual infants.[iii] This begs the question, what could possibly have prevented the Corinthian Christians from understanding God’s wisdom?
The behavior of the Corinthian Christians—their habit of showing partiality and creating division—showed that there was something amiss with their wisdom, for there is nothing wise about dividing that which belongs together. Paul recommended that the Corinthian Christians become fools in the eyes of the world in order to become truly wise. In other words, they were to forsake earthly wisdom that pleases the flesh, and choose God’s wisdom instead.
As Christians we have the ability to choose whether we follow earthly wisdom, or God’s wisdom, and the wisdom we choose to follow depends on what we focus on: those who focus on the flesh follow the things the flesh desires; those who focus on the Spirit follow the things the Spirit desires.[iv] Just as it is impossible to be a fool and reap the benefits of wisdom, it is equally impossible to focus on the flesh and reap the rewards that come from living by the Spirit.[v] If we choose to follow earthly wisdom, we will reap chaos and discord, for earthly wisdom is just that—earthly; it sets its mind on things of this world, and seeks that which this world desires: power and pleasure. And regardless how wise it may seem, it is a wisdom that offers illusion in the place of reality, for although the promise of happiness draws people in, power and pleasure are like a slippery soap—you have to work hard to hold it; there is no happiness in the endless struggle that ensues. As a contrast, God’s wisdom offers servanthood and self-control as the means to attain happiness. It makes no sense from the perspective of earthly wisdom, for earthly wisdom sees no merit in helping others—less competition means more power and pleasure for its adherents—wherefore those who follow earthly wisdom cannot comprehend God’s wisdom.
Yet, the enigma of wisdom is that we must be wise in order to recognize true wisdom; fools are wise in their own eyes, wherefore true wisdom escapes them like an animal a poorly designed trap.[vi] Only by recognizing our inability to find wisdom without God will we find true wisdom, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.[vii] As soon as we choose God’s wisdom, the difference between what God values and what the world values becomes evident. Those who follow earthly wisdom consider one’s birth, wealth, and knowledge to be of paramount importance, but hear what Paul had to say about them:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews [birth]; in regard to the law, a Pharisee [wealth]; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless [knowledge]. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:4-11; emphasis added).
According to Paul, earthly distinctions are rubbish, and completely worthless in comparison to the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ. Paul was so convinced of the worthlessness of the things he used to price that he says he would rather be dead with Jesus to this world than live for this world and its values and be dead to God. In other words, he would rather live according to God’s wisdom, even if it meant he would be a fool in the eyes of the world.
If earthly distinctions were rubbish for Paul, and his desire was to share in the sufferings of Jesus as an apostle rather than use his ancestry as a means to escape suffering, why would he advocate for gender roles that are based on earthly distinctions? And why would he deny wise women the opportunity to use their wisdom for the benefit of the whole church? Interestingly, the Proverbs portrays wisdom as a woman who builds a house, prepares a feast, and sends her young women to call all who lack wisdom to come and sit at her table.[viii] But if wisdom is a woman who calls all who lack sense to come and sit at her table, why shouldn’t wise women call all those who lack wisdom? Why should women be silent, even when they are wise and have much to offer? Proverbs do not praise those who ignore the wise; in fact, Proverbs warns against pride, for wisdom comes with humility.[ix]
But, you say, did God not create men to lead and women to follow? Does the Bible not contain a hierarchy of authority and obedience? To find the answer we must consider why we were created and how the entrance of sin affected the purpose of our existence. To accomplish this, we will consider two concepts: intelligent submission and servant leadership. If God made the man the leader and the woman the follower, this arrangement will be proven to be the wisest and the most beneficial of all arrangements. But if the man leads as a result of sin, it will be proven to be one of the most unwise arrangements the world has ever seen. Which one is it? Let’s find out.
 The flesh, or the sinful nature, is that which causes us to sin, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Rom 8:5-8).
[i] Matthew 7:17-20
[ii] 1 John 2:20-21
[iii] 1 Corinthians 2-3
[iv] Romans 8:5
[v] Galatians 6:7-8
[vi] Proverbs 26:12
[vii] Proverbs 9:10
[viii] Proverbs 9
[ix] Proverbs 11:2