Troublesome Topic: What about Single, Divorced or Widowed Women Today?

What we see in the Bible about the role of women was mostly based on principles, but there was a cultural element as well. In modern cultures that have moved away from the ancient understanding of the roles of men and women, it will be difficult or impossible for you to implement all of the ancient principles because they require cooperation from many others around you.

I think God looks at our attitudes and our attempts at applying the ancient principles to whatever situation we find ourselves in. It is the principles that matter; the method of implementation can vary to a degree.

The two paragraphs above are general and a bit vague, so allow me to explain with some examples.

In ancient times, a woman that was single, divorced or widowed would live with her father, brother, cousin, or other relative; she did not live alone. This was in part to protect her from abuse and exploitation by those outside her family. The reason for this was to keep the lines of authority clear. Usually the male members of her family would do a reasonably good job of providing for her and protecting her (although like everything, there were cases or abuse or ill treatment). Today that system does not work very well in modern societies because it would require the cooperation of fathers, brothers, cousins and other relatives and their respective wives. Also, in modern cultures like the USA, a lady living alone is not quite as vulnerable as her counterpart in ancient times (there are some cultures today where such women are very vulnerable to mistreatment).

So you can see that cultures have changed while the principles have not. The principles are that the father is the captain of the team and that men should provide for and protect the women and children in their lives.

Is it wrong for a woman to live alone?

No, it is not wrong, but it may open her up to a higher degree of exploitation.

Is a single mom the proper head of her household?

I believe she is. For the purpose of house church meetings I see a single, divorced or widowed lady as the head of her household, even though her situation is not ideal. Also, in the New Testament, if a qualified male was not available, the female was expected to lead.

The important thing is to have the right attitudes toward people in authority. That includes rejecting the attitude which says, “I don’t need anyone else, I can get along just fine on my own.” This attitude is wrong for a man or a woman. We do need each other. While we may be able to survive on our own, God has much more in mind for us than survival. But the reality is that a single mom, or a divorced or widowed lady is probably in survival mode most of the time. We should also reject the attitude which says something like, “Male leadership is outdated; it doesn’t work; I hate it and I refuse to play that game.” If a lady goes down that road, she is guilty of going against the principles that God wanted His people to live by. Thus, in my opinion, making do as you can in order to survive is understood and accepted by God; rejecting the principles of the Bible will take you in the wrong direction, away from God and more deeply into living only for yourself.

Lines of authority are also very important in Scripture. God cares a great deal about authority and the proper use of it and respect for it. This does not mean that God cannot speak to or through a woman. It does not mean that a woman must have a man between her and God for everything she does. It means that for things like leadership and decision-making, there are positions of authority which should be respected. We can look around us today and see consequences of having ignored or rejected the lines of authority which God put in place. We see children of mixed families who take advantage of the fact that the lines of authority have been scrambled making it unclear whom they are to obey if the adults in their lives do not agree.

As individuals we cannot singlehandedly change our culture, but we can influence it. I trust you will influence it for good.

The next lesson is: Is Our Society More Advanced than That of Ancient Israel?